Fall Reads: Books for Discussion

by Barbara Theroux

It’s time to think about books to discuss with friends or groups:

“Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill”
by Candice Millard
At the age of 24, Winston Churchill was utterly convinced it was his destiny to become prime minister of England. He believed that to achieve his goal he must do something spectacular on the battlefield. Despite deliberately putting himself in extreme danger as a British Army officer in colonial wars in India and Sudan, and as a journalist covering a Cuban uprising against the Spanish, glory and fame had eluded him. In 1899, Churchill arrived in South Africa with a valet and crates of vintage wine in tow, to cover the colonial war the British were fighting with Boer rebels. But just two weeks after his arrival, the soldiers he was accompanying on an armored train were ambushed, and Churchill was taken prisoner.

“Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies”
by Ross King
“Mad Enchantment” tells the full story behind the creation of the Water Lilies, as the horrors of World War I came ever closer to Paris and Giverny and a new generation of younger artists were challenging the achievements of Impressionism. By early 1914, French newspapers were reporting that Monet, by then 73, had retired his brushes. He had lost his beloved wife, Alice, and his eldest son, Jean. His famously acute vision was threatened by cataracts. And yet, despite ill health, self-doubt and advancing age, Monet began painting again on a more ambitious scale than ever before. Ross King links Monet’s great artistic achievement to the personal and historical dramas unfolding around him.

“The Names of the Stars: A Life in the Wilds”
by Pete Fromm
At 20 years old, Pete Fromm heard of a job babysitting salmon eggs, seven winter months alone in a tent in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. His memoir, Indian Creek Chronicles, captures that adventure. Twenty five years later, he was asked to return to the wilderness to babysit more fish eggs. But this time he is 45, and the father of two young sons. He left again, alone, and straight into the heart of Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness, walking a daily 10-mile loop to his fish eggs through deer and elk and the highest density of grizzly bears in the lower 48 states.

“Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End”
by Atul Gawande
Medicine has triumphed in modern times, transforming the dangers of childbirth, injury and disease from harrowing to manageable. But when it comes to the inescapable realities of aging and death, what medicine can do often runs counter to what it should. Atul Gawande, examines its ultimate limitations and failures-in his own practices as well as others’-as life draws to a close. Riveting, honest and humane, “Being Mortal” shows how the ultimate goal is not a good death but a good life-all the way to the very end.

“As Good as Gone”
by Larry Watson
Calvin Sidey, one of the last of the old cowboys, returns to the small town where he once was a mythic figure, to the very home he once abandoned, to stay with his grandchildren for a week while his estranged son is away. When family problems arise, Calvin solves them the only way he knows how: the Old West way.

“News of the World”
by Paulette Jiles
Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, drifts through northern Texas, performing live readings from newspapers to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. At a stop in Wichita Falls, Captain Kidd is offered an astonishing $50 gold piece to deliver a young orphan to her relatives near San Antonio. Four years earlier, a band of Kiowa raiders killed Johanna Leonberger’s parents and sister; sparing the little girl, they raised her as one of their own. Recently recovered by the U.S. army, the inconsolable 10-year-old with blue eyes has once again been torn away from the only home and family she knows.

“The Alice Network”
by Kate Quinn
In 1915, a year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner joins the fight against the Germans when she is recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she’s trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the “Queen of Spies,” who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy’s nose. In 1947, in the aftermath of World War II, American Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried and nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. This is historic fiction at its best. Good suggestions for further reading and lots of interesting history to discuss.

“The Life She Was Given”
by Ellen Marie Wiseman
On a summer evening in 1931, Lilly Blackwood glimpses lights from the window of her attic bedroom. Lilly isn’t allowed to explore the meadows around Blackwood Manor, in fact she has never left her room. Momma insists it’s for Lilly’s own protection, that people would be afraid if they saw her. But on this night, Lilly is taken outside for the first time — and sold to the circus sideshow. More than two decades later, 19-year-old Julia Blackwood has inherited her parents’ estate and horse farm. The title is a perfect way to describe the story, no reader will stay unmoved by this story of betrayal, circus life, animal cruelty, heartbreak and healing.

No comments yet.

Add a comment