Below is a list of possible discussion books with summaries. Or print your own!
Click here to VOTE on which books you would like to read in 2023. The deadline is December 31, 2022.
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.
Anxious People by Fredrik Backman
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove comes a charming, poignant novel about a crime that never took place, a would-be bank robber who disappears into thin air, and eight extremely anxious strangers who find they have more in common than they ever imagined.
Arrowood by Laura McHugh
When Arden Arrowood was four years old, her two-year-old twin sisters were stolen from the front yard of their hometown of Keokuk, Iowa, on the Mississippi River while Arden watched. Twenty years later, she returns home to confront the darkest part of her past. As the mystery unravels, the novel explores the reliability of memory, the stories we tell ourselves, and the power of love.
The Book Woman’s Daughter by Kim Michele Richardson
In the ruggedness of the beautiful Kentucky mountains, Honey Lovett has always known that the old ways can make a hard life harder. As the daughter of the famed, blue-skinned Troublesome Creek packhorse librarian, Honey, along with her family, has been hiding from the law all her life. But when her mother and father are imprisoned, Honey realizes she must fight to stay free, or risk being sent away for good.
Picking up her mother’s old packhorse library route, Honey begins to deliver books to the remote hollers of Appalachia. Honey is looking to prove that she doesn’t need anyone telling her how to survive. But the route can be treacherous, and some folks aren’t keen to let a woman pave her own way.
If Honey wants to bring the freedom books provide to the families who need it most, she’s going to have to fight for her place, and along the way, learn that the extraordinary women who run the hills and hollers can make all the difference in the world.
Carnegie’s Maid by Marie Benedict
Carnegie’s Maid is a book of fascinating 19th century historical fiction. Discover the story of one brilliant woman who may have spurred Andrew Carnegie’s transformation from ruthless industrialist to the world’s first true philanthropist.
Checkout 19 by Claire-Louise Bennett
In a working-class town in a county west of London, a schoolgirl scribbles stories in the back pages of her exercise book, intoxicated by the first sparks of her imagination. As she grows, everything and everyone she encounters become fuel for a burning talent. The large Russian man in the ancient maroon car who careens around the grocery store where she works as a checkout clerk, and slips her a copy of Beyond Good and Evil. The growing heaps of other books in which she loses–and finds–herself. Even the derailing of a friendship, in a devastating violation. The thrill of learning to conjure characters and scenarios in her head is matched by the exhilaration of forging her own way in the world, the two kinds of ingenuity kindling to a brilliant conflagration.
The Christmas Sweater by Glenn Beck
If you could change your life by reversing your biggest regrets, sorrows, and mistakes…would you?
When Eddie was twelve years old, all he wanted for Christmas was a bike. He knew money had been tight since his father died, but Eddie dreamed that somehow his mother would find a way to afford that dream bike.
What he got from her instead was a sweater. “A stupid, handmade, ugly sweater” that young Eddie left in a crumpled ball in the corner of his room.
Scarred deeply by the fateful events that transpired that day, Eddie begins a dark and painful journey toward manhood. It will take wrestling with himself, his faith, and his family—and the guidance of a mysterious neighbor named Russell—to help Eddie find his life’s path and finally understand the significance of that simple gift his mother had crafted with love.
Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo (Young Adult)
Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…
In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.
Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered.
And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.
Deacon King Kong by James McBride
In September 1969, a fumbling, cranky old church deacon known as Sportcoat shuffles into the courtyard of the Cause Houses housing project in south Brooklyn, pulls a .38 from his pocket, and, in front of everybody, shoots the project’s drug dealer at point-blank range.
The reasons for this desperate burst of violence and the consequences that spring from it lie at the heart of Deacon King Kong, James McBride’s funny, moving novel and his first since his National Book Award–winning The Good Lord Bird. In Deacon King Kong, McBride brings to vivid life the people affected by the shooting: the victim, the African-American and Latinx residents who witnessed it, the white neighbors, the local cops assigned to investigate, the members of the Five Ends Baptist Church where Sportcoat was deacon, the neighborhood’s Italian mobsters, and Sportcoat himself.
As the story deepens, it becomes clear that the lives of the characters—caught in the tumultuous swirl of 1960s New York—overlap in unexpected ways. When the truth does emerge, McBride shows us that not all secrets are meant to be hidden, that the best way to grow is to face change without fear, and that the seeds of love lie in hope and compassion.
Bringing to these pages both his masterly storytelling skills and his abiding faith in humanity, James McBride has written a novel every bit as involving as The Good Lord Bird and as emotionally honest as The Color of Water. Told with insight and wit, Deacon King Kong demonstrates that love and faith live in all of us.
Falling by TJ Newman
You just boarded a flight to New York.
There are one hundred and forty-three other passengers onboard.
What you don’t know is that thirty minutes before the flight your pilot’s family was kidnapped.
For his family to live, everyone on your plane must die.
The only way the family will survive is if the pilot follows his orders and crashes the plane.
Enjoy the flight.
The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell
Be careful who you let in… Soon after her twenty-fifth birthday, Libby Jones returns home from work to find the letter she’s been waiting for her entire life. She rips it open with one driving thought: I am finally going to know who I am. She soon learns not only the identity of her birth parents, but also that she is the sole inheritor of their abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames in London’s fashionable Chelsea neighborhood, worth millions. Everything in Libby’s life is about to change.
Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley (Young Adult) – 2023 All Iowa Reads
As a biracial, unenrolled tribal member and the product of a scandal, Daunis Fontaine has never quite fit in—both in her hometown and on the nearby Ojibwe reservation. When her family is struck by tragedy, Daunis puts her dreams on hold to care for her fragile mother. The only bright spot is meeting Jamie, the charming new recruit on her brother’s hockey team. After Daunis witnesses a shocking murder that thrusts her into a criminal investigation, she agrees to go undercover. But the deceptions—and deaths—keep piling up and soon the threat strikes too close to home. How far will she go to protect her community if it means tearing apart the only world she’s ever known?
Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel
After being stolen from her wealthy German parents and raised in the unforgiving wilderness of eastern Europe, a young woman finds herself alone in 1941 after her kidnapper dies. Her solitary existence is interrupted, however, when she happens upon a group of Jews fleeing the Nazi terror. Stunned to learn what’s happening in the outside world, she vows to teach the group all she can about surviving in the forest—and in turn, they teach her some surprising lessons about opening her heart after years of isolation. But when she is betrayed and escapes into a German-occupied village, her past and present come together in a shocking collision that could change everything.
Going Rogue: Rise and Shine Twenty-Nine by Janet Evanovich
Monday mornings aren’t supposed to be fun, but they should be predictable. However, on this particular Monday, Stephanie Plum knows that something is amiss when she turns up for work at Vinnie’s Bail Bonds to find that longtime office manager Connie Rosolli, who is as reliable as the tides in Atlantic City, hasn’t shown up. Stephanie’s worst fears are confirmed when she gets a call from Connie’s abductor. He says he will only release her in exchange for a mysterious coin that a recently murdered man left as collateral for his bail. Unfortunately, this coin, which should be in the office – just like Connie -is nowhere to be found. The quest to discover the coin, learn its value, and save Connie will require the help of Stephanie’s Grandma Mazur, her best pal Lula, her boyfriend Morelli, and hunky security expert Ranger. As they get closer to unravelling the reasons behind Connie’s kidnapping, Connie’s captor grows more threatening, and soon Stephanie has no choice but to throw caution to the wind, follow her instincts, and go rogue. She is more shocked by the results than anyone.
The Huntress by Kate Quinn
Bold and fearless, Nina Markova always dreamed of flying. When the Nazis attack the Soviet Union, she risks everything to join the legendary Night Witches, an all-female night bomber regiment wreaking havoc on the invading Germans. When she is stranded behind enemy lines, Nina becomes the prey of a lethal Nazi murderess known as the Huntress, and only Nina’s bravery and cunning will keep her alive.
In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware
When reclusive writer Leonora is invited to the English countryside for a weekend away, she reluctantly agrees to make the trip. But as the first night falls, revelations unfold among friends old and new, an unnerving memory shatters Leonora’s reserve, and a haunting realization creeps in: the party is not alone in the woods.
Daughters of Erietown by Connie Schultz
In the 1950s, Ellie and Brick are teenagers in love. A basketball star, Brick could escape his abusive father and be the first person in his working-class family to go to college. But when Ellie becomes pregnant, they marry, she gives up her dream of nursing school, and Brick gets a union card instead. This riveting novel tells the story of three generations in a working-class family; especially Brick and Ellie’s daughter Samantha. Illuminating issues facing working-class, Rust Belt people, Erietown also chronicles the evolution of women’s lives, and how much people know about each other and pretend not to, the grinding factory work of a smart man in a blue-collar job, and the secrets that explode lives.
In Five Years by Rebecca Serle
A Manhattan lawyer goes to sleep and wakes up five years in the future. After an hour, she wakes up back in 2020, but what she saw makes her question the path she’s currently on.
The Guncle by Steven Rowley
From the bestselling author of Lily and the Octopus and The Editor comes a warm and deeply funny novel about a once-famous gay sitcom star whose unexpected family tragedy leaves him with his niece and nephew for the summer.
Patrick, or Gay Uncle Patrick (GUP, for short), has always loved his niece, Maisie, and nephew, Grant. That is, he loves spending time with them when they come out to Palm Springs for weeklong visits, or when he heads home to Connecticut for the holidays. So when tragedy strikes and Patrick finds himself suddenly taking on the role of primary guardian, he is, honestly, overwhelmed.
Patrick has no idea what to expect, having spent years barely holding on after the loss of his great love, a somewhat-stalled acting career, and a lifestyle not-so-suited to a six- and a nine-year-old. But when his waggish set of “Guncle Rules” no longer appease Maisie and Grant’s parental void, Patrick’s eyes are opened to a new sense of responsibility, and the realization that, sometimes, even being larger than life means you’re unfailingly human.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (Young Adult)
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does – or does not – say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
Kindred by Octavia Butler
Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana’s life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.
The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal – All Iowa Reads shortlist
A talented baker running a business out of her nursing home reconnects with her master brewer sister at the same time that her pregnant granddaughter launches an IPA brewpub.
The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave
Before Owen Michaels disappears, he smuggles a note to his beloved wife of one year: Protect her. Despite her confusion and fear, Hannah Hall knows exactly to whom the note refers’Owen’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Bailey. Bailey, who lost her mother tragically as a child. Bailey, who wants absolutely nothing to do with her new stepmother.
As Hannah’s increasingly desperate calls to Owen go unanswered, as the FBI arrests Owen’s boss, as a US marshal and federal agents arrive at her Sausalito home unannounced, Hannah quickly realizes her husband isn’t who he said he was. And that Bailey just may hold the key to figuring out Owen’s true identity’and why he really disappeared.
Hannah and Bailey set out to discover the truth. But as they start putting together the pieces of Owen’s past, they soon realize they’re also building a new future-one neither of them could have anticipated.
With its breakneck pacing, dizzying plot twists, and evocative family drama, The Last Thing He Told Me is a riveting mystery, certain to shock you with its final, heartbreaking turn.
The Lightkeeper’s Daughters by Jean E. Pendziwol
Though her mind is still sharp, Elizabeth’s eyes have failed. No longer able to linger over her beloved books or gaze at the paintings that move her spirit, she fills the void with music and memories of her family, especially her beloved twin sister, Emily. When her late father’s journals are discovered after an accident, the past suddenly becomes all too present.
With the help of Morgan, a delinquent teenager performing community service at her senior home, Elizabeth goes through the diaries, a journey through time that brings the two women closer together. Entry by entry, these unlikely friends are drawn deep into a world far removed from their own, to Porphyry Island on Lake Superior, where Elizabeth’s father manned the lighthouse and raised his young family 70 years before.
As the words on those musty pages come alive, Elizabeth and Morgan begin to realize that their fates are connected to the isolated island in ways they never dreamed. While the discovery of Morgan’s connection sheds light onto her own family mysteries, the faded pages of the journals will shake the foundation of everything Elizabeth thinks she knows and bring the secrets of the past into the light.
The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth
The first time Lucy met Diana, she disappointedly finds her future mother-in-law is cold and distant. Not at all the best friend and replacement mother Lucy was hoping to find. Now ten years later, Diana is dead, and all eyes automatically turn to Lucy. Much more of a character study than a murder mystery, The Mother-in-Law shines by highlighting how two different people can view the same event differently and by navigating the history of a complicated relationship.
Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner
Jo and Bethie are sisters growing up in 1950s Detroit. Jo is the tomboy rebel, while Bethie is a feminine good girl. As the novel traces these girls’ lives through the Vietnam War, Woodstock, women’s lib, and more, Jo and Bethie survive tragedy and traumas.
Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy
Inti Flynn arrives in Scotland with her twin sister, Aggie, to lead a team of biologists tasked with reintroducing fourteen gray wolves into the remote Highlands. She hopes to heal not only the dying landscape, but Aggie, too, unmade by the terrible secrets that drove the sisters out of Alaska.
Inti is not the woman she once was, either, changed by the harm she’s witnessed—inflicted by humans on both the wild and each other. Yet as the wolves surprise everyone by thriving, Inti begins to let her guard down, even opening herself up to the possibility of love. But when a farmer is found dead, Inti knows where the town will lay blame. Unable to accept her wolves could be responsible, Inti makes a reckless decision to protect them. But if the wolves didn’t make the kill, then who did? And what will Inti do when the man she is falling for seems to be the prime suspect?
Propulsive and spell-binding, Charlotte McConaghy’s Once There Were Wolves is the unforgettable story of a woman desperate to save the creatures she loves—if she isn’t consumed by a wild that was once her refuge.
The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris
Twenty-six-year-old editorial assistant Nella Rogers is tired of being the only Black employee at Wagner Books. Fed up with the isolation and microaggressions, she’s thrilled when Harlem-born and bred Hazel starts working in the cubicle beside hers. They’ve only just started comparing natural hair care regimens, though, when a string of uncomfortable events elevates Hazel to Office Darling, and Nella is left in the dust.
Then the notes begin to appear on Nella’s desk: LEAVE WAGNER. NOW.
It’s hard to believe Hazel is behind these hostile messages. But as Nella starts to spiral and obsess over the sinister forces at play, she soon realizes that there’s a lot more at stake than just her career.
Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf
A senior-aged widow and widower forge a loving bond over shared loneliness and respective histories, provoking local gossip and the disapproval of their grown children in ways that are further complicated by an extended visit by a sad young grandchild.
The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson (juvenile fiction) – past All Iowa Reads
When Candice finds a letter addressed to her grandmother in an old attic in South Carolina, she isn’t sure she should read it. But the letter describes an injustice that happened decades ago, and the fortune that awaits the person who solves the puzzle. Can Candice decipher the clues to find the fortune, before the answers slip into the past?
The Passenger by Cormac McCarthy
1980, PASS CHRISTIAN, MISSISSIPPI: It is three in the morning when Bobby Western zips the jacket of his wetsuit and plunges from the boat deck into darkness. His divelight illuminates the sunken jet, nine bodies still buckled in their seats, hair floating, eyes devoid of speculation. Missing from the crash site are the pilot’s flightbag, the plane’s black box, and the tenth passenger. But how? A collateral witness to machinations that can only bring him harm, Western is shadowed in body and spirit – by men with badges; by the ghost of his father, inventor of the bomb that melted glass and flesh in Hiroshima; and by his sister, the love and ruin of his soul.
Traversing the American South, from the garrulous bar rooms of New Orleans to an abandoned oil rig off the Florida coast, The Passenger is a breathtaking novel of morality and science, the legacy of sin, and the madness that is human consciousness.
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
Criminal psychotherapist Theo Faber becomes dangerously obsessed with uncovering the truth about what prompted his client, an artist who refuses to speak, to violently murder her husband in a way that triggers mass public speculation.
Stars Over Clear Lake by Loretta Ellsworth (set in Iowa)
Lorraine Kindred’s most cherished memories are of the Surf Ballroom, the place where youth lost themselves to the brassy sounds and magnetic energy of the big band swing, where boys spent their last nights before shipping off to war—and where Lorraine herself was swept away by a star-crossed romance.
Returning to the ballroom for the first time in decades, Lorraine enters a dazzling world she thought long vanished. But as the sparkling past comes to life, so does the fateful encounter that forced her to choose between her heart and her duty all those years ago—and Lorraine must face the secret she’s buried ever since. Along the way, she’ll rediscover herself, her passion, and her capacity for resilience.
Set during the 1940s and the present and inspired by a real-life ballroom, Loretta Ellsworth’s Stars Over Clear Lake is a moving story of forbidden love, lost love, everlasting love—and self love.
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. He lives alone, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. But when a mysterious package appears at the bookstore, its unexpected arrival gives Fikry the chance to make his life over–and see everything anew.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
The book tells the story of how Slovakian Jew Lale Sokolov, who was imprisoned at Auschwitz in 1942, fell in love with a girl he was tattooing at the concentration camp.
There There by Tommy Orange
Tommy Orange’s wondrous and shattering novel follows twelve characters from Native communities: all traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow, all connected to one another in ways they may not yet realize.
A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum
In Brooklyn, eighteen-year-old Deya is starting to meet with suitors. Though she doesn’t want to get married, her grandparents give her no choice. History is repeating itself: Deya’s mother, Isra, also had no choice when she left Palestine as a teenager to marry Adam. Though Deya was raised to believe her parents died in a car accident, a secret note from a mysterious, yet familiar-looking woman makes Deya question everything she was told about her past. As the narrative alternates between the lives of Deya and Isra, she begins to understand the dark, complex secrets behind her community.
All That She Carried by Tiya Alicia Miles
In 1850s South Carolina, an enslaved woman named Rose faced a crisis: the imminent sale of her daughter Ashley. Thinking quickly, she packed a cotton bag for her with a few items, and, soon after, the nine-year-old girl was separated from her mother and sold. Decades later, Ashley’s granddaughter Ruth embroidered this family history on the sack in spare, haunting language.
Historian Tiya Miles carefully traces these women’s faint presence in archival records, and, where archives fall short, she turns to objects, art, and the environment to write a singular history of the experience of slavery, and the uncertain freedom afterward, in the United States. All That She Carried is a poignant story of resilience and love passed down against steep odds. It honors the creativity and resourcefulness of people who preserved family ties when official systems refused to do so, and it serves as a visionary illustration of how to reconstruct and recount their stories today.
American Midnight: The Great War, a Violent Peace, and Democracy’s Forgotten Crisis by Adam Hochschild
In American Midnight, award-winning historian Adam Hochschild brings alive the horrifying yet inspiring four years following the U.S. entry into the First World War, spotlighting forgotten repression while celebrating an unforgettable set of Americans who strove to fix their fractured country—and showing how their struggles still guide us today.
Daughters of Erietown by Connie Schultz
1957, Clayton Valley, Ohio. Ellie has the best grades in her class. Her dream is to go to nursing school and marry Brick McGinty. A basketball star, Brick has the chance to escape his abusive father and become the first person in his blue-collar family to attend college. But when Ellie learns that she is pregnant, everything changes. Just as Brick and Ellie revise their plans and build a family, a knock on the front door threatens to destroy their lives.
The evolution of women’s lives spanning the second half of the twentieth century is at the center of this beautiful novel that richly portrays how much people know—and pretend not to know—about the secrets at the heart of a town, and a family.
Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets by Sudhir Venkatesh
The book chronicles the life of the urban poor and explores Venkatesh’s views on poverty, money, gangs, drugs, and life in Chicago.
Indigenous Continent by Pekka Hamalainen
A prize-winning scholar rewrites 400 years of American history from Indigenous perspectives, overturning the dominant origin story of the United States.
Man Is Wolf to Man by Janusz Bardach
In 1941 Janusz Bardach’s death sentence was commuted to ten years’ hard labor and he was sent to Kolyma―the harshest, coldest, and most deadly prison in Joseph Stalin’s labor camp system―the Siberia of Siberias. The only English-language memoir since the fall of communism to chronicle the atrocities committed during the Stalinist regime, Bardach’s gripping testimony explores the darkest corners of the human condition at the same time that it documents the tyranny of Stalin’s reign, equal only to that of Hitler. With breathtaking immediacy, a riveting eye for detail, and a humanity that permeates the events and landscapes he describes, Bardach recounts the extraordinary story of this nearly inconceivable world.
The story begins with the Nazi occupation when Bardach, a young Polish Jew inspired by Soviet Communism, crosses the border of Poland to join the ranks of the Red Army. His ideals are quickly shattered when he is arrested, court-martialed, and sentenced to death. How Bardach survives an endless barrage of brutality―from a near-fatal beating to the harsh conditions and slow starvation of the gulag existence―is a testament to human endurance under the most oppressive circumstances. Besides being of great historical significance, Bardach’s narrative is a celebration of life and a vital affirmation of what it means to be human.
Old Jules by Mari Sandoz
First published in 1935, Old Jules is unquestionably Mari Sandoz’s masterpiece. This portrait of her pioneer father grew out of “the silent hours of listening behind the stove or the wood box, when it was assumed, of course, that I was asleep in bed. So it was that I heard the accounts of the hunts,” Sandoz recalls. “Of the fights with the cattlemen and the sheepmen, of the tragic scarcity of women, when a man had to ‘marry anything that got off the train,’ of the droughts, the storms, the wind and isolation. But the most impressive stories were those told me by Old Jules himself.”
Remember: The Science of Memory and the Art of Forgetting by Lisa Genova (nonfiction)
In Remember, neuroscientist and acclaimed novelist Lisa Genova delves into how memories are made and how we retrieve them. You’ll learn whether forgotten memories are temporarily inaccessible or erased forever and why some memories are built to exist for only a few seconds (like a passcode) while others can last a lifetime (your wedding day). You’ll come to appreciate the clear distinction between normal forgetting (where you parked your car) and forgetting due to Alzheimer’s (that you own a car). And you’ll see how memory is profoundly impacted by meaning, emotion, sleep, stress, and context. Once you understand the language of memory and how it functions, its incredible strengths and maddening weaknesses, its natural vulnerabilities and potential superpowers, you can both vastly improve your ability to remember and feel less rattled when you inevitably forget. You can set educated expectations for your memory, and in doing so, create a better relationship with it. You don’t have to fear it anymore. And that can be life-changing.
Running Out: In Search of Water on the High Plains by Lucas Bessire
The Ogallala aquifer has nourished life on the American Great Plains for millennia. But less than a century of unsustainable irrigation farming has taxed much of the aquifer beyond repair. The imminent depletion of the Ogallala and other aquifers around the world is a defining planetary crisis of our times. Running Out offers a uniquely personal account of aquifer depletion and the deeper layers through which it gains meaning and force.
Anthropologist Lucas Bessire journeyed back to western Kansas, where five generations of his family lived as irrigation farmers and ranchers, to try to make sense of this vital resource and its loss. His search for water across the drying High Plains brings the reader face to face with the stark realities of industrial agriculture, eroding democratic norms, and surreal interpretations of a looming disaster. Yet the destination is far from predictable, as the book seeks to move beyond the words and genres through which destruction is often known. Instead, this journey into the morass of eradication offers a series of unexpected discoveries about what it means to inherit the troubled legacies of the past and how we can take responsibility for a more inclusive, sustainable future.
She Come By It Natural by Sarah Smarsh
In this Time Top 100 Book of the Year, the National Book Award finalist and New York Times best-selling author of Heartland “analyzes how Dolly Parton’s songs – and success – have embodied feminism for working-class women” (People).
Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
In Talking to Strangers, Gladwell focuses on what happens when we encounter new people and why those encounters so often turn out poorly.
Walking the bowl : a true story of murder and survival among the street children of Lusaka by Chris Lockhat and Daniel Mulilo Chama
Based on years of investigative reporting and unprecedented fieldwork, Walking the Bowl immerses readers in the daily lives of four unforgettable characters: Lusabilo, a determined waste picker; Kapula, a burned-out brothel worker; Moonga, a former rock crusher turned beggar; and Timo, an ambitious gang leader. These children navigate the violent and poverty-stricken underworld of Lusaka, one of Africa’s fastest growing cities.
When the dead body of a ten-year-old boy is discovered under a heap of garbage in Lusaka’s largest landfill, a murder investigation quickly heats up due to the influence of the victim’s mother and her far-reaching political connections. The children’s lives become more closely intertwined as each child engages in a desperate bid for survival against forces they could never have imagined.
Gripping and fast-paced, the book exposes the perilous aspects of street life through the eyes of the children who survive, endure and dream there, and what emerges is an ultimately hopeful story about human kindness and how one small good deed, passed on to others, can make a difference in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.
The Woman’s Hour by Elaine Weiss
Nashville, August 1920. Thirty-five states have ratified the Nineteenth Amendment, 12 have rejected or refused to vote, and one last state is needed. It all comes down to Tennessee, the moment of truth for the suffragists, after a seven-decade crusade. The opposing forces include politicians with careers at stake, liquor companies, railroad magnates, and a lot of racists who don’t want black women voting. And then there are the “Antis” – women who oppose their own enfranchisement, fearing suffrage will bring about the moral collapse of the nation. They all converge in a boiling hot summer for a vicious face-off replete with dirty tricks, betrayals and bribes, bigotry, Jack Daniel’s, and the Bible.
Following a handful of remarkable women who led their respective forces into battle, along with appearances by Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding, Frederick Douglass, and Eleanor Roosevelt, The Woman’s Hour is an inspiring story of activists winning their own freedom in one of the last campaigns forged in the shadow of the Civil War, and the beginning of the great 20th-century battles for civil rights.
The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan
Timothy Egan’s critically acclaimed account rescues this iconic chapter of American history from the shadows in a tour de force of historical reportage. Following a dozen families and their communities through the rise and fall of the region, Egan tells of their desperate attempts to carry on through blinding black dust blizzards, crop failure, and the death of loved ones. Brilliantly capturing the terrifying drama of catastrophe, Egan does equal justice to the human characters who become his heroes, “the stoic, long-suffering men and women whose lives he opens up with urgency and respect” (New York Times).
You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie
Family relationships are never simple. But Sherman Alexie’s bond with his mother Lillian was more complex than most. She plunged her family into chaos with a drinking habit, but shed her addiction when it was on the brink of costing her everything. She survived a violent past, but created an elaborate facade to hide the truth. She selflessly cared for strangers, but was often incapable of showering her children with the affection that they so desperately craved. She wanted a better life for her son, but it was only by leaving her behind that he could hope to achieve it. It’s these contradictions that made Lillian Alexie a beautiful, mercurial, abusive, intelligent, complicated, and very human woman.
When she passed away, the incongruities that defined his mother shook Sherman and his remembrance of her. Grappling with the haunting ghosts of the past in the wake of loss, he responded the only way he knew how: he wrote. The result is a stunning memoir filled with raw, angry, funny, profane, tender memories of a childhood few can imagine, much less survive. An unflinching and unforgettable remembrance, You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me is a powerful, deeply felt account of a complicated relationship.