Reading Together Book Selections

2014

The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee's, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table by Tracie McMillanThe American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee's, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table  
McMillan, Tracie
2012
What if you couldn't afford nine dollar tomatoes? That was the question award-winning journalist Tracie McMillan couldn't escape as she watched the debate about America's meals unfold, one that urges us to pay food's true cost--which is to say, pay more. So in 2009, McMillan embarked on a groundbreaking undercover journey to see what it takes to eat well in America. For nearly a year, she worked, ate, and lived alongside the working poor to examine how Americans eat when price matters.
Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer by Novella CarpenterFarm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer  
Carpenter, Novella
2009
Urban and rural collide in this wry, inspiring memoir of a woman who turned a vacant lot in downtown Oakland, Calif. into a thriving farm.
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2013

The Submission by Amy WaldmanThe Submission  
Waldman, Amy
2011
"When a Muslim architect wins a blind contest to design a Ground Zero Memorial, a city of eleven million people takes notice. Waldman, a former bureau chief for the New York Times, explores a diversity of viewpoints around this fictional event, bringing in politicians, businessmen, journalists, activists, and normal people whose lives--whether by happenstance, choice, or even due to their country of origin--get caught up in the controversy. Incredibly, she manages to keep all the balls in the air without ever fumbling. The story is moving and keeps the pages turning, but there are also bigger themes at work: of individuals versus groups; about the purpose of art, commerce, government, and journalism in society; of how people respond to grief and terror. The result is honest, compelling, and breathtaking."--Chris Schluep, Amazon Best Book of the Month.
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2012

Into the Beautiful North by Luis UrreaInto the Beautiful North  
Urrea, Luis
2009
"Nineteen-year-old Nayeli works at a taco shop in her Mexican village and dreams about her father, who journeyed to the US when she was young. Recently, it has dawned on her that he isn't the only man who has left town. In fact, there are almost no men in the village--they've all gone north. While watching The Magnificent Seven, Nayeli decides to go north herself and recruit seven men--her own 'Siete Magníficos'--to repopulate her hometown and protect it from the bandidos who plan on taking it over."--Provided by publisher.
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2011

Strength in What Remains  by Tracy KidderStrength in What Remains  
Kidder, Tracy
2009
Tracy Kidder, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and author of the bestsellersThe Soul of a New Machine, House,and the enduring classicMountains Beyond Mountains, has been described by the Baltimore Sun as the “master of the non-fiction narrative.” In this new book, Kidder gives us the superb story of a hero for our time.Strength in What Remainsis a wonderfully written, inspiring account of one man’s remarkable American journey and of the ordinary people who helped him–a brilliant testament to the power of will and of second chances. Deo arrives in America from Burundi in search of a new life. Having survived a civil war and genocide, plagued by horrific dreams, he lands at JFK airport with two hundred dollars, no English, and no contacts. He ekes out a precarious existence delivering groceries, living in Central Park, and learning English by reading dictionaries in bookstores. Then Deo begins to meet the strangers who will change his life, pointing him eventually in the direction of Columbia University, medical school, and a life devoted to healing. Kidder breaks new ground in telling this unforgettable story as he travels with Deo back over a turbulent life in search of meaning and forgiveness. An extraordinary writer, Tracy Kidder once again shows us what it means to be fully human by telling a story about the heroism inherent in ordinary people, a story about a life based on hope. From the Hardcover edition. (Syndetics)
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2010

Snow Falling on Cedars  by David GutersonSnow Falling on Cedars  
Guterson, David
1994
A “finely wrought, flawlessly written” novel (New York Times Book Review), set on a small island in the Puget Sound, that is “at various moments a courtroom drama, an interracial love story, and a war chronicle” (San Francisco Chronicle). “Guterson has fashioned something haunting and true” (Pico Iyer, Time). Winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award. A fall 1999 major motion picture. (Syndetics)
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2009

All Over but the Shoutin'  by Rick BraggAll Over but the Shoutin'  
Bragg, Rick
1997
This haunting, harrowing, and gloriously moving recollection of a life on the American margin tells the story of Rick Bragg, who grew up dirt poor in Alabama, and who became a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for "The New York Times". Photos. Copyright © Libri GmbH. All rights reserved. (Syndetics)
Ava's Man by Rick BraggAva's Man  
Bragg, Rick
2001
The Pulitzer Prize–winning author of All Over but the Shoutin’ continues his personal history of the Deep South with an evocation of his mother’s childhood in the Appalachian foothills during the Great Depression, and the magnificent story of the man who raised her. Charlie Bundrum was a roofer, a carpenter, a whiskey-maker, a fisherman who knew every inch of the Coosa River, made boats out of car hoods and knew how to pack a wound with brown sugar to stop the blood. He could not read, but he asked his wife, Ava, to read him the paper every day so he would not be ignorant. He was a man who took giant steps in rundown boots, a true hero whom history would otherwise have overlooked. In the decade of the Great Depression, Charlie moved his family twenty-one times, keeping seven children one step ahead of the poverty and starvation that threatened them from every side. He worked at the steel mill when the steel was rolling, or for a side of bacon or a bushel of peaches when it wasn’t. He paid the doctor who delivered his fourth daughter, Margaret—Bragg’s mother—with a jar of whiskey. He understood the finer points of the law as it applied to poor people and drinking men; he was a banjo player and a buck dancer who worked off fines when life got a little sideways, and he sang when he was drunk, where other men fought or cussed. He had a talent for living. His children revered him. When he died, cars lined the blacktop for more than a mile. Rick Bragg has built a soaring monument to the grandfather he never knew—a father who stood by his family in hard times and left a backwoods legend behind—in a book that blazes with his love for his family, and for a particular stretch of dirt road along the Alabama-Georgia border. A powerfully intimate piece of American history as it was experienced by the working people of the Deep South, a glorious record of a life of character, tenacity and indomitable joy and an unforgettable tribute to a vanishing culture, Ava’s Man is Rick Bragg at his stunning best. (Syndetics)
The Prince of Frogtown by Rick BraggThe Prince of Frogtown  
Bragg, Rick
2008
In this final volume of the beloved American saga that began withAll Over but the Shoutin’and continued withAva’s Man,Rick Bragg closes his circle of family stories with an unforgettable tale about fathers and sons inspired by his own relationship with his ten-year-old stepson. He learns, right from the start, that a man who chases a woman with a child is like a dog who chases a car and wins. He discovers that he is unsuited to fatherhood, unsuited to fathering this boy in particular, a boy who does not know how to throw a punch and doesn’t need to; a boy accustomed to love and affection rather than violence and neglect; in short, a boy wholly unlike the child Rick once was, and who longs for a relationship with Rick that Rick hasn’t the first inkling of how to embark on. With the weight of this new boy tugging at his clothes, Rick sets out to understand his father, his son, and himself. The Prince of Frogtowndocuments a mesmerizing journey back in time to the lush Alabama landscape of Rick’s youth, to Jacksonville’s one-hundred-year-old mill, the town’s blight and salvation; and to a troubled, charismatic hustler coming of age in its shadow, Rick’s father, a man bound to bring harm even to those he truly loves. And the book documents the unexpected corollary to it, the marvelous journey of Rick’s later life: a journey into fatherhood, and toward a child for whom he comes to feel a devotion that staggers him. With candor, insight, tremendous humor, and the remarkable gift for descriptive storytelling on which he made his name, Rick Bragg delivers a brilliant and moving rumination on the lives of boys and men, a poignant reflection on what it means to be a father and a son. From the Trade Paperback edition. (Syndetics)
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2008

Animal Dreams by Barbara KingsolverAnimal Dreams  
Kingsolver, Barbara
1990
In a combination of flashbacks, dreams, and Native American legends, the acclaimed author of The Bean Trees offers a suspenseful love story and a moving exploration of life's largest commitments. "Probes the human heart with uncommon wisdom".--New York Newsday. Copyright © Libri GmbH. All rights reserved. (Syndetics)
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2007

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark HaddonThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time  
Haddon, Mark
1990
Narrated by a 15-year-old autistic savant obsessed with Sherlock Holmes, this dazzling novel weaves together an old-fashioned mystery, a contemporary coming-of-age story, and a fascinating excursion into a mind incapable of processing emotions. (Syndetics)
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2006

The Things They Carried by Tim O'BrienThe Things They Carried  
O'Brien, Tim
1990
On the twentieth anniversary of its publication,The Things They Carriedreturns to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in paperback, with over two million copies in print.   A classic work of American literature that has not stopped changing minds and lives since it burst onto the literary scene,The Things They Carriedis a ground-breaking meditation on war, memory, imagination, and the redemptive power of storytelling.    The Things They Carrieddepicts the men of Alpha Company: Jimmy Cross, Henry Dobbins, Rat Kiley, Mitchell Sanders, Norman Bowker, Kiowa, and the character Tim O’Brien, who has survived his tour in Vietnam to become a father and writer at the age of forty-three.   Taught everywhere—from high school classrooms to graduate seminars in creative writing—it has become required reading for any American and continues to challenge readers in their perceptions of fact and fiction, war and peace, courage and fear and longing. (Syndetics)
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2005

The Color of Water by James McBrideThe Color of Water  
McBride, James
1996
Coming February 2001: Miracle at St. Anna, a gripping, page-turning, highly original first novel about black servicemen in Italy in World War II by James McBride, the bestselling, acclaimed, and beloved author of the huge New York Times bestseller The Color of Water. Who is Ruth McBride Jordan? A self-declared "light-skinned" woman evasive about her ethnicity, yet steadfast in her love for her twelve black children. James McBride, journalist, musician and son, explores his mother's past, as well as his own upbringing and heritage, in a poignant and powerful debut, The Color Of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother.The son of a black minister and a woman who would not admit she was white, James McBride grew up in "orchestrated chaos" with his eleven siblings in the poor, all-black projects of Red Hook, Brooklyn. "Mommy," a fiercely protective woman with "dark eyes full of pep and fire," herded her brood to Manhattan's free cultural events, sent them off on buses to the best (and mainly Jewish) schools, demanded good grades and commanded respect. As a young man, McBride saw his mother as a source of embarrassment, worry, and confusion--and reached thirty before he began to discover the truth about her early life and long-buried pain.In The Color of Water, McBride retraces his mother's footsteps and, through her searing and spirited voice, recreates her remarkable story. The daughter of a failed itinerant Orthodox rabbi, she was born Rachel Shilsky (actually Ruchel Dwara Zylska) in Poland on April 1, 1921. Fleeing pogroms, her family emigrated to America and ultimately settled in Suffolk, Virginia, a small town where anti-Semitism and racial tensions ran high. With candor and immediacy, Ruth describes her parents' loveless marriage; her fragile, handicapped mother; her cruel, sexually-abusive father; and the rest of the family and life she abandoned.At seventeen, after fleeing Virginia and settling in New York City, Ruth married a black minister and founded the all-black New Brown Memorial Baptist Church in her Red Hook living room. "God is the color of water," Ruth McBride taught her children, firmly convinced that life's blessings and life's values transcend race. Twice widowed, and continually confronting overwhelming adversity and racism, Ruth's determination, drive and discipline saw her dozen children through college--and most through graduate school. At age 65, she herself received a degree in social work from Temple University.Interspersed throughout his mother's compelling narrative, McBride shares candid recollections of his own experiences as a mixed-race child of poverty, his flirtations with drugs and violence, and his eventual self-realization and professional success. The Color of Water touches readers of all colors as a vivid portrait of growing up, a haunting meditation on race and identity, and a lyrical valentine to a mother from her son. (Syndetics)
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2004

Nickel and Dimed by Barbara EhrenreichNickel and Dimed  
Ehrenreich, Barbara
2001
Our sharpest and most original social critic goes "undercover" as an unskilled worker to reveal the dark side of American prosperity.Millions of Americans work full time, year round, for poverty-level wages. In 1998, Barbara Ehrenreich decided to join them. She was inspired in part by the rhetoric surrounding welfare reform, which promised that a job -- any job -- can be the ticket to a better life. But how does anyone survive, let alone prosper, on $6 an hour? To find out, Ehrenreich left her home, took the cheapest lodgings she could find, and accepted whatever jobs she was offered. Moving from Florida to Maine to Minnesota, she worked as a waitress, a hotel maid, a cleaning woman, a nursing-home aide, and a Wal-Mart sales clerk. She lived in trailer parks and crumbling residential motels. Very quickly, she discovered that no job is truly "unskilled," that even the lowliest occupations require exhausting mental and muscular effort. She also learned that one job is not enough; you need at least two if you int to live indoors.Nickel and Dimed reveals low-rent America in all its tenacity, anxiety, and surprising generosity -- a land of Big Boxes, fast food, and a thousand desperate stratagems for survival. Read it for the smoldering clarity of Ehrenreich's perspective and for a rare view of how "prosperity" looks from the bottom. You will never see anything -- from a motel bathroom to a restaurant meal -- in quite the same way again. (Syndetics)
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2003

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray BradburyFahrenheit 451  
Bradbury, Ray
1982
Internationally acclaimed with more than 5 million copies in print, Fahrenheit 451 is Ray Bradbury's classic novel of censorship and defiance, as resonant today as it was when it was first published nearly 50 years ago.Guy Montag was a fireman whose job it was to start fires...The system was simple. Everyone understood it. Books were for burning ... along with the houses in which they were hidden.Guy Montag enjoyed his job. He had been a fireman for ten years, and he had never questioned the pleasure of the midnight runs nor the joy of watching pages consumed by flames... never questioned anything until he met a seventeen-year-old girl who told him of a past when people were not afraid.Then he met a professor who told him of a future in which people could think... and Guy Montag suddenly realized what he had to do! (Syndetics)
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