Book Group Books

NEA Big Read Novels

Five Skies - Ron Carlson
An exploration of work and friendship as three wounded men labor on a mysterious project in a vast western landscape.
In the Shadow of the Banyan - Vaddey Ratner
A sheltered child, plunged into the war and chaos of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, 40+ years ago, survives on remembered love and stories.
Into the Beautiful North - Luis Alberto Urrea
Inspired by a movie, a young woman goes from Mexico to the US to bring back seven men to save her village from gang violence.
Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel
After a flu pandemic wipes out 99% of humanity, little communities persist amid the devastation, including a traveling band of actors and musicians preserving hope through art.

Well-Known Heroes, Unknown Heroines

Hero of the Empire - Candice Millard
How Churchill’s actions in the Boer War transformed him from a disappointment to a national figure
Daughters of the Samurai - Janice P. Nimura
Three preteen girls leave Japan for the US in 1871 tasked with learning how to establish women’s education in their homeland.
Lafayette in the Somewhat United States - Sarah Vowell
One man’s story of the Revolution, a tour of the early United States, and reflections from the 21st century.
The Woman who Smashed Codes - Jason Fagone
An English major teams up with a geneticist to crack cyphers from World Wars I and II and criminal gangs-- and then is erased from history.

American Families: Diversity in Fiction

They May Not Mean To, But They Do - Cathleen Schine
A Jewish family in New York copes with their widowed mother, and she with her children and extended family.
The Maid’s Version - Daniel Woodrell
A Depression-era tragedy in the MIssouri Ozarks shapes the hard-working grandmother and the grandson sent to spend a summer with her.
The Turner House - Angela Flournoy
Detroit in 2008 is the setting of an African American family’s story.
The Book of Unknown Americans - Cristina Henriquez
Immigrants who find themselves in Delaware include the Riveras from Mexico and the Toro family from Panama and their Latino friends and neighbors.

Singular Perspectives: Nonfiction and the Author's Experience

A Voyage Long and Strange: on the trail of Vikings, Conquistadors, lost colonists and other adventurers in early America - Tony Horwitz
With his inimitable humor and adventurousness, Horwitz sets out on a wild ride debunking the myths of American history.
It’s What I Do: a photographer’s life of love and war - Lynsey Addario
A young woman who is her best self behind the camera in war zones accounts for her life and work, and adjusts to motherhood.
A Long Way Home - Saroo Brierley
Amazing journeys-- the 4-year-old transported 1,000 miles to Kolkata and then adopted in Australia becomes 25 years later, the searcher trying to find his way back.
Lab girl - Hope Jahren
A geobiologist weaves a tale about growth of all kinds, including her own, as a scientist, teacher, and human being.

The Home Front: World War II in Fiction

The Paris Architect - Charles Belfoure
In Paris during the Nazi occupation. Lucien Bernard--who, like the book's author, is an architect--is offered a large sum of money to outsmart the Gestapo by devising unique hiding places for Jews.
The Wind Is Not a River - Brian Payton
In the Japanese invasion and partial occupation of Alaska's Aleutian Islands, war correspondent John Easley is shot down in a seaplane along with six crewmembers in April 1943, just off the barren island of Attu, and his wife Helen back home refuses to accept his disappearance.
Crooked Heart - Lissa Evans
When Noel Bostock--aged ten, no family--is evacuated from London to escape the Nazi bombardment, he lands in a suburb northwest of the city with Vera Sedge--a thirty-six-year old widow drowning in debts and dependents. Always desperate for money, she's unscrupulous about how she gets it.
The Translation of Love - Lynne Kutsukake
Intertwining stories of several protagonists in post-World War II Tokyo,including a daughter and her father repatriated after being interned in Canada..

Readers' Choice Nonfiction

How the Irish Saved Civilization:the untold story of Ireland's heroic role from the fall of Rome to the rise of medieval Europe - Thomas Cahill
While barbarians were sacking Europe, the monks and scholars of Ireland were painstakingly and lovingly preserving the written record. An illuminating history.
The Tender Bar: a memoir - J. R. Moehringer
First a fatherless boy, then a floundering young man, the author of this memoir found his rescue in an unlikely place.
The Other Wes Moore: One name, two fates - Wes Moore
Two unrelated young men, both named Wes Moore, growing up a few blocks apart have astoundingly different outcomes.
Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four women undercover in the Civil War- - Karen Abbott
On both sides of the Civil War these women were ingenious, courageous, and loyal in breathtaking battles and rescues.

Americans Abroad in Novels

The Expats - Chris Pavone
In this thriller, an ex-CIA housewife is at loose ends in Luxembourg.
Crazy Rich Asians - Kevin Kwan
A satire in which a Chinese-born American girl accompanies her boyfriend home to meet his superwealthy relatives and friends in Singapore.
Peacekeeping - Mischa Berlinski
In this literary fiction, a novelist and his UN employee wife try to influence Haitian politics.
The Sandcastle Girls - Chris Bohjalian
Historical fiction set in 1915 when a young woman brings aid to the Armenian refugees and falls in love, a story discovered and told by her granddaughter 100 years later.

History that Reads Like a Novel

Salt: A World History - Mark Kurlansky
How “the rock we eat” shaped civilization
Falling Upwards: how we took to the air - Richard Holmes
Flying, from dream to reality
Midnight Rising: John Brown and the raid that sparked the Civil War - Tony Horwitz
Harper’s Ferry retold
A Crack in the Edge of the World - Simon Winchester
The San Francisco earthquake 1906 and the billions of years that led to it.

Secrets and Science in Popular Fiction

cover of  A Reliable Wife
cover of The Husband’s Secret
cover of Forty signs of rain
cover of The Martian
A Reliable Wife - Robert Goolrick
A gothic novel set in turn of the twentieth century Wisconsin
The Husband’s Secret - Liane Moriarty
Intertwined lives and secrets in Australia
Forty Signs of Rain - Kim Stanley Robinson
A near-future experience of science and politics
The Martian - Andy Weir
Stranded on the red planet, can a lone astronaut survive?

Exploring Nonfiction

cover of Cleopatra: a Life
cover of The Sixth Extinction: an unnatural history
Behind the Beautiful Forevers
cover of Being Mortal
Cleopatra: a Life - Stacy Schiff
Biography takes us back over the millennia
The Sixth Extinction: an unnatural history - Elizabeth Kolbert
The world in crisis--science writing
Behind the Beautiful Forevers - Katherine Boo
The stories of a Mumbai slum
Being Mortal - Atul Gawande
Psychology and medicine raise important questions