Books from our Discussion Groups

Coming to America: Immigrants in Fiction

American by Day - Derek Miller
In this mystery a Norwegian cop comes to upstate New York in search of missing person, a wanted fugitive, her own brother.
My New American Life - Francine Prose
A 26-year-old Albanian nanny over-staying her visa provides the sharp observations of the USA in the 90s in this satirical novel.
American Dervish - Ahmad Akhtar
The son of Pakistani immigrants deals with the conflict between his inherited and adopted cultures in this coming-of-age novel.
The Parking Lot Attendant - Nafkote Tamirat
An Ethiopian teen in Boston falls under the spell of a charismatic, mysterious man, with all the confusion of any teen, in this genre-bending novel.

Strange: How and Where People Live

Our Towns - James Fallows and Deborah Fallows
The authors traveled all over the United States in their small plane to visit “flyover country,” small towns that are not big destinations to discover what makes them work.
Nothing to Envy - Barbara Demick
In this book 6 defectors from the closed city of Chongjin (out of more than 100 from all of N. Korea whom she interviewed) describe the lives they left, and provide a rare portrait of life in the DPRK.
Strangers in their Own Land - Arlie Hochschild
A sociologist grapples with the fact that with environmental, healthcare, social, and political issues in bayou country, the residents seem to vote against their own interests. Her prolonged stays in Louisiana prompt observations that apply all across America.
The Underground Girls of Kabul - Jenny Nordberg
In Afghanistan, where gender roles are rigidly prescribed, it is not uncommon for a girl to pass her childhood as a boy, in order to provide a son for a family without a male heir. The role of women in this society is the focus of Western attention and phlianthropy and the results are far from clear.

The World of Work in Fiction

The Assistants - Camille Perri
Are the smart millennial executive assistants at a big media conglomerate smart enough to solve their student loan debt dilemma?
Last Night at the Lobster - Stewart O’Nan
A restaurant manager tries to cope with the holiday rush, a blizzard, and his personal life when the chain's executives are closing his restaurant down.
Fourth of July Creek - Smith Henderson
Pete, a social worker in poor rural Montana finds his own life fraying along with his clients’.
The Devil and Webster - Jean Hanff Korelitz
A female college president grapples with identity politics on campus.

Journeys of Discovery

The Lost City of the Monkey God: A true story - Douglas Preston
. A journalist accompanies a team of archeologists in Honduras to find the fabled “White City.”
The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain - Bill Bryson
The longest straight line a walker could walk-- from Bognar Regis to Cape Wrath-- defines Bryson’s adventures and ruminations. What discoveries remain 20 years after Notes from a Small Island?
Putin Country: A journey into the real Russia - Anne Garrels
After 4 decades of reporting on the country, a reporter seeks to understand the appeal their leader has for everyday Russians.
Tip of the Iceberg: My 3,000-mile journey around wild Alaska, the last great American frontier - Mark Adams
The 1899 Harriman expedition forms the parameters for Mark Adams' own adventures as he ferries or flies to places visited by the earlier explorers.

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.