Are you tired of your current World Assignment? Perhaps you should look into another world, spend some time there. I compiled a list of titles that include the word World and this year we will be reading 12 of them. Below are all the books from which the girls chose this year’s list of worlds.
A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the smash bestseller Orphan Train, a stunning and atmospheric novel of friendship, passion, and art, inspired by Andrew Wyeth’s mysterious and iconic painting Christina’s World. To Christina Olson, the entire world was her family’s remote farm in the small coastal town of Cushing, Maine. Born in the home her family had lived in for generations, and increasingly incapacitated by illness, Christina seemed destined for a small life. Instead, for more than twenty years, she was host and inspiration for the artist Andrew Wyeth, and became the subject of one of the best known American paintings of the twentieth century.(Art, Maine Literary Award Fiction, Goodreads Choice Historical Fiction, GR 3.86, 352p)
News of the World by Paulette Jiles In the aftermath of the Civil War, an aging itinerant news reader agrees to transport a young captive of the Kiowa back to her people in this exquisitely rendered, morally complex, multilayered novel of historical fiction from the author of Enemy Women that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust. In the wake of the Civil War, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings from newspapers to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. An elderly widower who has lived through three wars and fought in two of them, the captain enjoys his rootless, solitary existence.In Wichita Falls, he is offered a $50 gold piece to deliver a young orphan to her relatives in SanAntonio. Four years earlier, a band of Kiowa raiders killed Johanna’s parents and sister; sparing the little girl, they raised her as one of their own. Recently rescued by the U.S. army, the ten year-old has once again been torn away from the only home she knows. Their 400-mile journey south through unsettled territory and unforgiving terrain proves difficult and at times dangerous. Johanna has forgotten the English language, tries to escape at every opportunity, throws away her shoes, and refuses to act “civilized.” Yet as the miles pass, the two lonely survivors tentatively begin to trust each other, forming a bond that marks the difference between life and death in this treacherous land. (This is now a movie with Tom Hanks.)(Texas, National Book Award, Spur Award for Best Western GR 4.09, 209p)
The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar The author of The Space Between Us and The Weight of Heaven, returns with a breathtaking new novel—a skillfully wrought, emotionally resonant story of four women and the indelible friendship they share. Fans of Jennifer Haigh’s Faith, Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies, and Katrina Kittle’s The Kindness of Strangers will be captivated by Umrigar’s The World We Found—a moving story of bottled secrets, unfulfilled dreams, and the acceptance that can still lead to redemption, from a writer whom the NewYork Times calls “perceptive and often piercing.”(Lambda Literary Award, GR 3.82, 320p)
Because of the style of our voting this year, we did not choose a book from this category for our reading list.
Half a World Away by Mike Gayle Strangers living worlds apart. Strangers with nothing in common. But it wasn’t always that way. Kerry Hayes is single mum, living on a tough south London estate. She provides for her son by cleaning houses she could never afford. Taken into care as a child, Kerry cannot forget her past. Noah Martineau is a successful barrister with a beautiful wife, daughter and home in fashionable Primrose Hill. Adopted as a young child, Noah never looks back. When Kerry contacts Noah, the sibling she lost on the day they were torn apart as children, she sets in motion a chain of events that will change both of their lives forever. By turns funny and moving, Half a World Away is a story that will stay with you long after you read its final page.(British, GR 4.15, 320p) This is the one we chose.
A Map of the World by Jane Hamilton One unremarkable June morning, Alice Goodwin is, as usual, trying to keep in check both her temper and her tendency to blame herself for her family’s shortcomings. When the Goodwins took over the last dairy farm in the small Midwestern town of Prairie Center, they envisioned their home a self-made paradise. But these days, as Alice is all too aware, her elder daughterEmma is prone to inexplicable fits of rage, her husband Howard distrusts her maternal competence, and Prairie Center’s tight-knit suburban community shows no signs of warming to “those hippies who think they can run a farm.” A loner by nature, Alice is torn between a yearning for solitude coupled with a deep need to be at the center of a perfect family. On this particular day, Emma has started the morning with a violent tantrum, her little sister Claire is eating pennies, and it is Alice’s turn to watch her neighbor’s two small girls as well as her own.She absentmindedly steals a minute alone that quickly becomes ten: time enough for a devastating accident to occur. Her neighbor’s daughter Lizzy drowns in the farm’s pond, andAlice – whose own volatility and unmasked directness keep her on the outskirts of acceptance- becomes the perfect scapegoat. (Wisconsin, GR 3.81, 400p)
Beautiful World, Where Are You? by Sally Rooney Alice, a novelist, meets Felix, who works in a warehouse, and asks him if he’d like to travel to Rome with her. In Dublin, her best friend, Eileen, is getting over a break-up, and slips back into flirting with Simon, a man she has known since childhood. Alice, Felix, Eileen, and Simon are still young—but life is catching up with them. They desire each other, they delude each other, they get together, they break apart. They have sex, they worry about sex, they worry about their friendships and the world they live in. Are they standing in the last lighted room before the darkness, bearing witness to something? Will they find a way to believe in a beautiful world?(Ireland, Goodreads Choice Award, GR 3.73 356p)
A Collection of Short Stories
A Model World by Michael Chabon In this brilliant collection of short stories a plagiarized dissertation on Antarctic cloud movement leads to an awkward encounter between a student and his professor, a toy inventor and a DJ fall for the same waitress with unhappy consequences for their friendship, and a failing baseball pitcher, at his friend’s funeral, is forced to face the truth about his career.Peopled with enthralling characters and finding the unexpected in every situation, these eleven stories are written with Chabon’s characteristic wryness, inventiveness and intellectual depth. (GR 3.55, 208p)
Homesick for Another World by Otessah Moshfegh An electrifying first collection from one of the most exciting short story writers of our time.There’s something eerily unsettling about Ottessa Moshfegh’s stories, something almost dangerous, while also being delightful, and even laugh-out-loud funny. Her characters are all unsteady on their feet in one way or another; they all yearn for connection and betterment, though each in very different ways, but they are often tripped up by their own baser impulses and existential insecurities. Homesick for Another World is a master class in the varieties of self-deception across the gamut of individuals representing the human condition. But part of the unique quality of her voice, the echt Moshfeghian experience, is the way the grotesque and the outrageous are infused with tenderness and compassion. Moshfegh is our Flannery O’Connor, and Homesick for Another World is her Everything That Rises Must Converge or A Good Man is Hard to Find. The flesh is weak; the timber is crooked; people are cruel to each other, and stupid, and hurtful. But beauty comes from strange sources, and the dark energy surging through these stories is powerfully invigorating. We’re in the hands of an author with a big mind, a big heart, blazing chops, and a political acuity that is needle-sharp. The needle hits the vein before we even feel the prick. (A New York Times Book Review Notable Book of 2017, GR 3.72, 294p)
A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters by Julian Barnes Beginning with an unlikely stowaway’s account of life on board Noah’s Ark, A History of theWorld in 10½ Chapters presents a surprising, subversive, fictional history of earth told from several kaleidoscopic perspectives. Noah disembarks from his ark but he and his Voyage are not forgotten: they are revisited in on other centuries and other climes – by a Victorian spinster mourning her father, by an American astronaut on an obsessive personal mission. We journey to the Titanic, to the Amazon, to the raft of the Medusa, and to an ecclesiastical court in medieval France where a bizarre case is about to begin… This is no ordinary history, but something stranger, a challenge and a delight for the reader’s imagination. Ambitious yet accessible, witty and playfully serious, this is the work of a brilliant novelist.(GR 3.89, 320p)
We chose two short story collections; Homesick for Another World and A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters.
Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Bryson At first glance, Bill Bryson seems an odd choice to write this addition to the Eminent Lives series. The author of ‘The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid’ isn’t, after all, a Shakespeare scholar, a playwright, or even a biographer. Reading ‘Shakespeare The World As Stage’,however, one gets the sense that this eclectic Iowan is exactly the type of person the Bard himself would have selected for the task. The man who gave us ‘The Mother Tongue’ and ‘A Walk in the Woods’ approaches Shakespeare with the same freedom of spirit and curiosity that made those books such reader favorites. A refreshing take on an elusive literary master.(Humor, GR 3.79, 199p)
Dancing at the Edge of the World: Thoughts on Words, Women, Places by Ursula K. Le Guin “I have decided that the trouble with print is, it never changes its mind,” writes Ursula Le Guin in her introduction to Dancing at the Edge of the World. But she has, and here is the record of that change in the decade since the publication of her last nonfiction collection, The Language of the Night. And what a mind — strong, supple, disciplined, playful, ranging over the whole field of its concerns, from modern literature to menopause, from utopian thought to rodeos, with an eloquence, wit, and precision that makes for exhilarating reading.(Hugo Award Nominee, Best Nonfiction Book (1990), Oregon Book Award Nominee, Nonfiction(Finalist) (1990), GR 4.12, 320p)
The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander In The Light of the World, Elizabeth Alexander finds herself at an existential crossroads after the sudden death of her husband. Channeling her poetic sensibilities into a rich, lucid prose,Alexander tells a love story that is, itself, a story of loss. As she reflects on the beauty of her married life, the trauma resulting from her husband’s death, and the solace found in caring for her two teenage sons, Alexander universalizes a very personal quest for meaning and acceptance in the wake of loss. The Light of the World is at once an endlessly compelling memoir and a deeply felt meditation on the blessings of love, family, art, and community. It is also a lyrical celebration of a life well-lived and a paean to the priceless gift of human companionship. For those who have loved and lost, or for anyone who cares what matters most, The Light of the World is required reading.(Pulitzer Prize Nominee, Biography or Autobiography (2016), National Book Critics CircleAward Nominee, Autobiography (2015), Hurston/Wright Legacy Award Nominee, Nonfiction(Finalist) (2016), NAACP Image Award Nominee, Nonfiction (2016) GR 4.08, 209p)
We chose two from this category as well; Dancing at the Edge of the World and The Light of the World.
The World’s Fair by E. L. Doctorow The astonishing novel of a young boy’s life in the New York City of the 1930s, a stunning recreation of the sights, sounds, aromas and emotions of a time when the streets were safe, families stuck together through thick and thin, and all the promises of a generation culminate in a single great World’s Fair. (National Book Award, GR 3.84, 304p) Our group chose this one.
Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne One night in the reform club, Phileas Fogg bets his companions that he can travel across the globe in just eighty days. Breaking the well-established routine of his daily life, he immediately sets off for Dover with his astonished valet Passepartout. Passing through exotic lands and dangerous locations, they seize whatever transportation is at hand—whether train or elephant—overcoming set-backs and always racing against the clock.(Adventure, Sci Fi, GR 3.94, 252p)
The World of Suzie Wong by Richard Mason The timeless story of the love affair between a British artist and a Chinese prostitute.Robert is the only resident of the Nam Kok hotel not renting his room by the hour when he meets Suzie at the bar. She becomes his muse and they fall in love. But even in Hong Kong, where many white expatriates have Chinese mistresses, their romance could jeopardize the things they each hold dear. Set in the mid-1950s, The World of Suzie Wong is a beautifully written time capsule of a novel. First published more than fifty years ago, it resonated with readers worldwide, inspiring a film starring William H olden, a ballet, and even a reggae song.Now readers can experience the romance of this groundbreaking story anew.(Romance, China, GR 3.91, 288p)
The Late Bourgeois World by Nadine Gordimer Liz Van Den Sandt’s ex-husband, Max, an ineffectual rebel, has drowned himself. In prison fora failed act of violence against the government, he had betrayed his colleagues.Now Liz has been asked to perform a direct service for the black nationalist movement, at considerable danger to herself. Can she take such a risk in the face of Max’s example of the uselessness of such actions? Yet… how can she not?(South Africa, GR 3.50, 96p)
The Known World by Edward P. Jones One of the most acclaimed novels in recent memory, the Known World tells the story of HenryTownsend, a black farmer and former slave who falls under the tutelage of William Robbins, the most powerful man in Manchester County, Virginia. Making certain he never circumvents the law, Townsend runs his affairs with unusual discipline. But when death takes him unexpectedly, his widow, Caldonia, can’t uphold the estate’s order, and chaos ensues. Jones has woven a footnote of history into an epic that takes an unflinching look at slavery in all its moral complexities.(Pulitzer Prize, Fiction (2004), Anisfield-Wolf Book Award (2004), National Book Critics Circle Award,Fiction (2003), Hurston/Wright Legacy Award Nominee, Debut Fiction (2004), National Book AwardFinalist, Fiction (2003), International Dublin Literary Award (2005) GR 3.80 388p) We chose this historical fiction.
The Tilted World by Tom Franklin, Beth Ann Fennelly The year is 1927. As rains swell the Mississippi, the mighty river threatens to burst its banks and engulf all in its path, including federal revenue agent Ted Ingersoll and his partner, HamJohnson. Arriving in the tiny hamlet of Hobnob, Mississippi, to investigate the disappearance of two fellow agents on the trail of a local bootlegger, they unexpectedly find an abandoned baby boy at a crime scene. An orphan raised by nuns, Ingersoll is determined to find the infant a home, a search that leads him to Dixie Clay Holliver. A lonely woman married too young to a charming and sometimes violent philanderer, Dixie Clay has lost her only child to illness and is powerless to resist this second chance at motherhood. From the moment they meet, Ingersoll and Dixie Clay are drawn to each other. He has no idea that she’s the best bootlegger in the county and may be connected to the missing agents. And while he seems kind and gentle,Dixie Clay knows he is the enemy and must not be trusted.Then a deadly new peril arises, endangering them all. A saboteur, hired by rich New Orleans bankers eager to protect their city, is planning to dynamite the levee and flood Hobnob, where the river bends precariously. Now, with time running out, Ingersoll, Ham, and Dixie Clay must make desperate choices, choices that will radically transform their lives-if they survive.(Southern Gothic, Crime, GR 3.85, 303p)
The World According to Garp by John Irving This is the life and times of T. S. Garp, the bastard son of Jenny Fields—a feminist leader ahead of her times. This is the life and death of a famous mother and her almost-famous son; theirs is a world of sexual extremes—even of sexual assassinations. It is a novel rich with”lunacy and sorrow”; yet the dark, violent events of the story do not undermine a comedy both ribald and robust. In more than thirty languages, in more than forty countries—with more than ten million copies in print—this novel provides almost cheerful, even hilarious evidence of its famous last line: “In the world according to Garp, we are all terminal cases.”(National Book Award, GR 4.09, 610p)
The World in Half by Cristina Henriquez Miraflores has never known her father, and until now, she’s never thought that he wanted to know her. She’s long been aware that her mother had an affair with him while she was stationed with her then-husband in Panama, and she’s always assumed that her pregnant mother came back to the United States alone with his consent. But when Miraflores returns to the Chicago suburb where she grew up, to care for her mother at a time of illness, she discovers that her mother and father had a greater love than she ever thought possible and that her father had wanted her more than she could have ever imagined. In secret, Miraflores plots a trip to Panama, in search of the man whose love she hopes can heal her mother, and whose presence she believes can help her find the pieces of her own identity that she thought were irretrievably lost. What she finds is unexpected, exhilarating, and holds the power to change the course of her life completely. (Panama, GR 3.67, 305p)
Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson When Isabelle Poole meets Dr. Preston Grind, she’s just about out of options. She recently graduated from high school and is pregnant with her art teacher’s baby. Her mother is dead and her father is a drunk. The art teacher is too much of a head-case to help raise the child.Izzy knows she can be a good mother but without any money or prospects, she’s left searching. So when Dr. Grind offers her a space in The Infinite Family Project, she accepts.Housed in a spacious compound in Tennessee, she joins nine other couples, all with children the same age as her newborn son, to raise their children as one extended family. Grind’s theory is that the more parental love a child receives, the better off they are. This attempt at a utopian ideal-funded by an eccentric billionaire-starts off promising: Izzy enjoys the kids, reading to them and teaching them to cook. She even forms a bond with her son more meaningful than she ever expected. But soon the gentle equilibrium among the families is upset and it all starts to disintegrate: unspoken resentments between the couples begin to fester; the project’s funding becomes tenuous; and Izzy’s feelings for Dr. Grind, who is looking to expunge his own painful childhood, make her question her participation in this strange experiment in the first place. (Dystopia, GR 3.65, 352p)
None of the titles in this category were chosen for this year’s reading list.
The King at the Edge of the World by Arthur Phillips The year is 1601. Queen Elizabeth is dying, childless. The nervous kingdom has no heir. It is a capital crime even to think that Elizabeth will ever die. Potential successors secretly maneuver to be in position when the inevitable arrives. The leading candidate is King James VI ofScotland, but there is a problem. The queen’s spymasters–hardened veterans of a long war on terror and religious extremism–fear that James is not what he appears. He has every reason to claim he is a Protestant, but if he secretly shares his family’s Catholicism, then the last forty years of religious war will have been for nothing, and a bloodbath will ensue. With time running out, London confronts a seemingly impossible question: What does James truly believe?It falls to Geoffrey Belloc, a secret warrior from the hottest days of England’s religious battles, to devise a test to discover the true nature of King James’s soul. Belloc enlists Mahmoud Ezzedine, a Muslim physician left behind by the last diplomatic visit from the Ottoman Empire, as his undercover agent. The perfect man for the job, Ezzedine is the ultimate outsider, stranded on this cold, wet, and primitive island. He will do almost anything to return home to his wife and son.(British, Scotland, Espionage GR 3.58, 266p)
The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman In Berlin, at the time when the world changed, Hanni Kohn knows she must send her twelve year-old daughter away to save her from the Nazi regime. She finds her way to a renowned rabbi, but it’s his daughter, Ettie, who offers hope of salvation when she creates a mystical Jewish creature, a rare and unusual golem, who is sworn to protect Lea. Once Ava is brought to life, she and Lea and Ettie become eternally entwined, their paths fated to cross, their fortunes linked. Lea and Ava travel from Paris, where Lea meets her soulmate, to a convent in western France known for its silver roses; from a school in a mountaintop village where three thousand Jews were saved. Meanwhile, Ettie is in hiding, waiting to become the fighter she’s destined to be. What does it mean to lose your mother? How much can one person sacrifice for love? In a world where evil can be found at every turn, we meet remarkable characters that take us on a stunning journey of loss and resistance, the fantastical and the mortal, in a place where all roads lead past the Angel of Death and love is never ending. (WWII, Magical Realism, Dayton Literary Peace Prize, GR 4.19, 372p)
An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro In the face of the misery in his homeland, the artist Masuji Ono was unwilling to devote his art solely to the celebration of physical beauty. Instead, he put his work in the service of the imperialist movement that led Japan into World War II. Now, as the mature Ono struggles through the aftermath of that war, his memories of his youth and of the “floating world”—the nocturnal world of pleasure, entertainment, and drink—offer him both escape and redemption, even as they punish him for betraying his early promise. Indicted by society for its defeat and reviled for his past aesthetics, he relives the passage through his personal history that makes him both a hero and a coward but, above all, a human being. (Japan, Booker Prize, Whitbread Award for Novel and Book of the Year, 1986, GR 3.77, 206p) We chose this title for our reading list.
The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland by JimDeFede When 38 jetliners bound for the United States were forced to land at Gander InternationalAirport in Canada by the closing of U.S. airspace on September 11, the population of this small town on Newfoundland Island swelled from 10,300 to nearly 17,000. The citizens of Gander met the stranded passengers with an overwhelming display of friendship and goodwill. As the passengers stepped from the airplanes, exhausted, hungry and distraught after being held onboard for nearly 24 hours while security checked all of the baggage, they were greeted with a feast prepared by the townspeople. Local bus drivers who had been on strike came off the picket lines to transport the passengers to the various shelters set up in local schools and churches. Linens and toiletries were bought and donated. A middle school provided showers, as well as access to computers, email, and televisions, allowing the passengers to stay in touch with family and follow the news. Over the course of those four days, many of the passengers developed friendships with Gander residents that they expect to last a lifetime. Asa show of thanks, scholarship funds for the children of Gander have been formed and donations have been made to provide new computers for the schools.(GR 4.22, 256p)
Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest NuclearDisaster by Adam Higginbotham April 25, 1986, in Chernobyl, was a turning point in world history. With the images of the abandoned homes and playgrounds beyond the barbed wire of the 30-kilometer ExclusionZone, the rusting graveyards of contaminated trucks and helicopters, the farmland lashed with black rain, the event fixed for all time the notion of radiation as an invisible killer. Chernobyl was also a key event in the destruction of the Soviet Union, and, with it, the United States’ victory in the Cold War. For Moscow, it was a political and financial catastrophe as much as an environmental and scientific one. With a total cost of 18 billion rubles—at the time equivalent to $18 billion—Chernobyl bankrupted an already teetering economy and revealed to its population a state built upon a pillar of lies. The full story of the events that started that night in the control room of Reactor No.4 of the V.I. Lenin Nuclear Power Plant has never been told—until now. Through two decades of reporting, new archival information, and firsthand interviews Higginbotham tells the full story. (History, Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize, LA Times Book Prize for Science and Technology, Andrew Carnegie Medal for Nonfiction, GR 4.38, 538p)
Come Fly the World: The Jet-Age Story of the Women of Pan Am by JuliaCooke Required to have a college degree, speak two languages, and possess the political savvy of aForeign Service officer, a jet-age stewardess serving on iconic Pan Am between 1966 and 1975also had to be between 5′3″ and 5′9″, between 105 and 140 pounds, and under 26 years of age at the time of hire. Julia Cooke’s intimate storytelling weaves together the real-life stories of a memorable cast of characters, from Lynne Totten, a science major who decided life in a lab was not for her, to Hazel Bowie, one of the relatively few black stewardesses of the era, as they embraced the liberation of their new jet-set life.mCooke brings to life the story of Pan Am stewardesses’ role in the Vietnam War, as the airline added runs from Saigon to Hong Kong for planeloads of weary young soldiers straight from the battlefields, who were off for five days ofR&R, and then flown back to war. Finally, with Operation Baby lift—the dramatic evacuation of2,000 children during the fall of Saigon—the book’s special cast of stewardesses unites to play an extraordinary role on the world stage. (GR 3.71, 288p) The group chose this one for our list.
Short Stories or Essays
Orange World by Karen Ruessell Karen Russell’s comedic genius and mesmerizing talent for creating outlandish predicaments that uncannily mirror our inner in lives is on full display in these eight exuberant, arrestingly vivid, unforgettable stories. In”Bog Girl”, a revelatory story about first love, a young man falls in love with a two thousand year old girl that he’s extracted from a mass of peat in a NorthernEuropean bog. In “The Prospectors,” two opportunistic young women fleeing the depression strike out for new territory, and find themselves fighting for their lives. In the brilliant, hilarious title story, a new mother desperate to ensure her infant’s safety strikes a diabolical deal, agreeing to breastfeed the devil in exchange for his protection. The landscape in which these stories unfold is a feral, slippery, purgatorial space, bracketed by the void–yet within it Russell captures the exquisite beauty and tenderness of ordinary life. Orange World is a miracle of storytelling from a true modern master.(Magical Realism, Horror, GR 3.97, 288p)
The Toughest Indian in the World by Sherman Alexie A beloved American writer whose books are championed by critics and readers alike, Sherman Alexie has been hailed by Time as “one of the better new novelists, Indian or otherwise.” In these stories, we meet the kind of American Indians we rarely see in literature — the kind who pay their bills, hold down jobs, fall in and out of love. A Spokane Indian journalist transplanted from the reservation to the city picks up a hitchhiker, a Lummi boxer looking to take on the toughest Indian in the world. A Spokane son waits for his diabetic father to come home from the hospital, tossing out the Hershey Kisses the father has hidden all over the house. An estranged interracial couple, separated in the midst of a traffic accident, rediscover their love for each other. A white drifter holds up an International House of Pancakes, demanding a dollar per customer and someone to love, and emerges with $42 and an overweight Indian he dubs Salmon Boy. Sherman Alexie’s voice is one of remarkable passion, and these stories are love stories — between parents and children, white people and Indians, movie stars and ordinary people. The Toughest Indian in the World is a virtuoso performance by one of the country’s finest writers.(Humor, Cultural, Kiriyama Prize for Fiction GR 4.07, 256p)
Don’t Get Too Comfortable: The Indignities of Coach Class, The Torments of Low Thread Count, The Never-Ending Quest for Artisanal Olive Oil, and Other First World Problems by David Rakoff A bitingly funny grand tour of our culture of excess from an award-winning humorist.Whether David Rakoff’s contrasting the elegance of one of the last flights of the supersonic Concorde with the good-times-and-chicken-wings populism of Hooters Air; working as a cabana boy at a South Beach hotel; or traveling to a private island off the coast of Belize to watch a soft-core video shoot where he is provided with his very own personal manservant rarely have greed, vanity, selfishness, and vapidity been so mercilessly skewered. Somewhere along the line, our healthy self-regard has exploded into obliterating narcissism; our manic getting and spending have now become celebrated as moral virtues. Simultaneously a Wildean satire and a plea for a little human decency, Don t Get Too Comfortable shows that far from being bobos in paradise, we are in a special circle of gilded-age hell.(Humor, Essays, GR 3.69, 222p)
We chose two from this category: The Toughest Indian in the World and Don’t Get Too Comfortable.
Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam Amanda and Clay head out to a remote corner of Long Island expecting a vacation: a quiet reprieve from life in New York City, quality time with their teenage son and daughter, and a taste of the good life in the luxurious home they’ve rented for the week. But a late-night knock on the door breaks the spell. Ruth and G. H. are an older black couple—it’s their house, and they’ve arrived in a panic. They bring the news that a sudden blackout has swept the city. But in this rural area—with the TV and internet now down, and no cell phone service—it’s hard to know what to believe. Should Amanda and Clay trust this couple—and vice versa? What happened back in New York? Is the vacation home, isolated from civilization, a truly safe place for their families? And are they safe from one another? Suspenseful and provocative, Rumaan Alam’s third novel is keenly attuned to the complexities of parenthood, race, and class. Leave the World Behind explores how our closest bonds are reshaped—and unexpected new ones are forged—in moments of crisis. (Thriller, Suspense, Orwell Prize for Political Fiction, National Book Award Finalist, GR 3.23, 241p)
World of Wonders by Robertson Davies Hailed by the Washington Post Book World as “a modern classic,” Robertson Davies’s acclaimed Deptford Trilogy is a glittering, fantastical, cunningly contrived series of novels, around which a mysterious death is woven. World of Wonders—the third book in the series after The Manticore—follows the story of Magnus Eisengrim—the most illustrious magician of his age—who is spirited away from his home by a member of a traveling sideshow, the Wanless World of Wonders. After honing his skills and becoming better known, Magnus unfurls his life’s courageous and adventurous tale in this third and final volume of a spectacular, soaring work. Though this is part of a trilogy, each of the novels stand on their own. We read Fifth Business early on in our book club.(Canada, GR 4.10, 352p)
The Unseen World by Liz Moore Ada Sibelius is raised by David, her brilliant, eccentric, socially inept single father, who directs a computer science lab in 1980s-era Boston. Home-schooled, Ada accompanies David to work every day; by twelve, she is a painfully shy prodigy. The lab begins to gain acclaim at the same time that David’s mysterious history comes into question. When his mind begins to falter, leaving Ada virtually an orphan, she is taken in by one of David’s colleagues. Soon she embarks on a mission to uncover her father’s secrets: a process that carries her from childhood to adulthood. What Ada discovers on her journey into a virtual universe will keep the reader riveted until The Unseen World’s heart-stopping, fascinating conclusion.(Thriller, Mystery, GR 4.11, 451p)
10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Elif Shafak An intensely powerful new novel from the best-selling author of The Bastard of Istanbul and Honour ‘In the first minute following her death, Tequila Leila’s consciousness began to ebb, slowly and steadily, like a tide receding from the shore. Her brain cells, having run out of blood, were now completely deprived of oxygen. But they did not shut down. Not right away…’ For Leila, each minute after her death brings a sensuous memory: the taste of spiced goat stew, sacrificed by her father to celebrate the long-awaited birth of a son; the sight of bubbling vats of lemon and sugar which the women use to wax their legs while the men attend mosque; the scent of cardamom coffee that Leila shares with a handsome student in the brothel where she works. Each memory, too, recalls the friends she made at each key moment in her life – friends who are now desperately trying to find her. . .(Turkish, Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize Nominee, Shortlist, Booker Prize Nominee, Dayton Literary Peace Prize Nominee, GR 4.09, 312p)
The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida by Clarissa Goenawan From the critically acclaimed author of Rainbirds comes a novel of tragedy and dark histories set in Japan. University sophomore Miwako Sumida has hanged herself, leaving those closest to her reeling. In the months before her suicide, she was hiding away in a remote mountainside village, but what, or whom, was she running from? Ryusei, a fellow student at Waseda who harbored unrequited feelings for Miwako, begs her best friend Chie to bring him to the remote village where she spent her final days. While they are away, his older sister, Fumi, who took Miwako on as an apprentice in her art studio, receives an unexpected guest at her apartment in Tokyo, distracting her from her fear that Miwako’s death may ruin what is left of her brother’s life. Expanding on the beautifully crafted world of Rainbirds, Clarissa Goenawan gradually pierces through a young woman’s careful façade, unmasking her most painful secrets. (Tokyo, Magical Realism, GR 3.87, 288p)
The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World by Laura Imai Messina The international bestselling novel sold in 21 countries, about grief, mourning, and the joy of survival, inspired by a real phone booth in Japan with its disconnected “wind” phone, a place of pilgrimage and solace since the 2011 tsunami When Yui loses both her mother and her daughter in the tsunami, she begins to mark the passage of time from that date onward: Everything is relative to March 11, 2011, the day the tsunami tore Japan apart, and when grief took hold of her life. Yui struggles to continue on, alone with her pain Then, one day she hears about a man who has an old disused telephone booth in his garden. There, those who have lost loved ones find the strength to speak to them and begin to come to terms with their grief. As news of the phone booth spreads, people travel to it from miles around. Soon Yui makes her own pilgrimage to the phone booth, too. But once there she cannot bring herself to speak into the receiver. Instead she finds Takeshi, a bereaved husband whose own daughter has stopped talking in the wake of her mother’s death. Simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming, The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World is the signpost pointing to the healing that can come after.(Japan, GR 3.85, 416p)
We chose Phone Booth at the Edge of the World from this last group.