Book Group Suggestions and Selections

Following are books that members have recommended, with those selected indicated below and also noted on the list with a check mark. All are in paperback unless otherwise noted. Quotations are from various web sources.

Book Group Selections and Facilitators: June – March

June – Sheila

The Most Costly  Journey: Stories of Migrant Workers on Vermont Dairy Farms, drawn by Vermont cartoonists.  Vermont Reads Selection.

July – Nancy

The Care and Management of Lies: A Novel of the Great War by Jacqueline Winspear

August – Julie

Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe

September – Mary
The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse by Louise Erdrich

October – Sheila

Library: An Unquiet History by Matthew Battles

November – Dawn

The Maid by Nita Prose

January – Nancy

A Life in Secrets: Vera Atkins and the Missing Agents of WWII by Sarah Helm

February – Kathy

When Two Feathers Fell from the Sky by Margaret Verble

March – Berta

All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake by Tia Miles


[ ] Anxious People by Fredrik Backman (author of A Man Called Ove)

“An apartment viewing becomes a life and death situation when a failed bank robber burst in and takes the group of 8 strangers hostage. None are entirely who they appear to be. As time goes by, they begin to suspect that the criminal mastermind holding them hostage needs to be rescued more then they do. Reluctant allies will reveal surprising truths about themselves and set in motion some unexpected events. It is about the power of friendship, forgiveness, and hope. Things that save us in anxious times.” (Norma)

The Care and Management of Lies: A Novel of the Great War
, by Jacqueline Winspear 

This poignant stand alone novel by Jacqueline Winspear, author of the Maisie Dobbs mystery series, was published in July 2014 to coincide with the centennial of the Great War. It is a beautifully written story of love and friendship struggling to survive in a damaged, fractured world. Each character is beautifully developed. (Nancy)

The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse
by Louise Erdrich.

This is  2001 novel about Agnes DeWitt, a woman who assumes the guise of a Catholic priest named Father Damien and devotes her life to serving the parish at the Little No Horse reservation. Agnes becomes part of the Ojibwe community, and they help her become herself. The New York Times calls it a “masterwork that both deepens and enlarges the world of her previous novels set on the same reservation.”   402 pages.  (Mary)

[  ] Rules for Commuting by Iona Anderson

“The epitome of a feel-good book that is also laugh-out-loud hilarious, it centers on the titular Iona, an indomitable middle-aged woman, and the eclectic cast of characters she encounters each day on the train. . . .  In a time when our differences so often divide us, Pooley’s novel is like a reassuring hug, assuring readers that our differences can strengthen relationships and should be embraced and celebrated.”  352 pages. (Suzanne)

[ ] The Wall by Marlen Haushofer

Published in Germany in 1963, The Wall was recently reissued (with a translation by Shaun Whiteside). The Wall is at once a critique of modern civilization, a nuanced and loving portrait of a relationship between a woman and her animals, a thrilling survival story, a Cold War-era dystopian adventure, and a truly singular feminist classic.” “The novel has earned high praise over the decades, and continues to feel remarkably well-tuned to the concerns of the day.” 288 pages. (Althea)

The Maid
by Nita Prose

“A Clue-like, locked room mystery and a heartwarming journey of the spirit, The Maid explores what it means to be the same as everyone else and yet entirely different- and reveals that all mysteries can be solved through connection to the human heart. Has the depth of good literature, but with a strong thriller/mystery plot and insight into people who often go unnoticed in society.”  304 pages. (Dawn)

[  ] Maud’s Line by Margaret Verble

Maud is a smart, sensible, and plucky heroine of mixed white and Cherokee heritage who reads all the books she can get her hands on. While her father is on the lam and her brother is ill, she enters into a romance with Booker Wakefield, a courtly and kind white traveling salesman.” 304 pages. (Kathy)

When Two Feathers Fell from the Sky by Margaret Verble

A series of strange occurrences befalls a Tennessee zoo in the summer of 1926. Two Feathers is one of the star attractions at the Glendale Park Zoo in Nashville. She has reached the pinnacle of her career: She’s been given a stage name that plays on her Cherokee identity (her real name is Nancy) and a skill that brings in the crowds: horse diving. Two’s act may be beloved by the crowds, but she struggles socially; as a Native American, she is decidedly apart from White society and is most at home with her friend Hank Crawford.  384 pages.  (Kathy)

[  ] What Strange Creatures by Emily Arsenault

This the story of the Battle family, from fictional Thompsonville, Massachusetts, who live quiet, boring lives. When a cold-blooded murder happens too close to home, this dysfunctional family literally becomes their last name—battling to save one of their own from  the cellblock.” 367 pages. (Kathy)

[  ] The Broken Teaglass by Emily Arsenault 

“The dusty files of a venerable dictionary publisher . . . a hidden cache of coded clues . . . a story written by a phantom author . . . an unsolved murder in a gritty urban park– all collide memorably in this magnificent debut novel, at once a teasing literary puzzle, an ingenious suspense novel, and an exploration of definitions: of words, of who we are, and of the stories we choose to define us.” 370 pages. (Kathy)

[  The Storied Life of A.J.Fickery by Gabrielle Zevin.

“Zevin chronicles the life of A.J. Fikry, a man who holds no brief for random acts, who yearns for a distinct narrative, who flounders about until his life is reordered by happenstance. . . . A likeable literary love story about selling books and finding love. Fikry owns Island Books on Alice Island, a summer destination off Massachusetts—think Nantucket.”  272 pages. (Suzanne)


Library: An Unquiet History  by Matthew Battles

From the book jacket: “Though the ages, libraries have not only accumulated and preserved but also shaped, inspired, and obliterated knowledge.  Matthew Battles, a rare books librarian and a gifted narrator, takes us on a spirited foray from classical scriptoria to medieval monasteries, from the Vatican to the British Library, from socialist reading rooms and rural home libraries to the Information Age.” (Sheila)

[  ] The Secret History of Home Economics: How Trailblazing Women Harnessed the Power of Home and Changed the Way We Live, by Danielle Dreilinger

“This groundbreaking and engaging history restores a denigrated subject to its rightful importance, as it reminds us that everyone should learn how to cook a meal, balance their account, and fight for a better world.”

I wonder how many Home Economics graduates know that the origins of the programs began in Black colleges in the late 19th century. The history of Home Economics has been a well kept secret and makes it clear that generally African American leaders did not receive the recognition and respect they deserve. Clearly racism played a role in preventing the collaboration that would have strengthened the profession in the early years of the 20th century. (Nancy)

A Life in Secrets: Vera Atkins and the Missing Agents of WWII
by Sarah Helm 

From an award-winning journalist comes this real-life cloak-and-dagger tale of Vera Atkins, one of Britain’s premiere secret agents during World War II. 

“As the head of the French Section of the British Special Operations Executive, Vera Atkins recruited, trained, and mentored special operatives whose job was to organize and arm the resistance in Nazi-occupied France. After the war, Atkins courageously committed herself to a dangerous search for twelve of her most cherished women spies who had gone missing in action.” ( Nancy)

[  ] Until I Am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer’s Enduring Message to America,by Keisha Blair.

“We have a long fight and this fight is not mine alone, but you are not free whether you are white or black, until I am free.”—Fannie Lou Hamer, 1963 speech 

“A blend of social commentary, biography, and intellectual history, the book is a manifesto for anyone committed to social justice. The book challenges us to listen to a working-poor and disabled Black woman activist and intellectual of the civil rights movement as we grapple with contemporary concerns around race, inequality, and social justice.” (Althea)

[  ] Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealey

This is a memoir I read about 25 years ago. Lucy recounts her story of childhood cancer and then the aftermath of her deformity. Complexities abound and the psychological and physical effects make for a compelling read. She was a friend of Ann Patchett, a connection to Bennington College. (Berta)

[  ] All Over But the Shoutin’ by Rick Bragg

Pulitzer Prize Winner 1996 for investigative reporting, Bragg tells the story of his family’s life in the south. What distinguishes this from another tale of dysfunction, violence and abuse is the strength of mother and son. A loving tribute to his mother, a heart-warming read, which I would happily reread. (Berta)

All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family
Keepsake by Tiya Miles

Given to the daughter by her enslaved mother upon their permanent parting, the embroidered sack contained pecans, a braid of hair and a tattered dress. The separation is just one aspect about the atrocities of slavery. “A historian’s journey to draw out what can be known and surmises about a single historical artifact.” (Berta)

[  ] Graceland, At Last: Notes on Hope and Heartache From the American South by Margaret Renkl,  (PB in Sept 2023)

For the past four years, Margaret Renkl’s columns have offered readers of The New York Times a weekly dose of natural beauty, human decency, and persistent hope from her home in Nashville. Now more than sixty of those pieces have been brought together in this sparkling new collection. (Althea)

[  ] Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale, by Adam Minter

In Secondhand, journalist Adam Minter takes us on an unexpected adventure into the often-hidden, multibillion-dollar industry of reuse: thrift stores in the American Southwest to vintage shops in Tokyo, flea markets in Southeast Asia to used-goods enterprises in Ghana, and more. Along the way, Minter meets the fascinating people who handle―and profit from―our rising tide of discarded stuff, and asks a pressing question: In a world that craves shiny and new, is there room for it all?” (Althea)

Banned Books

Note: Sheila asked the librarian at the McCullough Library to suggest several of banned books. For a complete list, go to:

Here are three possibilities;

[  ] The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

“In The Bluest Eye, two preteen sisters, Frieda and Claudia MacTeer, live with their parents in Ohio. Mr. and Mrs. MacTeer take on a lodger, whom the girls call Mr. Henry, and for a brief period they take in a quiet, unhappy 11-year-old classmate of Frieda and Claudia’s named Pecola Breedlove. The girls befriend Pecola, who comes from a very troubled household; her father, Cholly, is often drunk, and he and her mother, Polly, fight physically and verbally. Pecola considers herself ugly and unworthy of love, and believes that if only she could have blue eyes, she would be pretty and happy. Readers learn the life events that have shaped Polly and Cholly, led them to marry, and led them ultimately to their unfortunate state.”

[  ] The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie

The  story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high schoolWhen he goes outside he gets teased and beaten, so he spends a lot of time in his room drawing cartoons. “I think the world is a series of broken dams and floods,” he says, “and my cartoons are tiny little lifeboats.” Working in the voice of a 14-year-old forces Alexie to strip everything down to action and emotion, so that reading becomes more like listening to your smart, funny best friend recount his day while waiting after school for a ride home. This book tracks Arnold’s year of getting out. He transfers to Reardan High, 22 miles away, a gleaming campus full of wealthy white kids, with a computer room and chemistry labs.”

Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe

“In Gender Queer: A Memoir, Maia Kobabe recounts eir struggle to understand gender and why e doesn’t feel like either a boy or a girl. Eir parents didn’t impose any gender roles on themselves, Maia, or eir sister, but e picked up plenty of messages everywhere else that just didn’t make sense for who and what Maia felt like inside. Looking back as an adult, e shows how events like getting eir period, having crushes, moving away for college, and even teaching art classes to elementary students, affected eir identity, sexuality, and ability to find a way to exist. Note: For some perspective on this book, consider reading “The Queers vs. the Homosexuals.”

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