I’m presenting here the books we shared
at our last block Book Club meeting
– it’s a potluck book club,
meaning each member shares about his/her latest good read.
Awesome for diversity in books, lively conversations,
and your TBR getting suddenly taller!
(synopsis taken from Goodreads.com)
1. Nothing Like It in the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-69, by Stephen E. Ambrose (2001)
presented by P.
Nothing Like It in the World gives the account of an unprecedented feat of engineering, vision, and courage. It is the story of the men who built the transcontinental railroad—the investors who risked their businesses and money; the enlightened politicians who understood its importance; the engineers and surveyors who risked, and sometimes lost, their lives; and the Irish and Chinese immigrants, the defeated Confederate soldiers, and the other laborers who did the backbreaking and dangerous work on the tracks.
The U.S. government pitted two companies—the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific Railroads—against each other in a race for funding, encouraging speed over caution. Locomotives, rails, and spikes were shipped from the East through Panama or around South America to the West or lugged across the country to the Plains. In Ambrose’s hands, this enterprise, with its huge expenditure of brainpower, muscle, and sweat, comes vibrantly to life.
2. A Different Kind of Daughter: The Girl Who Hid from the Taliban in Plain Sight, by Maria Toorpakai (May 20169)
presented by A.
Maria Toorpakai hails from Pakistan’s violently oppressive northwest tribal region, where the idea of women playing sports is considered haram-un-Islamic-forbidden-and girls rarely leave their homes. But she did, passing as a boy in order to play the sports she loved, thus becoming a lightning rod of freedom in her country’s fierce battle over women’s rights.
A DIFFERENT KIND OF DAUGHTER tell of Maria’s harrowing journey to play the sport she knew was her destiny, first living as a boy and roaming the violent back alleys of the frontier city of Peshawar, rising to become the number one female squash player in Pakistan. For Maria, squash was more than liberation-it was salvation. But it was also a death sentence, thrusting her into the national spotlight and the crosshairs of the Taliban, who wanted Maria and her family dead. Maria knew her only chance of survival was to flee the country.
Enter Jonathon Power, the first North American to earn the title of top squash player in the world, and the only person to heed Maria’s plea for help. Recognizing her determination and talent, Jonathon invited Maria to train and compete internationally in Canada. After years of living on the run from the Taliban, Maria packed up and left the only place she had ever known to move halfway across the globe and pursue her dream. Now Maria is well on the way to becoming a world champion as she continues to be a voice for oppressed women everywhere.
3. What Works: Gender Equality by Design, by Iris Bohnet (March 2016)
also presented by A.
Gender equality is a moral and a business imperative. But unconscious bias holds us back, and de-biasing people s minds has proven to be difficult and expensive. Diversity training programs have had limited success, and individual effort alone often invites backlash. Behavioral design offers a new solution. By de-biasing organizations instead of individuals, we can make smart changes that have big impacts. Presenting research-based solutions, Iris Bohnet hands us the tools we need to move the needle in classrooms and boardrooms, in hiring and promotion, benefiting businesses, governments, and the lives of millions.
“What Works” is built on new insights into the human mind. It draws on data collected by companies, universities, and governments in Australia, India, Norway, the United Kingdom, the United States, Zambia, and other countries, often in randomized controlled trials. It points out dozens of evidence-based interventions that could be adopted right now and demonstrates how research is addressing gender bias, improving lives and performance. “What Works” shows what more can be done often at shockingly low cost and surprisingly high speed.
4. 1,911 Best Things Anybody Ever Said, by Robert Byrne (1988)
presented by B.
From Plato to Groucho, this comprehensive edition features some of the most quotable people who ever lived. They are the famous, infamous, the little-known, and the unknown, inspired enough by life to comment on it, and smart enough to be clever about it.
5. The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, by Erik Larson (2003)
presented by M.
Author Erik Larson imbues the incredible events surrounding the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair with such drama that readers may find themselves checking the book’s categorization to be sure that ‘The Devil in the White City’ is not, in fact, a highly imaginative novel. Larson tells the stories of two men: Daniel H. Burnham, the architect responsible for the fair’s construction, and H.H. Holmes, a serial killer masquerading as a charming doctor.
Burnham’s challenge was immense. In a short period of time, he was forced to overcome the death of his partner and numerous other obstacles to construct the famous “White City” around which the fair was built. His efforts to complete the project, and the fair’s incredible success, are skillfully related along with entertaining appearances by such notables as Buffalo Bill Cody, Susan B. Anthony, Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison.
The activities of the sinister Dr. Holmes, who is believed to be responsible for scores of murders around the time of the fair, are equally remarkable. He devised and erected the World’s Fair Hotel, complete with crematorium and gas chamber, near the fairgrounds and used the event as well as his own charismatic personality to lure victims.
6. Black Like Me, by John Howard Griffin (1960)
presented by J.
In the Deep South of the 1950s, journalist John Howard Griffin decided to cross the color line. Using medication that darkened his skin to deep brown, he exchanged his privileged life as a Southern white man for the disenfranchised world of an unemployed black man. His audacious, still chillingly relevant eyewitness history is a work about race and humanity-that in this new millennium still has something important to say to every American.
7. The Vineyard at the End of the World: Maverick Winemakers and the Rebirth of Malbec, by Ian Mount (2012)
presented by W.
For generations, Argentine wine was famously bad—oxidized, unpalatable, and often mixed with a low-class French grape called Malbec. But then in 2001, a Cabernet Sauvignon / Malbec blend beat all contenders in a blind taste test featuring Napa and Bordeaux’s finest. Today, Argentina and its signature wine are on the tip of every smart traveler’s tongue. How did this happen?
The Vineyard at the End of the World tells the fascinating, four-hundred-year history of how a wine mecca arose in the high Andean desert. Profiling the outlandish figures who fueled the Malbec revolution—including celebrity enologist Michel Rolland, acclaimed American winemaker Paul Hobbs, and the Mondavi-esque Catena family—Ian Mount describes in colorful detail the nefarious scams, brilliant business innovations, and backroom politics that put Malbec on the map.
8. Black Ribbon (A Dog Lover’s Mystery #8), by Susan Conant (1995)
presented by S.
Holly Winter and her Alaskan Malamute, Rowdy, are spending a week at Waggin’ Tail Camp, but Holly receives a sympathy card for the loss of her pet–is it a sick joke or is Kimi, her other Malamute, in jeopardy?
9. The Bridges of Madison County, by Robert James Waller (1992)
presented by M.
If you’ve ever experienced the one true love of your life, a love that for some reason could never be, you will understand why readers all over the world were so moved by this small, unknown first novel that they made it a publishing phenomenon and #1 bestseller. The story of Robert Kincaid, the photographer and free spirit searching for the covered bridges of Madison County, and Francesca Johnson, the farm wife waiting for the fulfillment of a girlhood dream, THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY gives voice to the longings of men and women everywhere-and shows us what it is to love and be loved so intensely that life is never the same again.
10. The Devil’s Cave (Bruno, Chief of Police #5) , by Martin Walker (2013)
presented by C.
Mystery, food, and wine in the French province of Dordogne—the latest offering from Martin Walker, featuring Benoît “Bruno” Courrèges.
It’s spring in St. Denis. The village choir is preparing for its Easter concert, the wildflowers are blooming, and among the lazy whorls of the river a dead woman is found floating in a boat. It’s another case for Bruno, the town’s cherished chief of police. With the discovery of sinister markings and black candles near the body, it seems to him that the occult might be involved. And as questions mount—regarding a troubling real estate proposal in the region; a suspicious, violent death made to look accidental; and the sudden reappearance of a politically controversial elderly countess—Bruno and his colleagues and friends are drawn ever closer to a climactic showdown in the Gouffre de Colombac: the place locals call the Devil’s Cave.
With the enchanting backdrop of France’s pastoral heartland, a cast of local characters as vibrant as their surroundings, enough sumptuous repasts to satisfy any literary gourmand, and a hero winningly capable of balancing the good life with a dogged dedication to solving the crimes that threaten it, The Devil’s Cave invites readers to raise a glass and turn the page.
11. The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, by Atul Gawande (2009)
presented by N.
NB: this is the author of Being Mortal.
We live in a world of great and increasing complexity, where even the most expert professionals struggle to master the tasks they face. Longer training, ever more advanced technologies‚neither seems to prevent grievous errors. But in a hopeful turn, acclaimed surgeon and writer Atul Gawande finds a remedy in the humblest and simplest of techniques: the checklist.
First introduced decades ago by the U.S. Air Force, checklists have enabled pilots to fly aircraft of mind-boggling sophistication. Now innovative checklists are being adopted in hospitals around the world, helping doctors and nurses respond to everything from flu epidemics to avalanches. Even in the immensely complex world of surgery, a simple ninety-second variant has cut the rate of fatalities by more than a third.
In riveting stories, Gawande takes us from Austria, where an emergency checklist saved a drowning victim who had spent half an hour underwater, to Michigan, where a cleanliness checklist in intensive care units virtually eliminated a type of deadly hospital infection. He explains how checklists actually work to prompt striking and immediate improvements. And he follows the checklist revolution into fields well beyond medicine, from homeland security to investment banking, skyscraper construction, and businesses of all kinds.
An intellectual adventure in which lives are lost and saved and one simple idea makes a tremendous difference, The Checklist Manifesto is essential reading for anyone working to get things right.
12. The Promise, by Danielle Steel (1977)
presented by J.
Young architect Micheal Hillyard and artist Nancy McAllister are determined to get married despite his wealthy mother’s disapproval. Then minutes before their wedding, a terrifying accident and a cruel deception separate Micheal and Nancy–perhaps forever. Each pursues a new life–Nancy in California, Micheal in New York. But eventually nothing–and no one–can keep them apart as they keep their vow never to say good-bye.
13. My Brilliant Friend (L’amica geniale #1) , by Elena Ferrante, (2012)
presented by B.
A modern masterpiece from one of Italy’s most acclaimed authors, My Brilliant Friend is a rich, intense, and generous-hearted story about two friends, Elena and Lila. Ferrante’s inimitable style lends itself perfectly to a meticulous portrait of these two women that is also the story of a nation and a touching meditation on the nature of friendship.
The story begins in the 1950s, in a poor but vibrant neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples. Growing up on these tough streets the two girls learn to rely on each other ahead of anyone or anything else. As they grow, as their paths repeatedly diverge and converge, Elena and Lila remain best friends whose respective destinies are reflected and refracted in the other. They are likewise the embodiments of a nation undergoing momentous change. Through the lives of these two women, Ferrante tells the story of a neighborhood, a city, and a country as it is transformed in ways that, in turn, also transform the relationship between her protagonists, the unforgettable Elena and Lila.
Ferrante is the author of three previous works of critically acclaimed fiction: The Days of Abandonment, Troubling Love, and The Lost Daughter. With this novel, the first in a trilogy, she proves herself to be one of Italy’s great storytellers. She has given her readers a masterfully plotted page-turner, abundant and generous in its narrative details and characterizations, that is also a stylish work of literary fiction destined to delight her many fans and win new readers to her fiction.
14. The Shipping News, by Annie Proulx (1992)
presented by E.
When Quoyle’s two-timing wife meets her just desserts, he retreats with his two daughters to his ancestral home on the starkly beautiful Newfoundland coast, where a rich cast of local characters and family members all play a part in Quoyle’s struggle to reclaim his life. As Quoyle confronts his private demons–and the unpredictable forces of nature and society–he begins to see the possibility of love without pain or misery. A vigorous, darkly comic, and at times magical portrait of the contemporary North American family, The Shipping News shows why Annie Proulx is recognized as one of the most gifted and original writers in America today.
15. The House Between Tides, by Sarah Maine, (Aug 2, 2016)
presented by me
Kate Morton meets Daphne du Maurier in this atmospheric debut novel about a woman who discovers the century-old remains of a murder victim on her family’s Scottish estate, plunging her into an investigation of its mysterious former occupants.
Following the death of her last living relative, Hetty Deveraux leaves London and her strained relationship behind for Muirlan, her ancestral home in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. She intends to renovate the ruinous house into a hotel, but the shocking discovery of human remains brings her ambitious restoration plans to an abrupt halt before they even begin. Few physical clues are left to identify the body, but one thing is certain: this person did not die a natural death.
Hungry for answers, Hetty discovers that Muirlan was once the refuge of her distant relative Theo Blake, the acclaimed painter and naturalist who brought his new bride, Beatrice, there in 1910. Yet ancient gossip and a handful of leads reveal that their marriage was far from perfect; Beatrice eventually vanished from the island, never to return, and Theo withdrew from society, his paintings becoming increasingly dark and disturbing.
What happened between them has remained a mystery, but as Hetty listens to the locals and studies the masterful paintings produced by Theo during his short-lived marriage, she uncovers secrets that still reverberate through the small island community—and will lead her to the identity of the long-hidden body.
If you want to read my enthusiastic review about here, come this way: