2019-2020 Book Club Reading List

September 15th – 2:00 – Oak Room, Main Floor

“Incendiaries” by R. O. Kwon

224 p.

Phoebe Lin and Will Kendall meet in their first month at prestigious Edwards University. Phoebe is a glamorous girl who doesn’t tell anyone she blames herself for her mother’s recent death. Will is a misfit scholarship boy who transfers to Edwards from Bible college, waiting tables to get by. What he knows for sure is that he loves Phoebe.  Grieving and guilt-ridden, Phoebe is drawn into a secretive cult founded by a charismatic former student with an enigmatic past. When the group commits a violent act in the name of faith, Will finds himself struggling to confront a new version of the fanaticism he’s worked so hard to escape.

October 20 – 2:00 – Oak Room, Main Floor

“There, There” by Tommy Orange

304 p.

Story of twelve unforgettable characters, Urban Indians living in Oakland, California, who converge and collide on one fateful day at the Big Oakland Powwow.  We learn the reasons that each person is attending, some generous, some fearful, some joyful, some violent—momentum builds toward a shocking yet inevitable conclusion that changes everything. There will be glorious communion, and a spectacle of sacred tradition and pageantry. And there will be sacrifice, and heroism, and loss.

November 10 – 2:00 – Oak Room, Main Floor

“Warlight” by Michael Ondaatje

304 p.

In 1945, Nathaniel, 14, and his older sister, Rachel stay behind in London when their parents move to Singapore, leaving them in the care of a mysterious figure named The Moth. They suspect he might be a criminal, and they grow both more convinced and less concerned as they come to know his eccentric crew of friends: all of whom seem, in some way, determined now to protect, and educate them.  But are they really what and who they claim to be? And what does it mean when the siblings’ mother returns after months of silence without their father, explaining nothing, excusing nothing? A dozen years later, Nathaniel begins to uncover all that he didn’t know and understand in that time, and it is this journey that he narrates in this masterwork from one of the great writers of our time.

December 15 – 2:00 – Oak Room, Main Floor

“Friend” by Sigrid Nunez

224 p.

When a woman unexpectedly loses her lifelong best friend and mentor, she finds herself burdened with the unwanted dog he has left behind. Her own battle against grief is intensified by the mute suffering of the dog, a huge Great Dane traumatized by the inexplicable disappearance of its master, and by the threat of eviction: dogs are prohibited in her apartment building. While others worry that grief has made her a victim of magical thinking, the woman refuses to be separated from the dog except for brief periods of time. Isolated from the rest of the world, increasingly obsessed with the dog’s care, determined to read its mind and fathom its heart, she comes dangerously close to unraveling. But while troubles abound, rich and surprising rewards lie in store for both of them.  Winner of the National Book Award

January 12 – 2:00 – Oak Room, Main Floor

“Asymmetry” by Lisa Halliday

288 p.

Told in three distinct and uniquely compelling sections, Asymmetry explores the imbalances that spark and sustain many of our most dramatic human relations: inequities in age, power, talent, wealth, fame, geography, and justice. The first section, “Folly,” tells the story of Alice, a young American editor, and her relationship with the famous and much older writer Ezra Blazer. By contrast, “Madness” is narrated by Amar, an Iraqi-American man who, on his way to visit his brother in Kurdistan, is detained by immigration officers and spends the last weekend of 2008 in a holding room in Heathrow. These two seemingly disparate stories gain resonance as their perspectives interact and overlap, with yet new implications for their relationship revealed in an unexpected coda.

February 9 – 2:00 – Oak Room, Main Floor

“Friday Black” by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

208 p.

By placing ordinary characters in extraordinary situations, Adjei-Brenyah reveals the violence, injustice, and painful absurdities that black men and women contend with every day in this country.  These stories tackle urgent instances of racism and cultural unrest, and explore the many ways we fight for humanity in an unforgiving world. In “The Finkelstein Five,” is an unforgettable reckoning of the brutal prejudice of our justice system. In “Zimmer Land,” we see a far-too-easy-to-believe imagining of racism as sport. And “Friday Black” and “How to Sell a Jacket as Told by Ice King” show the horrors of consumerism and the toll it takes on us all.

March 8 – 2:00 – Oak Room, Main Floor

“My Sister the Serial Killer” by Oyinkan Braithwaite

240 p.

Korede is bitter. How could she not be? Her sister, Ayoola, is many things: the favorite child, the beautiful one, possibly sociopathic. And now Ayoola’s third boyfriend in a row is dead.

Korede’s practicality is the sisters’ saving grace. She knows the best solutions for cleaning blood, the trunk of her car is big enough for a body, and she keeps Ayoola from posting pictures of her dinner to Instagram when she should be mourning her “missing” boyfriend. Korede has long been in love with a kind, handsome doctor at the hospital where she works. She dreams of the day when he will realize that she’s exactly what he needs. But when he asks Korede for Ayoola’s phone number, she must reckon with what her sister has become and how far she’s willing to go to protect her.

April 5 – 2:00 – Oak Room, Main Floor

“Lot” by Bryan Washington

240 p.

In the city of Houston – a sprawling, diverse microcosm of America – the son of a black mother and a Latino father is coming of age. He’s working at his family’s restaurant, weathering his brother’s blows, resenting his older sister’s absence. And discovering he likes boys.  This boy and his family experience the tumult of living in the margins, the heartbreak of ghosts, and the braveries of the human heart. Bryan Washington’s brilliant, viscerally drawn world vibrates with energy, wit, and the infinite longing of people sea love in all its unsparing and unsteady forms.

May 3 – 2:00 – Oak Room, Main Floor

“Trust Exercise” by Susan Choi

272 p.

In 1982 in a southern city, David and Sarah, two freshmen at a highly competitive performing arts high school, thrive alongside their school peers in a rarified bubble, ambitiously devoting themselves to their studies—to music, to movement, to Shakespeare and, particularly, to classes taught by the magnetic acting teacher Mr. Kingsley. A sudden spiral of events that brings a startling close to the first part of this novel. In the book’s second part, the reader immediately and surprisingly learns that what we understood to have happened thus far in the story is not completely true, though it’s not entirely false either. The plot thickens and speeds up and tightens, until, with a stunning coda, the author reveals a final piece of the puzzle that makes this novel shock and resonate long after the final sentence.

June 14 – 2:00 – Oak Room, Main Floor

“Normal People” by Sally Rooney

272 p.

At school Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other. He’s popular and well-adjusted, star of the school football team, while she is lonely, proud and intensely private. But when Connell comes to pick his mother up from her job at Marianne’s house, a strange and indelible connection grows between the two teenagers—one they are determined to conceal. A year later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years at university, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. And as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other.  Sally Rooney brings her brilliant psychological acuity and perfectly spare prose to a story that explores the subtleties of class, the electricity of first love, and the complex entanglements of family and friendship.