I wasn’t sure how Book Group would unfold having not done it last year as a First Time Labber but having accountability to lead it this year.  The leading of the group was more of a team effort with several members stepping up to guide the discussion or direct the sharing to assure we all had time and we covered as much ground as possible. Some of these ladies were previous Book Group leaders so it was nice to have their input and we had a super time. I just hope I captured all the information as directed! 🙂

We discussed the various Book Clubs to which we belong and how they pick books, with some selecting a year’s worth of reading at a single meeting and some having one member each month make recommendations, which are then reduced down by the group to a top two for voting in the next book.  Some groups meet year-round and some meet with the exception of the summer months.  Some groups select books along a theme.  One member’s club was named, after reading a book based MN Women Writers that led them to take a trip to the Boundary Waters… they are The Book, Paddle, Travel & Adventure Club!  Some clubs have been around for decades while others were newer, like my Non-Fiction Book Club in Alexandria that started in the last six months. Most clubs involve some kind of refreshment from doughnuts and coffee at the library to dinner or wine followed by dessert and coffee at the end, often at a member’s home.

Here are some links for book clubs which were requested by the Group:

One participant shared about self-publishing and the books she’s written, one about her appreciation of Abe Books, one about her luck to have landed a job at a book store where she gets to read advance copies of books sent by publishers.  Some of us like Non-Fiction but we agreed pretty universally that Fiction is Fantastic!

I brought quite a list of titles for consideration at the 2016 Rec Lab Book Group, hoping to expose people to both Fiction and Non-Fiction selections I have enjoyed.  And I was glad to receive lots of new ideas to add to my Want-to-Read List from those who joined in the discussions.  Following are the titles we discussed and/or recommended.  Maybe you’ll add a few to your reading stack!


Me Before You  and  After You / Jojo Moyes  Two stories of a woman who finds herself as a caretaker for a quadriplegic, who wishes to end his life, and how she manages having fallen in love with him.

Gemini / Carol Cassella  Story of a Jane Doe found nearly dead and the people around her trying to determine her identity.

Leaving Time / Jodi Picoult  Weaving in fascinating details regarding the lives of elephants, this is a tale of a love, motherhood and the complications that accompany both.

Ordinary Grace, Windigo Island and The Devil’s Bed/ William Kent Krueger  Ordinary Grace, his best selling novel, is a wonderful story of boyhood life in the summer of 1963, complicated by several tragic deaths in a small town.  Windigo Island is the latest in the Cork O’Connor mystery series.  The Devil’s Bed, his first novel, is a bloody story set in the White House.

Big Little Lies  and The Husband’s Secret / Liane Moriarty   Always with an underlying lesson, Liane writes quickly read stories of real-life with a focus on understanding how truth changes, depending on your perspective.

The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect / Graeme Simsion     The stories of how a socially inept professor creates a project to find a wife and (spoiler alert… he finds one), when she turns up pregnant, how he figures out dealing with this new turn of events.  Quite hilarious.

The Flood Girls / Richard Fifield  First novel hits it out of the park with a tale of a women’s softball team made up of rich characters in a small town.  Set in small town Montana, it focuses on the life of their record-keeping young man, Jake, and his new neighbor, Rachel, who has returned to town after leaving it almost a decade earlier in the chaos of her drunken ruin.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend / Katarina Bivald  First novel success in the story of a young woman who travels from Sweden to spend some time with her book pen pal only to find her funeral happening the day of her arrival.

George / Alex Gino (Juvenile) Story of a boy who believes he is a girl is a wonderful insight and a well-told way that the adults around her deal with this situation.

A Man Called Ove and Britt-Marie Was Here /Fredrik Backman  Wonderful stories of two quirky individuals and their involvement in community that brings transformation.

Mrs. Sinclair’s Suitcase / Louise Walters  A thirty-four-year-old bibliophile working at a resale bookshop in England finds a letter inside her centenarian grandmother’s battered old suitcase. The name on the suitcase is not her grandmother’s… or is it? Her grandmother Dorothy’s story of life during WWII is told along with Roberta’s for an enjoyable though often dark tale of how life can be, especially within the desperation of war.

The Nightingale / Kristin Hannah A tale of two sisters: the bold Isabelle enjoying life in Paris with their father and older Viann living peacefully in the country with husband Antoine. Their bond is tested when war comes and their father sends Isabelle to help Viann as Antoine marches off to battle.

The Passenger / Lisa Lutz  She’s left her dead husband — and within forty-eight hours Tanya Dubois is a fugitive. It’s almost impossible to live off the grid today, but Tanya-once-Amelia-now-Debra and Blue, a bartender, have the courage, the ingenuity, and the desperation, to try. Hopscotching from city to city, Debra especially is chased by a very dark secret … can she outrun her past?

Walk the Earth a Stranger / Rae Carson  (YA) The first in a trilogy, set during the Gold Rush, of a young girl with the ability to sense gold.

Salt to the Sea / Ruta Sepetys (YA) Told in short glimpse and interwoven chapters written by four young people, this historical fiction tale takes you along the path of German evacuation as the Russians approach to the Wilhelm Gustloff, one of the largest sea losses of all time but subsequently lost to mainstream history.

All the Light We Cannot See / Anthony Doerr Story of WWII told from the perspective of two young people centered around Brittany’s Saint-Malo.  Marie-Laure, blind since six, and Werner, an orphaned boy turned radio whiz kid intertwine to create an intricate story with a satisfying ending decades later.

The Book of Night Women / Marlon James A sweeping, stylish historical novel of Jamaican slavery that can be compared only to Toni Morrison’s “Beloved.”

The Invention of Wings / Sue Monk Kidd The story regales 35 years of the life of Hetty Handful Grimke, a Charleston slave, and Sarah, the daughter of the wealthy Grimke family who inherits her at the age of eleven.

Cutting for Stone /  Abraham  Verghese An enthralling family saga of Africa and America, fathers and sons, doctors and patients, exile and home.

Honolulu / Alan Brennert An irresistible story of a young immigrant bride in a ramshackle town that becomes a great modern city.

The Heretic’s Daughter / Kathleen Kent  Based on her own family’s history, Kent tells the story of Martha Carrier, who was one of the first women to be hanged as a witch in Salem, Massachusetts. In this novel, Kent paints a haunting portrait of one family’s deep and abiding love in the face of fear and persecution.

The Simpering, North Dakota Literary Society / GF Skipworth  Post WWI humorous historical fiction of five women building an empire.

The Gift of Rain / Twan Tan Eng  Depiction of a young man’s perilous journey through the betrayals of war and into manhood.

The Art of Racing in the Rain / Garth Stein Enzo, the unforgettable canine narrator, tells a bittersweet and transformative story of family, love, loyalty, and hope.

Stillwater / Nicole Lea Helget  Fraternal twins, separated at birth, are raised in the same small town, where they struggle for freedom from their families, their destinies, and, sometimes, each other… all with the underground railroad as a haunting presence in their lives.

Cold Mountain / Charles Frazier  Sorely wounded and fatally disillusioned in the fighting at Petersburg, a Confederate soldier named Inman decides to walk back to his home in the Blue Ridge mountains to Ada, the woman he loves. His trek across the disintegrating South brings him into intimate and sometimes lethal converse with slaves and marauders, bounty hunters and witches, both helpful and malign. At the same time, the intrepid Ada is trying to revive her father’s derelict farm and learning to survive in a world where the old certainties have been swept away.

Her Royal Spyness / Rhys Bowen  Victoria, a penniless member of the extended royal family, must clear her name when an arrogant Frenchman, who wants her family’s estate for himself, winds up dead.

The Signature of All Things / Elizabeth Gilbert  Follows the Whittaker family through the 18th and 19th centuries and focuses on Alma, a daughter who inherits her father’s money and his mind.  Though a botanist focused on the science of evolution, she falls in love with a man who takes her into the realm of the spiritual, divine, and magical.

Braiding Sweetgrass


Braiding Sweetgrass / Robin Wall Kimmerer  Poetic stories told from the perspective of a Botanist PhD.  You will gain a new insight to nature and the ways of Native people in the northeastern US.  This is not a quick read as you will want to savor each story as it is read.

Between the World and Me / Te-Nehisi Coates  An eloquent letter from a father to his teenage son, this book will give you a glimpse into the world of a black man who lives in the United States but has also traveled abroad, bringing a new understanding to the choices and feelings associated with life as a person of color.

Bettyville / George Hodgeman  Autobiography of George’s move from Manhattan to his hometown of Paris, Missouri to care for his aging mother.

Population 485: Meeting your Neighbors One Siren at a Time and Coop: A Year of Poultry, Pigs, and Parenting / Michael Perry  Michael is one of my favorite authors and these two are wonderful companions telling the stories of his return to his hometown, New Auburn, Wisconsin, and his move into family life.  He will make you cry with his lyrical prose and then have you laughing out loud with his clever wit.

Pastrix / Nadia Bolz-Weber Nadia tells her story of how she became an ordained minister.  Her humble intimacy embraces you in this irreverent, sometimes offensive and often comical portrayal.

The Four Agreements / Don Miguel Ruiz  A must read if you want to live a peaceful and successful life.  Depicts the four ideas of being impeccable with your word, doing your best, taking nothing personally and never making assumptions.

Being Mortal and The Checklist Manifesto /Atul Gawande  This surgeon’s perspective on health care and how we can do it better will enlighten you with interesting examples and wonderful stories.  Being Mortal is recommended by everyone I know who has read it… and that’s dozens of folks!

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. Climate Change / Naomi Klein  Powerful indictment of the way our current system of living in the US is in direct opposition to saving our planet.  Includes many stories of those bucking the system to find solutions that may allow for long-term viability.

Biblical Literalism: A Gentile Heresy /John Shelby Spong  This book explains why the bible was never intended to be taken literally.  Wonderful look at the Jewish traditions and celebrations that created The Gospels.

Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America / Linda Tirado  Quick read for anyone not living below the poverty line to comprehend why the poor don’t have nice lawns, clean kids and working vehicles.

Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology / Leah Remini  Story of one woman’s escape from Scientology.

The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir / Kao Kalia Yang  A young Hmong woman tells the true story of her grandmother’s struggles to bring her family out of war-torn Laos to a new homeland in America.

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed / Jared Diamond  A fascinating story that seeks to explain the fates of past societies that collapsed for ecological reasons, combining the most important policy debate of this generation with the romance and mystery of lost worlds.

Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America / David Hackett Fischer   The first volume in a projected cultural history of the United States, from the earliest English settlements to our own time. It is a history of American folkways as they have changed through time, and it argues a thesis about the importance for the United States of having been British in its cultural origins.

Woman of the Boundary Waters: Canoeing, Guiding, Mushing, and Surviving / Justine Kerfoot Amazing story of how a young woman is confronted with learning survival in the frigid north woods.

The End of Your Life Book Club / Will Schwalbe  A young man accompanies his mother, together forming a “book club” as they face her life coming to a close.

Daily Strength for Daily Needs / Mary Tileston  A collection of brief inspirational passages.

The Grace in Aging: Awaken as You Grow Older / Kathleen Dowling Singh   Singh explains how the energy expended denying our inevitable mortality can be better applied to live joyously in the present moment.

Becoming Wise: An Inquiry Into the Mystery and Art of Living / Krista Tippett   Krista distills the insights she has gleaned from luminous characters about the meaning of life in its many dimensions into a coherent narrative journey, over time and from mind to mind, that explores what it means to be human.

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen / Christopher McDougall   A tale of runners from a reclusive Indian tribe living deep in the Copper Canyon of northern Mexico.

A House in the Sky / Amanda Lindhout  Stories of a journalist who spent many adventures prior to being captured in Somalia and held hostage for 460 days.

Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion / Gregory Boyle  A collection presents parables about kinship and the sacredness of life drawn from Boyle’s years working with gangs.

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln / Doris Kearns Goodwin  Now a movie so, you know.

The Book of Forgiving / Desmond & Mpho Tutu  Desmond and his daughter, Mpho, an Anglican priest, lay out the simple but profound truths about the significance of forgiveness, how it works, why everyone needs to know how to grant it and receive it, and why granting forgiveness is the greatest gift we can give to ourselves when we have been wronged.  They explain the four-step process of forgiveness Telling the Story, Naming the Hurt, Granting Forgiveness, and Renewing or Releasing the Relationship as well as offer meditations, exercises, and prayers to guide the reader along the way.

Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics / Daniel James Brown  Tells the story of the University of Washington’s 1936 eight-oar crew and their epic quest for an Olympic gold medal, a team that transformed the sport and grabbed the attention of millions of Americans.

Gift from the Sea / Anne Morrow Lindbergh  Anne shares her meditations on youth and age; love and marriage; peace, solitude and contentment as she set them down during a brief vacation by the sea.

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed / Jon Ronson  A powerful, funny, unique, and very humane dispatch from the frontline, in the escalating war on human nature and its flaws.

Spiritwalker: Messages from the Future / Hank Wesselman  The astonishing true story of an anthropologist’s quest into a spiritual world of magic, mysticism, and meaning.  A fascinating and suspenseful adventure, an exciting and important archeological discovery, and the story of how a hard-headed scientific-realist stumbled on an important piece of the puzzle of human evolution.

Writers to Enjoy ~ We liked several of their books!

  • Thomas Berry
  • Marcus J. Borg
  • Annie Dillard
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Lisa Genova
  • Philip Gulley (Especially the Harmony Series)

Don’t know what happened to the rest of the alphabet but maybe this bodes well for me one day being a recommended writer as we made it to the G’s!

Thanks to all of my Book Group attendees: Gail, June, Doris, Rhoda, Carol, Gretchen, Nick, Luwanna, Annette, Jeane, and anyone else I forgot… I’m thinking there were a couple more but not sure if I just saw them somewhere else during Rec Lab and we talked books or if they were at the workshop… I did a terrible job of writing down names for the second session.  😦

Note: Lots of the summaries were attained at Ingram’s website.