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2008 Reading Group Selections

2008 Reading Group Selections

Upcoming Reading Selections

January 8, 2008

Beyond Reach by Karin Slaughter

Beyond Reach
by Karin Slaughter*

Unlike most of her family, Lena Adams did not succumb to a life of drugs or crime. She left home and became a cop. But when she returns to her home town to help her uncle, Lena finds herself accused of murder.

*Don't miss the opportunity to meet International Best Selling Author Karin Slaughter. She will be the Dinner Guest Speaker at this year's Murder Goes South on Friday January 25, 2008 at 7:30 p.m.


February 5, 2008

Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Team of Rivals
by Doris Kearns Goodwin

William Seward, Salmon P. Chase, Edward Bates, and Abraham Lincoln were presidential rivals in the election of 1860. Lincoln's win over them earned him their scorn since he was considered an obscure, backwoods, Illinois lawyer. Yet despite their distain for him, Lincoln made the unprecedented move of persuading his rivals to join his administration. And what's more, the three men accepted positions in his cabinet and worked collectively to see this country through one of its darkest periods in history.


March 4, 2008

Sins of the Fathers by Patricia Sprinkle

Sins of the Fathers
by Patricia Sprinkle

Acclaimed mystery writer Patricia Sprinkle joins the Smyrna Book Group in a discussion of her mystery novel: SINS OF THE FATHERS.

To help her friend Flo save her family's cemetery, Katherine Murray travels to Georgia coastal island of Bayard to stop a greedy landowner from developing the land right on top of Flo's ancestors. But the island and its inhabitants have deeply buried secrets and as the women start to uncover them, they soon realize they might be in over their head.


April 1, 2008

National Poetry Month

National Poetry Month

In honor of National Poetry Month and April Fool's Day, the Group will be reading various Limericks*. So bring your favorite limerick or make one up of your own.

*A limerick is a five-line poem in which the first, second and fifth lines rhyme with each other and the third and fourth lines rhyme.
Example: There was an Old Man with a beard,
Who said 'It is just as I feared! -
Two Owls and a Hen,
Four Larks and a Wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard!'


May 6, 2008

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Life of Pi
by Yann Martel

Sixteen-year-old Pi Patel of India survives a harrowing shipwreck, only to find himself adrift in a lifeboat on the expansive Pacific Ocean with a 450-pound Bengal tiger. Pi's 227-day journey through shark-invested water is filled with adventure, survival, and salvation.


June 3, 2008

The Echo Maker by Richard Powers

The Echo Maker
by Richard Powers

After a truck accident, Mark Schulter emerges from a 14-day coma to find himself stricken with a rare neurological condition that does not allow him to recognize the people in his life or his own surroundings. When Mark's sister, Karin, returns home to nurse him back to health, he accuses her of being an imposter and refuses her help. At wits end, Karin turns to cognitive neurologist Gerald Weber for help.


July 8, 2008

My Last Grievance by Elinor Lipman

My Latest Grievance
by Elinor Lipman

Though her psych professor parents have always been brutally honest with their daughter Frederica, both failed to tell her about her father's first wife. When the rebellious 15-year-old Frederica meets Laura Lee (the infamous first wife) she finds delight in her presence--much to the consternation of her parents.


August 5, 2008

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
by Sherman Alexie

Exploring Indian identity, both self and tribal, Alexie's first young adult novel is a semiautobiographical chronicle of Arnold Spirit, aka Junior, a Spokane Indian from Wellpinit, WA. The bright 14-year-old was born with water on the brain, is regularly the target of bullies, and loves to draw. He says, "I think the world is a series of broken dams and floods, and my cartoons are tiny little lifeboats." He expects disaster when he transfers from the reservation school to the rich, white school in Reardan, but soon finds himself making friends with both geeky and popular students and starting on the basketball team. Meeting his old classmates on the court, Junior grapples with questions about what constitutes one's community, identity, and tribe. The daily struggles of reservation life and the tragic deaths of the protagonist's grandmother, dog, and older sister would be all but unbearable without the humor and resilience of spirit with which Junior faces the world. The many characters, on and off the rez, with whom he has dealings are portrayed with compassion and verve, particularly the adults in his extended family. Forney's simple pencil cartoons fit perfectly within the story and reflect the burgeoning artist within Junior. Reluctant readers can even skim the pictures and construct their own story based exclusively on Forney's illustrations. The teen's determination to both improve himself and overcome poverty, despite the handicaps of birth, circumstances, and race, delivers a positive message in a low-key manner. Alexie's tale of self-discovery is a first purchase for all libraries.-- Chris Shoemaker, New York Public Library

Source: School Library Journal, Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.


September 2, 2008

The Crazed by Ha Jin

The Crazed
by Ha Jin

On the day after the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989, Jian Wan, the narrator of Ha Jin's powerful new novel, comes upon two weeping students. "I'm going to write a novel to fix all the fascists on the page," says one of them. The other responds, "yes... we must nail them to the pillory of history." Ha's novel is written in the conviction that writers don't nail anyone to anything: at best, they escape nailing themselves. Jian is a graduate student in literature at provincial Shanning University. In the spring of 1989, his adviser, Professor Yang, suffers a stroke, and Jian listens as the bedridden Yang raves about his past. Yang's bitterness about his life under the yoke of the Communist Party infects Jian, who decides to withdraw from school. His fiancee Professor Yang's daughter, Meimei breaks off their engagement in disgust, but Jian is heartened by a trip into the countryside, after which he decides that he will devote himself to helping the province's impoverished peasants. His plan is to become a provincial official, but the Machiavellian maneuverings of the Party secretary of the literature department a sort of petty Madame Mao cheat him of this dream, sending him off on a hapless trip to Beijing and Tiananmen Square. Despite this final quixotic adventure, Ha's story is permeated by a grief that won't be eased or transmuted by heroic images of resistance. Jian settles for shrewd, small rebellions, to prevent himself from becoming "just a piece of meat on a chopping board." Like Gao Xingjian, Ha continues to refine his understanding of politics as an unmitigated curse.

Source: Publishers Weekly,
Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.


October 7, 2008

The Night in Question by Tobias Wolff

The Night in Question
by Tobias Wolff

While some gifted writers make a show of their virtuosity, others, like Wolff, make what they do seem so artless that only upon reflection is the meticulous craftsmanship and intelligence of their work apparent. Wolff's first book of short fiction in over a decade (after his two acclaimed memoirs, This Boy's Life and In Pharaoh's Army) finds him writing at the top of the form. In each of the 14 stories in this splendid collection, Wolff's tone is unadorned, and a good number of the events he describes are just this side of prosaic; yet they are graced by an unerring sense of just how much depth can be mined from even a seemingly inconsequential situation. In "Firelight," an unnamed narrator recollects looking at rental apartments with his glamorous but impoverished mother; their brief interaction with another family showing them an apartment they can't possibly afford opens up into a meditation on home, family and belonging. The book begins with the wry and surprising "Mortals," in which a journalist is fired for writing the obituary of a man who proves to be very much alive. Other strong stories include "Flyboys," about an uneasy trio of youthful friends, and "The Chain," in which a man's desire for revenge after his daughter is attacked by a dog begets a cycle of violence with unforeseen consequences. In several stories, teenage protagonists and young men serving in Vietnam suddenly experience the instinct of self preservation; they and other characters learn to test the limits of their moral certitude. Wolff's characterizations are impeccable, his ear pitch-perfect and his eye unblinking yet compassionate. 30,000 first printing.

Source: Publishers Weekly, Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.


November 4, 2008

The Ghost at the Table by Suzanne Berne

The Ghost at the Table
by Suzanne Berne

This taut psychological drama by Orange Prize–winner Berne (A Crime in the Neighborhood) unfolds as San Francisco freelance writer Cynthia Fiske acquiesces to her maternal older sister, Frances, and attends the Thanksgiving family reunion Frances is hosting at her perfectly restored Colonial home in Concord, Mass. Cynthia believes her father, now 82, murdered their invalid mother with an overdose of pills when Cynthia was 13, and she has no wish to ever see him again. Within months after their mother died, their father packed Frances and Cynthia off to boarding school and married the much younger Ilse, a graduate student who worked as part-time tutor to Frances. But now he's suffered a stroke. Ilse is divorcing him, and the family is placing him in a home. Tension is high by the time the assorted guests, including Frances's complicated teenage daughters, her mysterious husband and the speech-impaired patriarch, are called to Frances's table, and it doesn't take much to fan the first flares of anger into the inevitable conflagration. Berne takes an inherently dramatic conflict—one sister's intention to obfuscate the hard truths of the past vs. another's determination to drag them under a spotlight —and ratchets up the stakes with astute observation and narrative cunning.

Source: Publishers Weekly, Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.

December 2, 2008

Charlotte's Web by E. B. White

Charlotte's Web
by E. B. White

An affectionate, sometimes bashful pig named Wilbur befriends a spider named Charlotte, who lives in the rafters above his pen. A prancing, playful bloke, Wilbur is devastated when he learns of the destiny that befalls all those of porcine persuasion. Determined to save her friend, Charlotte spins a web that reads "Some Pig," convincing the farmer and surrounding community that Wilbur is no ordinary animal and should be saved. In this story of friendship, hardship, and the passing on into time, E.B. White reminds us to open our eyes to the wonder and miracle often found in the simplest of things.

Source:, Copyright


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