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2016 - 2017 Reading selections

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

I got the confirmation that all of the titles selected for our next run were approved. I was asked to choose enough that our selections would end in December, 2017. This was mostly done so that Ken's book club and mine would be on the same schedule, but that's all inside baseball and is neither here nor there.

I want to thank those who submitted titles. I gave them preference and made some selections of my own. As has been the past year, the list is stocked with international fiction, some non-fiction titles and some American voices that are underrepresented in the media. The idea is to expose ourselves to lives that are unlike our own. I truly believe this helps broaden the mind and teach empathy. These were all heavily researched by myself and I'm confident there's not a stinker in the bunch.

9/22/2016 – Bend in the River by V.S. Naipaul

In the "brilliant novel" (The New York Times) V.S. Naipaul takes us deeply into the life of one man—an Indian who, uprooted by the bloody tides of Third World history, has come to live in an isolated town at the bend of a great river in a newly independent African nation. Naipaul gives us the most convincing and disturbing vision yet of what happens in a place caught between the dangerously alluring modern world and its own tenacious past and traditions.


10/27/2016 – The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

The Sympathizer is a blistering exploration of identity, politics, and America, wrought in electric prose. The narrator, a Vietnamese army captain, is a man of divided loyalties, a half-French, half-Vietnamese communist sleeper agent in America after the end of the Vietnam War. A powerful story of love and friendship, and a gripping espionage novel, The Sympathizer examines the legacy of the Vietnam War in literature, film, and the wars we fight today.


11/17/2016 – Citizen by Claudia Rankine

Claudia Rankine's bold new book recounts mounting racial aggressions in ongoing encounters in twenty-first-century daily life and in the media. Some of these encounters are slights, seeming slips of the tongue, and some are intentional offensives in the classroom, at the supermarket, at home, on the tennis court with Serena Williams and the soccer field with Zinedine Zidane, online, on TV-everywhere, all the time.


12/15/2016 – Zlata’s Diary by Zlata Filipovic

When Zlata’s Diary was first published at the height of the Bosnian conflict, it became an international bestseller and was compared to The Diary of Anne Frank, both for the freshness of its voice and the grimness of the world it describes. It begins as the day-today record of the life of a typical eleven-year-old girl, preoccupied by piano lessons and birthday parties. But as war engulfs Sarajevo, Zlata Filipovic becomes a witness to food shortages and the deaths of friends and learns to wait out bombardments in a neighbor’s cellar. Yet throughout she remains courageous and observant. The result is a book that has the power to move and instruct readers a world away.


1/26/2017 – In the Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides

On July 8, 1879, Captain George Washington De Long and his team of thirty-two men set sail from San Francisco on the USS Jeanette. Heading deep into uncharted Arctic waters, they carriedthe aspirations of a young country burning to be the first nation to reach the North Pole. Two years into the harrowing voyage, the Jeannette's hull was breached by an impassable stretch of pack ice, forcing the crew to abandon ship amid torrents of rushing of water. Hours later, the ship had sunk below the surface, marooning the men a thousand miles north of Siberia, where they faced a terrifying march with minimal supplies across the endless ice pack. Enduring everything from snow blindness and polar bears to ferocious storms and labyrinths of ice, the crew battled madness and starvation as they struggled desperately to survive. With thrilling twists and turns, In The Kingdom of Ice is a spellbinding tale of heroism and determination in the most brutal place on Earth.


2/23/2017 – The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Paul Coates was an enigmatic god to his sons: a Vietnam vet who rolled with the Black Panthers, an old-school disciplinarian and new-age believer in free love, an autodidact who launched a publishing company in his basement dedicated to telling the true history of African civilization. Most of all, he was a wily tactician whose mission was to carry his sons across the shoals of inner-city adolescence—and through the collapsing civilization of Baltimore in the Age of Crack—and into the safe arms of Howard University, where he worked so his children could attend for free.


3/23/2017 – In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner

For seven-year-old Raami, the shattering end of childhood begins with the footsteps of her father returning home in the early dawn hours, bringing details of the civil war that has overwhelmed the streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. Soon the family’s world of carefully guarded royal privilege is swept up in the chaos of revolution and forced exodus. Over the next four years, as the Khmer Rouge attempts to strip the population of every shred of individual identity, Raami clings to the only remaining vestige of her childhood—the mythical legends and poems told to her by her father. In a climate of systematic violence where memory is sickness and justification for execution, Raami fights for her improbable survival. Displaying the author’s extraordinary gift for language, In the Shadow of the Banyan is a brilliantly wrought tale of human resilience.


4/27/2017 – Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux

In Dark Star Safari the wittily observant and endearingly irascible Paul Theroux takes readers the length of Africa by rattletrap bus, dugout canoe, cattle truck, armed convoy, ferry, and train. In the course of his epic and enlightening journey, he endures danger, delay, and dismaying circumstances. Gauging the state of affairs, he talks to Africans, aid workers, missionaries, and tourists. What results is an insightful meditation on the history, politics, and beauty of Africa and its people, and "a vivid portrayal of the secret sweetness, the hidden vitality, and the long-patient hope that lies just beneath the surface" (Rocky Mountain News). In a new postscript, Theroux recounts the dramatic events of a return to Africa to visit Zimbabwe.


5/25/2017 – Stranger in the Forest: On Foot across Borneo by Eric Hansen

Eric Hansen was the first westerner ever to walk across the island of Borneo. Completely cut off from the outside world for seven months, he traveled nearly 1,500 miles with small bands of nomadic hunters known as Penan. Beneath the rain forest canopy, they trekked through a hauntingly beautiful jungle where snakes and frogs fly, pigs climb trees, giant carnivorous plants eat mice, and mushrooms glow at night.


6/22/2017 - Between Two Worlds: Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam by Zainab Salbi

Zainab Salbi was eleven years old when her father was chosen to be Saddam Hussein's personal pilot and her family's life was grafted onto his. Her mother, the beautiful Alia, taught her daughter the skills she needed to survive. A plastic smile. Saying yes. Burying in boxes in her mind the horrors she glimpsed around her. "Learn to erase your memories," she instructed. "He can read eyes." In this richly visual memoir, Salbi describes tyranny as she saw it - through the eyes of a privileged child, a rebellious teenager, a violated wife, and ultimately a public figure fighting to overcome the skill that once kept her alive: silence.


7/27/2017 – The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Safak

Populated with vibrant characters, The Bastard of Istanbul is the story of two families, one Turkish and one Armenian American, and their struggle to forge their unique identities against the backdrop of Turkey's violent history. Filled with humor and understanding, this exuberant, dramatic novel is about memory and forgetting, about the tension between the need to examine the past and the desire to erase it.


9/28/2017 – Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Fifteen-year-old Kambili and her older brother Jaja lead a privileged life in Enugu, Nigeria. They live in beautiful house, with a caring family, and attend an exclusive missionary school. They're completely shielded from the troubles of the world. Yet, as Kambili reveals in her tender-voiced account, things are less perfect than they appear. Although her Papa is generous and well respected, he is fanatically religious and tyrannical at home-a home that is silent and suffocating. As the country begins to fall apart under a military coup, Kambili and Jaja are sent to their aunt, a university professor outside the city, where they discover a life beyond the confines of their father's authority. Books cram the shelves, curry and nutmeg permeate the air, and their cousins' laughter rings throughout the house. When they return home, tensions within the family escalate, and Kambili must find the strength to keep her loved ones together. Purple Hibiscus is an exquisite novel about the emotional turmoil of adolescence, the powerful bonds of family, and the bright promise of freedom.


10/26/2017 – White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

The white tiger of this novel is Balram Halwai, a poor Indian villager whose great ambition leads him to the zenith of Indian business culture, the world of the Bangalore entrepreneur. On the occasion of the president of China’s impending trip to Bangalore, Balram writes a letter to him describing his transformation and his experience as driver and servant to a wealthy Indian family, which he thinks exemplifies the contradictions and complications of Indian society.


11/16/2017 – The Armies by Evelio Rosero

Ismail, the profesor, is a retired teacher in a small Colombian town where he passes the days pretending to pick oranges while spying on his neighbor Geraldina as she lies naked in the shade of a ceiba tree on a red floral quilt. The garden burns with sunlight; the macaws laugh sweetly. Otilia, Ismail's wife, is ashamed of his peeping and suggests that he pay a visit to Father Albornoz. Instead, Ismail wanders the town visiting old friends, plagued by a tangle of secret memories: Where have I existed these years? I answer myself: up on the wall, peering over. When the armies slowly arrive, the profesor's reveries are gradually taken over by a living hell. His wife disappears and he must find her. We learn that not only gentle, grassy hillsides surround San José but landmines and coca fields. The reader is soon engulfed by the violence of Rosero's narrative that is touched not only with a deep sadness, but an extraordinary tenderness


12/21/2017 – Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson

Trond's friend Jon often appeared at his doorstep with an adventure in mind for the two of them. But this morning was different. What began as a joy ride on "borrowed" horses ends with Jon falling into a strange trance of grief. Trond soon learns what befell Jon earlier that day―an incident that marks the beginning of a series of vital losses for both boys. Set in the easternmost region of Norway, Out Stealing Horses begins with an ending.



message 2: by Vera (new)

Vera Emmons | 25 comments These look great Travis. Thanks for all your research.


message 3: by Lucy (new)

Lucy (lucy47) | 146 comments Challenging, stimulating list -- we're up to it!


message 4: by Anne (new)

Anne | 85 comments Great range on this list. Looking forward to another great year (plus)!


message 5: by Dorothy (new)

Dorothy   (doky) | 17 comments Thank you, Travis, for the excellent reading list and your summation of the reading group's goal: "The idea is to expose ourselves to lives that are unlike our own. " One of the reasons I have so enjoyed this book discussion is that it brings together a group of people whose lives are not like my own. As we discuss books, this diversity of backgrounds brings interest to the discussion. I will, unfortunately, be reading from afar - in the land of Wisconsin, where our apparent similarities can sometimes blind us to awareness of our individual uniqueness.


message 6: by Lucy (new)

Lucy (lucy47) | 146 comments Oh, Dorothy, I hope you mean just for awhile (in Wisconsin), not permanently!


message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

I bumped into Wayne and he said that both he and Dorothy will be unavailable this month, but for different reasons. We'll likely have a small group tonight, but any combination of us guarantees a good discussion.


message 8: by Naberius (new)

Naberius | 2 comments I have not made it to any discussions . . . but will try to do that come Fall. This is a GREAT list! Travis, I appreciate all the time you have taken to put it together.


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