Books ‘n Bites

Join us each month for a fun and lively virtual book club experience!
We meet on the second Wednesday of the month via Zoom.
Email Lori Barnes at lbarnes@vailgov.com for an invitation to the monthly Books ‘n’ Bites.


Titles for 2022

June 2020: “The Overstory” by  Richard Powers

The Overstory is a sweeping, impassioned work of activism and resistance that is also a stunning evocation of – and paean to – the natural world. From the roots to the crown and back to the seeds, Richard Powers’s twelfth novel unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fables that range from antebellum New York to the late twentieth-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest and beyond. There is a world alongside ours—vast, slow, interconnected, resourceful, magnificently inventive, and almost invisible to us. This is the story of a handful of people who learn how to see that world and who are drawn up in its unfolding catastrophe.

 

July 2022: “A gentleman in Moscow: A Novel” by Amore Towles

When, in 1922, thirty-year-old Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, he is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel near the Kremlin. An indomitable man of erudition and wit, Rostov must now live in an attic room as some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history unfold. Unexpectedly, the Count’s reduced circumstances provide him entry into a world of emotional discovery as he forges friendships with the hotel’s denizens. But when fate puts the life of a young girl in his hands, he must draw on all his ingenuity to protect the future she deserves. Hailed for its humor, intrigue, and beautifully rendered scenes, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the Count’s endeavor to become a man of purpose.

August 2022: “The beekeeper of Aleppo: a novel” by Christy Lefteri

Every morning, Nuri the beekeeper rises early to hear the call to prayer before driving to his hives in the countryside. On weekends, his wife Afra, a gifted artist, sells her paintings at the open-air market in the square. They live simply, rich in family and friends, in the hills of the beautiful Syrian city of Aleppo — until the unthinkable happens. When all they love is destroyed by war, Nuri knows they have no choice except to leave their home. But escaping Syria will be no easy task: Afra has lost her sight, leaving Nuri to navigate her grief as well as a perilous journey toward an uncertain future in Britain. Moving, intimate, and beautifully written, this is a story for our times: It reminds us that our lives can be upended instantly — and brings a journey in faraway lands close to home, never to be forgotten.

September 2022: A Man Called Ove: A Novel” by Fredrik Backman

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon; the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him ‘the bitter neighbor from hell’. But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time? Behind the cranky exterior, there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.


Past Books Include:

June 2021: “Sweet tooth” by Ian McEwan

Britain, 1972. The cultural cold war continues, and the country is being torn apart by industrial unrest and terrorism. Serena Frome, the beautiful daughter of an Anglican bishop, finds herself being groomed for the intelligence services in her final year as a student at Cambridge. Recruited into MI5 against the backdrop of the Cold War, Serena, a compulsive reader, is assigned to infiltrate the literary circle of a promising young writer whose politics align with those of the government. This ‘secret mission’ brings her into the literary world of writer Tom Haley. First, she loves his stories, then she begins to love the man. Can she maintain the fiction of her undercover life?

 

July 2021: “The Dutch house” by Ann Patchett

At the end of the Second World War, Cyril Conroy combines luck and a single canny investment to begin an enormous real estate empire, propelling his family from poverty to enormous wealth. His first order of business is to buy the Dutch House, a lavish estate in the suburbs outside of Philadelphia. Meant as a surprise for his wife, the house sets in motion the undoing of everyone he loves. Cyril’s son Danny and his older sister Maeve are exiled from the house where they grew up by their stepmother. The two wealthy siblings are thrown back into the poverty their parents had escaped from and find that all they have to count on is one another.

 

August 2021: “Everything I never told you” by Celeste Ng

Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos. A profoundly moving story of family, secrets, and longing, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.

 

September 2021: “Killers of the Flower Moon” by David Grann

In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, the Osage rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe.
Then, one by one, the Osage began to be killed off. The family of an Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, became a prime target. One of her relatives was shot. Another was poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more and more Osage were dying under mysterious circumstances, and many of those who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered.
As the death toll rose, the newly created FBI took up the case, and the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to try to unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including a Native American agent who infiltrated the region, and together with the Osage began to expose one of the most chilling conspiracies in American history.

October 2021: “Where’d you go, Bernadette: a novel” by Maria Semple

When her notorious, hilarious, volatile, talented, troubled, and agoraphobic mother goes missing, teenage Bee begins a trip that takes her to the ends of the Earth to find her. Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she is a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she is a disgrace; to design mavens, she is a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom. Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette’s intensifying allergy to Seattle, and people in general, has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the Earth is problematic. To find her mother, Bee compiles e-mail messages, official documents, and secret correspondence, creating a touching novel about a family coming to terms with who they are, and the power of a daughter’s love for her imperfect mother.

November Classics 2021: “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Brontë

Orphaned as a child, Jane has felt an outcast her whole young life. Her courage is tested once again when she arrives at Thornfield Hall, where she has been hired by the brooding, proud Edward Rochester to care for his ward Adèle. Jane finds herself drawn to his troubled yet kind spirit. She falls in love. Hard.
But there is a terrifying secret inside the gloomy, forbidding Thornfield Hall. Is Rochester hiding from Jane? Will Jane be left heartbroken and exiled once again?

 

 

December 2021: “The night watchman: a novel” by Louise Erdrich

Thomas Wazhashk is the night watchman at the jewel bearing plant, the first factory located near the Turtle Mountain Reservation in rural North Dakota. He is also a Chippewa Council member who is trying to understand the consequences of a new “emancipation” bill on its way to the floor of the United States Congress. It is 1953 and he and the other council members know the bill isn’t about freedom; Congress is fed up with Indians. The bill is a “termination” that threatens the rights of Native Americans to their land and their very identity. How can the government abandon treaties made in good faith with Native Americans “for as long as the grasses shall grow, and the rivers run”?
Since graduating high school, Pixie Parenteau has insisted that everyone call her Patrice. Unlike most of the girls on the reservation, Patrice, the class valedictorian, has no desire to wear herself down with a husband and kids. She makes jewel bearings at the plant, a job that barely pays her enough to support her mother and brother. Patrice’s shameful alcoholic father returns home sporadically to terrorize his wife and children and bully her for money. But Patrice needs every penny to follow her beloved older sister, Vera, who moved to the big city of Minneapolis. Vera may have disappeared; she hasn’t been in touch in months and is rumored to have had a baby. Determined to find Vera and her child, Patrice makes a fateful trip to Minnesota that introduces her to unexpected forms of exploitation and violence and endangers her life.
Thomas and Patrice live in this impoverished reservation community along with young Chippewa boxer Wood Mountain and his mother Juggie Blue, her niece and Patrice’s best friend Valentine, and Stack Barnes, the white high school math teacher and boxing coach who is hopelessly in love with Patrice.
In the Night Watchman, Louise Erdrich creates a fictional world populated with memorable characters who are forced to grapple with the worst and best impulses of human nature. Illuminating the loves and lives, the desires and ambitions of these characters with compassion, wit, and intelligence, The Night Watchman is a majestic work of fiction from this revered cultural treasure.

January 2022: “The water dancer: A Novel” by Ta-Nehisi Goates

Hiram Walker was born into slavery during the Antebellum South on a declining tobacco plantation in Virginia named Lockless. He is the mixed-race son of a white plantation owner and a black mother who was sold away by his father when Hiram was young. The local community consists of the enslaved (“the Tasked”); the landowners (“the Quality”); and the low-class whites. Hiram has an extraordinary photographic memory but is unable to remember his mother. However, in one instance when Hiram is driving across a bridge he suddenly has a vision of his mother dancing. When the vision ends, his carriage has fallen into the water. His (white) half-brother drowns, but Hiram is transported out of the water. He learns that his miracle survival was a result of a superhuman ability he has called conduction, which transports himself and others across impossible distances. This conduction is triggered by powerful memories: those of his mother. He eventually becomes involved with the Underground Railroad. Hiram escapes to Philadelphia, where he encounters Box Brown and Jarm Logue. He eventually comes to meet a famous member of the Underground named Moses, who also has the power of Conduction. Moses is later revealed to be Harriet Tubman.

February 2022: “Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel” by George Saunders

February 1862. The Civil War is less than one year old. The fighting has begun in earnest, and the nation has begun to realize it is in for a long, bloody struggle. Meanwhile, President Lincoln’s beloved eleven-year-old son, Willie, lies upstairs in the White House, gravely ill. In a matter of days, despite predictions of a recovery, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. “My poor boy, he was too good for this earth,” the president says at the time. “God has called him home.” Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returns, alone, to the crypt several times to hold his boy’s body. From that seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of its realistic, historical framework into a supernatural realm both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself in a strange purgatory where ghosts mingle, gripe, commiserate, quarrel, and enact bizarre acts of penance. Within this transitional state—called, in the Tibetan tradition, the bardo—a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie’s soul. Lincoln in the Bardo is an astonishing feat of imagination and a bold step forward from one of the most important and influential writers of his generation. Formally daring, generous in spirit, deeply concerned with matters of the heart, it is a testament to fiction’s ability to speak honestly and powerfully to the things that really matter to us. Saunders has invented a thrilling new form that deploys a kaleidoscopic, theatrical panorama of voices to ask a timeless, profound question: How do we live and love when we know that everything we love must end?

March 2022: “Tallgrass” by Sandra Dallas –  One Book One Valley Selected Title

During World War II, a family finds life turned upside down when the government opens a Japanese internment camp in their small Colorado town. After a young girl is murdered, all eyes (and suspicions) turn to the newcomers, the interlopers, the strangers.
This is her town as Rennie Stroud has never seen it before. She has just turned thirteen and, until this time, life has pretty much been what her father told her it should be: predictable and fair. But now the winds of change are coming and, with them, a shift in her perspective. And Rennie will discover secrets that can destroy even the most sacred things. Part thriller, part historical novel, Tallgrass is a riveting exploration of the darkest—and best—parts of the human heart.

April 2022: “The Color of Air” by Gail Tsukiyama

From the New York Times, bestselling author of Women of the Silk and The Samurai’s Garden comes a gorgeous and evocative historical novel about a Japanese-American family set against the backdrop of Hawai’i’s sugar plantations. Daniel Abe, a young doctor in Chicago, is finally coming back to Hawai’i. He has his own reason for returning to his childhood home, but it is not to revisit the past, unlike his Uncle Koji. Koji lives with the memories of Daniel’s mother, Mariko, the love of his life, and the scars of a life hard-lived. He can’t wait to see Daniel, who he’s always thought of as a son, but he knows the time has come to tell him the truth about his mother, and his father. But Daniel’s arrival coincides with the awakening of the Mauna Loa volcano, and its dangerous path toward their village stirs both new and long ago passions in their community. Alternating between past and present–from the day of the volcano eruption in 1935 to decades prior–The Color of Air interweaves the stories of Daniel, Koji, and Mariko to create a rich, vibrant, bittersweet chorus that celebrates their lifelong bond to one other and to their immigrant community. As Mauna Loa threatens their lives and livelihoods, it also unearths long held secrets simmering below the surface that meld past and present, revealing a path forward for them all

May 2022: “Invisible women: data bias in a world designed for men” by Caroline Criado Perez

Data is fundamental to the modern world. From economic development to health care to education and public policy, we rely on numbers to allocate resources and make crucial decisions. But because so much data fails to take into account gender, because it treats men as the default and women as atypical, bias and discrimination are baked into our systems. And women pay tremendous costs for this bias, in time, money, and often with their lives. Celebrated feminist advocate Caroline Criado Perez investigates this shocking root cause of gender inequality in Invisible Women. Examining the home, the workplace, the public square, the doctor’s office, and more, Criado Perez unearths a dangerous pattern in data and its consequences on women’s lives. Product designers use a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to everything from pianos to cell phones to voice recognition software, when in fact this approach is designed to fit men. Cities prioritize men’s needs when designing public transportation, roads, and even snow removal, neglecting to consider women’s safety or unique responsibilities and travel patterns. And in medical research, women have largely been excluded from studies and textbooks, leaving them chronically misunderstood, mistreated, and misdiagnosed. Built on hundreds of studies in the US, the UK, and around the world, and written with energy, wit, and sparkling intelligence, this is a groundbreaking, highly readable exposé that will change the way you look at the world.


  • May 2020:  “The Last Midwife: A Novel” by Sandra Dallas
  • June 2020: “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith
  • July 2020: ” The House at the Edge of Night” by Catherine Banner
  • August 2020: “The Invention of Wings” by Sue Monk Kidd
  • September 2020: “The Swans of Fifth Avenue” By Melanie Benjamin
  • October 2020: “Sin in the Secon City” By Karen Abbott
  • November  2020: “The Maltese Falcon” By Dashiell Hammett
  • December  2020: “Love and Ruin” by Paula McLain
  • January 2021: “Lab Girl” by Hope Ja
  • February  2021: “Breaking wild” By Diane Les Becquets
  • March 2021: “The address: A novel” by Fiona Davis
  • April 2021: “The Winter Soldier” by Daniel Mason
  • May 2021: ” The Oher Alcott” by Elise Hooper

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