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 2021

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.


Titles for 2022

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: One Book One Valley Selected Title

April 2022: “The Overstory: A Novel” 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 into its unfolding catastrophe.


Past Books Include:

January  2021: “Lab Girl” By Hope Jahren

Join us! for this month’s Virtual Book Club via Zoom which will discuss this year’s NEA Big Read – One Book One Valley selected title “Lab Girl” by Hope Jahren.
Jahren has built three laboratories in which she’s studied trees, flowers, seeds, and soil. She tells about her childhood in rural Minnesota with an uncompromising mother and a father who encouraged hours of play in his classroom’s labs; about how she found a sanctuary in science, and the disappointments, triumphs and exhilarating discoveries of scientific work. Yet at the core of this book is the story of a relationship Jahren forged with Bill, who becomes her lab partner and best friend. Their sometimes rogue adventures in science take them over the Atlantic to the ever-light skies of the North Pole and to tropical Hawaii, where she and her lab currently make their home.

February  2021: “Breaking wild” By Diane Les Becquets

It is the last weekend of the season for Amy Raye Latour to getaway. Driven to spend days alone in the wilderness, Amy Raye, mother of two, is compelled by the quiet and the rush of nature. But this time, her venture into a remote area presents a different set of dangers than Amy Raye has planned for and she finds herself on the verge of the precarious edge that she’s flirted with her entire life. When Amy Raye doesn’t return to camp, ranger Pru Hathaway and her dog respond to the missing person’s call. After an unexpected snowfall and few leads, the operation turns into a search and recovery. Pru, though, is not resigned to that. The more she learns about the woman for whom she is searching, and about Amy Raye’s past, the more she suspects that Amy Raye might yet be alive. Pru’s own search becomes an obsession for a woman whose life is just as mysterious as the clues she has left behind. As the novel follows Amy Raye and Pru in alternating threads, Breaking Wild assumes the white-knuckled pace of a thriller laying bare Amy Raye’s ultimate reckoning with the secrets of her life, and Pru’s dogged pursuit of the woman who, against all odds, she believes she can find.

March 2021: “The address: A novel” by Fiona Davis

After a failed apprenticeship, working her way up to head housekeeper of a posh London hotel is more than Sara Smythe ever thought she’d make of herself. But when a chance encounter with Theodore Camden, one of the architects of the grand New York apartment house The Dakota, leads to a job offer, her world is suddenly awash in possibility–no mean feat for a servant in 1884. In 1985, Bailey Camden is desperate for new opportunities. Two generations ago, Bailey’s grandfather was the ward of famed architect Theodore Camden. But the absence of a genetic connection means Bailey won’t see a dime of the Camden family’s substantial estate. Instead, her “cousin” Melinda–Camden’s biological great-granddaughter–will inherit almost everything. So when Melinda offers to let Bailey oversee the renovation of her lavish Dakota apartment, Bailey jumps at the chance, despite her dislike of Melinda’s vision. The renovation will take away all the character and history of the apartment Theodore Camden himself lived and died in, after suffering multiple stab wounds by a madwoman named Sara Smythe. One hundred years apart, Sara and Bailey are both tempted by and struggle against the golden excess of their respective ages–for Sara, the opulence of a world ruled by the Astors and Vanderbilts; for Bailey, the free-flowing drinks and cocaine in the nightclubs of New York City–and take refuge and solace in the Upper West Side’s gilded fortress. But a building with a history as rich–and often tragic–as The Dakota’s can’t hold its secrets forever, and what Bailey discovers in its basement could turn everything she thought she knew about Theodore Camden–and the woman who killed him–on its head.

April 2021: “The Winter Soldier” by Daniel Mason

“Vienna, 1914. Lucius is a twenty-two-year-old medical student when World War I explodes across Europe. Enraptured by romantic tales of battlefield surgery, he enlists, expecting a position at a well-organized field hospital. But when he arrives–at a commandeered church tucked away high in a remote valley of the Carpathian Mountains–he discovers a freezing outpost ravaged by typhus. The other doctors have fled, and only a single mysterious nurse named Sister Margarete remains. But Lucius has never lifted a surgeon’s scalpel. And as the war rages across the winter landscape, he finds himself falling in love with the woman from whom he must learn a brutal makeshift medicine. Then one day, an unconscious soldier is brought in from the snow, his uniform stuffed with strange drawings. He seems beyond rescue, until Lucius makes a fateful decision that will change the lives of doctor, patient, and nurse forever”–Provided by publisher.

May 2021: ” The Oher Alcott” by Elise Hooper

Elise Hooper’s debut novel conjures the fascinating, untold story of May Alcott—Louisa’s youngest sister and an artist in her own right.
We all know the story of the March sisters, heroines of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. But while everyone cheers on Jo March, based on Louisa herself, Amy March is often the least favorite sister. Now, it’s time to learn the truth about the real “Amy”, Louisa’s sister, May.
Stylish, outgoing, creative, May Alcott grows up longing to experience the wide world beyond Concord, Massachusetts. While her sister Louisa crafts stories, May herself is a talented and dedicated artist, taking lessons in Boston, turning down a marriage proposal from a well-off suitor, and facing scorn for entering what is very much a man’s profession.
Life for the Alcott family has never been easy, so when Louisa’s Little Women is published, its success eases the financial burdens they’d faced for so many years. Everyone agrees the novel is charming, but May is struck to the core by the portrayal of selfish, spoiled “Amy March.” Is this what her beloved sister really thinks of her?
So May embarks on a quest to discover her own true identity, as an artist and a woman. From Boston to Rome, London, and Paris, this brave, talented, and determined woman forges an amazing life of her own, making her so much more than merely The Other Alcott.

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 a 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, 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?


  • January 2020: “Girl with a Pearl Earring” by Tracy Chevalier
  • February 2020: “The Secret Life of Bees: A Novel” by Sue Monk Kidd
  • April 2020: “Flight of Dreams: A Novel” by Ariel Lawhon
  • 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

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