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 at 5 p.m. via Zoom.

Email Sandy at SRivera@vailgov.com for an invitation to the monthly Books ‘n’ Bites.


Titles for 2023

 

February 2023: “The nightingale” by Kristin Hannah

In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France…but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When a German captain requisitions Vianne’s home, she and her daughter must live with the enemy or lose everything. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates all around them, she is forced to make one impossible choice after another to keep her family alive.
Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets Gaëtan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can…completely. But when he betrays her, Isabelle joins the Resistance and never looks back, risking her life time and again to save others.

March 2023: “The Downstairs Girl” by Stacey Lee –  One Book One Valley Selected Title

By day, seventeen-year-old Jo Kuan works as a lady’s maid for the cruel daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Atlanta. But by night, Jo moonlights as the pseudonymous author of a newspaper advice column for the genteel Southern lady, “Dear Miss Sweetie.” When her column becomes wildly popular, she uses the power of the pen to address some of society’s ills, but she’s not prepared for the backlash that follows when her column challenges fixed ideas about race and gender. While her opponents clamor to uncover the secret identity of Miss Sweetie, a mysterious letter sets Jo off on a search for her own past and the parents who abandoned her as a baby. But when her efforts put her in the crosshairs of Atlanta’s most notorious criminal, Jo must decide whether she, a girl used to living in the shadows, is ready to step into the light. With prose that is witty, insightful, and at times heartbreaking, Stacey Lee masterfully crafts an extraordinary social drama set in the New South.

 


Past Books Include:

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, and 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.

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: “Pulling Harvey out of her hat”  by Mimi Pockross

Talk about working from home. . . . Pulling Harvey Out of Her Hat chronicles the story of how Mary Chase—a housewife with three children from a working-class Irish community in Denver, Colorado—became a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright for Harvey, a Broadway comedy about a gentle soul and his invisible six-foot-and-one-half-inch-tall rabbit friend. This entertaining and inspiring account traces how Chase achieved her dream of becoming a famous playwright while remaining in Denver—where she worked for the Rocky Mountain News, married an editor, and raised a family.
Pulling Harvey Out of Her Hat includes many vignettes and unforgettable stories about the theater industry. It brings to life the history of Franklin Roosevelt’s Federal Theatre Project; provides readers with an insider’s view of the Broadway scene in the 1940s; and highlights the importance of theater personalities, including Brock Pemberton (Harvey’s producer), Antoinette Perry (Harvey’s director and namesake for the Tony Awards), and Frank Fay and Jimmy Stewart (actors who played Elwood Dowd, the amiable, slightly tipsy gentleman lead character).
The author of fourteen plays, three screenplays, and two award-winning children’s books, Mary Chase created Harvey to counter sadness during the height of World War II. It would win the 1945 Pulitzer Prize (beating out Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie) and remain to this day one of the most beloved and underappreciated works of the twentieth century.

September 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.

October 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.

November Classics 2022: “Villette” by Charlotte Brontë

First published in 1853, Villette is Brontë’s most accomplished and deeply felt work, eclipsing even Jane Eyre in critical acclaim. Her narrator, the autobiographical Lucy Snowe, flees England and a tragic past to become an instructor in a French boarding school in the town of Villette. There she unexpectedly confronts her feelings of love and longing as she witnesses the fitful romance between Dr. John, a handsome young Englishman, and Ginerva Fanshawe, a beautiful coquette. The first pain brings others, and with them comes the heartache Lucy has tried so long to escape. Yet in spite of adversity and disappointment, Lucy Snowe survives to recount the unstinting vision of a turbulent life’s journey – a journey that is one of the most insightful fictional studies of a woman’s consciousness in English literature.

December 2022: “Where the crawdads sing” by Delia Owens

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet fishing village. Kya Clark is barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when the popular Chase Andrews is found dead, locals immediately suspect her.
But Kya is not what they say. A born naturalist with just one day of school, she takes life’s lessons from the land, learning the real ways of the world from the dishonest signals of fireflies. But while she has the skills to live in solitude forever, the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. Drawn to two young men from town, who are each intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new and startling world—until the unthinkable happens.

January 2023: “Woman of light: A Novel” by Kali Fajardo-Anstine

1890: When Desiderya Lopez, The Sleepy Prophet, finds an abandoned infant on the banks of an arroyo, she recognizes something in his spirit and brings him home. Pidre will go on to become a famous showman in the Anglo West whose main act, Simodecea is Pidre’s fearless, sharpshooting wife, who wrangles bears as part of his show. 1935: Luz “Little Light” Lopez and her brother Diego work the carnival circuit in downtown Denver. Luz is a tea leaf reader, and Diego is a snake charmer. One day, a pale-faced woman in white fur asks Luz for a reading, calling her by a name that only her brother knows. Later that night at a party downtown, Luz sees Diego dancing with this pale-faced woman, which results in a brawl with the local white supremacist group. Diego leaves town for cover and Luz is left trying to get justice for her brother and family. Merging two multi-generational storylines in Colorado, this is a novel of family love, secrets, and survival. With Fajardo-Anstine’s immense capacity to render characters and paint vivid life, set against the Sangre de Cristo mountains, Woman of Light is full of the weight, richness, and complexities of mixed blood and mica clay. It delights like an Old Western and inspires the hope embedded in histories yet told.


  • 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
  • June 2021: “Sweet tooth” by Ian McEwan
  • July 2021: “The Dutch house” by Ann Patchett
  • August 2021: “Everything I never told you” by Celeste Ng
  • September 2021: “Killers of the Flower Moon” by David Grann
  • October 2021: “Where’d you go, Bernadette: a novel” by Maria Semple
  • November Classics 2021: “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Brontë
  • December 2021: “The night watchman: a novel” by Louise Erdrich
  • January 2022: “The water dancer: A Novel” by Ta-Nehisi Goates

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