“The Tiger’s Wife” is a work of contemporary fiction rich with both history and legend, reality and myth. Natalia is a young physician in the former Yugoslavia, on her way to an orphanage to provide vaccinations to the children there, when she learns that her grandfather has died far from home. She becomes convinced that he spent his last days searching for “the deathless man,” a vagabond who claimed to be immortal. As she looks for answers, she uncovers an extraordinary World War II era story of a deaf-mute woman in her grandfather’s boyhood village who befriended a tiger escaped from a zoo. Continue reading “2012 One Read Winner: About Téa Obreht and “The Tiger’s Wife””
About the Author
While taking a community college biology course at the age of 16, Skloot learned about Henrietta Lacks and her immortal cells, known as HeLa, cultured by scientists and used in research around the world. Her curiosity about the woman behind this line of cells grew as she gave up her long-held goal of becoming a veterinarian and discovered an aptitude for writing. Skloot has a B.S. in biological sciences and an MFA in creative nonfiction. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times Magazine; O, The Oprah Magazine; Discover; and many other publications, and she is co-editor of “The Best American Science Writing 2011.” “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” is her first book.
Continue reading “2011 One Read Winner: About Rebecca Skloot and “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks””
About the Author
Dan Chaon is the acclaimed author of “You Remind Me of Me,” which was named one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, The Christian Science Monitor, and Entertainment Weekly, among other publications. Ballantine has also published two collections of his short stories: “Fitting Ends” and “Among the Missing,” which was a finalist for the 2001 National Book Award.
Continue reading “2010 One Read Winner: About Dan Chaon & “Await Your Reply””
About the Author
Andrea Barrett did not start out to be a fiction writer; she wanted to be a scientist. “I really wanted to be Darwin in a skirt wandering through the Galapagos or the Amazon naming birds and trees,” she says. Instead, Barrett has translated her fascination with science and the natural world into award-winning novels and short stories. Barrett is especially drawn to the history of exploration and the suffering men and women were willing to endure in the pursuit of knowledge. The “Voyage of the Narwhal” (1998) tells of a harrowing expedition to the Arctic, while in the title story from “Ship Fever,” a doctor struggles through a typhus epidemic.
Continue reading “2009 One Read Winner: About Andrea Barrett and “The Air We Breathe””
(from the author, originally published by Powell’s Books)
“Can’t cook, but doesn’t bite.” It is only the line atop a classified advertisement in a weekly newspaper, that of “an A-1 housekeeper, sound morals, exceptional disposition” seeking to relocate to Montana early in the twentieth century. But for young Paul Milliron, his two younger brothers and his widower father, and his rambunctious fellow students in their one-room school, it spells abracadabra.
Paul is the voice of the book: a bit wry, contemplative, and literally bedeviled by dreams — lifelong, he has had the disturbing knack of vividly recalling the episodes of imagination that swirl in his mind at night. Paul has risen to become the state superintendent of education, and at the vantage point of 1957, strapped for budget in what he knows is going to be a changed world of education because of the Soviet landing of Sputnik, he is facing what is more like a nightmare, everything he has believed in is “eclipsed by this Russian kettle of gadgetry orbiting overhead.” In his heart he knows the powerful political pressures on him to “consolidate” the rural one-room schools, which will be the death knell of those perky idiosyncratic little institutions such as the one that produced him at Marias Coulee.
Before his crucial convocation of rural educators to give them his decision, though, he impulsively drives out to Marias Coulee, now a scatter of mostly abandoned homesteads just beyond the northern fringe of a successful irrigation project. There the story begins, with Paul swept back in memory to 1910 when the Milliron family’s hard-bargained new housekeeper, Rose Llewelynn, and her unannounced brother step down from the train, “bringing several kinds of education to the waiting four of us.”
Ivan Doig was born in White Sulphur Springs, Montana, growing up the only child to his ranch hand father and ranch cook mother, living along the Rocky Mountain Front where much of his writing takes place. Doig knew he wanted to be a writer his junior year of high school. His ﬁrst book, “This House of Sky,” was a ﬁnalist for the National Book Award in 1979. Doig is a former ranch hand, newspaperman and magazine editor. He is a graduate of Northwestern, where he received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism and he also holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of Washington. He lives in Seattle with his wife Carol.
My narrator in “The Whistling Season,” Paul Milliron, educator and bookman and graduate of a one-room school that he was, would have fully known the value of a community read, all the way from its linguistic beginnings. “Communitas,” the root of our usage of “community”—in Paul’s well-thumbed Latin-to-English dictionary, these several meanings of “communitas” are given: “sharing, partnership, social ties, fellowship, togetherness.” What better rewards could readers and writer alike ask for, than the common ground of literary fellowship through reading?
Regards, Ivan Doig
About the Book
As a young man, Jacob Jankowski was tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. It was the early part of the Great Depression, and for Jacob, now ninety, the circus world he remembers was both his salvation and a living hell. A veterinary student just shy of a degree, he was put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It was there that he met Marlena, the beautiful equestrian star married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. And he met Rosie, an untrainable elephant who was the great gray hope for this third-rate traveling show. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and, ultimately, it was their only hope for survival. Continue reading “2007 One Read Program: “Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen”
About the Book
In this explosive novel, T. Coraghessan Boyle explores an issue that is at the forefront of our political arena. He confronts the controversy over illegal immigration head-on, illuminating the people on both sides of the issue, the haves and the have-nots, through a poignant, gripping story.
In Southern California’s Topanga Canyon, two couples live in close proximity and yet are worlds apart. High atop a hill overlooking the canyon, nature writer Delaney Mossbacher and his wife, real estate agent Kyra Menaker-Mossbacher, reside in an exclusive, secluded housing development with her son, Jordan. The Mossbachers are agnostic liberals with a passion for recycling and fitness. Camped out in a ravine at the bottom of the canyon are Cándido and América Rincón, a Mexican couple who have crossed the border illegally. On the edge of starvation, they search desperately for work in the hope of moving into an apartment before their baby is born. They cling to their vision of the American dream, which, no matter how hard they try, manages to elude their grasp at every turn.
A violent chance encounter brings together Delaney and Cándido, beginning a chain of events that culminates in a harrowing confrontation. The novel shifts back and forth between the two couples, giving voice to each of the four main characters as their their worlds collide and their lives become inextricably intertwined. The Rincóns’ search for the American dream, and the Mossbachers’ attempts to protect it, comprise the heart of the story. In scenes that are alternately comic, frightening and satirical, but always all too real, Boyle confronts not only immigration but social consciousness, environmental awareness, crime and unemployment in a tale that raises the curtain on the dark side of the American dream.
-From a Reading Group Guide, Courtesy of Penguin Putnam, Inc.
“Ender’s Game,” which has sold more than one million copies, is one of the most popular science fiction novels ever written. The book has been equally as popular with non-science fiction readers as with science fiction fans.
According to the New York Times, “intense is the word for ‘Ender’s Game.’ Aliens have attacked Earth twice and almost destroyed the human species. To make sure humans win the next encounter, the world government has taken to breeding military geniuses—and then training them in the arts of war… The early training, not surprisingly, takes the form of ‘games’… Ender Wiggin is a genius among geniuses; he wins all the games… He is smart enough to know that time is running out. But is he smart enough to save the planet?”
Ender’s Game won the Hugo Award in 1985 and the Nebula Award in 1986.
Continue reading “2005 One Read Program: “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card”
About the Book
Millions of Americans work full-time, year-round, for poverty-level wages. Barbara Ehrenreich decided to join them, inspired in part by the rhetoric surrounding welfare reform, which promised that any job equals a better life. But how can anyone survive, let alone prosper, on six to seven dollars an hour? To find out, Ehrenreich moved from Florida to Maine to Minnesota, working as a waitress, hotel maid, house cleaner, nursing home aid and Wal-Mart salesperson. “Nickel and Dimed” reveals low-wage America in all its tenacity, anxiety and surprising generosity–a land of “big box” stores, fast food and a thousand desperate stratagems for survival. Acclaimed for its insight, humor and passion, “Nickel and Dimed” was on The New York Times bestseller list for nine weeks.