North Mankato Taylor Library

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Book Club Bags

North Mankato Taylor Library



Included in each bag are at least 10 paperback copies of a single title along with discussion questions and author information. Bags can be checked out on your library card for 6 weeks.
84, Charing Cross Road. Helene Hanff.

This book is the very simple story of the love affair between Miss Helene Hanff of New York and Messrs Marks and Co, sellers of rare and secondhand books, at 84 Charing Cross Road, London.


The Adoration of Jenna Fox. Mary Pearson.

Who is Jenna Fox? Seventeen-year-old Jenna has been told that is her name. She has just awoken from a coma, they tell her, and she is still recovering from a terrible accident in which she was involved a year ago. But what happened before that? Jenna doesn't remember her life. Or does she? And are the memories really hers? DA


The Alchemist. Paulo Coelho.

The Alchemist presents a simple fable, based on simple truths and places it in a highly unique situation. Brazilian storyteller Paulo Coehlo introduces Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who one night dreams of a distant treasure in the Egyptian pyramids. And so he's off: leaving Spain to literally follow his dream. A, E
All Over but the Shoutin’. Rick Bragg.

A haunting memoir about growing up dirt-poor in the Alabama hills--and about moving on but never really being able to leave. The extraordinary gifts for evocation and insight and the stunning talent for story- telling that earned Rick Bragg a Pulitzer Prize for feature writing in 1996 are here brought to bear on the wrenching story of his own family's life....


American Ghost: a novel. Janis Owens.

Jolie Hoyt is a good Southern girl living in Hendrix, a small Florida Panhandle town. All too aware of her family’s closet full of secrets and long-held distrust of outsiders, Jolie throws caution to the wind when she meets Sam Lense, a Jewish anthropology student from Miami, who is in town to study the ethnic makeup of the region. Jolie and Sam fall recklessly in love, but their affair ends abruptly when Sam is discovered to have pried too deeply into Hendrix’s dark racial history and he becomes the latest victim in a long tradition of small-town violence. Twelve years later, Jolie and Sam are forced to revisit the unresolved issues of their young love and finally shed light on the ugly history of Jolie’s hometown.

Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons. Lorna Landvik.

Five friends live through three decades of marriages, child raising, neighborhood parties, bad husbands and good brownies in this pleasant novel of female bonding. LP, E


At Home in Mitford. Jan Karon.

It's easy to feel at home in Mitford, North Carolina. In these high, green hills, the air is pure, the village is charming, and the people are friendly. Yet, Father Tim, the bachelor rector, wants something more. Enter a dog the size of a sofa who moves in and won't go away. Add an attractive neighbor who begins wearing a path through the hedge. Now, stir in a lovable but unloved boy, a mystifying jewel theft, and a secret that's sixty years old. Suddenly, Father Tim gets more than he bargained for.
Atonement. Ian McEwan.

On a hot summer day in 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses a moment’s flirtation between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant and Cecilia’s childhood friend. But Briony’s incomplete grasp of adult movies—together with her precocious literary gifts—brings about a crime that will change all their lives. LP


Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress. Dai Sijie

This is a beguiling fable that shines with the wonder of imagination, the beauty of romance, and the power of storytelling. Set during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, the novel tells the story of two hapless city boys sent to a remote mountain village for reeducation.

Bee Season. Myla Goldberg.

The bestselling, critically acclaimed debut novel about an ordinary girl with an extraordinary talent for spelling. Eliza Naumann, a seemingly unremarkable nine-year-old, expects never to fit into her gifted family: her autodidactic father, Saul, absorbed in his study of Jewish mysticism; her brother, Aaron, the vessel of his father's spiritual ambitions; and her brilliant but distant lawyer-mom, Miriam....

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: life, death, and hope in a Mumbai undercity. Katherine Boo.

In this brilliant, breathtaking book by Pulitzer Prize winner Katherine Boo, a bewildering age of global change and inequality is made human through the dramatic story of families striving toward a better life in Annawadi, a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport. As India starts to prosper, the residents of Annawadi are electric with hope.  A, E
Beneath a Marble Sky. John Shors.

Shors's spirited debut novel tells the story of the eldest daughter of the 17th-century emperor who built the Taj Mahal. From her self-imposed exile, Jahanara recalls growing up in the Red Fort; the devotion her parents, Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal, had for each other; and the events that took place during the construction of the fabulous monument to their love.


Between, Georgia. Joshilyn Jackson.

Nonny Frett knows the meanings of “rock” and “hard place” better than any woman ever born. She’s got two mothers, “one deaf-blind and the other four baby steps from flat crazy.” She’s got two men: her husband, who’s easing out the back door; and her best friend, who’s laying siege to her heart in her front yard. And she has two families: one who stole her and raised her right…and one who lost her and won’t forget they’ve been done wrong. In the middle of a feud that’s igniting a stash of highly flammable secrets, Nonny must now make some hard choices about who she wants to be—and which way is truly home. A, E

Between the World and Me. Ta-Nehisi Coates.

In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s construction of “race” and the resulting crisis today. E

The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the fire that saved America. Timothy Egan.

When Theodore Roosevelt vacated the Oval Office, he left a vast legacy of public lands under the stewardship of the newly created Forest Service. Immediately, political enemies of the nascent conservation movement chipped away at the foundations of the untested agency, lobbying for a return of the land to private interests and development. Then, in 1910, several small wildfires in the Pacific Northwest merge into one massive, swift, and unstoppable blaze, and the Forest Service is pressed into a futile effort to douse the flames. Over 100 firefighters died heroically, galvanizing public opinion in favor of the forests--with unexpected ramifications exposed in today's proliferation of destructive fires. A, E


Big Stone Gap. Adriana Trigiani.

Ave Maria reaches her thirty-fifth year and resigns herself to the single life, filling her days with hard work, fun friends, and good books. Then, one fateful day, Ave Maria’s past opens wide with the revelation of a long-buried secret that will alter the course of her life. Before she knows it, Ave Maria is fielding marriage proposals, trying to claim her rightful inheritance, and planning the trip of a lifetime to Italy—one that will change her view of the world and her own place in it forever. A, E


Black Like Me. John Howard Griffin.

Concerned by the lack of communication between the races and wondering what "adjustments and discriminations" he would face as a Negro in the Deep South, the late author, a journalist and self-described "specialist in race issues," left behind his privileged life as a Southern white man to step into the body of a stranger. In 1959, Griffin headed to New Orleans, darkened his skin and immersed himself in black society, then traveled to several states until he could no longer stand the racism, segregation and degrading living conditions. Griffin imparts the hopelessness and despair he felt while executing his social experiment. E

Bold Spirit: Helga Estby’s forgotten walk across Victorian America. Linda Hunt.

In 1896, a Norwegian immigrant and mother of eight children named Helga Estby was behind on taxes and the mortgage when she learned that a mysterious sponsor would pay $10,000 to a woman who walked across America. 
Hoping to win the wager and save her family’s farm, Helga and her teenaged daughter Clara, armed with little more than a compass, red-pepper spray, a revolver, and Clara’s curling iron, set out on foot from Eastern Washington. DA, E
The Book Club. Mary Alice Monroe.

They are five women from different walks of life, embracing the challenge of change. And as they share their hopes and fears and triumphs, they will hold fast to the true magic of the book club—friendship. 
Book of a Thousand Days. Shannon Hale.

When Dashti, a maid, and Lady Saren, her mistress, are shut in a tower for seven years for Saren’s refusal to marry a man she despises, the two prepare for a very long and dark imprisonment.As food runs low and the days go from broiling hot to freezing cold, it is all Dashti can do to keep them fed and comfortable. But the arrival outside the tower of Saren’s two suitors—one welcome, and the other decidedly less so—brings both hope and great danger, and Dashti must make the desperate choices of a girl whose life is worth more than she knows. A

The Book Thief. Markus Zusak.

Death meets the book thief, a 9-year-old girl named Liesel Meminger, when he comes to take her little brother, and she becomes an enduring force in his life, despite his efforts to resist her. "I traveled the globe . . . handing souls to the conveyor belt of eternity," Death writes. "I warned myself that I should keep a good distance from the burial of Liesel Meminger's brother. I did not heed my advice." As Death lingers at the burial, he watches the girl, who can't yet read, steal a gravedigger's instruction manual. Thus Liesel is touched first by Death, then by words, as if she knows she'll need their comfort during the hardships ahead. A, DA, E

Born to Run. Christopher McDougall.

Isolated by Mexico's deadly Copper Canyons, the blissful Tarahumara Indians have honed the ability to run hundreds of miles without rest or injury. In a riveting narrative, award-winning journalist and often-injured runner Christopher McDougall sets out to discover their secrets. A, DA


The Boys in the Boat. Daniel Brown.

Out of the depths of the Great Depression comes the astonishing tale of nine working-class boys from the American West who at the 1936 Olympics showed the world what true grit really meant. With rowers who were the sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the University of Washington’s eight-oar crew was never expected to defeat the elite East Coast teams, yet they did, going on to shock the world by challenging the German boat rowing for Adolf Hitler. LP, A, DA, E


A Can of Peas. Tracy DePree. (Minnesota Author)

After the death of his grandfather, Peter Morgan and his new bride, Mae, face a life-changing decision: should they embrace the career-chasing ambitions of their family and friends in St. Paul or accept the absurd challenge of saving the family farm in Minnesota countryside? Enticed by the romance of simple, quiet life, the Morgans set out to follow in the footsteps of Peter’s grandparents.


Cleopatra: a life. Stacy Schiff.

Her palace shimmered with onyx and gold but was richer still in political and sexual intrigue. Above all else, Cleopatra was a shrewd strategist and an ingenious negotiator. Famous long before she was notorious, Cleopatra has gone down in history for all the wrong reasons. A, DA, E

The Coffee Trader: a novel. David Liss.

Amsterdam, 1659: On the world’s first commodities exchange, fortunes are won and lost in an instant. Miguel Lienzo, a sharp-witted trader in the city’s close-knit community of Portuguese Jews, knows this only too well. Once among the city’s most envied merchants, Miguel has suddenly lost everything. Now, impoverished and humiliated, living in his younger brother’s canal-flooded basement, Miguel must find a way to restore his wealth and reputation. E

Coming of Age in Mississippi. Anne Moody.

In this now classic autobiography, she details the sights, smells, and suffering of growing up in a racist society and candidly reveals the soul of a black girl who had the courage to challenge it. The result is a touchstone work: an accurate, authoritative portrait of black family life in the rural South and a moving account of a woman's indomitable heart.
The Corrections. Jonathan Franzen.

After almost fifty years as a wife and mother, Enid Lambert is ready to have some fun. Unfortunately, her husband, Alfred, is losing his sanity to Parkinson's disease, and their children have long since flown the family nest to the catastrophes of their own lives. Desperate for some pleasure to look forward to, Enid has set her heart on an elusive goal: bringing her family together for one last Christmas at home.
Cry the Beloved Country. Alan Paton.

A beautifully told and profoundly compassionate story of the Zulu pastor Stephen Kumalo and his son Absalom, set in the troubled and changing South Africa of the 1940s. The book is written with such keen empathy and understanding that to read it is to share fully in the gravity of the characters’ situations. It both touches your heart deeply and inspires a renewed faith in the dignity of mankind. Cry, the Beloved Country is a classic tale, passionately African, timeless and universal, and beyond all, selfless. An Oprah Classics book club selection. LP, A

Cutting for Stone. Abraham Verghese.

A sweeping novel that moves from India to Ethiopia to an inner-city hospital in New York City over decades and generations. Sister Mary Joseph Praise, a devout young nun, leaves the south Indian state of Kerala in 1947 for a missionary post in Yemen. During the arduous sea voyage, she saves the life of an English doctor bound for Ethiopia, Thomas Stone, who becomes a key player in her destiny when they meet up again at Missing Hospital in Addis Ababa. Seven years later, Sister Praise dies birthing twin boys: Shiva and Marion, the latter narrating his own and his brothers long, dramatic, biblical story set against the backdrop of political turmoil in Ethiopia, the life of the hospital compound in which they grow up and the love story of their adopted parents, both doctors at Missing. A, E

Dandelions in a Jelly Jar. Traci DePree.

Mae Morgan’s flamboyant art teacher sister, Trudy Ploog, moves to the quiet, rural town of Lake Emily, Minnesota, to be closer to Bert Biddle, her shy, unassuming farmer boyfriend. Everything is perfect and then…the school board cuts the Gifted and Talented program and rumors of more cuts fly. Outraged, Trudy kicks up a whirlwind, beginning with a letter to the paper that questions the very foundation of small-town life–high school sports! Soon the whole town is talking, and Trudy and Bert are put to the test. Meanwhile, the Morgan family is recovering from the loss of a child and the death of a life-long dream as Virginia Morgan helps a father and daughter rediscover life.


Dewey the Library Cat: a true story. Vicki Myron.

One frigid Midwestern winter night in 1988, a ginger kitten was shoved into the after-hours book-return slot at the public library in Spencer, Iowa. And in this tender story, Myron, the library director, tells of the impact the cat, named DeweyReadmore Books, had on the library and its patrons, and on Myron herself.

Digging to America. Anne Tyler.

Two families, who would otherwise never have come together, meet by chance at the Baltimore airport – the Donaldsons, a very American couple, and the Yazdans, Maryam’s fully assimilated son and his attractive Iranian wife. Each couple is awaiting the arrival of an adopted infant daughter from Korea. After the instant babies from distant Asia are delivered, Bitsy Donaldson impulsively invites the Yazdans to celebrate: an “arrival party” that from then on is repeated every year as the two families become more and more deeply intertwined. Even Maryam is drawn in – up to a point. When she finds herself being courted by Bitsy Donaldson’s recently widowed father, all the values she cherishes – her traditions, her privacy, her otherness–are suddenly threatened. A, E

The Dinner: a novel. Herman Koch.

It's a summer's evening in Amsterdam, and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant for dinner. Between mouthfuls of food and over the scrapings of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of polite discourse. But behind the empty words, terrible things need to be said, and with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened.
Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son. The two boys are united by their accountability for a single horrific act; an act that has triggered a police investigation and shattered the comfortable, insulated worlds of their families. As the dinner reaches its culinary climax, the conversation finally touches on their children. As civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple show just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love. E
Dry Grass of August. Anna Jean Mayhew.

On a scorching day in August 1954, thirteen-year-old Jubie Watts leaves Charlotte, North Carolina, with her family for a Florida vacation. Crammed into the Packard along with Jubie are her three siblings, her mother, and the family's black maid, Mary Luther. For as long as Jubie can remember, Mary has been there - cooking, cleaning, compensating for her father's rages and her mother's benign neglect, and loving Jubie unconditionally. Bright and curious, Jubie takes note of the anti-integration signs they pass, and of the racial tension that builds as they journey further south. But she could never have predicted the shocking turn their trip will take. E

Eat Move Sleep: How Small Choices Lead to Big Changes. Tom Rath.

Eat right, move more, sleep better in order to live a longer and healthier life. Each chapter focuses on three findings and ideas concerning those three basic ingredients of a good day. He counsels against diet and exercise crazes and the American myth that ties productivity to little sleep. Little decisions about mundane things, from what you eat to how you sleep, can have a significant impact on your life. E

Ella Minnow Pea. Mark Dunn

Ella Minnow Pea is a girl living happily on the fictional island of Nollop off the coast of South Carolina. Nollop was named after Nevin Nollop, author of the immortal pangram,* “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” Now Ella finds herself acting to save her friends, family and fellow citizens from the encroaching totalitarianism of the island’s Council, which has banned the use of certain letters of the alphabet as they fall from memorial statue of Nevin Nollop. As the letters progressively drop from the statue they also disappear from the novel. The result is both a hilarious and moving story of one girl’s fight for freedom of expression, as well as linguistic tour de force sure to delight word lovers everywhere. *pangram: a sentence or phrase that includes all the letters of the alphabet. E


Enrique’s Journey. Sonia Nazario.

Enrique's mother, Lourdes, left him in Honduras when he was five years old because she could barely afford to feed him and his sister, much less send them to school. Her plan was to sneak into the United States for a few years, work hard, send and save money, then move back to Honduras to be with her children. But 12 years later, she was still living in the U.S. and wiring money home. That's when Enrique became one of the thousands of children and teens who try to enter the U.S. illegally each year. This was the Gustavus/St. Peter Reads book for fall 2009.


Everything I Never Told You: a novel. 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, DA, E

The Faith Club: A Muslim, a Christian, a Jew—three women search for understanding. Ranya Idliby.

When an American Muslim woman befriends two other mothers, one Jewish and one Christian, they decide to educate their children about their respective religions. None of them guessed their regular meetings would provide life-changing answers and form bonds that would forever alter their struggles with prejudice, fear, and anger.



Flight Behavior. Barbara Kingsolver.

Kingsolver's riveting story concerns a young wife and mother on a failing farm in rural Tennessee who experiences something she cannot explain, and how her discovery energizes various competing factions—religious leaders, climate scientists, environmentalists, politicians—trapping her in the center of the conflict and ultimately opening up her world. LP, A, E
The Fossil Hunter: dinosaurs, evolution and the woman whose discoveries changed the world. Shelley Emeling.

Mary Anning was only twelve years old when, in 1811, she discovered the first dinosaur skeleton--of an ichthyosaur--while fossil hunting on the cliffs of Lyme Regis, England. Until Mary's incredible discovery, it was widely believed that animals did not become extinct. The child of a poor family, Mary became a fossil hunter, inspiring the tongue-twister, “She Sells Sea Shells by the Seashore.” She attracted the attention of fossil collectors and eventually the scientific world.


Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle-Stop Café. Fannie Flagg.

Folksy and fresh, endearing and affecting, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe is the now-classic novel of two women in the 1980s; of gray-headed Mrs. Threadgoode telling her life story to Evelyn, who is in the sad slump of middle age. The tale she tells is also of two women--of the irrepressibly daredevilish tomboy Idgie and her friend Ruth--who back in the thirties ran a little place in Whistle Stop, Alabama, a Southern kind of Cafe Wobegon offering good barbecue and good coffee and all kinds of love and laughter, even an occasional murder. And as the past unfolds, the present--for Evelyn and for us--will never be quite the same again...  E
Giants in the Earth: a song of the prairie. Ole Rolvaag.

The story of Norwegian pioneers as they cross the Great Plains of America and the hardships they endure while trying to build a settlement. The greatness of this novel lies in the manner in which Rölvaag manages to bring out the emotions engendered in each of the pioneers -- how they reacted to the loneliness and desolation of the prairie and how they adjusted to it . . . or didn't.




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