July 1st Selection:
March 4th Selection:
The Violin Conspiracy: A Novel by Brendan Slocumb (2022)
"Brendan Slocumb hits all the right notes in his engrossing debut about a young Black man whose natural talent for music has become the only way to secure his future. The Violin Conspiracy works as a well-plotted heist novel, a look at racism, the music world, and a coming-of-age tale." — South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Growing up Black in rural North Carolina, Ray McMillian’s life is already mapped out. But Ray has a gift and a dream—he’s determined to become a world-class professional violinist, and nothing will stand in his way.
When he discovers that his beat-up family fiddle is actually a priceless Stradivarius, all his dreams suddenly seem within reach, and together, Ray and his violin take the world by storm. But on the eve of the renowned and cutthroat Tchaikovsky Competition—the Olympics of classical music—the violin is stolen, a ransom note for five million dollars left in its place. Without it, Ray feels like he's lost a piece of himself. As the competition approaches, Ray must not only reclaim his precious violin, but prove to himself—and the world—that no matter the outcome, there has always been a truly great musician within him.
April 1st Selection:
Empress of the Nile: The Daredevil Archaeologist Who Saved Egypt's Ancient Temples from Destruction by Lynne Olson (2023)
"A female version of the Indiana Jones story...Christine Desroches-Noblecourt was a daredevil whose real-life antics put Hollywood fiction to shame." - The Guardian
In the 1960s, the world focused on a nail-biting race against time: the international campaign to save a dozen ancient Egyptian temples from drowning in the floodwaters of the gigantic new Aswan High Dam. But the coverage of this unprecedented rescue effort completely overlooked the daring French archaeologist who made it all happen. Without the intervention of Christiane Desroches-Noblecourt, the temples-- including the Temple of Dendur, now at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art-- would currently be at the bottom of a vast reservoir.
May 6th Selection:
Trust by Hernan Diaz (2023)
WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE FOR FICTION - 2023
"A multifaceted saga of class, wealth, and mythmaking that should resonate with today’s capitalism-questioning readers.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer
Even through the roar and effervescence of the 1920s, everyone in New York has heard of Benjamin and Helen Rask. He is a legendary Wall Street tycoon; she is the daughter of eccentric aristocrats. Together, they have risen to the very top of a world of seemingly endless wealth—all as a decade of excess and speculation draws to an end. But at what cost have they acquired their immense fortune? This is the mystery at the center of Bonds, a successful 1937 novel that all of New York seems to have read. Yet there are other versions of this tale of privilege and deceit.
June 3rd Selection:
My Venice: And Other Essays by Donna Leon (2014)
"So keenly observed that they almost make me homesick for a city I’ve only visited . . . Leon’s essays have the kind of friendly intimacy of a letter from a friend far away” -- —Boston Globe
Donna Leon’s wildly popular novels starring Venetian Commissario Guido Brunetti have been praised for their intricate plots and gripping narratives but also for their insight into the culture, politics, family life, and history of Venice, one of the world’s most treasured cities and Leon’s home for over thirty years.
Collected here are over fifty funny, charming, passionate, and insightful essays ranging from battles over garbage in the canals to rehabbing Venetian real estate. Leon shares episodes from her life in Venice, explores her love of opera, and recounts tales in and around her country house in the mountains.
The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese (2023)
Set in Southern India—where “the land is shaped by water”—the novel follows three generations of a family that are bound by a uniquely disquieting truth: in every generation, at least one family member will drown. And, because it’s Verghese, it’s not just a humble story of life and death, it’s a resounding and astounding, intimate and expansive, story of how cultural, social, and racial politics play out in the lives of wives, doctors, artists—many of whom are orphans—striving to find home and purpose in a world that is ever-shifting and ever-dangerous. Filled with shimmery, charismatic people who love deeply and dream big, The Covenant of Water is an entirely magnetic read that you won’t want to end. —Al Woodworth, Amazon Editor
A shimmering evocation of a bygone India and of the passage of time itself, The Covenant of Water is a hymn to progress in medicine and to human understanding and a humbling testament to the difficulties undergone by past generations for the sake of those alive today. It is one of the most masterful literary novels published in recent years.
August 5th Selection:
The Prodigal Women: A Novel
by Nancy Hale and Kate Bolick (1942)
Nancy Hale (1908-1988) was the author of eight novels, including the bestselling The Prodigal Women, four short story collections, two memoirs, two plays, children's stories, and a biography on Mary Cassatt. The winner of ten O. Henry Awards, Hale published over two hundred stories and essays, eighty of which appeared in The New Yorker, making her one of the most important contributors in the history of the magazine.
Set in Boston, New York, and Virginia, The Prodigal Women tells the intertwined stories of three young women who come of age in the Roaring Twenties, not flappers and golden girls but flesh-and-blood female protagonists looking wearily—and warily—at the paths open to women in a rapidly changing world.
When The Prodigal Women was published in 1942, its uncompromising portrayal of women’s shifting roles, open sexuality, and ambivalence toward motherhood made it a succèss de scandale, spending twenty-three weeks on the New York Times Best Sellers list. Now Library of America restores Nancy Hale’s lost classic to print with a new introduction by Kate Bolick exploring how the novel measures “the gap between what liberation looks like, and what it actually is.”
September - We traditionally do not meet on Labor Day.
October 7th Selection:
The Rediscovery of America: Native Peoples and the Unmaking of U.S. History (part of The Henry Roe Cloud Series on American Indians and Modernity) by Ned Blackhawk (2023)
Winner of the 2023 National Book Award in Nonfiction. An NPR “Book We Love” for 2023.
“Even as the telling of American history has become more complex and nuanced, Native Americans tend to be absent. Blackhawk, a professor at Yale, confronts that absence in this sweeping account of how Native Americans shaped the country legally, politically, and culturally.”—Washington Post, “50 Notable Works of Nonfiction” (2023)
The most enduring feature of U.S. history is the presence of Native Americans, yet most histories focus on Europeans and their descendants. This long practice of ignoring Indigenous history is changing, however, as a new generation of scholars insists that any full American history address the struggle, survival, and resurgence of American Indian nations. Indigenous history is essential to understanding the evolution of modern America.
Ned Blackhawk interweaves five centuries of Native and non‑Native histories, from Spanish colonial exploration to the rise of Native American self-determination in the late twentieth century. His retelling of U.S. history acknowledges the enduring power, agency, and survival of Indigenous peoples, yielding a truer account of the United States and revealing anew the varied meanings of America.