Book Bash Choices: Our Most Recent Program

We always have fun, and lots of attendees, at our Bash events.  Our March  '14 Bash sessions were no exception, and may have set records.   If you couldn't get here, you can still find out about the great books we discussed. 

Fiction

Bobcat and Other Stories by Rebecca Lee (Algonquin $14.95). A superb, original collection of stories from a North Carolina writer who guides readers into a range of landscapes, both foreign and domestic, crafting stories as rich as novels. Her brilliance shines on every page and makes for compelling reading. (Nancy)

Salt in the Sugar Bowl by Angela Belcher Epps (Main Street Rag $12). An engaging novella that is full of tension, gripping dialogue, and a moving plot.  Eloquent, courageous and candid. This Raleigh teacher has written a memorable story, which wonderfully handles intergenerational issues, siblings' ways and abandonment. A meditation on family, community and the struggle for prosperity. (Nancy)

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (Picador $15). A thrilling mystery and love letter to books that dexterously tackles the intersection between old and new technologies. (Kent)

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (Penguin $16). A bullied and isolated Japanese teen's diary is found washed ashore by a novelist in Canada, who must discover how her story turns out. Rolls together and examines themes of Japan, time, history, science, and the planet. (Kent)

Pulse: Stories by Julian Barnes (Vintage $15). Fourteen stories that are mostly dialogue between and amongst couples. Reading this will make you reflect and wonder how you'd have acted in these situations, or how you judge the participants. (Kent)

The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner (Scribner $17). In this unconventional but dazzling novel we meet a girl named Reno whose passion for motorcycles and art lead her to the downtown New York art world of the 1970s. She ultimately ends up at the heart of a student revolution in Rome, and introduces us to a fascinating cast of characters along the way. (Tony)

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Anchor $15.95). A strong-willed Nigerian woman comes to America for an education, where she endures near destitution before graduating, falling in love and creating a successful blog about living as a non-American black American. Adichie writes honestly about the ugly as well as the beautiful side of both nations. (Sandra)

Me and You by Niccolo Ammaniti (Black Cat $14). Fourteen-year-old Lorenzo doesn't fit the social mold his parents wish for him. Instead of going on a class ski trip, he hides in the basement of their  Italian apartment building. A poignant tale of alienation and acceptance thus begins. (Sandra)

Of the Farm by John Updike (Random House $16). Take a look back at this Updike book written in 1965 with the story of 35-year-old Joey Robinson and his relationship with his mother whom he visits on the farm where he grew up. Of course, because it's Updike, you'll have doubt, angst and anger, and dueling mother and daughter-in-law issues that come to a head when tragedy strikes. (Sandra)

 

Classic Fiction

Two by Edith Wharton: The Age of Innocence (1920) (Penguin $11); Ethan Frome (1911) (Vintage $7.95). In each book a young, married man struggles with his feelings for a woman and the constraints of the moral code of his society: one in New York City's social elite; the other in a simple Massachusetts farming community. Together, these books can be a source of endless discussion and comparison of their themes concerning the impact of social mores on the status of women, interpersonal communication, and personal fulfillment. (Samantha)

The American by Henry James (1877) (Penguin $14). A young self-made American millionaire travels to Paris and falls in love with a beautiful aristocrat. A fascinating exploration of the American psyche and concepts of class and wealth at the turn of the 20th century. (Samantha)

 

Nonfiction

Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948 by Madeleine Albright (Harper $15.99). A riveting, fresh chronicle of World War II by our former Secretary of State, whose family was from Czechoslovakia, many of whom were lost in the Holocaust. Her personal perspective and excellent writing made this my favorite book so far this year. (Nancy)

The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America by George Packer (Farrar, Straus and Giroux $16). A fascinating overview of the changes in America in the last fifty years, as illustrated by profiles of a diverse group of citizens. North Carolina is prominently featured. Somewhat alarming, but offering hope for the future. Winner of the National Book Award. (Nancy)

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown (Viking $28.95, pb due 5/27). If you have a poet's heart, you'll be awed by the spiritual connections to rowing expressed by both crew members and the master boat builder whose philosophy weaves through this historical drama. If you're of a mathematical nature: Unbroken + Chariots of Fire + (Rocky x 9) = Boys in the Boat! (Rosemary)

One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War by Michael Dobbs (Vintage $18). Whether you lived through it or it's history to you, the Cuban Missile Crisis is a part of our national consciousness. Dobbs shifts the action around the world as we learn of the politics, well-intentioned blunders, and pure luck that had the world holding its breath. (Rosemary)

The Book of My Lives by Aleksandar Hemon (Picador $15). Hemon weaves together a series of biographical essays ranging from his childhood in Bosnia to the effects of the war on his family and friends to his new life in America. He is particularly adept at breathing life into other people's experiences, which adds depth to his own story and creates a wonderful mosaic of a memoir. (Tony)

 

Teen/Young Adult Fiction

Out of The Easy by Ruta Sepetys (Speak $9.99). Sepetys creates a strong young heroine mired in a world of deep troubles, but with intelligence and a moral compass to inform her decisions. THIS is a young woman you'd want your daughters to know! A cast of richly-drawn characters steeps us in the Big Easy of 1950, a setting of deep betrayals, but even deeper loyalties. (Rosemary)

Paperboy by Vince Vawter (Delacorte $16.99). Twelve year old Little Man agrees to take his friend’s paper route one summer, but his severe stutter and the realities of 1959 Memphis make it a heartbreakingly difficult job. A richly authentic portrayal of the period with oh-so-real characters. (Carol)