Desert Island Book Club
The Desert Island Book Club returns to the island!
Meeting on the last Thursday of each month
To join call or drop by
Books Inc. in Alameda
1344 Park Street
May 2015 Selection: Funny, tender, and moving, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry reminds us all exactly why we read and why we love."* A. J. Fikry's life is not at all what he expected it to be. He lives alone, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. But when a mysterious package appears at the bookstore, its unexpected arrival gives Fikry the chance to make his life over--and see everything anew. "This novel has humor, romance, a touch of suspense, but most of all love--love of books and bookish people and, really, all of humanity in its imperfect glory." -Eowyn Ivey, author of The Snow Child "Marvelously optimistic about the future of books and bookstores and the people who love both." -The Washington Post "You won't want it to end." -Family Circle "A natural for book groups." -Richmond Times-Dispatch "A reader's paradise of the first order." -The Buffalo News "A fun, page-turning delight." -Minneapolis Star Tribune "Captures the joy of connecting people and books . . . Irresistible." -Booklist "A wonderful, moving, endearing story of redemption and transformation that will sing in your heart for a very, very long time." -Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain "Readers who delighted in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, and Letters from Skye will be equally captivated by this novel." -*Library Journal, starred review
March 2015 Selection: A collection of Jackson's letters from prison, Soledad Brother is an outspoken condemnation of the racism of white America and a powerful appraisal of the prison system that failed to break his spirit but eventually took his life. Jackson's letters make palpable the intense feelings of anger and rebellion that filled black men in America's prisons in the 1960s. But even removed from the social and political firestorms of the 1960s, Jackson's story still resonates for its portrait of a man taking a stand even while locked down.
February 2015 Selection: "Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I understand there are a good many Southerners in the room tonight. I know the South very well. I spent twenty years there one night...
"Last time I was down South I walked into this restaurant, and this white waitress came up to me and said: 'We don't serve colored people here.'
"I said: 'That's all right, I don't eat colored people. Bring me a whole fried chicken.'
"About that time these three cousins come in, you know the ones I mean, Klu, Kluck, and Klan, and they say: 'Boy, we're givin' you fair warnin'. Anything you do to that chicken, we're gonna do to you.' About then the waitress brought me my chicken. 'Remember, boy, anything you do to that chicken, we're gonna do to you.' So I put down my knife and fork, and I picked up that chicken, and I kissed it."
January 2015 Selection: In this "honest and searching look at the perils of growing up a black male in urban America" ("San Francisco Chronicle"), "Washington Post" reporter Nathan McCall tells the story of his passage from the street and the prison yard to the newsroom of one of America's most prestigious papers. "A stirring tale of transformation".--Henry Louis Gates, Jr., "The New Yorker".
October 2014 Selection: After the birth of his first child, dramatist, fiction writer, and former member of Blue Man Group Jason Sinclair Long set out to write one piece of microfiction every day for a year. TINY GIANTS collects the very best of those pieces. A genre- jumping, maniacal look at love, loneliness, joy, despair, terror, and laugh-out-loud humor, Long's work is a study in brevity and a firm claim that a perfect story can ultimately be told with a scant handful of words.
September 2014 Selection: Invisible Man is a milestone in American literature, a book that has continued to engage readers since its appearance in 1952. A first novel by an unknown writer, it remained on the bestseller list for sixteen weeks, won the National Book Award for fiction, and established Ralph Ellison as one of the key writers of the century. The nameless narrator of the novel describes growing up in a black community in the South, attending a Negro college from which he is expelled, moving to New York and becoming the chief spokesman of the Harlem branch of "the Brotherhood," and retreating amid violence and confusion to the basement lair of the Invisible Man he imagines himself to be. The book is a passionate and witty tour de force of style, strongly influenced by T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land, Joyce, and Dostoevsky.
July 2014 Selection: Rebecca Ashley (Becca) dreams in color, mostly acrylic. It's current day San Francisco. Despite all odds, divorce, eviction, and mounting money problems, Becca is determined to finish school. Shortly after Becca has temporarily moved into her Professor Sophie Anne's live/work loft, her professor is murdered. Becca discovers that no one is who they claim and nothing is as it seems. Propelled into the underworld of art and artifact smuggling, Becca has to decide who to trust. Two of Sophie-Anne's business partners, a charming Brit, Clark Wright, and swashbuckling Belizian, Antoine Palacio, reveal Sophie-Anne's murder is tied to a blackmailer who expects a large ransom from the sale of a mysterious French artifact. When the three fail to relinquish his fee the blackmailer murders Sophie-Anne in hopes it will scare the other two thieves into giving up the money. Now Antoine and Clark are running scared. Only problem is Sophie-Anne was the only one who knew where the object is hidden. Now Becca must find the artifact and decide who to trust or suffer Sophie-Anne's fate.
June 2014 Selection: Author and essayist Kiese Laymon is one of the most unique, stirring, and powerful new voices in American social and cultural commentary. How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America is a collection of Laymon's essays on subjects ranging from family, race, violence, and celebrity to music, writing, and coming of age in Mississippi. Laymon's writing is smart, unflinchingly honest, lacerating, and unexpectedly funny.
In How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America, Laymon deals in depth with his own personal story, filled with trials (and reflections on those trials) that illuminate underappreciated aspects of contemporary American life. As revealed in the book's title essay, Laymon attended three colleges before earning his undergraduate degree. He was suspended from the first of these institutions, Millsaps College, following a probationary period resulting from a controversial essay he published on campus. As the school's president described it, the "Key Essay in question was written by Kiese Laymon, a controversial writer who consistently editorializes on race issues." Controversy seemed to follow this young writer, but as he himself puts it, "my job is to ask questions, to broaden the scope of American literature by broadening the scope of who is written to and imaginatively writes back."
Laymon's voice is something new and unexpected in contemporary American writing. Mixing a colloquial voice with acerbic wit, sharp insights, and blast-furnace heat, he calls to mind a black 21st-century Mark Twain. Much like Twain, Laymon's writing is steeped in controversial issues, both private and public. From his biting critiques of race politics to revelations of his own internal struggles with American "blackness," Laymon taps into an ongoing conversation that is played out consciously and subconsciously across all of our artistic, cultural, political, and economic realities.
This collection introduces Laymon as a writer who balances volatile concepts on a razor's edge, and who chops up much-discussed and often-misunderstood topics with his scathing humor and fresh, unexpected takes on the ongoing absurdities, frivolities, and calamities of American life.
May 2014 Selection: "Novels like The 25th Hour don't fall out of trees every day. The tone is dark and intense; its elegant style is cut on the raw side; and the characters come from places we've all been." -The New York TimesAll Monty Brogan ever really wanted when he grew up was to be a fireman. Now he's about to start a seven-year stretch in the federal penitentiary for drug dealing. With just twenty-four hours of freedom to go, he prowls the city with his girlfriend and his two best friends from high school-a high-flying bond trader and an idealistic teacher. As the minutes count down, Monty seizes one last chance to stack the odds in his favor.
Hurtling from the money pits of Wall Street to Manhattan's downtown lounge and club scene, from the enclaves of the Russian mob to the old immigrant neighborhoods, The 25th Hour evokes the pulsing rhythms and diamond-hard edges of a city in the raw, illusory hours between midnight and dawn. A taut and mesmerizing tale of an urban purgatory suspended between the crime and the punishment, The 25th Hour is a major player in contemporary noir fiction from the author of the bestselling novel "City of Thieves" and the short story collection "When the Nines Roll Over."
April 2014 Selection: "I spent five years of my life being treated for cancer, but since then I've spent fifteen years being treated for nothing other than looking different from everyone else. It was the pain from that, from feeling ugly, that I always viewed as the great tragedy of my life. The fact that I had cancer seemed minor in comparison."
At age nine, Lucy Grealy was diagnosed with a potentially terminal cancer. When she returned to school with a third of her jaw removed, she faced the cruel taunts of classmates. In this strikingly candid memoir, Grealy tells her story of great suffering and remarkable strength without sentimentality and with considerable wit. Vividly portraying the pain of peer rejection and the guilty pleasures of wanting to be special, Grealy captures with unique insight what it is like as a child and young adult to be torn between two warring impulses: to feel that more than anything else we want to be loved for who we are, while wishing desperately and secretly to be perfect.
March 2014 Selection: Micheline Marcom describes her newest novel, "A Brief History of Yes" -- her first since 2008's scathing and erotic "The Mirror in the Well" -- as a "literary fado," referring to a style of Portuguese music that, akin to the American blues, is often melancholic and soulful, and encapsulates the feeling of "saudade" -- meaning, loosely, yearning and nostalgia for something or someone irreparably lost. "A Brief History of Yes" tells the story of the break-up between a Portuguese woman named Maria and an unnamed American man: it is a collage-like, fragmentary novel whose form perfectly captures the workings of attraction and grief, proving once again that American literature has no better poet of love and loss than Micheline Aharonian Marcom.
February 2014 Selection: When you're in trouble and sinking fast, whom do you call?
Piper Nelson is stuck. She can't quite stay away from the husband she divorced. She isn't always attentive to the high school students she teaches. And even she admits that she's been drinking too much and seeking out unsuitable men. Piper's mother, married to a celebrity evangelist, and her sister, who's immersed in plans to wed a professional football player and star in a reality TV show, are both too self-absorbed to sympathize with Piper's angst. They tell her to get a grip. But how can Piper ever really recover from the blow she suffered five years ago, when a car accident took the life of her young daughter?
When Piper's ex-husband announces that his new girlfriend is pregnant, Piper is forced to take stock. Realizing that it's time for a change is one thing, but actually making it happen is quite another. And despite what she thinks, Piper can't do it alone Lucky for her, a couple of crazy, funny new friends are ready to step in when she needs them most and show her how to live and laugh again.
January 2014 Selection: No one is coming to your aid. We have ensured this.
Six strangers wake up on a remote island in the Florida Keys with no memory of their arrival. They soon discover their common bond: all of them are heroin addicts. As the first excruciating pangs of withdrawal make themselves felt, the six notice a yacht anchored across open water. On it lurk four shadowy figures, protected by the hungry sharks that patrol the waves. So begins a dangerous game. The six must undertake the impossible--swim to the next island where a cache of heroin awaits, or die trying. When alliances form, betrayal is inevitable. As the fight to survive intensifies, the stakes reach terrifying heights--and their captors' motives finally begin to emerge.
July 2013 Selection: This Modern Library Paperback Classics edition combines the two most important African American slave narratives into one volume.
Frederick Douglass's Narrative, first published in 1845, is an enlightening and incendiary text. Born into slavery, Douglass became the preeminent spokesman for his people during his life; his narrative is an unparalleled account of the dehumanizing effects of slavery and Douglass's own triumph over it. Like Douglass, Harriet Jacobs was born into slavery, and in 1861 she published Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, now recognized as the most comprehensive antebellum slave narrative written by a woman. Jacobs's account broke the silence on the exploitation of African American female slaves, and it remains crucial reading. These narratives illuminate and inform each other. This edition includes an incisive Introduction by Kwame Anthony Appiah and extensive annotations.
May / June 2013 Selection: The first major English translation of one of contemporary Japan's bestselling and most celebrated authors
From Akutagawa Award-winning author Yoko Ogawa comes a haunting trio of novellas about love, fertility, obsession, and how even the most innocent gestures may contain a hairline crack of cruel intent.
A lonely teenage girl falls in love with her foster brother as she watches him leap from a high diving board into a pool--a peculiar infatuation that sends unexpected ripples through her life.
A young woman records the daily moods of her pregnant sister in a diary, taking meticulous note of a pregnancy that may or may not be a hallucination--but whose hallucination is it, hers or her sister's?
A woman nostalgically visits her old college dormitory on the outskirts of Tokyo, a boarding house run by a mysterious triple amputee with one leg.
Hauntingly spare, beautiful, and twisted, "The Diving Pool "is a disquieting and at times darkly humorous collection of novellas about normal people who suddenly discover their own dark possibilities.
April 2013 Selection: Chief Inspector Jensen is a policeman in an unnamed European country where the government has criminalized being drunk, where newspapers are designed for reassurance, and where the city centers have been demolished to devote more space to gleaming new highways.
Recovering in a hospital room abroad after a liver transplant, Jensen receives a note instructing him to return home immediately, but when he reaches the airport he discovers that all flights home have been cancelled and all communication from within his homeland has ceased. One of the last messages sent requested urgent medical help from abroad. But what has happen? Has an epidemic taken hold? And why has the government fled the capital? To penetrate the silence and mystery that has fallen over the country and its people, Jensen returns only to discover the unthinkable.
February 2013 Selection: Shriver approaches the tragedy of a high-school massacre from the point of view of the killer's mother. Eva, in the letters she writes to her estranged husband, probes the upbringing of their more-than-difficult child and reveals herself to have been a reluctant mother. As the schisms in her family unfold, the story draws closer to an unexpected climax that holds breathtaking surprises and its own hard-won redemption.
January 2013 Selection:Heartbreaking, intimate, and at times disturbing, Hold It 'Til It Hurts is a modern-day odyssey through war, adventure, disaster, and love, and explores how people who do not define themselves by race make sense of a world that does.
October 2012 Selection: Heartbreaking, intimate, and at times disturbing, Hold It 'Til It Hurts is a modern-day odyssey through war, adventure, disaster, and love, and explores how people who do not define themselves by race make sense of a world that does.
September 2012 Selection: The One City One Book Selection for 2012
The most startling thing about disasters, according to award-winning author Rebecca Solnit, is not merely that so many people rise to the occasion, but that they do so with joy. That joy reveals an ordinarily unmet yearning for community, purposefulness, and meaningful work that disaster often provides. "A Paradise Built in Hell" is an investigation of the moments of altruism, resourcefulness, and generosity that arise amid disaster's grief and disruption and considers their implications for everyday life. It points to a new vision of what society could become-one that is less authoritarian and fearful, more collaborative and local.
August 2012 Pick: Transform your life. Rewrite your destiny.
In his most personal novel to date, internationally bestselling author Paulo Coelho returns with a remarkable journey of self-discovery. Like the main character in his much-beloved "The Alchemist, " Paulo is facing a grave crisis of faith. As he seeks a path of spiritual renewal and growth, his only real option is to begin again--to travel, to experiment, to reconnect with people and the landscapes around him.
Setting off to Africa, and then to Europe and Asia via the Trans-Siberian railroad, he initiates a journey to revitalize his energy and passion. Even so, he never expects to meet Hilal. A gifted young violinist, she is the woman Paulo loved five hundred years before--and the woman he betrayed in an act of cowardice so far-reaching that it prevents him from finding real happiness in this life. Together they will initiate a mystical voyage through time and space, traveling a path that teaches love, forgiveness, and the courage to overcome life's inevitable challenges. Beautiful and inspiring, "Aleph" invites us to consider the meaning of our own personal journeys.
July 2012 Pick: A dying drug kingpin enslaved to the memory of his dead wife; a young woman torn between a promising future and the hardscrabble world she grew up in; a mother willing to do anything to fuel her addiction to pills; and her youngest son, searching for the truth behind his older brother's disappearance, are just some of the unforgettable characters that populate "Ghosting," Kirby Gann's lush and lyrical novel of family and community, and the ties that can both bond and betray.
June 2012 Pick: Francis Ray "Bestselling author Francis Ray chronicles the lives and loves of the Grayson family and their friends--and friends-of-friends who just might have a change of heart..." "" Cicely St. John is not impressed by her friend C.J. Callahan's so-called passion in life: running a New York City bar that he inherited from his uncle. So why can't Cicely stop thinking about the dance they shared at their mutual friends' wedding--or the mutual attraction she felt in C.J.'s arms? As far as C.J. is concerned, Cicely is a snob whose "passion" in life--writing for fashion magazines--is as pretentious as she is. So why can't he keep his eyes off her? C.J. has a business to run. And Cicely has a job opportunity in Paris. Neither of them even has time to "think" about romance right now. But maybe, just once, the two could test their friendship..."with just one kiss."
May 2012 Pick: The national bestselling author follows up her acclaimed "If I Could" with this passionate, provocative tale that continues the saga of a woman who dared to say no to a loveless existence and now must deal with the consequences and pleasures of living life on her own terms. Original.
April 2012 Pick: Following her best-selling, award-winning novel "Glorious, " McFadden produces a fantastical historical novel featuring the spirit of Emmett Till.
March 2012 Pick: Welcome to heartland America circa right about now, when the union jobs and family farms that kept the white on the picket fences have given way to meth labs, backwoods gunrunners, and bare-knuckle brawling. Bill's people are pressed to the brink--and beyond.