Hands on Bay Area Book Club
Hands on Bay Area leads more than 100 volunteer projects every month, benefiting more than 300 local, nonprofit agencies. The Hands On Bay Area Book Club discusses today's most engaging books on social issues and what role individuals can play to make a difference in their own communities.
The Book Club is open to the public and meets monthly at Books Inc in Mountain View, 301 Castro Street, 650-428-1234. Please register on the Hands On Bay Area website www.handsonbayarea.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
June 2015 Selection: The Black Russian is the incredible true story of Frederick Bruce Thomas, born in 1872 to former slaves who became prosperous farmers in Mississippi. After his father was brutally murdered, Frederick left the South and worked as a waiter in Chicago and Brooklyn. Seeking greater freedom, he traveled to London, then crisscrossed Europe, and--in a highly unusual choice for a black American at the time--went to Russia. Because he found no color line there, Frederick settled in Moscow, becoming a rich and famous owner of variety theaters and restaurants. When the Bolshevik Revolution ruined him, he barely escaped to Constantinople, where he made another fortune by opening celebrated nightclubs as the Sultan of Jazz. However, the long arm of American racism, the xenophobia of the new Turkish Republic, and Frederick's own extravagance landed him in debtor's prison. He died in Constantinople in 1928.
May 2015 Selection: In this frank and witty memoir, Ken Ilgunas lays bare the existential terror of graduating from the University of Buffalo with $32,000 of student debt. Ilgunas set himself an ambitious mission: get out of debt as quickly as possible. Inspired by the frugality and philosophy of Henry David Thoreau, Ilgunas undertook a 3-year transcontinental jour ney, working in Alaska as a tour guide, garbage picker, and night cook to pay off his student loans before hitchhiking home to New York.
Debt-free, Ilgunas then enrolled in a master's program at Duke University, determined not to borrow against his future again. He used the last of his savings to buy himself a used Econoline van and outfitted it as his new dorm. The van, stationed in a campus parking lot, would be more than an adventure--it would be his very own "Walden on Wheels."
Freezing winters, near-discovery by campus police, and the constant challenge of living in a confined space would test Ilgunas's limits and resolve in the two years that fol lowed. What had begun as a simple mission would become an enlightening and life-changing social experiment. "Walden on Wheels "offers a spirited and pointed perspective on the dilemma faced by those who seek an education but who also want to, as Thoreau wrote, "live deep and suck out all the marrow of life."
April 2015 Selection: Part foreign affairs discourse, part humor, and part twisted self-help guide, The Geography of Bliss takes the reader from America to Iceland to India in search of happiness, or, in the crabby author's case, moments of "un-unhappiness." The book uses a beguiling mixture of travel, psychology, science and humor to investigate not what happiness is, but where it is. Are people in Switzerland happier because it is the most democratic country in the world? Do citizens of Qatar, awash in petrodollars, find joy in all that cash? Is the King of Bhutan a visionary for his initiative to calculate Gross National Happiness? Why is Asheville, North Carolina so damn happy? With engaging wit and surprising insights, Eric Weiner answers those questions and many others, offering travelers of all moods some interesting new ideas for sunnier destinations and dispositions.
March 2015 Selection: A funny and uplifting story of how a Mormon kid with Tourette's found salvation in books and weight lifting
Josh Hanagarne couldn't be invisible if he tried. Although he wouldn't officially be diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome until his freshman year of high school, Josh was six years old when he first began exhibiting symptoms. When he was twenty and had reached his towering height of 6'7," his tics escalated to nightmarish levels. Determined to conquer his affliction, Josh tried countless remedies, with dismal results. At last, an eccentric, autistic strongman taught Josh how to "throttle" his tics into submission using increasingly elaborate feats of strength. What started as a hobby became an entire way of life--and an effective way of managing his disorder.
Today, Josh is a librarian at Salt Lake City's public library and founder of a popular blog about books and weight lifting--and the proud father of five-year-old Max. Funny and offbeat, "The World's Strongest Librarian" traces this unlikely hero as he attempts to overcome his disability, find love, and create a life worth living.
February 2015 Selection: The "New York Times" bestseller, now available in paperback--an incredible true story of the top-secret World War II town of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and the young women brought there unknowingly to help build the atomic bomb.
"The best kind of nonfiction: marvelously reported, fluidly written, and a remarkable story...As meticulous and brilliant as it is compulsively readable." --Karen Abbott, author of "Sin in the Second City"
At the height of World War II, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, was home to 75,000 residents, and consumed more electricity than New York City, yet it was shrouded in such secrecy that it did not appear on any map. Thousands of civilians, many of them young women from small towns across the U.S., were recruited to this secret city, enticed by the promise of solid wages and war-ending work. What were they actually "doing" there? Very few knew. The purpose of this mysterious government project was kept a secret from the outside world and from the majority of the residents themselves. Some wondered why, despite the constant work and round-the-clock activity in this makeshift town, did no tangible product of any kind ever seem to leave its guarded gates? The women who kept this town running would find out at the end of the war, when Oak Ridge's secret was revealed and changed the world forever.
Drawing from the voices and experiences of the women who lived and worked in Oak Ridge, "The Girls of Atomic City" rescues a remarkable, forgotten chapter of World War II from obscurity. Denise Kiernan captures the spirit of the times through these women: their pluck, their desire to contribute, and their enduring courage. "A phenomenal story," and "Publishers Weekly" called it an "intimate and revealing glimpse into one of the most important scientific developments in history."
"Kiernan has amassed a deep reservoir of intimate details of what life was like for women living in the secret city...Rosie, it turns out, did much more than drive rivets." "--The Washington Post"
January 2015 Selection: A runaway "San Francisco Chronicle" bestseller, "Cool Gray City of Love" is a one-of-a-kind book for a one-of-a-kind city. It's a love song in 49 chapters to an extraordinary place, taking 49 different sites around the city as points of entry and inspiration-from a seedy intersection in the Tenderloin to the soaring sea cliffs at Lands End. Encompassing the city's Spanish missionary past, a gold rush, a couple of earthquakes, the Beats, the hippies, and the dot-com boom, this book is at once a rambling walking tour, a natural and human history, and a celebration of place itself-a guide to loving any place more faithfully and fully.
September 2014 Selection: In this groundbreaking new account of their marriage, Rowley describes the remarkable courage and lack of convention--private and public--that kept Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt together.
August 2014 Selection: Winner of the prestigious 2013 Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books
"A modern voyage of discovery." --Frank Wilczek, Nobel Laureate, author of "The Lightness of Being "
The Higgs boson is one of our era's most fascinating scientific frontiers and the key to understanding why mass exists. The most recent book on the subject, "The God Particle," was a bestseller. Now, Caltech physicist Sean Carroll documents the doorway that is opening--after billions of dollars and the efforts of thousands of researchers at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland--into the mind-boggling world of dark matter. "The Particle at the End of the Universe" has it all: money and politics, jealousy and self-sacrifice, history and cutting-edge physics--all grippingly told by a rising star of science writing.
July 2014 Selection: When Pulitzer Prize"-"winning journalist Bill Dedman noticed in 2009 a grand home for sale, unoccupied for nearly sixty years, he stumbled through a surprising portal into American history. "Empty Mansions" is a rich mystery of wealth and loss, connecting the Gilded Age opulence of the nineteenth century with a twenty-first-century battle over a $300 million inheritance. At its heart is a reclusive heiress named Huguette Clark, a woman so secretive that, at the time of her death at age 104, no new photograph of her had been seen in decades. Though she owned palatial homes in California, New York, and Connecticut, why had she lived for twenty years in a simple hospital room, despite being in excellent health? Why were her valuables being sold off? Was she in control of her fortune, or controlled by those managing her money?
Dedman has collaborated with Huguette Clark's cousin, Paul Clark Newell, Jr., one of the few relatives to have frequent conversations with her. Dedman and Newell tell a fairy tale in reverse: the bright, talented daughter, born into a family of extreme wealth and privilege, who secrets herself away from the outside world.
Huguette was the daughter of self-made copper industrialist W. A. Clark, nearly as rich as Rockefeller in his day, a controversial senator, railroad builder, and founder of Las Vegas. She grew up in the largest house in New York City, a remarkable dwelling with 121 rooms for a family of four. She owned paintings by Degas and Renoir, a world-renowned Stradivarius violin, a vast collection of antique dolls. But wanting more than treasures, she devoted her wealth to buying gifts for friends and strangers alike, to quietly pursuing her own work as an artist, and to guarding the privacy she valued above all else.
The Clark family story spans nearly all of American history in three generations, from a log cabin in Pennsylvania to mining camps in the Montana gold rush, from backdoor politics in Washington to a distress call from an elegant Fifth Avenue apartment. The same Huguette who was touched by the terror attacks of 9/11 held a ticket nine decades earlier for a first-class stateroom on the second voyage of the "Titanic."
June 2014 Selection: When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education. On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive. Instead, Malala's miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At sixteen, she has become a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest nominee ever for the Nobel Peace Prize. I AM MALALA is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls' education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons. I AM MALALA will make you believe in the power of one person's voice to inspire change in the world.
May 2014 Selection: "If ever there was a book to read in the company of a nice cuppa, this is it." -"The Washington Post"
In the dramatic story of one of the greatest acts of corporate espionage ever committed, Sarah Rose recounts the fascinating, unlikely circumstances surrounding a turning point in economic history. By the middle of the nineteenth century, the British East India Company faced the loss of its monopoly on the fantastically lucrative tea trade with China, forcing it to make the drastic decision of sending Scottish botanist Robert Fortune to steal the crop from deep within China and bring it back to British plantations in India. Fortune's danger-filled odyssey, magnificently recounted here, reads like adventure fiction, revealing a long-forgotten chapter of the past and the wondrous origins of a seemingly ordinary beverage.
April 2014 Selection: Hailed as the Thomas Edison and Henry Ford of Silicon Valley, Robert Noyce was a brilliant inventor, a leading entrepreneur, and a daring risk taker who piloted his own jets and skied mountains accessible only by helicopter. Now, in The Man Behind the Microchip, Leslie Berlin captures not only this colorful individual but also the vibrant interplay of technology, business, money, politics, and culture that defines Silicon Valley.
Here is the life of a high-tech industry giant. The co-founder of Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel, Noyce co-invented the integrated circuit, the electronic heart of every modern computer, automobile, cellular telephone, advanced weapon, and video game. With access to never-before-seen documents, Berlin paints a fascinating portrait of Noyce: an ambitious and intensely competitive multimillionaire who exuded a "just folks" sort of charm, a Midwestern preacher's son who rejected organized religion but would counsel his employees to "go off and do something wonderful," a man who never looked back and sometimes paid a price for it. In addition, this vivid narrative sheds light on Noyce's friends and associates, including some of the best-known managers, venture capitalists, and creative minds in Silicon Valley. Berlin draws upon interviews with dozens of key players in modern American business--including Andy Grove, Steve Jobs, Gordon Moore, and Warren Buffett; their recollections of Noyce give readers a privileged, first-hand look inside the dynamic world of high-tech entrepreneurship.
A modern American success story, The Man Behind the Microchip illuminates the triumphs and setbacks of one of the most important inventors and entrepreneurs of our time.
March 2014 Selection: The French, "sans doute," " "love their "fromages." And there's much to love: hundreds of gloriously pungent varieties--crumbly, creamy, buttery, even shot through with bottle-green mold. So many varieties, in fact, that the aspiring gourmand may wonder: How does one make sense of it all?
In "The Whole Fromage," Kathe Lison sets out to learn what makes French cheese so remarkable--why France is the "Cheese Mother Ship," in the words of one American expert. Her journey takes her to cheese caves tucked within the craggy volcanic rock of Auvergne, to a centuries-old monastery in the French Alps, and to the farmlands that keep cheesemaking traditions alive." "She meets the dairy scientists, shepherds, and "affineurs" who make up the world of modern French cheese, and whose lifestyles and philosophies are as varied and flavorful as the delicacies they produce. Most delicious of all, she meets the cheeses themselves--from spruce-wrapped Mont d'Or, so gooey it's best eaten with a spoon; to luminous Beaufort, redolent of Alpine grasses and wildflowers, a single round of which can weigh as much as a Saint Bernard; to Camembert, invented in Normandy but beloved and imitated across the world.
With writing as piquant and rich as a well-aged Roquefort, as charming as a tender springtime "chevre," and yet as unsentimental as a stinky Maroilles, "The Whole Fromage" is a tasty exploration of one of the great culinary treasures of France.