One of the aspects of my job that I like the most is seeing what all the book groups in our system have chosen to read. I’m always amazed at how few titles are duplicated over a ten location system.
The KCPL Women Who Dare book group is only two years old, but they have grown into a faithful and active group of readers devoted to reading fiction and nonfiction by and about ordinary women experiencing extraordinary challenges. They select titles in December and start reading in January. They’ve already gone through two titles and next up is West With the Night by Beryl Markham, the personal story of Beryl Markham–aviator, racehorse trainer, beauty–and her life in the Kenya of the 1920s and ’30s. A woman far ahead of her time.
Here’s the rest of the WWD reading list. Feel free to crib for your own bookgroups.
Waiting for an Ordinary Day: The Unraveling of Life in Iraq by Farnaz Fassihi
A gripping portrait of the Iraqis from the Baghdad bureau chief from the Wall Street Journal. With much of Iraq splintered by war, the majority of Iraqis – traders and street vendors, teachers and clerics, translators and technicians, mothers and fathers – strive to live through each day without incurring catastrophe.
Unbowed: A Memoir by Wangari Maathai
the winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize and a single mother of three, this remarkable woman recounts her extraordinary life as a political activist, feminist, and environmentalist in Kenya.
Digging to America by Anne Tyler
Two families awaiting the arrival of their adopted infant daughters from Korea meet at the airport. The families lives become interwined after the Donaldsons, a young American couple invite the Yazdan’s, Maryam, her son and his Iranian American wife to an arrival party, which becomes an annual event. A penetrating light on the American way as seen from two perspectives, those who are born here and those who are still struggling to fit in.
Moloka’i by Alan Brennert
Rachel Kalama, a spirited seven-year-old Hawaiian girl, dreams of visiting far-off lands like her father, a merchant seaman. Then one day a rose-colored mark appears on her skin, and those dreams are stolen from her. Taken from her home and family, Rachel is sent to Kalaupapa, the quarantined leprosy settlement on the island of Moloka’i. Here her life is supposed to end—but instead she discovers it is only just beginning.
The Girl I Left Behind: A Narrative History of the Sixties by Judith Nies
When her husband brought home a list of questions from an FBI file with Judith’s name on the front, Nies soon realized that her life was about to take a radical turn from the idyllic existence it had been. Shocked to find herself the focus of an FBI investigation into her political activities, Nies began to reevaluate her role as grateful employee and dutiful wife. She chronicles the experiences of those women who, like herself, reinvented their lives in the midst of a wildly shifting social and political landscape.
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
A modern classic, the author spins the story of Ruth and her younger sister, Lucille, who grow up haphazardly, first under the care of their competent grandmother, then of two comically bumbling great-aunts, and finally of Sylvie, the eccentric and remote sister of their dead mother.
Unafraid of the Dark: A Memoir by Rosemary L. Bray
A former editor of The New York Times Book Review describes growing up poor in Chicago in the 1960s and becoming one of the first black women at Yale. The last chapter makes a strong statement against the 1996 welfare-reform bill that will force parents of young children to work, making them unable to give the care that, thanks to welfare, her mother was home to give her.
Ten-Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer
A group of friends have all abandoned promising careers (in art, law and academia) in favor of full-time motherhood. When their children were babies, that decision was defensible to themselves and others; 10 years on, all of these women, whose interconnected stories merge during their regular breakfasts at a Manhattan restaurant, harbor hidden doubts.
Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage: Stories by Alice Munro
Short story master Alice Munro achieves new heights, creating breathtaking narratives that loop and swerve like memory, and conjuring up characters as thorny and contradictory as people we know ourselves.