All book reviews posted on this page are adapted from book reviews posted on Amazon. Good Reads and other reviewing sites.
BETTY'S BOOK CLUB (BBC) - Selections for July Thru December 2022
July 25, 2022, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, ©2012. Author, Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, This is based on the author's own experiences,
August 22, 2022, Jesus and John Wayne by Kristen Kobes DuMez, ©2020. How did a libertine who lacks even the most basic knowledge of the Christian faith win 81 percent of the white evangelical vote in 2016? And why have white evangelicals become a presidential reprobate's staunchest supporters? These are among the questions acclaimed historian Kristin Kobes Du Mez asks in Jesus and John Wayne, which explains how white evangelicals have brought us to our fractured political moment.
September 26, 2022, The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict, ©2019. She possessed a stunning beauty and a stunning mind. Could the world handle both? Her beauty almost certainly saved her from the rising Nazi party and led to her marriage to an Austrian arms dealer. Underestimated in everything else, she overheard the Third Reich's plans while at her husband's side, understanding more than anyone would guess. She devised a plan to flee in disguise from their castle, and the whirlwind escape landed her in Hollywood. She became Hedy Lamarr, a screen star.
October 24, 2022, The Burden of Southern History by C. Vann Woodward and William E. Leuchtenburg, ©1960. This book remains one of the essential history texts of our time. In it Woodward brilliantly addresses the interrelated themes of southern identity, southern distinctiveness, and the strains of irony that characterize much of the South's historical experience.
November 28, 2022, The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George, ©2015. Monsieur Perdu can prescribe the perfect book for a broken heart. But can he fix his own? Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life. Using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs, Perdu mends broken hearts and souls.
December 19, 2022, White Trash by Nancy Isenberg, The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America, ©2016 The wretched and landless poor have existed from the time of the earliest British colonial settlement. They were alternately known as "waste people", "offals", "rubbish", "lazy lubbers", and "crackers". By the 1850s the downtrodden included so-called "clay eaters" and "sandhillers", known for prematurely aged children distinguished by their yellowish skin, ragged clothing, and listless minds.
Betty's Book Club - Past Selections
Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck. ©1937. Fiction. This classic fiction story of an unlikely pair, two migrant workers in California during the Great Depression, who grasp for their American Dream. George and his simple-minded friend Lenny dream, as drifters will, of a place to call their own - a couple of acres and a few pigs, chickens, and rabbits back in Hill Country where land is cheap. But after they come to work on a ranch in the fertile Salinas Valley of California, their hopes, like “the best laid schemes o’mice an’ men”, begin to go awry.
All That She Carried, by Tiya Miles. ©2021. Non-Fiction. A renowned historian traces the life of a single object handed down through three generations of Black women to craft an extraordinary testament to people who are left out of the archives.
Anxious People, by Fredrik Backman. ©2020. Fiction. Looking at real estate isn’t usually a life-or-death situation, but an apartment open house becomes just that when a failed bank robber bursts in and takes a group of strangers hostage.
Eleanor – A Life, David Michaelis. ©2020. Non-Fiction. A breakthrough portrait of Eleanor Roosevelt, America’s longest-serving First Lady, an avatar of democracy whose ever-expanding agency as diplomat, activist, and humanitarian made her one of the world’s most widely admired and influential women.
The Nickel Boys, Colson Whitehead. ©2019. Fiction. When Elwood Curtis, a black boy growing up in 1960s Tallahassee, is unfairly sentenced to a juvenile reformatory called the Nickel Academy, he finds himself trapped in a grotesque chamber of horrors.
Born A Crime, Trevor Noah. ©2016. Non-Fiction. Trevor Noah tells his wild coming-of-age tale during the twilight of apartheid in South Africa. It’s a story that begins with his mother throwing him from a moving van to save him from a potentially fatal dispute with gangsters,
The Four Winds by Kristen Hannah. ©2021. Historical fiction set in Texas in1934. Millions are out of work and drought has broken the Great Plains. Farmers are fighting to keep their land as the crops are failing, the water is drying up, and dust threatens to bury them all. One of the darkest periods of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl era, has arrived with a vengeance.
Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman's Awakening by Manal al-Sharif. ©2017. Nonfiction memoir by a devout woman from a modest family in Saudi Arabia who became the unexpected leader of a courageous women’s rights movement.
The Once and Future Witches. by Alice Harrow. ©2020. Fantasy. In 1893, there's no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box. But when the Eastwood sisters join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten words and ways that might turn the women's movement into the witch's movement.
Think Again, the Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by Adam Grant. © 2021. A nonfiction book about the benefit of doubt, and about how we can get better at embracing the unknown and the joy of being wrong. Evidence has shown that creative geniuses are not attached to one identity, but constantly willing to rethink their stances and that leaders who admit they don't know something and seek critical feedback lead more productive and innovative teams.
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson. ©2019. Fiction. Inspired by the true and historical blue-skinned people of Kentucky and the brave and dedicated Kentucky Pack Horse library service, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek showcases a bold and unique tale of the Packhorse Librarians in literary novels—a story of fierce strength and one woman's belief that books can carry us anywhere—even back home.
Caste by Isabelle Wilkerson. ©2020. Please note change in date. In this brilliant nonfiction book, Isabel Wilkerson gives us a masterful portrait of an unseen phenomenon in America as she explores, through an immersive, deeply researched narrative and stories about real people, how America today and throughout its history has been shaped by a hidden caste system, a rigid hierarchy of human rankings.
Tell the Wolves I’m Home, by Carol Rifka Brunt. ©2013. This is a moving story of love, grief, and renewal as two lonely people become the unlikeliest of friends and find that sometimes you don’t know you’ve lost someone until you’ve found them
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones on the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk. © 2019. In a remote Polish village, Janina devotes the dark winter days to studying astrology, translating the poetry of William Blake, and taking care of the summer homes of wealthy Warsaw residents... Then a neighbor, Big Foot, turns up dead. Soon other bodies are discovered, in increasingly strange circumstances.
Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debbie Irving. ©2014. Debbie didn't understand why her diversity efforts lacked traction. As a teacher, she found her best efforts to reach out to students and families of color left her wondering what she was missing. Then, in 2009, one "aha!" moment launched an adventure of discovery and insight that drastically shifted her worldview and upended her life plan.
Last Train to Paradise by Les Standiford ©2003. The fast-paced and gripping true account of the extraordinary construction and spectacular demise of the Key West Railroad—one of the greatest engineering feats ever undertaken, destroyed in one fell swoop by the strongest storm ever to hit U.S. shores.
The Island by Victoria Hislop ©2005. The Petrakis family lives in the small Greek seaside village of Plaka. Just off the coast is the tiny island of Spinalonga, where the nation's leper colony once was located—a place that has haunted four generations of Petrakis women. There's Eleni, ripped from her husband and two young daughters and sent to Spinalonga in 1939, and her daughters Maria, finding joy in the everyday as she dutifully cares for her father, and Anna, a wild child hungry for passion and a life anywhere but Plaka. And finally there's Alexis, Eleni's great-granddaughter, visiting modern-day Greece to unlock her family's past.
Permanent Record by Edward Snowden. © 2019. In 2013, twenty-nine-year-old Edward Snowden shocked the world when he revealed that the United States government was secretly pursuing the means to collect every single phone call, text message, and email. The result would be an unprecedented system of mass surveillance with the ability to pry into the private lives of every person on earth. Six years later, Snowden reveals for the very first time how he helped to build this system and why he was moved to expose it.
The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore. ©2017. The Curies’ newly discovered element of radium makes gleaming headlines across the nation as the fresh face of beauty, and wonder drug of the medical community. From body lotion to tonic water, the popular new element shines bright in the otherwise dark years of the First World War. Meanwhile, hundreds of girls toil amidst the glowing dust of the radium-dial factories. The glittering chemical covers their bodies from head to toe; they light up the night like industrious fireflies. With such a coveted job, these “shining girls” are the luckiest alive, until they begin to fall mysteriously ill.
Small Great Things: A Novel, by Jodi Picoult. Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?
The Library Book, by Susan Orlean. On the morning of April 29, 1986, a fire alarm sounded in the Los Angeles Public Library. As the moments passed, the patrons and staff who had been cleared out of the building realized this was not the usual fire alarm. Orlean delivers a mesmerizing and uniquely compelling book that manages to tell the broader story of libraries and librarians in a way that has never been done before.
Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owen. a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.