Have You Checked Out MCL's Book Club in a Bag Lately?

My book club thinks I have super powers. It is not for my thoughtful critiques, because (believe me) those are far and few between. They think I have super librarian powers that enable me to magically provide a copy of our "read of the month" to each group member.  My super power's secret? Mercer County Library System's Book Club in a Bag program. Each kit (or in this case, a bag) contains:

•Multiple copies of a book title (approximately 6-10 – depending on the title);
•A plot summary;
•Discussion questions;
•Biographical information about the author; and
•A recipe for the club’s meeting

You can reserve the Book Club in a Bag of your choice at the respective branch, and kits can be checked out for six weeks. With over eighty titles available, the selection varies from fiction (e.g., The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao) to non-fiction (e.g., In the Garden of Beasts: Love, and Terror, and American Family in Hitler's Berlin, Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock) to young adult literature (e.g., The Hunger Games). New titles are consistently added to the Book Club in a Bag collection. Below is a selection of recent additions:

All That Is by James Salter.
 An extraordinary literary event, a major new novel by the PEN/Faulkner winner and acclaimed master: a sweeping, seductive, deeply moving story set in the years after World War II. From his experiences as a young naval officer in battles off Okinawa, Philip Bowman returns to America and finds a position as a book editor. It is a time when publishing is still largely a private affair--a scattered family of small houses here and in Europe--a time of gatherings in fabled apartments and conversations that continue long into the night. In this world of dinners, deals, and literary careers, Bowman finds that he fits in perfectly. But despite his success, what eludes him is love. His first marriage goes bad, another fails to happen, and finally he meets a woman who enthralls him--before setting him on a course he could never have imagined for himself. Romantic and haunting, All That Is explores a life unfolding in a world on the brink of change. It is a dazzling, sometimes devastating labyrinth of love and ambition, a fiercely intimate account of the great shocks and grand pleasures of being alive.

The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright.
 In Terenure, a pleasant suburb of Dublin, it has snowed. Gina Moynihan, girl about town, recalls the trail of lust and happenstance that brought her to fall for "the love of her life," Seán Vallely. As the city outside comes to a halt, Gina remembers their affair: long afternoons made blank by bliss and denial. Now, as the silent streets and falling snow make the day luminous and full of possibility, Gina awaits the arrival of Seán's fragile, twelve-year-old daughter, Evie-the complication, and gravity, of this second life. In this extraordinary novel, Anne Enright speaks directly to the readers she won with The Gathering. Here again is the momentous drama of everyday life; the volatile connections between people; the wry, accurate take on families, marriage, and brittle middle age. With The Forgotten Waltz Enright turns her attention to love, following another unforgettable heroine on a journey of the heart. Writing at the height of her powers, this is Enright's tour de force, a novel of intelligence, passion, and distinction.

Stephen Hawking: An Unfettered Mind by Kitty Fergunson.
 "Stephen Hawking has been an iconic figure in physics for the last half a century, making many groundbreaking discoveries on the nature of the universe. Yet while his mind roams to the farthest corners of reality, his body has become increasingly trapped by the advance of Lou Gehrig's disease, which has bound him to a wheelchair, without speech or movement except for a few facial muscles. Told in his youth that he would not live past his 20s, Hawking will turn 70 in 2012, and today he continues to inspire millions, drawing rock-concert-sized crowds wherever he lectures. Science writer Kitty Ferguson has been working with Stephen Hawking for decades, and produced an internationally bestselling biography of his life in 1992. Now, she brings his life as well as his scientific discoveries up-to-date. This is a remarkable look at how one of the greatest scientific mind alive overcame the odds to become the truly inspirational figure he is today" -- Provided by publisher.

Tenth of December by George Saunders.
 One of the most important and blazingly original writers of his generation, George Saunders is an undisputed master of the short story, and Tenth of December is his most honest, accessible, and moving collection yet. In the taut opener, "Victory Lap," a boy witnesses the attempted abduction of the girl next door and is faced with a harrowing choice: Does he ignore what he sees, or override years of smothering advice from his parents and act? In "Home," a combat-damaged soldier moves back in with his mother and struggles to reconcile the world he left with the one to which he has returned. And in the title story, a stunning meditation on imagination, memory, and loss, a middle-aged cancer patient walks into the woods to commit suicide, only to encounter a troubled young boy who, over the course of a fateful morning, gives the dying man a final chance to recall who he really is. A hapless, deluded owner of an antiques store; two mothers struggling to do the right thing; a teenage girl whose idealism is challenged by a brutal brush with reality; a man tormented by a series of pharmaceutical experiments that force him to lust, to love, to kill-the unforgettable characters that populate the pages of Tenth of December are vividly and lovingly infused with Saunders’ signature blend of exuberant prose, deep humanity, and stylistic innovation. Writing brilliantly and profoundly about class, sex, love, loss, work, despair, and war, Saunders cuts to the core of the contemporary experience. These stories take on the big questions and explore the fault lines of our own morality, delving into the questions of what makes us good and what makes us human. Unsettling, insightful, and hilarious, the stories in Tenth of December-through their manic energy, their focus on what is redeemable in human beings, and their generosity of spirit-not only entertain and delight; they fulfill Chekhovs dictum that art should "prepare us for tenderness."

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed.
A powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an eleven-hundred-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe-and built her back up again. At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother's death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State-and to do it alone. She had no experience as a long-distance hiker, and the trail was little more than "an idea, vague and outlandish and full of promise". But it was a promise of piecing back together a life that had come undone. Strayed faces down rattlesnakes and black bears, intense heat and record snowfalls, and both the beauty and loneliness of the trail. Told with great suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild vividly captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her. From the Hardcover edition.

The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud.
 From the New York Times best-selling author of The Emperor's Children, a masterly new novel: the riveting confession of a woman awakened, transformed and betrayed by a desire for a world beyond her own. Nora Eldridge, an elementary school teacher in Cambridge, Massachusetts, long ago compromised her dream to be a successful artist, mother and lover. She has instead become the "woman upstairs," a reliable friend and neighbor always on the fringe of others' achievements. Then into her life arrives the glamorous and cosmopolitan Shahids--her new student Reza Shahid, a child who enchants as if from a fairy tale, and his parents: Skandar, a dashing Lebanese professor who has come to Boston for a fellowship at Harvard, and Sirena, an effortlessly alluring Italian artist. When Reza is attacked by schoolyard bullies, Nora is drawn deep into the complex world of the Shahid family; she finds herself falling in love with them, separately and together. Nora's happiness explodes her boundaries, and she discovers in herself an unprecedented ferocity--one that puts her beliefs and her sense of self at stake. Told with urgency, intimacy and piercing emotion, this brilliant novel of passion and artistic fulfillment explores the intensity, thrill--and the devastating cost--of embracing an authentic life. From the Hardcover edition.

 Take a look at the titles available and use your own library "super powers" for your book club.


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