Where History Buffs & Bookworms Connect
Every Last Saturday @ 1:00pm – 2:30pm
You do not have to complete the book to attend and participate in the discussion.
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—Please note the following change—
Melville in Love: The Secret Life of Herman Melville and the Muse of Moby-Dick by Michael Shelden will now be our August 26 discussion. (Lost Letters was read in May.)
2017 Book Selections & Discussion Dates
Feb. 25th – On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker by A’Lelia Bundles
On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker is the first full-scale, definitive biography of Madam C. J. Walker—the legendary African American entrepreneur and philanthropist—by her great-great-granddaughter, A’Lelia Bundles.
The daughter of slaves, Madam C. J. Walker was orphaned at seven, married at fourteen and widowed at twenty. She spent the better part of the next two decades laboring as a washerwoman for $1.50 a week. Then—with the discovery of a revolutionary hair care formula for black women—everything changed. By her death in 1919, Walker managed to overcome astonishing odds: building a storied beauty empire from the ground up, amassing wealth unprecedented among black women and devoting her life to philanthropy and social activism. Along the way, she formed friendships with great early-twentieth-century political figures such as W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington.
Mar. 25th – Our Mothers’ War: American Women at Home and at the Front During WWII by Emily Yellin
Our Mothers’ War is an eye-opening and moving portrait of women during World War II, a war that forever transformed the way women participate in American society. Never before has the vast range of women’s experiences during this pivotal era been brought together in one book. Now, Our Mothers’ War re-creates what American women from all walks of life were doing and thinking, on the home front and abroad. These heartwarming and sometimes heartbreaking accounts of the women we have known as mothers, aunts, and grandmothers reveal facets of their lives that have usually remained unmentioned and unappreciated. Our Mothers’ War gives center stage to one of WWII’s most essential fighting forces: the women of America, whose extraordinary bravery, strength, and humanity shine through on every page.
Orphan Train is an unforgettable story of friendship and second chances that highlights a little-known but historically significant movement in America’s past. Penobscot Indian Molly Ayer is close to “aging out” out of the foster care system. A community service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping Molly out of juvenile detention or worse. As she helps Vivian sort through her possessions and memories, Molly learns that she and Vivian aren’t as different as they seem to be. A young Irish immigrant orphaned in New York City, Vivian was put on a train to the Midwest with hundreds of other children whose destinies would be determined by luck and chance. Molly discovers that she has the power to help Vivian find answers to mysteries that have haunted her for her entire life—answers that will ultimately free them both.
Please Note: August 26th – Melville in Love: The Secret Life of Herman Melville and the Muse of Moby-Dick by Michael Shelden
In Melville in Love Pulitzer Prize-finalist Michael Shelden sheds light on this literary mystery to tell a story of Melville’s passionate, obsessive, and clandestine affair with a married woman named Sarah Morewood, whose libertine impulses encouraged and sustained Melville’s own. In his research, Shelden discovered unexplored documents suggesting that, in their shared resistance to the “iron rule” of social conformity, Sarah and Melville had forged an illicit and enduring romantic and intellectual bond. Emboldened by the thrill of courting Sarah in secret, the pleasure of falling in love, and the excitement of spending time with literary luminaries—like Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes and Nathaniel Hawthorne—Melville found the courage to take the leap from light works of adventure to the hugely brilliant, utterly subversive Moby-Dick.
June 24th – The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
The Nightingale is a historical fiction novel, written by Kristin Hannah and published in 2015. It tells the story of two sisters, just coming of age in France on the eve of World War II, and their struggle to survive and resist the German occupation of France. It was inspired by the story of a Belgian woman, Andrée de Jongh, who helped downed Allied pilots to escape Nazi territory.
July 29th – 1776 by David McCullough
1776 is a powerful drama written with extraordinary narrative vitality. It is the story of Americans in the ranks, men of every shape, size, and color, farmers, schoolteachers, shoemakers, no-accounts, and mere boys turned soldiers. America’s beloved and distinguished historian presents, in a book of breathtaking excitement, drama, and narrative force, the stirring story of the year of our nation’s birth, 1776, interweaving, on both sides of the Atlantic, the actions and decisions that led Great Britain to undertake a war against her rebellious colonial subjects and that placed America’s survival in the hands of George Washington. And it is the story of the King’s men, the British commander, William Howe, and his highly disciplined redcoats who looked on their rebel foes with contempt and fought with a valor too little known.
Was read in May – Lost Letters: A Civil War Love Story by Lori Roberts
Lost Letters tells the story of Ellie Morgan, a history teacher from the Midwest, who never expected her summer vacation away from the classroom to include inheriting a plantation full of antiques, and encountering the restless spirit of a Civil War soldier who is searching for a lost love.
Sept. 30th – A Sorrow in Our Heart: The Life of Tecumseh by Allan W. Eckert
In A Sorrow in Our Heart six-time Pulitzer Prize nominee Allan W. Eckert tells the life story of a great leader as it has never been told before. A fiery orator, a brilliant diplomat, a revolutionary thinker, a political and military genius, the man named Tecumseh became a legend among Indians and whites. He was a messiah to the Native American peoples during one of the most crucial periods in their history, as the whites began to explore and expand to the west of the British colonies.
Oct. 28th – So Cold the River by Michael Koryta
In So Cold the River Alyssa Bradford enlists Eric Shaw to make a documentary about her father-in-law, a ninety-five-year-old millionaire whose past is wrapped in mystery. In the old man’s hometown, Shaw discovers a spring whose waters have unfathomable powers and a glorious domed hotel where movie stars, presidents, athletes, and mobsters once mingled. The hotel has recently been restored to its former grandeur. But something else has been restored, too–a long-forgotten evil that will stop at nothing to settle a decades-old score.
Nov. 25th – Stardust Melody: The Life and Music of Hoagy Carmichael by Richard M. Sudhalter
Stardust Melody follows Bloomington’s own Hoagy Carmichael from his roaring-twenties Indiana youth to bandstands and recording studios across the nation, playing piano and singing alongside jazz greats Jack Teagarden, Benny Goodman, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, and close friends Bix Beiderbecke and Louis Armstrong. It illuminates his peak Hollywood years, starring in such films as To Have and Have Not and The Best Years of Our Lives, and on radio, records and TV. With compassionate insight Sudhalter depicts Hoagy’s triumphs and tragedies, and his mounting despair as rock-and-roll drowns out and lays waste to the last days of a brilliant career. He remains, for millions, the voice of heartland America, eternal counterpoint to the urban sensibility of Cole Porter and George Gershwin.