The Community Text
Still Life by Louise Penny
This summer’s community text is the first book in a much-acclaimed mystery series about Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. However, Still Life is more than a mystery. Penny’s books are also part of the genre called “cozy” mysteries; mysteries that are comfort reads that leave you satisfied and at one with the world rather than scared to sleep alone with the lights out. Penny has said her books are about life and include lessons to live by and lessons that lead to wisdom. That is your task—discover the real mystery in the text: what is our school theme? Welcome to a small village not far from Quebec, Three Pines. It’s fall in an idyllic village with a used bookstore, a bistro with wonderful homemade food, a bakery, a Bed and Breakfast, and a general store. It’s also the village where the Chief Inspector of Homicide for the Sûreté du Quebec, Armand Gamache, is called when Miss Jane Neal is discovered in the woods.
A Hero Born | Jin Yong
Set in ancient China, in a world where kung fu is magic, kingdoms vie for power, and the battle to become the ultimate kung fu master unfolds, an unlikely hero is born in the first book in the epic Legends of the Condor Heroes by the critically acclaimed master of the genre, Jin Yong. After his father—a devoted Song patriot—is murdered by the Jin empire, Guo Jing and his mother flee to the plains of Ghengis Khan and his people for refuge. For one day he must face his mortal enemy in battle in the Garden of the Drunken Immortals. Under the tutelage of Genghis Khan and The Seven Heroes of the South, Guo Jing hones his kung fu skills. Humble, loyal, and perhaps not always wise, Guo Jing faces a destiny both great and terrible.
A Thousand Ships | Natalie Haynes
Zeus. Poseidon. Odysseus. Achilles. Hercules. While there are a few goddesses whose names roll off the tongue and whose stories are well known, it is men who dominate our understanding of Greek Mythology. Natalie Haynes centralizes the women of the Trojan War in funny and heartbreaking ways while shedding a new light on what the women might have experienced. “From the Trojan women whose fates now lie in the hands of the Greeks, to the Amazon princess who fought Achilles on their behalf, to Penelope awaiting the return of Odysseus, to the three goddesses whose feud started it all, these are the stories of the women whose lives, loves, and rivalries were forever altered by this long and tragic war.”
Admissions: A Memoir of Surviving Boarding School | Kendra James
In this scintillating debut, former Shondaland editor James intertwines her own coming-of-age story with a searing indictment of elite academia. “To be Black in a New England boarding school,” she writes, “is to be touted for your statistical presence...and ignored everywhere else.” The first Black American legacy to graduate from Taft School in 2006, James recounts her rude awakening when the “freedom and independence” she was promised as a student turned out to be the opposite. Taft, she recalls, was a school both uniquely attuned to and openly hostile to her development and that of other “expert, if involuntary, pioneers” who were forced to navigate the constraints of an institution that catered to its “white majority.” Notably, she recalls an unfounded accusation of theft by a classmate, that—after being threatened with police intervention—James was pressured to confess to. Despite the challenges she faced, James reflects on the paradoxical sense of safety she felt as a “Talented-Tenth-respectability-obsessed-snob” and how, after graduating, she worked as an independent school admissions counselor peddling the “myths of American upward mobility” to low-income families, before finally confronting her trauma and speaking out about the pervasive racism in boarding schools. The result is an eye-opening examination of race, class, and privilege in America.
Are You Listening? | Tillie Walden
The graphic novel Are You Listening? is an intimate and emotionally soaring story about friendship, grief, and healing from Eisner Award winner Tillie Walden. Bea is on the run. And then, she runs into Lou. This chance encounter sends them on a journey through West Texas, where strange things follow them wherever they go. The landscape morphs into an unsettling world, a mysterious cat joins them, and they are haunted by a group of threatening men. To stay safe, Bea and Lou must trust each other as they are driven to confront buried truths. The two women share their stories of loss and heartbreak—and a startling revelation about sexual assault—culminating in an exquisite example of human connection. This magical realistic adventure from the celebrated comics creator of Spinning and On a Sunbeam will stay with readers long after the final gorgeously illustrated page. - Macmillan Publishers First Second
As a Man Thinketh | James Allen
This short self-help book explores how positive thinking affects people’s everyday conditions in real life. “It shows how, in his own thought-world, each man holds the key to every condition, good or bad, that enters into his life, and that, by working patiently and intelligently upon his thoughts, he may remake his life, and transform his circumstances…and it can be carried in the pocket.” - James Allen
Bewilderment | Richard Powers
Do you want to read an award-winning work of fiction that tackles issues of mental health, public education, our dysfunctional political discourse, and climate change? Are you a fan of science fiction? Or perhaps you will like this book for its popularity and what Oprah claimed when she added this novel last year to her Book Club selection: “Richard Powers is one of our country’s greatest living writers who has written some of the most beautiful sentences I’ve ever read. And ultimately this is a book about love.” Whatever the reason, grab a copy of Bewilderment and block out some time to finish it right away because it is a page turner.
Black Cake | Charmaine Wilkerson
In present-day California, Eleanor Bennett’s death leaves behind a puzzling inheritance for her two children, Byron and Benny: a traditional Caribbean black cake, made from a family recipe with a long history, and a voice recording. In her message, Eleanor shares a tumultuous story about a headstrong swimmer who escapes her island home under suspicion of murder. The heartbreaking tale Eleanor unfolds, the secrets she still holds back, and the mystery of a long-lost child, challenge everything the siblings thought they knew about their lineage, and themselves. Can Byron and Benny reclaim their once-close relationship, piece together Eleanor’s true history, and fulfill her final request to “share the black cake when the time is right”? Will their mother’s revelations bring them back together or leave them feeling more lost than ever? Charmaine Wilkerson’s debut novel is a story of how the inheritance of betrayals, secrets, memories, and even names, can shape relationships and history.
Braiding Sweetgrass | Robin Wall Kimmerer
Drawing on her life as an indigenous scientist, and as a woman, Kimmerer shows how other living beings—asters and goldenrod, strawberries and squash, salamanders, algae, and sweetgrass—offer us gifts and lessons, even if we’ve forgotten how to hear their voices. In reflections that range from the creation of Turtle Island to the forces that threaten its flourishing today, she circles toward a central argument: that the awakening of ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgment and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world. For only when we can hear the languages of other beings will we be capable of understanding the generosity of the earth, and learn to give our own gifts in return.
Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents | Isabel Wilkerson
Beyond race, class, or other factors, there is a powerful caste system that influences people’s lives and behavior and the nation’s fate. Linking the caste systems of America, India, and Nazi Germany, Wilkerson explores eight pillars that underlie caste systems across civilizations, including divine will, bloodlines, stigma, and more. Using riveting stories about people—including Martin Luther King, Jr., baseball’s Satchel Paige, a single father and his toddler son, Wilkerson herself, and many others—she shows the ways that the insidious undertow of caste is experienced every day. She documents how the Nazis studied the racial systems in America to plan their out-cast of the Jews; she discusses why the cruel logic of caste requires that there be a bottom rung for those in the middle to measure themselves against; she writes about the surprising health costs of caste, in depression and life expectancy, and the effects of this hierarchy on our culture and politics. Finally, she points forward to ways America can move beyond the artificial and destructive separations of human divisions, toward hope in our common humanity. - National Book Foundation
Coach K: The Rise and Reign of Mike Krzyzewski | Ian O’Connor
Mike Krzyzewski, known worldwide as “Coach K,” is a five-time national champion at Duke, the NCAA’s all-time leader in victories with nearly 1,200, and the first man to lead Team USA to three Olympic basketball gold medals. Through unprecedented access to Krzyzewski’s best friends, closest advisers, fiercest adversaries, and generations of his players and assistants, three-time New York Times bestselling author Ian O’Connor takes you behind the Blue Devil curtain with a penetrating examination of the great, but flawed leader as he closes out his iconic career.
Does My Body Offend You? | Mayra Cuevas and Marie Marquardt
This YA novel delves into the topics of policing women’s bodies, white saviorism, and allyship, and how to find your voice and stand up for what you believe in. Neither Malena nor Ruby expected to be the leaders of the school’s dress code rebellion. But the girls will have to face their own insecurities, biases, and privileges, as well as the ups and downs of their newfound friendship, if they want to stand up for their ideals and—ultimately—for themselves.
Trigger warning: sexual assault
Everything I Never Told You | Celeste Ng
Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet... So begins the story of this exquisite debut novel, about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos. A profoundly moving story of family, history, and the meaning of home, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, exploring the divisions between cultures and the rifts within a family, and uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.
I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness | Austin Channing Brown
From a powerful new voice on racial justice, an eye-opening account of growing up black, Christian, and female in middle-class white America. Austin Channing Brown’s first encounter with a racialized America came at age seven, when she discovered her parents named her Austin to deceive future employers into thinking she was a white man. Growing up in majority-white schools, organizations, and churches, Austin writes, “I had to learn what it means to love blackness,” a journey that led to a lifetime spent navigating America’s racial divide as a writer, speaker, and expert who helps organizations practice genuine inclusion.
In the Time of the Butterflies | Julia Alvarez
This is an extraordinary novel about the Mirabal sisters, who were defiant leaders during the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic during the 50s. The chapters are told from each sister’s perspective, and it is a difficult story but an incredibly inspiring one.
Life in the Studio: Inspirations and Lessons on Creativity | Frances Palmer
A renowned potter, entrepreneur, gardener, photographer, cook, and beekeeper, Palmer has, over the course of three decades, caught the attention not only of the countless people who collect and use her ceramics but also of designers and design lovers, writers, and fellow artists who marvel at her example. Now, in her first book, she finally tells her story in her own words and images, distilling from her experiences lessons that will inspire a new generation of makers and entrepreneurs.
Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life...And Maybe the World | Admiral William H. McRaven
Based on Admiral McRaven’s commencement speech at the University of Texas at Austin in 2014, this book lays out the ten principles taught to Navy SEALS and McRaven uses stories from his own life experience to teach us important life lessons. As the admiral states, “If you want to change the world, make your bed.” Together we will discuss the lessons in this book and brainstorm ways they can help us find more personal success.
Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole | Allan Ropper and B.D. Burrell
Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole brings together a collection of cases from Dr. Allan Ropper’s time at Brigham and Women’s neurology unit. Aided by fellow writer Brian David Burrell, Dr. Ropper gives his readers a glimpse into the process of diagnosing and treating patients who come into the neuro ward with a wide range of symptoms using a combination of detective work, medical expertise, and insight into the human condition.
Riverman: An American Odyssey | Ben McGrath
The riveting true story of Dick Conant, an American folk hero who, over the course of more than twenty years, canoed solo thousands of miles of American rivers—and then disappeared near the Outer Banks of North Carolina. This book “contains everything: adventure, mystery, travelogue, and unforgettable characters.” - David Grann
Silent Spring | Rachel Carson
This book is credited with beginning the grassroots environmental movement in the U.S. Carson brings to light the result of years of chemical use and abuse on the environment and provides a warning to readers about the power of industry and government. Though published in 1962 this classic book has connections to current events as readers can see what has changed over time and what has not.
The Anthropocene Reviewed: Essays on a Human-Centered Planet | John Green
Prolific author Green (The Fault in Our Stars) made his nonfiction debut with The Anthropocene Reviewed, a collection of essays and companion to his podcast of the same name. The bestselling book reviews objects (like the QWERTY keyboard and the Teddy bear) as he searches for joy—large and small—in human nature.
The Chosen and the Beautiful | Nghi Vo
It’s a queer, magic realist retelling of The Great Gatsby from the point of view of Jordan Baker (Daisy’s best friend, the pro golfer) who is reimagined as a Vietnamese orphan with a wealthy, white adoptive family.
The Judge’s List | John Grisham
Investigator Lucy Stoltz meets a mysterious woman who is so frightened she uses a number of aliases. Jeri Crosby’s father was murdered twenty years earlier in a case that remains unsolved and that has grown stone cold. But Jeri has a suspect whom she has become obsessed with and has stalked for two decades. Along the way, she has discovered other victims. Suspicions are easy enough, but proof seems impossible. The man is brilliant, patient, and always one step ahead of law enforcement. He is the most cunning of all serial killers. He knows forensics, police procedure, and most important: he knows the law.
The Night She Disappeared | Lisa Jewell
2017: 19 year old Tallulah is going out on a date, leaving her baby with her mother, Kim. Kim watches her daughter leave and, as late evening turns into night, which turns into early morning, she waits for her return. And waits. The next morning, Kim phones Tallulah’s friends who tell her that Tallulah was last seen heading to a party at a house in the nearby woods called Dark Place. She never returns. 2019: Sophie is walking in the woods near the boarding school where her boyfriend has just started work as a head-teacher when she sees a note fixed to a tree: ‘DIG HERE.’ A cold case, an abandoned mansion, family trauma, and dark secrets lie at the heart of Lisa Jewell’s remarkable new novel.
The Power of One | Bryce Courtenay
As the seeds of apartheid take root in South Africa, a boy called Peekay is born. His childhood is marked by humiliation and abandonment, yet he vows to survive and conceives heroic dreams, which are nothing compared to what life actually has in store for him. He embarks on an epic journey through a land of tribal superstition and modern prejudice where he will learn the power of words, the power to transform lives, and the power of one.
The Psychology of Money | Morgan Housel
Money—investing, personal finance, and business decisions—is typically taught as a math-based field, where data and formulas tell us exactly what to do. But in the real world people don’t make financial decisions on a spreadsheet. They make them at the dinner table, or in a meeting room, where personal history, your own unique view of the world, ego, pride, marketing, and odd incentives are scrambled together. This book offers practical advice on spending, saving, and investment planning and offers stories to illustrate key concepts.
The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women | Kate Moore
The newly discovered element of radium makes gleaming headlines across the nation as the fresh face of beauty and wonder drug of the medical community. Meanwhile, hundreds of girls toil amidst the glowing dust of the radium-dial factories. The glittering chemical covers their bodies from head to toe. With such a coveted job, these “shining girls” are the luckiest alive—until they begin to fall mysteriously ill. But the factories that once offered golden opportunities are now ignoring all claims of the gruesome side effects, and the women’s cries of corruption. And as the fatal poison of the radium takes hold, the brave shining girls find themselves embroiled in one of the biggest scandals of America’s early 20th century, and in a groundbreaking battle for workers’ rights that will echo for centuries to come.
This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate | Naomi Klein
This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate is an updated and modern take on how industry and government can block or support environmental recovery. Klein targets the economic model and provides reasoning and evidence for the need to shift the current worldview from one of environmental and resource depletion to one of sustainability.
Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man | Emmanuel Acho
In Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man, Acho takes on all the questions, large and small, insensitive and taboo, many white Americans are afraid to ask—yet which all Americans need the answers to, now more than ever. With the same open-hearted generosity that has made his video series a phenomenon, Acho explains the vital core of such fraught concepts as white privilege, cultural appropriation, and “reverse racism.” In his own words, he provides a space of compassion and understanding in a discussion that can lack both. He asks only for the listener’s curiosity—but along the way, he will galvanize all of us to join the antiracist fight.
Walking to the End of the World: A Thousand Miles on the Camino de Santiago | Beth Jusino
What happens when two sheltered Americans take a three-month break from careers, home, and the Internet to backpack a 900-year-old trail across Europe? Walking to the End of the World is a warm-hearted and engaging story about an average couple going on an adventure together, tracing ancient paths first created in the tenth and eleventh centuries, paths that continue to inspire and reveal surprises to us today in the twenty-first. Beth’s story is also about the assurance that an outdoor-based, boundary-stretching adventure is accessible to even the most unlikely of us. In her story, readers will feel that they, too, can get off their comfortable couches and do something unexpected and even spectacular.
Wish You Were Here | Jodi Picoult
Diana O’Toole is perfectly on track. She’s an associate specialist at Sotheby’s now, but her boss has hinted at a promotion if she can close a deal with a high-profile client. She’s not engaged just yet, but she knows her boyfriend, Finn, a surgical resident, is about to propose on their romantic getaway to the Galapagos—days before her thirtieth birthday. Right on time. But then a virus that felt worlds away has appeared in the city, and on the eve of their departure, Finn breaks the news: It’s all hands on deck at the hospital. He has to stay behind. You should still go, he assures her, since it would be a shame for all of their nonrefundable trip to go to waste. And so, reluctantly, she goes. Almost immediately, Diana’s dream vacation goes awry. Her luggage is lost, the Wi-Fi is nearly nonexistent, and the hotel they’d booked is shut down due to the pandemic. In fact, the whole island is now under quarantine, and she is stranded until the borders reopen. Completely isolated, she must venture beyond her comfort zone.
With the Fire on High | Elizabeth Acevedo
From the New York Times best-selling author of the National Book Award-winning title The Poet X comes a dazzling novel in prose about a girl with talent, pride, and a drive to feed the soul that keeps her fire burning bright. Ever since she got pregnant freshman year, Emoni Santiago’s life has been about making the tough decisions—doing what has to be done for her daughter and her abuela. The one place she can let all that go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness. Even though she dreams of working as a chef after she graduates, Emoni knows that it’s not worth her time to pursue the impossible. Yet despite the rules she thinks she has to play by, once Emoni starts cooking, her only choice is to let her talent break free.