Brainerd Memorial Library
920 SAYBROOK ROAD, HADDAM, CT 06438     P:860.345.2204

login to my account

Book Club Reading Lists

Brainerd Library Book Club 2020 Titles

4th Wednesday of the Month, starting at 6:30 pm


January 22, 2020
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

At times stern, at other times patient, at times perceptive, at other times in sad denial, Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher, deplores the changes in her little town of Crosby, Maine, and in the world at large, but she doesn’t always recognize the changes in those around her: a lounge musician haunted by a past romance; a former student who has lost the will to live; Olive’s own adult child, who feels tyrannized by her irrational sensitivities; and her husband, Henry, who finds his loyalty to his marriage both a blessing and a curse.

As the townspeople grapple with their problems, mild and dire, Olive is brought to a deeper understanding of herself and her life—sometimes painfully, but always with ruthless honesty. Olive Kitteridge offers profound insights into the human condition—its conflicts, its tragedies and joys, and the endurance it requires.


February 26, 2020
Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II by Liza Mundy

Recruited by the U.S. Army and Navy from small towns and elite colleges, more than ten thousand women served as codebreakers during World War II. While their brothers and boyfriends took up arms, these women moved to Washington and learned the meticulous work of code-breaking. Their efforts shortened the war, saved countless lives, and gave them access to careers previously denied to them. A strict vow of secrecy nearly erased their efforts from history; now, through dazzling research and interviews with surviving code girls, bestselling author Liza Mundy brings to life this riveting and vital story of American courage, service, and scientific accomplishment.


March 25, 2020
Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout

Prickly, wry, resistant to change yet ruthlessly honest and deeply empathetic, Olive Kitteridge is “a compelling life force” (San Francisco Chronicle). The New Yorker has said that Elizabeth Strout “animates the ordinary with an astonishing force,” and she has never done so more clearly than in these pages, where the iconic Olive struggles to understand not only herself and her own life but the lives of those around her in the town of Crosby, Maine. Whether with a teenager coming to terms with the loss of her father, a young woman about to give birth during a hilariously inopportune moment, a nurse who confesses a secret high school crush, or a lawyer who struggles with an inheritance she does not want to accept, the unforgettable Olive will continue to startle us, to move us, and to inspire us—in Strout’s words—“to bear the burden of the mystery with as much grace as we can.”


April 22, 2020
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

At the end of the Second World War, Cyril Conroy combines luck and a single canny investment to begin an enormous real estate empire, propelling his family from poverty to enormous wealth. His first order of business is to buy the Dutch House, a lavish estate in the suburbs outside of Philadelphia. Meant as a surprise for his wife, the house sets in motion the undoing of everyone he loves.

The story is told by Cyril’s son Danny, as he and his older sister, the brilliantly acerbic and self-assured Maeve, are exiled from the house where they grew up by their stepmother. The two wealthy siblings are thrown back into the poverty their parents had escaped from and find that all they have to count on is one another. It is this unshakable bond between them that both saves their lives and thwarts their futures.

Set over the course of five decades, The Dutch House is a dark fairy tale about two smart people who cannot overcome their past. Despite every outward sign of success, Danny and Maeve are only truly comfortable when they’re together. Throughout their lives, they return to the well-worn story of what they’ve lost with humor and rage. But when at last they’re forced to confront the people who left them behind, the relationship between an indulged brother and his ever-protective sister is finally tested.


May 27, 2020
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, and is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him entry into a much larger world of emotional discovery.

Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count’s endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose.


June 24, 2020
Educated by Tara Westover

Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Her family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent. When another brother got himself into college, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home


Healthy Exchange Book Club 2020 Title List

                                       1st Wednesday of the month, starting at 2:00 pmhealthy-ex-logo

January 8, 2020

Ageless Soul: The Lifelong Journey Toward Meaning and Joy by Thomas Moore Using examples from his practice as a psychotherapist and teacher who lectures widely on the soul of medicine and spirituality, Moore argues for a new vision of aging: as a dramatic series of initiations, rather than a diminishing experience, one that each of us has the tools―experience, maturity, fulfillment―to live out. Subjects include: *Why melancholy is a natural part of aging, and how to accept it, rather than confuse it with depression *The vital role of the elder and mentor in the lives of younger people *The many paths of spiritual growth and learning that open later in life *Sex and sensuality *Building new communities and leaving a legacy


February 5, 2020

The Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates In this moving and compelling book, Melinda shares lessons she’s learned from the inspiring people she’s met during her work and travels around the world. As she writes in the introduction, “That is why I had to write this book―to share the stories of people who have given focus and urgency to my life. I want all of us to see ways we can lift women up where we live.” Melinda’s unforgettable narrative is backed by startling data as she presents the issues that most need our attention―from child marriage to lack of access to contraceptives to gender inequity in the workplace. And, for the first time, she writes about her personal life and the road to equality in her own marriage. Throughout, she shows how there has never been more opportunity to change the world―and ourselves.

March 4, 2020

You Can Stop Humming Now by Daniela Lamas
In this ruminative account of treating patients, Lamas, a pulmonary and critical care doctor at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, analyzes how the critically ill manage life during and after treatment. She meets people who are neither bitter nor sorrowful about their conditions, but are constantly aware of their precarious states. Among her patients are Van, a grandfather tethered to a battery-operated heart device, which, when fully charged, allows him to camp or fish with his grandson, and Meghan, a young woman who outlives her cystic fibrosis prognosis and attends college, continuing her physical therapy in her dorm room. When Lamas visits Ben, a young man with brain damage, she witnesses a mother reveling in Ben’s small victories, such as when he attempts to make a sandwich. Through these visits and others, Lamas weaves a thoughtful and beautiful narrative: “I wanted to know how they would learn to adapt to new realities and whether they would regret the decisions they had made.” The author wonderfully captures the lives of those who’ve completed treatment and adjusted to a new existence.

April 1, 2020
The Fate of Food

What We’ll Eat in a Bigger, Hotter, Smarter World by Amanda Little Climate models show that global crop production will decline every decade for the rest of this century due to drought, heat, and flooding. Water supplies are in jeopardy. Meanwhile, the world’s population is expected to grow another 30 percent by midcentury. So how, really, will we feed nine billion people sustainably in the coming decades?
Throughout her journey, Little finds and shares a deeper understanding of the threats of climate change and encounters a sense of awe and optimism about the lessons of our past and the scope of human ingenuity.

May 6, 2020

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany one rainy afternoon in the unlikeliest of places: a city bus. “The days are long, but the years are short,” she realized. “Time is passing, and I’m not focusing enough on the things that really matter.” In that moment, she decided to dedicate a year to her happiness project. In this lively and compelling account—now updated with new material by the author—Rubin chronicles her adventures during the twelve months she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. Among other things, she found that novelty and challenge are powerful sources of happiness; that money can help buy happiness, when spent wisely; that outer order contributes to inner calm; and that the very smallest of changes can make the biggest difference.

June 5, 2019
The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin

During her multibook investigation into understanding human nature, Gretchen Rubin realized that by asking the seemingly dry question “How do I respond to expectations?” we gain explosive self-knowledge. She discovered that based on their answer, people fit into Four Tendencies: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels. Our Tendency shapes every aspect of our behavior, so using this framework allows us to make better decisions, meet deadlines, suffer less stress, and engage more effectively.
With sharp insight, compelling research, and hilarious examples, The Four Tendencies will help you get happier, healthier, more productive, and more creative. It’s far easier to succeed when you know what works for you.


September 2, 2020

Prescriptions for Living: Inspirational Lessons for a Joyful, Loving Life by Bernie Siegel


This book is a continuation of the work I began when I became Bernie. It is a collection of stories about how to deal with life’s difficulties. Most of the people in these stories have not had the great wake-up call; that is, they are mot facing life-threatening illnesses. So in a sense, this book is preventive medicine. It is a prescription for living that gives you effective and healthy ways of dealing with the adversity that occurs in everyone’s life. I want to help you learn to accept your morality before something catastrophic brings you face-to-face with the end of your life.


October 7, 2020
Aging with Grace by David Snowdon

In 1986 Dr. David Snowdon, one of the world’s leading experts on Alzheimer’s disease, embarked on a revolutionary scientific study that would forever change the way we view aging—and ultimately living. Dubbed the “Nun Study” because it involves a unique population of 678 Catholic sisters, this remarkable long-term research project has made headlines worldwide with its provocative discoveries. Yet Aging with Grace is more than a groundbreaking health and science book. It is the inspiring human story of these remarkable women—ranging in age from 74 to 106—whose dedication to serving others may help all of us live longer and healthier lives.

 


November 4, 2020

If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won’t) by Betty White

It-girl Betty White delivers a hilarious, slyly profound take on love, life, celebrity, and everything in between. Drawing from a lifetime of lessons learned, seven-time Emmy winner Betty White’s wit and wisdom take center stage as she tackles topics like friendship, romantic love, aging, television, fans, love for animals, and the brave new world of celebrity. If You Ask Me mixes her thoughtful observations with humorous stories from a seven- decade career in Hollywood. Longtime fans and new fans alike will relish Betty’s candid take on everything from her rumored crush on Robert Redford (true) to her beauty regimen (“I have no idea what color my hair is and I never intend to find out”) to the Facebook campaign that helped persuade her to host Saturday Night Live despite her having declined the hosting job three times already.