Books

How can we be good citizens? Now is a great time to explore the topic at home and learn new ways to be good to each other. Try making a list of ways to help in your community and check off as many as you can!

What can a citizen do? by Dave Eggers
Black Bottom saints : a novel by 1959- Alice Randall
Also available in: e-book | audiobook

An enthralling literary tour-de-force that pays tribute to Detroit's legendary neighborhood, a mecca for jazz, sports, and politics, Black Bottom Saints is a powerful blend of fact and imagination reminiscent of E.L. Doctorow's classic novel Ragtime and Marlon James' Man Booker Award-winning masterpiece, A Brief History of Seven Killings. From the Great Depression through the post-World War II years, Joseph "Ziggy" Johnson, has been the pulse of Detroit's famous Black Bottom. A celebrated gossip columnist for the city's African-American newspaper, the Michigan Chronicle, he is also the emcee of one of the hottest night clubs, where he's rubbed elbows with the legendary black artists of the era, including Ethel Waters, Billy Eckstein, and Count Basie. Ziggy is also the founder and dean of the Ziggy Johnson School of Theater. But now the doyen of Black Bottom is ready to hang up his many dapper hats. As he lays dying in the black-owned-and-operated Kirkwood Hospital, Ziggy reflects on his life, the community that was the center of his world, and the remarkable people who helped shape it. Inspired by the Catholic Saints Day Books, Ziggy curates his own list of Black Bottom's venerable "52 Saints." Among them are a vulnerable Dinah Washington, a defiant Joe  Louis, and a raucous Bricktop. Randall balances the stories of these larger-than-life "Saints" with local heroes who became household names, enthralling men and women whose unstoppable ambition, love of style, and faith in community made this black Midwestern neighborhood the rival of New York City's Harlem. Accompanying these "tributes" are thoughtfully paired cocktails--special drinks that capture the essence of each of Ziggy's saints--libations as strong and satisfying as Alice Randall's wholly original view of a place and time unlike any other.

Also available in: e-book

From Ty Cobb and Hank Greenberg to the Bad Boys, from Joe Louis and Gordie Howe to the Malice at the Palace, City of Champions explores the history of Detroit through the stories of its most gifted athletes and most celebrated teams, linking iconic events in the history of Motown sports to the city's shifting fortunes. . Driven by the conviction that sports not only mirror society but also have a special power to create both community and enduring narratives that help define a city s sense of self, City of Champions is a unique history of the most American of cities. 

Also available in: e-book

Les Payne, the renowned Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist, embarked in 1990 on a nearly thirty-year-long quest to interview anyone he could find who had actually known Malcolm X--all living siblings of the Malcolm Little family, classmates, street friends, cellmates, Nation of Islam figures, FBI moles and cops, and political leaders around the world. His goal was ambitious: to transform what would become over a hundred hours of interviews into an unprecedented portrait of Malcolm X, one that would separate fact from fiction. The result is this historic biography that conjures a never-before-seen world of its protagonist, a work whose title is inspired by a phrase Malcolm X used when he saw his Hartford followers stir with purpose, as if the dead were truly arising, to overcome the obstacles of racism. Setting Malcolm's life not only within the Nation of Islam but against the larger backdrop of American history, the book traces the life of one of the twentieth century's most politically relevant figures "from street criminal to devoted moralist and revolutionary. "In tracing Malcolm X's life from his Nebraska birth in 1925 to his Harlem assassination in 1965, Payne provides searing vignettes culled from Malcolm's Depression-era youth, describing the influence of his Garveyite parents: his father, Earl, a circuit-riding preacher who was run over by a street car in Lansing, Michigan, in 1929, and his mother, Louise, who continued to instill black pride in her children after Earl's death. Filling each chapter with resonant drama, Payne follows Malcolm's exploits as a petty criminal in Boston and Harlem in the 1930s and early 1940s to his religious awakening and conversion to the Nation of Islam in a Massachusetts penitentiary. With a biographer's unwavering determination, Payne corrects the historical record and delivers extraordinary revelations--from the unmasking of the mysterious NOI founder "Fard Muhammad," who preceded Elijah Muhammad; to a hair-rising scene, conveyed in cinematic detail, of Malcolm and Minister Jeremiah X Shabazz's 1961 clandestine meeting with the KKK; to a minute-by-minute account of Malcolm X's murder at the Audubon Ballroom. Introduced by Payne's daughter and primary researcher, Tamara Payne, who, following her father's death, heroically completed the biography, The Dead Are Arising is a penetrating and riveting work that affirms the centrality of Malcolm X to the African American freedom struggle.

Reader Wearing a Medical Mask - Photo by Mat Reding on Unsplash

 

 

 

During this pandemic year, some of our book club members found that they had extra time to do extra reading, while others found themselves suffering from a lack of focus. Some discovered new formats and found books to help them on new journeys, while others turned to old favorites. Regardless of the reading challenges of 2020, here are the recommendations from the Lunch and a Book Club of some of the best books they read this year.

 

 

Masked Reader - Photo by Mat Reding on Unsplash

Fiction

Here are just a few of the new books on the history and biography shelves as 2020 comes to an end.

Arthur Briggs's life was Homeric in scope. Born on the tiny island of Grenada, he set sail for Harlem during the Renaissance, then to Europe in the aftermath of World War I, where he was among the first pioneers to introduce jazz music to the world. During the legendary Jazz Age in Paris, Briggs's trumpet provided the soundtrack while Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and the rest of the Lost Generation got drunk. By the 1930s, Briggs was considered "the Louis Armstrong of Paris," and was the peer of the greatest names of his time, from Josephine Baker to Django Reinhardt. Even during the Great Depression, he was secure as "the greatest trumpeter in Europe." He did not, however, heed warnings to leave Paris before it fell to the Nazis, and in 1940, he was arrested and sent to the prison camp at Saint Denis. What happened at that camp, and the role Briggs played in it, is truly unforgettable.

Also available in: e-book | e-audiobook

In this revealing, funny, and inspiring memoir, seven-time New York Times bestselling author and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright--among the world's most admired and tireless public servants--reflects on the challenge of continuing one's career far beyond the normal age of retirement.

In 2001, when Madeleine Albright was leaving office as America's first female secretary of state, interviewers asked her how she wished to be remembered. "I don't want to be remembered," she answered. "I am still here and have much more I intend to do. As difficult as it might seem, I want every stage of my life to be more exciting than the last."

In that time of transition, the former Secretary considered the possibilities: she could write, teach, travel, give speeches, start a business, fight for democracy, help to empower women, campaign for favored political candidates, spend more time with her grandchildren. Instead of choosing one or two, she decided to do it all. For nearly twenty years, Albright has been in constant motion, navigating half a dozen professions, clashing with presidents and prime ministers, learning every day. Since leaving the State Department, she has blazed her own trail--and given voice to millions who yearn for respect, regardless of gender, background, or age.

As the new year approaches, consider one of the new large print books featured below.

Also available in: print | e-book | audiobook | e-audiobook

Antiracism is a transformative concept that reorients and reenergizes the conversation about racism--and, even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. At its core, racism is a powerful system that creates false hierarchies of human value; its warped logic extends beyond race, from the way we regard people of different ethnicities or skin colors to the way we treat people of different sexes, gender identities, and body types. Racism intersects with class and culture and geography and even changes the way we see and value ourselves. In How to Be an Antiracist, Kendi takes readers through a widening circle of antiracist ideas--from the most basic concepts to visionary possibilities--that will help readers see all forms of racism clearly, understand their poisonous consequences, and work to oppose them in our systems and in ourselves.

Kendi weaves an electrifying combination of ethics, history, law, and science with his own personal story of awakening to antiracism. This is an essential work for anyone who wants to go beyond the awareness of racism to the next step: contributing to the formation of a just and equitable society.

Untamed [large print] by 1976- Glennon Doyle
Also available in: print | e-book | audiobook | e-audiobook

Soulful and uproarious, forceful and tender, Untamed is both an intimate memoir and a galvanizing wake-up call. It is the story of how one woman learned that a responsible mother is not one who slowly dies for her children, but one who shows them how to fully live. It is the story of navigating divorce, forming a new blended family, and discovering that the brokenness or wholeness of a family depends not on its structure but on each member's ability to bring her full self to the table. And it is the story of how each of us can begin to trust ourselves enough to set boundaries, make peace with our bodies, honor our anger and heartbreak, and unleash our truest, wildest instincts so that we become women who can finally look at ourselves and say: There She Is.

Contemporary realistic fiction takes place in the present and covers topics that are likely to happen in real life. These novels explore many common issues for modern teenagers. Looking for a funny story? Jump down to the "Humor" section. 

All-American Muslim girl by 1980- Nadine Jolie Courtney

Sixteen-year-old Allie, aged seven when she knew her family was different and feared, struggles to claim her Muslim and Arabic heritage while finding her place as an American teenager.

Clap when you land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Two sisters mourn their father's death after his plane crashes on a flight to the Dominican Republic.

Adult Contemporary Book Discussion May 2021

Young Jane Young : a novel by Gabrielle Zevin
Also available in: e-book | audiobook

Aviva Grossman, an ambitious congressional intern in Florida, makes the mistake of having an affair with her (married) boss. When the affair comes to light, the popular congressman doesn't take the fall. But Aviva does, and her life is over before it hardly begins: slut-shamed, she becomes a late-night talk show punch line, anathema to politics. She sees no way out but to change her name and move to a remote town in Maine. This time, she tries to be smarter about her life and strives to raise her daughter, Ruby, to be strong and confident. But when, at the urging of others, Aviva decides to run for public office, that long-ago mistake trails her via the Internet and catches up--an inescapable scarlet A. In the digital age, the past is never, ever, truly past. And it's only a matter of time until Ruby finds out who her mother was and is forced to reconcile that person with the one she knows. Young Jane Young is a smart, funny, serious, and moving novel about the myriad ways in which roles are still circumscribed for women, whether they are young and ambitious interns; mothers attempting to steer their daughters through a male-dominated world; political wives facing an age-old knowledge that fidelity isn't always honored; or young girls feeling bold about their many choices before they realize the gender restrictions all around them. Gabrielle Zevin captures not only the double standards alive and well in every aspect of life for women but also the mood of our recent highly charged political season.

Upcoming sessions

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Adult Contemporary Book Discussion April 2021

Also available in: e-book | audiobook | e-audiobook

It begins with a mystery. Sylvie, the beautiful, brilliant, successful older daughter of the Lee family, flies to the Netherlands for one final visit with her dying grandmother--and then vanishes. Amy, the sheltered baby of the Lee family, is too young to remember a time when her parents were newly immigrated and too poor to keep Sylvie. Seven years older, Sylvie was raised by a distant relative in a faraway, foreign place, and didn't rejoin her family in America until age nine. Timid and shy, Amy has always looked up to her sister, the fierce and fearless protector who showered her with unconditional love. But what happened to Sylvie? Amy and her parents are distraught and desperate for answers. Sylvie has always looked out for them. Now, it's Amy's turn to help. Terrified yet determined, Amy retraces her sister's movements, flying to the last place Sylvie was seen. But instead of simple answers, she discovers something much more valuable: the truth. Sylvie, the golden girl, kept painful secrets . . . secrets that will reveal more about Amy's complicated family--and herself--than she ever could have imagined. A deeply moving story of family, secrets, identity, and longing, Searching for Sylvie Lee is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive portrait of an immigrant family. It is a profound exploration of the many ways culture and language can divide us and the impossibility of ever truly knowing someone--especially those we love.

Upcoming sessions

There are no upcoming sessions available.

"Breaking from the James Bond mold, he turned the spy novel into high art as he explored the moral compromises of agents on both sides of the Iron curtain." (New York Times)

From page to screen, check out the library's selection of works by this master of dark, emotional intrigue.

The spy who came in from the cold by 1931- John Le Carré
Tinker, tailor, soldier, spy by 1931- John Le Carré
Also available in: video

Sometimes we just want to read about what's familiar or what's possible. Here are some suggestions for books that feature a high level of realism. You probably won't find many dragons or wizards or outer space adventures here. Books are suggested for Sixth Grade, but remember that each Reader is different, and might find something interesting at another level.

Amal unbound by Aisha Saeed
Also available in: e-book | audiobook | e-audiobook | large print

Life is quiet and ordinary in Amal's Pakistani village, but she had no complaints, and besides, she's busy pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher one day. Her dreams are temporarily dashed when--as the eldest daughter--she must stay home from school to take care of her siblings. Amal is upset, but she doesn't lose hope and finds ways to continue learning. Then the unimaginable happens--after an accidental run-in with the son of her village's corrupt landlord, Amal must work as his family's servant to pay off her own family's debt.

Also available in: e-book | e-audiobook | large print

Some people can do their homework. Some people get to have crushes on boys. Some people have other things they've got to do. Seventh-grader Zoey has her hands full as she takes care of her much younger siblings after school every day while her mom works her shift at the pizza parlor. Not that her mom seems to appreciate it. At least there's Lenny, her mom's boyfriend--they all get to live in his nice, clean trailer. Can Zoey find the courage to speak up, even if it means risking the most stable home she's ever had?

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