At its 2017 summer national conference, the American Library Association launched a new online book club, called ALA Book Club Central. Award-winning actor, producer, designer, library supporter and avid reader Sarah Jessica Parker is the honorary chair for Book Club Central. In this role, Ms. Parker will select books throughout the year to share her joy of reading and discussing good books with readers everywhere. This book club continued until the Summer of 2019, at which point both it and the webpage set up to support it were discontinued.
Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth by Sarah Smarsh
*Finalist for the National Book Award*
*Finalist for the Kirkus Prize*
*Instant New York Times Bestseller*
*Named a Best Book of the Year by NPR, New York Post, BuzzFeed, Shelf Awareness, Bustle, and Publishers Weekly*
An essential read for our times: an eye-opening memoir of working-class poverty in America that will deepen our understanding of the ways in which class shapes our country and “a deeply humane memoir that crackles with clarifying insight”.*
Sarah Smarsh was born a fifth generation Kansas wheat farmer on her paternal side, and the product of generations of teen mothers on her maternal side. Through her experiences growing up on a farm thirty miles west of Wichita, we are given a unique and essential look into the lives of poor and working class Americans living in the heartland.
During Sarah’s turbulent childhood in Kansas in the 1980s and 1990s, she enjoyed the freedom of a country childhood, but observed the painful challenges of the poverty around her; untreated medical conditions for lack of insurance or consistent care, unsafe job conditions, abusive relationships, and limited resources and information that would provide for the upward mobility that is the American Dream. By telling the story of her life and the lives of the people she loves with clarity and precision but without judgement, Smarsh challenges us to look more closely at the class divide in our country.
Beautifully written, in a distinctive voice, Heartland combines personal narrative with powerful analysis and cultural commentary, challenging the myths about people thought to be less because they earn less.
She Would Be King by Wayétu Moore
Wayétu Moore’s powerful debut novel, She Would Be King, reimagines the dramatic story of Liberia’s early years through three unforgettable characters who share an uncommon bond. Gbessa, exiled from the West African village of Lai, is starved, bitten by a viper, and left for dead, but still she survives. June Dey, raised on a plantation in Virginia, hides his unusual strength until a confrontation with the overseer forces him to flee. Norman Aragon, the child of a white British colonizer and a Maroon slave from Jamaica, can fade from sight when the earth calls him. When the three meet in the settlement of Monrovia, their gifts help them salvage the tense relationship between the African American settlers and the indigenous tribes, as a new nation forms around them.
Moore’s intermingling of history and magical realism finds voice not just in these three characters but also in the fleeting spirit of the wind, who embodies an ancient wisdom. “If she was not a woman,” the wind says of Gbessa, “she would be king.” In this vibrant story of the African diaspora, Moore, a talented storyteller and a daring writer, illuminates with radiant and exacting prose the tumultuous roots of a country inextricably bound to the United States. She Would Be King is a novel of profound depth set against a vast canvas and a transcendent debut from a major new author.
Anatomy of a Miracle: The True* Story of a Paralyzed Veteran, a Mississippi Convenience Store, a Vatican Investigation, and the Spectacular Perils of Grace : *A Novel by Jonathan Miles
A profound new novel about a paralyzed young man’s unexplainable recovery—a stunning exploration of faith, science, mystery, and the meaning of life
Rendered paraplegic after a traumatic event four years ago, Cameron Harris has been living his new existence alongside his sister, Tanya, in their battered Biloxi, Mississippi neighborhood where only half the houses made it through Katrina. One stiflingly hot August afternoon, as Cameron sits waiting for Tanya during their daily run to the Biz-E-Bee convenience store, he suddenly and inexplicably rises up and out of his wheelchair.
In the aftermath of this “miracle,” Cameron finds himself a celebrity at the center of a contentious debate about what’s taken place. And when scientists, journalists, and a Vatican investigator start digging, Cameron’s deepest secrets—the key to his injury, to his identity, and, in some eyes, to the nature of his recovery—become increasingly endangered. Was Cameron’s recovery a genuine miracle, or a medical breakthrough? And, finding himself transformed into a symbol, how can he hope to retain his humanity?
Brilliantly written as closely observed journalistic reportage and filtered through a wide lens that encompasses the vibrant characters affected by Cameron’s story, Anatomy of a Miracle will be read, championed, and celebrated as a powerful story of our time, and the work of a true literary master.
Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo
A New York Times Notable Book
The New York Times’ Critics’ Top Books of the Year
Named a Best Book of the Year by San Francisco Chronicle, National Public Radio, The Economist, Buzzfeed, Paste Magazine, Southern Living, HelloGiggles, and Shelf Awareness
Huffington Post’s Best Feminist Books of the Year
The New York Post’s Most Thrilling and Fascinating Books of the Year
The New York Public Library’s Ten Best Books of the Year
This celebrated, unforgettable first novel (“A bright, big-hearted demonstration of female spirit.” –The Guardian), shortlisted for the prestigious Women’s Prize for Fiction and set in Nigeria, gives voice to both husband and wife as they tell the story of their marriage–and the forces that threaten to tear it apart.
Yejide and Akin have been married since they met and fell in love at university. Though many expected Akin to take several wives, he and Yejide have always agreed: polygamy is not for them. But four years into their marriage–after consulting fertility doctors and healers, trying strange teas and unlikely cures — Yejide is still not pregnant. She assumes she still has time — until her family arrives on her doorstep with a young woman they introduce as Akin’s second wife. Furious, shocked, and livid with jealousy, Yejide knows the only way to save her marriage is to get pregnant. Which, finally, she does–but at a cost far greater than she could have dared to imagine. An electrifying novel of enormous emotional power, Stay With Me asks how much we can sacrifice for the sake of family.
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
FINALIST FOR THE BOOKER PRIZE
10 BEST BOOKS OF 2017, NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
WINNER OF THE L.A. TIMES BOOK PRIZE FOR FICTION and THE ASPEN WORDS LITERARY PRIZE
A New York Times bestseller, the astonishingly visionary love story that imagines the forces that drive ordinary people from their homes into the uncertain embrace of new lands.
In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair, and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through. . . .
Exit West follows these remarkable characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, it tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time.
No One Is Coming to Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts
last updated March 2020 sdc