Monday, April 29, 2019

Just the Fact Book Discussion - April 25th, 2019

The book discussion narrowly escaped the rain last night, both before and after.  With this weather, we should have a bounty of flowers in May.  Many thanks to the ten people who took a chance last night and attended.  Their presence, as always, was much appreciated.

Our book last night was Killers of the Flower Moon: the Osage murders and the birth of the F.B.I. by David Grann.  The Osage tribe, like so many other Native Americans, was forced off their land by white encroachment and then were forced off that land by further white settlement.  Eventually, they ended up in an area of Oklahoma that was hilly and rocky and unsuitable for agriculture.  But the treaty they signed gave them the land in perpetuity as well as any mineral wealth beneath it.  It turned out that the land they’d been granted was sitting atop an ocean of oil.  As this was at the beginning of the age of the automobile, the Osage tribe became incredibly wealthy.  By the 1920s, they had the highest per capita income of any people in the United States.  The federal government did not believe the individual members of the tribe were capable of managing this windfall and instituted a system of white guardianship where “responsible” men were appointed single or several members of the tribe to help them deal with the wealth.  This opened the doors to corruption and theft.  And then, the murders began.  Tribal members were killed so their shares would pass on to their white spouses.  Juries refused, largely, to convict and governors pardoned those who were found guilty.  Eventually, the fledgling F.B.I. was called in to take over the case.  The discussion was lively and covered, among other things, racism then and now, Bernie Madoff, and the relationship between white colonists and aboriginal peoples across the globe.

Our next meeting will be on May 23rd, 2019.  The book to be discussed, The Glass Universe: how the ladies of the Harvard Observatory took the measure of the stars by Dava Sobel, is available at the Circulation Desk.  All are welcome.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Just The Facts Book Discussion - February 28th, 2019

The snow and cold the night before did not deter nine people from attending the book discussion last night.  Their presence, as always, was much appreciated.

Our book last night was Last Hope Island:  Britain, occupied Europe, and the brotherhood that helped turn the tide of war by Lynne Olson.  After the Nazi onslaught across Europe in 1939 and 1940, most European countries were occupied by German forces.  The German established collaborationist governments or governed directly.  The legitimate governments of these countries fled to Britain where they established governments in exile and worked with the British to continue the war.  They helped the British to establish resistance and sabotage movements in their home countries.  In addition, thousand of citizens of these occupied countries, many of them military or intelligence personnel, also escaped to Britain where they joined their British colleagues in continuing the war.  The Poles, especially, contributed to these efforts, bringing the Enigma machine to British intelligence and providing hundreds of experienced pilots to the Royal Air Force and helping to defeat the Germans in the Battle of Britain.  All of this happened against the backdrop of the political infighting of the Big Three, Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union, and the governments in exile.  Britain and the U. S. could not afford to anger the Russians and did not want to abandon their allies, but compromises were necessary to keep the Russians in the war, resulting in the abandonment of eastern European countries.  Everybody seemed to enjoy the book.  It’s a combination of war, politics, heroism and betrayal.  Our conversation was very interesting, covering the role of the underground, the problem of De Gaulle, the BBC, the antagonism of the allies and much more.  It was an interesting evening.

Our next meeting will be on March 28th, 2019.  The book to be discussed, When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, is available at the Circulation Desk.  All are welcome.   Be brave everybody.  Spring is coming!

Monday, January 14, 2019

Winter Reading Club 2019

Monday, January 7 - Friday, February 22

Report your book reviews by clicking here.

Winter Reading Club 2019

Title: Leave no Trace
Author: Mindy Mejia
Review: A speech therapist at a psychiatric facility is assigned to help the young man thought to be dead for 10 years. Both their stories emerge in this suspenseful novel. Interesting but flawed characters.
Rating: 3

Title: I'm Keith Hernandez
Author: Keith Hernandez
Review: Anyone who likes baseball will enjoy this look at Keith's career past and present.  (although at times a little TMI!)You can tell he loves this game. His insights about the game are very interesting.
Rating: 4

Title: Bridge of Clay
Author: Markus Zusak
Review: This book flips between the past and the present of the Dunbar brothers. As the chapters merge there is much foreshadowing and it both draws you in to find the secret of Clay but at times frustrates. Ultimately the story and descriptive writing win out and one is rewarded with a moving story.
Rating: 4

Title: Where the Crawdads Sing
Author: Delia Owens
Review: The author's love of nature clearly shows through in this story of desertion, loss, independence and love with a bit of murder mystery thrown in. It brings out every emotion while reading. Well worth the time.
Rating: 5

Title: Lilac Girls
Author: Martha Hall Kelly
Review: There is a reason why there are so many books written about the atrocities of WWII, basically so no one forgets and history doesn't repeat itself. In reading this book one learns of the Ravensbruck "rabbits", human lab experiments, and the people that performed those acts and the people that helped them years later. This story with real people will make you appreciate the kindness in the world and the strength of those that have risen above adversity.
Title: There There
Author: Tommy Orange
Review: disparate characters-each with a different connection to their native heritage, albeit all connected to Oakland, California. An important and fascinating read.
Rating: 4

Title: The Library Book
Author: Susan Orlean
Review: If you love libraries, this is the book for you. After a slow first chapter, this book just soars. I couldn't put it down.
Rating: 4

Title: We Are The Nerds
Author: Christine Lagorio-Chafkin
Review: I started reading this because my son loves Reddit. But I kept reading it because it is a fascinating story about a world that I knew nothing about with many characters that I was familiar with.  I had no idea that co-founder Alex Ohanian  was (& still is) married to Serena Williams....
Rating: 4

Title: If You Ask Me
Author: Eleanor Roosevelt
Review: Although Roosevelt's advice column ran from 1941 to 1962, her words are surprisingly prescient today. I thoroughly enjoyed this collection.
Rating: 4

Title: Friday Black
Author: Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
Review: A haunting, disturbing collection of short stories. I believe there are great things in store for this first time author.
Rating: 3

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Just the Facts Book Discussion December 27th, 2018

Due to an unexpected snowstorm in November, the book discussion group did not take place.  Since both books involve the Supreme Court, it was decided to combine the two books into one discussion, which took place last night.  Eleven people attended.  Their presence, as always, was much appreciated.

Our books last night were Showdown:  Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court nomination that changed America by Wil Haygood and Sisters in Law:  how Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg went to the Supreme Court and changed the world by Linda Hirshman.  The books tell the story of
how the first African-American man and the first two women were nominated and confirmed to the Supreme Court and, incidentally, the first Jewish-American, Louis Brandeis, arrived there.  Perhaps Marshall’s route was the most difficult and dangerous.  He spent his pre-court life traveling the south defending civil rights case in southern courts, sleeping in different place each night to avoid being murdered.  He also argued cases before the Supreme Court, culminating in his successful case in 1954, Brown v Board of Education, which established that the doctrine of separate but equal was
unconstitutional.  O’Connor had an easier route, growing up in Arizona, mentored by Barry Goldwater, working her way up through the state legislature and various local and state courts.  Ginsburg was more radical, seeking to remove  the legal differences, or the differences the law displayed, to men and women.  All three had difficult paths, but all three were were nominated and then confirmed to the Supreme Court.  All three had, or are having successful judicial careers.  Our conversation was thoughtful and interesting, comparing Jackie Robinson to Marshall, term limits, the role of southern senators in the confirmation fight, and much more.

Our next meeting will be on January 24th, 2019.  The book to be discussed, Gulp: adventures on the alimentary canal by Mary Roach, is available at the Circulation Desk.  All are welcome.  Happy New Year, everybody.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Just the Facts Book Discussion - October 18, 2018

  It seems that we moved from a hot, rainy summer to a cool, rainy fall and then directly into an early taste of winter.  What gives?  Many thanks to the eight people who bundled up to attend the book discussion.  Their presence, as always, was much appreciated.

    Our book last night was Soldiers and Sons:  the untold story of the Jews who escaped the Nazis and returned with the U, S, Army to fight Hitler by Bruce Henderson.  Upon the rise of Hitler and Nazism in the 1930s, most Jewish families in Germany realized what the future held and were desperate to escape.  The lack of visas and countries that would allow them in kept this from happening.  Had they been able to leave, they would have had to do so without their money or property, leaving them destitute in a strange country.  Many families devised an alternative plan to send their eldest sons out, regardless of the cost.  Most of these boys were in their middle teens and were sent to relatives in the United States whom they had never met.  Imagine these children, sent from their homes to a strange country and to relatives that were virtual strangers.  They did not speak English and didn’t know when, if ever, they would see their families again or even if their families would survive the coming conflagration.  Once here, they learned English, went to school, worked and, when the war began, volunteered to fight.  Being fluent in German, their services were needed and most were assigned to intelligence forces to assist in the interrogation of captured German soldiers and translation of captured documents.  The book is both heartbreaking and inspiring.  Our conversation covered the experiences of friends and relatives who had relatives who had survived or escaped the Holocaust.  Or not.  It was a bittersweet evening.

    Our next meeting will be on November 15th, 2018.  The book to be discussed, Showdown:  Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court nomination that changed America by Wil Haygood, is available at the Circulation Desk.  All are welcome.  Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Just the Facts Book Discussion - September 27, 2018

On a rain threatening evening, four people chanced the weather to attend the book discussion group.  Their presence, as always, was much appreciated.  Are we ever going to get some cool, crisp autumn weather?

Our book last night was Hue 1968: a turning point of the American war in Vietnam by Mark Bowden.  Up until the Tet Offensive and the Battle of Hue, fifty years ago, the American war in Vietnam was a question of jungle trained American troops fighting against bands of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong partisans with the aid of the South Vietnamese Army (ARVN).  In the winter of 1968, coinciding with the Vietnamese New Year, Tet, the North Vietnamese launched a huge general offensive in the south, centering on the ancient city of Hue.  Their plan was to generate a general uprising in the South, destroying ARVN and driving the Americans from the country.  They captured and occupied Hue, but the general uprising they’d planned did not happen.  The American troops and their allies fought back, taking and delivering heavy losses, and eventually drove the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong from the city.  The city was destroyed, as was the American war effort.  Even Walter Cronkite, the venerable newsman, conceded and broadcast that the war could not be won.  President Johnson conceded that if he had lost Cronkite, he had lost America.  Hue was the turning point.  It revealed shortcomings in American intelligence, tactics and strategy.  After Hue and the Tet Offensive, Americans stopped talking about victory and began to speak of negotiations with the North and of peace with honor.  It would take several more years until Nixon and Kissinger were able to extricate America from the war and the North Vietnamese conquered the South.  Watergate was one result.  Hue changed American history.

Our next meeting will be on October 18th, 2018.  The book to be discussed, Sons and Soldiers: the untold story of the Jews who escaped the Nazis and returned with the U. S. Army to fight Hitler by Bruce Henderson, is available at the Circulation Desk.  All are welcome.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Just the Facts: Book Discussion August 24, 2018

On a beautiful late summer night, six people took time off from their yards to attend the book discussion group.  Their presence, as always, was much appreciated.

Our book last night was Radium Girls: the dark story of America’s shining women by Kate Moore.  When radium was discovered, it was considered  something of a wonder drug with the ability to cure tumors and, if ingested in minute quantities, create a healthful glow.  It also had industrial uses, the most important being to create luminescent numbers and letters on watch and clock dial faces and on the dial faces of aircraft and automobiles.  The workers who did the painting were almost exclusively women who were taught the technique of “lip-pointing.”  The women would dip their brushes into a radium solution prepared by their male managers and then create a sharp tip by twirling the brush between their lips.  In addition, since the employment was based on piece work, they were encouraged to keep working at their tables even during meal breaks, thus ingesting more radium.  The pay was lucrative and the employed women felt lucky to have the jobs and even enjoyed that their clothing glowed in the dark when they made their ways home.  All was well until some women began to suffer mysterious pains in their mouths and began to lose teeth as well as part of their jaws.  Many developed hideous tumors on their extremities and more than a few died.  Lawsuits began between the United States Radium Corporation and the women.  The issue was radium poisoning, the company claiming it was safe and the women and their lawyers contending it was lethal.  Our conversation centered on the relationship of employers and employees and who, ultimately, is responsible for worker safety, then and now.  Our own experiences played a major role in the conversation.

Our next meeting will be on September 27, 2018.  The book to be discussed, Hue 1968: a turning point of the American war in Vietnam by Mark Bowden, is available at the Circulation Desk.  All are welcome.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Adult 2018 Summer Reading Club

Title: The Middleman
Author: Olen Steinhauer
Review: When 400 people disappear on the same day and leave no trace, the FBI investigates. A popular movement called the Massive Brigade is at the heart of it. But what is it really? The agent in charge is determined to find out. And she does!
Rating: 3

Title: I've Been Thinking...
Author: Maria Shriver
Review: Growing up in the Kennedy shadow, being California's First Lady and most importantly, a mother - Maria brings meditations and prayers to anyone that needs to recharge and regroup and move forward in their life with gratitude.
Rating: 2.5

Title: What I Know for Sure
Author: Oprah Winfrey
Review: In true "Oprah" style she brings thoughts, advice and ideas based on her life and experiences.  Thought provoking at times

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

2018 Adult Summer Reading Club

Title: The Dry
Author: Jane Harper
Review: With no rain, this small Australian town is ready to ignite. And so are its inhabitants. When Aaron  returns for his best friends funeral, he finds all the answers to all the old mysteries. A well written mystery.
Rating: 5