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Book Reviews
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2012  
  The End of your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe
  In Defense of Food by Michael Pollen
  Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
  Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  Change Comes to Dinner: How Vertical Farmers, Urban Growers, and Other Innovators Are Revolutionizing How America Eats by Katherine Gustafson
  Summer Book Suggestions from NPR and Alan Cheuse
  All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost: A Novel by Lan Samantha Chang
  Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall
  Dog Heart by Alison Swan
  Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
  Hellhound On His Trail by Hampton Sides


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The End of your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

This is an invigorating and reassuring true story of a son and his mother, who start a book club that brings them together as her life comes to a close. Over the next 2 years, Will and Mary Anne carry on conversations that are both wide-ranging and deeply personal, prompted by an eclectic array of books and a shared passion for reading. Their list jumps from classic to popular, from poetry to mysteries, from fantastic to spiritual. The issues they discuss include questions of faith and courage, as well as everyday topics such as expressing gratitude and learning to listen. Throughout, they are constantly reminded of the power of books to comfort us, astonish us, teach us, and tell us what we need to do with our lives and in the world. Reading isn't the opposite of doing; it's the opposite of dying.

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In Defense of Food by Michael Pollen

Sue's book of the month is In Defense of Food by Michael Pollen. For those who are already inclined to eat healthy, organic and vegetarian, it'll be no surprise that you'll like this nonfiction book. And for everyone else, there are compelling reasons in this book to eat real food. The majority of the book is about the overwhelming number of manufactured foods on supermarket shelves and that are really doing you no favors with their unidentifiable ingredients. Considering we are what we eat, and we are as healthy as the food we ingest, then this book will give you a whole new outlook on the foods you choose to buy and eat.

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Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

Holly's book of the month is Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed. At 22, Strayed thought she had lost everything. Her mother had passed away, her family was scattered about, and her own marriage was unraveling. With nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State--and to do it alone. With no experience as a long-distance hiker, the trail was little more than a concept, vague and foreign and full of promise. This is a riveting true story about a 3-month journey that had her circling around black bears and rattlesnakes, extreme dehydration, and hiking in boots made entirely of duct tape. With its vivid descriptions of beautiful but unforgiving terrain, Wild is a cinematic story.

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Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Christina's Book of the Month is Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. You must read this book. It's as if Gillian Flynn (the author) has mixed us a martini using battery acid instead of vermouth and somehow managed to make it taste really, really good. Gone Girl is delectable and exhilarating and delightfully dangerous. It's brilliant, actually. It's funny in a cimmerian, possible way. The writing is jarringly good, and the story is, well...amazing. Read the book and you'll discover among many other treasures just how much freight and fright this book carries. You will not be able to put this book down

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Change Comes to Dinner: How Vertical Farmers, Urban Growers, and Other Innovators Are Revolutionizing How America Eats by Katherine Gustafson

Gustafson introduces food visionaries like Mark Lilly, who turned a school bus into a locally-sourced grocery store in Richmond, VA; Gayla Brockman, who organized a program to double the value of food stamps used at Kansas City, MO, farmers' markets; Myles Lewis and Josh Hottenstein, who started a business growing vegetables in shipping containers using little water and no soil; and Tony Geraci, who claimed unused land to create the Great Kids Farm, where Baltimore City public school students learn how to grow food and help Geraci decide what to order from local farmers for breakfast and lunch at the city schools. It's a smart and engaging look into America's food revolution.

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Summer Book Suggestions from NPR and Alan Cheuse

July is all about summer books and we've taken a list from NPR and Alan Cheuse. It's going to be a big summer for big broad American literary voices, voices that leap from the page and linger with you, echo through your summer and perhaps even beyond. Here's the list:

Home by Toni Morrison
Embittered Korean War veteran Frank Money struggles against trauma and racism to rescue his medically abused sister and work through identity-shattering memories.

Canada by Richard Ford
After his parents are arrested and imprisoned for robbing a bank, 15-year-old Dell Parsons is taken in by Arthur Remlinger, who - unbeknownst to Dell - is hiding a dark and violent nature that interferes with Dell's quest to find grace and peace on the prairie of Saskatchewan.

Arcadia by Lauren Groff
In a lush, haunting story of the American dream, Bit, born in a back-to-nature commune in 1970s New York State, must come to grips with the outside world when the commune eventually fails.

The Queen's Lover by Francine du Plessix Gray
Pursuing a friendship and then a passionate romance with the young Marie Antoinette, dashing Swedish nobleman Count Axel von Fersen becomes a devoted companion to the entire royal family before attempting to help them escape in the wake of the French Revolution. By the author of Soviet Women.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
When a woman goes missing on her fifth wedding anniversary, her diary reveals hidden turmoil in her marriage. Her husband, desperate to clear himself of suspicion, realizes that something more disturbing than murder may have occurred.

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All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost: A Novel by Lan Samantha Chang

Mama Carol's book of the month is All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost: A Novel by Lan Samantha Chang. This book is absolutely well written, engaging me with so many questions. An exploration of youthful love and ambition and how life rarely turns out the way we envisioned. The story is told in three major sections that eclipse through the years. We first meet Roman, Lucy, and Bernard in the poetry-writing class led by the famous, terrifying, charismatic, and mysterious poet and professor Miranda Sturgis at the renowned writing school in Bonneville. After graduation, we follow Roman as he begins his own teaching career, marries Lucy, and struggles to complete a long-worked-on volume of poetry. When Bernard becomes homeless for a while, he spends several months with Roman and Lucy, so the friends are together again after many years, and their relationships are renewed and undergo changes. Then, in the third section of the book, we drop back in on the group 10 years later for a final look.

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Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall

Our niece Kelly's book of the month is Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall. Born to Run is the one of those books you just can't keep to yourself. It's an epic adventure. Isolated by Mexico's deadly Copper Canyons, the blissful Tarahumara Indians have honed the ability to run hundreds of miles without rest or injury. Award-winning journalist and often-injured runner Christopher McDougall sets out to discover their secrets. In the process, he takes his readers from science labs at Harvard to the sun-baked valleys and freezing peaks across North America, where ever-growing numbers of ultra-runners are pushing their bodies to the limit, and, finally, to a climactic race in the Copper Canyons that pits America's best ultra-runners against the tribe. McDougall's incredible story will not only engage your mind but also inspire your body when you realize that you, indeed all of us, were born to run.

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Dog Heart by Alison Swan

Our book of the month is Dog Heart from our dear friend and poet/writer Alison Swan. This beautiful collection of poems, is as all of her works, is inspired by her muse, Mother Nature. Her latest book Dog Heart is her first collection of poems to be released. They were selected from a decade-long record of rambles she took in the lightly settled landscapes of the Midwest with her dag Keweenaw, who passed away last year at the age of 13.

Here is her title poem, Dog Heart:

Kewee rarely stopped for the camera and so the whole of her photographed life is movement stopped.

I must hold the other images--Kewee resting, watching waiting for me to catch up--in my mind. Impossible sometimes for me, distracted, obsessed, both

The way not to remember, the way to lose things Snow wasn't blowing around in the trees just then Clouds clotted the sky. The near-shore shallows were still and green.

That Kewee and I were there together to see it feels like some sort of miracle, that these feelings keep filling with warmth and carrying me along because the heart I'll never see simply keeps doing its job

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Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Mindy's book of the month is Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles. The story takes place in New York, about Katey Kontent-the young, sharp daughter of a Russian immigrant. An interesting look at a single woman's life in the late '30s, it also takes a look at New York City at this time--a time when things were looking up for some who had lost everything and were building it back.

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Hellhound On His Trail by Hampton Sides

The Electrifying Account of the Largest Manhunt In American History. This book reads like a CSI mystery! In choosing the assignation of Martin Luther King, Sides had an incredible amount of historical documentation at his disposal. This massive body of evidence is the raw ingredients that Sides uses to fire-up a tight and fascinating thriller. Thanks to an unprecedented international investigation and the rich perspective of time, Sides stalks every move of Earl Ray and MLK. This book was a complete thrill to read, not just because of the fascinating story, but also because of Sides' wonderful narrative style. In many ways, this book is less the story of MLK's assassination than it is the story of James Earl Ray.

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