No matter how busy you may think you are, your must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.” –Confucius
“A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading.”
“More than at any other time, when I hold a beloved book in my hand my limitations fall from me, my spirit is free.” -Helen Keller
“No two persons ever read the same book.”
“You cannot open a book without learning something.”
“That is what literature offers – a language powerful enough to say how it is. It isn’t a hiding place. It is a finding place.”
Sapphire Girls Book Club Reads 2017
Each month the club suggests a new book that will grow you! The main monthly choice will be a book that is recently published – it will be new to most of us. We’ll also have a bonus book that is either a classic, a not well known read, something to learn from, one we may have missed from the last year or so, or a great re-read for you to consider. These I have read already and include here as they created growth, emotion, depth, learning, contemplation, surprise, or just great reading for me.
Please share your thoughts, reviews, comments below on each book. Add books you’d like to see included as well.
What are you reading??
*2017 monthly posts will be shown on this page. Look for archives for the Sapphire Girl’s previous months/years of book choices and comments by clicking on the tab above for Sapphire Girls, then drop down to Book Club, then slide to side tab for book club archives.
Monthly Choice: Transit, Rachel Cusk
Intriguing reviews brought Transit to January’s monthly choice. “In this second book of a precise, short, yet epic cycle, Cusk describes the most elemental experiences, the liminal qualities of life. She captures with unsettling restraint and honesty the longing to both inhabit and flee one’s life, and the wrenching ambivalence animating our desire to feel real” (BookBrowse Review), and “With the sparest prose, Cusk has again created an expertly crafted portrait in this distinctive novel about the fear and hope that accompany change, and one woman’s quest to conquer them. A masterful second installment to a promising trilogy” (Booklist). The author’s first installment, Outline, was on the New York Times Book Review’s ten best books of 2015. New writer to me and looking forward to the journey! Published 2017 (release Jan. 17). (I will definitely go back and read Outline too!)
Bonus Book (Category: Missed From Last Year):
The Vegetarian, Han Kang
The 2016 winner of the Man Booker International prize, this novel about present day South Korea is, “an ingenious, upsetting, and unforgettable novel” (Publishers Weekly). I missed it last year and am anxious to learn from and absorb it this year.
Monthly Choice: The Book Thieves, Anders Rydell
When the Nazi’s looted homes of European citizens, they didn’t burn all of the books that they pillaged. Many were taken from their owners and placed in libraries in Germany. Much like the tale of the Monument Men who worked tirelessly to return art treasures to their rightful owners after the war, this is the story of one book’s journey to it’s owner’s family. Many of these books still remain in the public library system in Germany. “For those who lost relatives in the Holocaust, these books are often the only remaining possession of their relatives they have ever held. And as Rydell travels to return the volume he was given, he shows just how much a single book can mean to those who own it” (BookBrowse Summary). Published February 2017 (release Feb. 7th).
Bonus Book (Category: Missed from 2015):
The Little Paris Bookshop, Nina George
A deep Montana winter is enveloped around me, and just reading the words, “Paris” and “bookshop” had me at hello (and at the grocery store no less!) Just happened by the book section, and picked it up (can’t remember the last time I bought a book at the grocery!!!) This book turned out to be a New York Times bestseller that I missed, but that Oprah held in high esteem: “If you’re looking to be charmed right out of your own life for a few hours, sit down with this wise and winsome novel.” The main character, the bookseller, is a complicated pent up man, who dispenses “prescriptions” for life from his bookstore on a barge in the Seine. The “Literary Apothecary” is the bookstore that I so wished was real! An easy, fun and surprisingly deep read about books, relationships and life. Love Monsieur Perdu’s (the bookseller) categories of book buyers, and his endless, wonderful, astute quotes as he gives out his book prescriptions. Published 2013, translated 2015.
Monthly Choice: Foreign Soil, Maxine Beneba Clarke
A collection that gives voice to the disenfranchised, and expresses “the global experience with exquisite sensitivity” (Dave Eggers), these stories from the West Indies, Australia, Africa, London are sure to make us see the world’s inhabitants more clearly, more deeply and with more compassion. Just published, 2017.
Bonus Book (Category: Missed from 2007/Something to Learn From): God Grew Tired of Us, John Bul Dau
The author, John Dau is a lost boy of Sudan. Surviving horrific conditions at the age of 13, including war, loss of family, famine, starvation, terror, crocodiles and lions, he has become a Syracuse University student, an American, a husband and a father. It is a story that needs to be told, of immigration where there is no home to return to, no family, no history, no community, no country. The middle of the night attack was from the north where the Khartoum Muslim government sought to eradicate the Christian south, and the resistance there to sharia government and terror. It continues today. Remarkably the author has established two foundations, one to assist other lost boys in America with education, and the second to provide medical care for the Dinka tribes in south Sudan who had virtually nothing in the form of care prior to his building of a medical clinic there. John celebrates America and his life and privileges here while maintaining his Dinka culture and ties to southern Sudan. The book was published in 2007, and while since then, Dau’s home country is still suffering from war leaving much unchanged, much has changed in our country in regards to immigration with this new presidency; Sudan is one of the banned countries in Trump’s travel ban. Today John Dau would not be allowed into the United States.
Monthly Choice: The One-in-a-Millon Boy, Monica Wood
One of the reviews that I read on this newly published in April book (release date is April 8th), expressed that one of the characters, at 104 years old, is in the throes of leaning new things. Loved that way of living of course! The young man who helps her out at home is 11 years old, and their relationship moves the story line. This compelled me, and the reviews were all excellent. Never read this author, but she’s an award winner so here’s to hoping we’ll be entranced!
Bonus Book (Category: Something to Learn From): March, Book One, John Lewis, John Aydin and Nate Powell
This is a beautifully drawn graphic novel about John Lewis’ life as a civil rights activist. It tells his story from that of a young boy who began his life on a sharecropper farm, through the lunch counter sit ins in Nashville that began his life long career in politics, through his continuing work for equal rights. It is also the story of peaceful protest – the way of love and nonviolence taught and promoted by Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This is the first book of a trilogy, all highly recommended. Although it’s written for young adults, all ages can gain a deeper understanding of the long and painful path to freedom that these brave men and women undertook. We cannot forget this story and that the journey continues. Please have your children read it!
Monthly Choice: The Songs of Trees, David George Haskill
Published April, 2017, this new book on the connections between trees, other species, and humans is a song to nature. In the interview I read, the author included recorded tree songs evoking a moving and profound peace. I have a deep love for the tall trees here at home in northwest Montana, and want to know them better, to understand their individual songs. I know this book will help us all deepen our respect and love for the trees around us. Haskill’s prose is like poetry…
Bonus Book (Category: Missed from 2004): Gilead, Marilynne Robinson
A profoundly beautiful and meditative book, Gilead, came to me via a book exchange and I’m so glad it did! I was unfamiliar with the author, but now her story and her characters will be forever with me. Reviews say to read this book slowly, and it seems that is the only possible way to read it – the words automatically slow you down. It is a love story to existence itself, a testament to that rare gift, and also to friends, sons, companions, and to all those small treasures and moments that make up a well lived life. Many deep, timeless questions are explored. Thank you Bernie for picking out this book for me; it is now a favorite! Published in 2004, it is the winner of the Pulitzer Prize.
Monthly Choice: The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, Arundhati Roy
The author of The God of Small Things
has a new offering that seems perfect for summertime reading pleasure. Roy is a superb storyteller, and this has all the promise of an epic tale – of India, of love, of unforgettable characters. Yes, a perfect novel for summer afternoons.
Published, June, 2017.
Bonus Book (Category: Something to Learn From):
The Hidden Life of TREES, Peter Wohlleben
The subtitle “What They Feel, How They Communicate…Discoveries from a Secret World”, contains the essence of the little known mysteries contained in this little book. The author is a forester turned tree mystery lover and his compilation of facts about trees will change how you feel about these majestic creatures forever. Nurturing, listening, smelling, communicating with their neighbors, trees are complicated and aware. With our awareness of these attributes, possibly we’ll have more respect for these beings that are so vitally important to our survival. I had coveted this book and it was a gift. Thank you Elle! Published 2015, English translation, 2016.
Monthly Choice: A Bloom of Bones, Allen Morris Jones
It’s an all Montana authors July, and what a celebration of words and depth and meaning these two bring! Jones is a new author for me, and I’m glad I found him. The book was a staff pick at a combo coffee shop/bookstore/craft/ jewelry/tourist treasure trove in the tiny town of Seely Lake, Montana, happened upon in search of a latte driving back from Helena. Published in December, 2016, it is a story of the land, of isolation, of history – and what one of the main characters has had to live with, burning inside him with each passing season. There is poetry and rich prose here, deeply satisfying.
Bonus Book (Category: Missed from 2002):
Off to the Side, Jim Harrison
Back to one of my favorite Montana authors, Jim Harrison. His writing is just so darned good, I knew this memoir would hold many treasures that would move me. It is pure Harrison – great writing and story telling, funny and irreverent, raw and honest. Yep, I’m a huge fan of Jim Harrison!
The New York Times Book Review calls it “a celebration of the hearty, sensual life”, great for long summer days.
Monthly Choice: Surviving Death, Leslie Kean
“A journalist investigates evidence for an afterlife” is the line that got me to buy this book at that iconic bookstore, Powell’s, in Portland. The author provides compelling arguments by going through a series of scenarios where personalities, memories, and consciousness appear to transcend the death of the body. These include children who remember past lives at a very young age, and describe who they were (then researchers are actually able to find the history of this real person who lived), people who have experienced near-death, mediums who can go into trance and offer a vehicle for spirits to communicate… Because the author is a journalist, she only includes the cases/stories that can be verified, and in the case of mediums, those that work, and that she has experienced herself, in controlled environments. There is no ultimate proof of course, but the book presents a convincing argument when taken in its totality. It’s a surprising thing that we humans don’t talk about this inevitable aspect of our life very much. Having been with my Dad when he made the transition, I can attest to the fact that his spirit remained. Published 2017.
Bonus Book (Category: Missed from 2015): The Carry Home, Lessons from the American Wilderness, Gary Ferguson
I appreciated this book for many reasons – its love story, its heartbreak, its story of loss and bewilderment, and its story of the wild and its ability to sustain and provide healing. I ordered several of the authors books after reading this true memoir of his life after his wife Jane’s death in a canoeing accident. Woven in that story of reconnection to wilderness that was such an integral part of their life together, is the story of the struggles to keep wilderness wild – legally, politically, and philosophically. The depth of the connection to the wilds around Yellowstone that this couple had, and that Gary continues to have, is profound. I learned. Another Montana author that I will read more of. Published 2015.
Monthly Choice: The Essex Serpent, Sarah Perry
Published June 2017, this new book by Sarah Perry had the most compelling reviews. Hadn’t heard of the book or the author previously, but reading, “A novel of almost insolent ambition–lush and fantastical, a wild Eden behind a garden gate…it’s part ghost story and part natural history lesson, part romance and part feminist parable. I found it so transporting that 48 hours after completing it, I was still resentful to be back home.” (New York Times), the author and her new book became irresistible. We’ll ease into re-entry after reading with another good book!
Bonus Book (Category: Something to Learn From): In the Presence of GRIZZLIES, the Ancient Bond Between Men and Bears, Doug and Andrea Peacock
With the recent heartbreaking policy decision on delisting the grizzly bear from protected status from the ecosystem surrounding Yellowstone National Park, and my planned September trip to Yellowstone with my family, I was seeking to deepen my understanding of the grizz. Doug Peacock is another Montana writer, and a respected grizzly expert, and his wife, Andrea Peacock, is a respected journalist. They have written this book in collaboration and their approach provides an incredibly comprehensive treatment to understanding the grizzly. Doug writes chapters that are memoirs of individual bears – or actually several bears compiled – into a history of terrain, family, encounters, struggles, food, fights, teachings, roaming, and personality. I loved this part of the book, and read these chapters hungrily like a true story of someone I really wanted to know. Andrea’s chapters too are full of characters and personalities – human this time, – who all interact in different ways with grizzlies. These include photographers, hunters, politicians, conservationists – all instrumental in the life and survival of the grizzly bear. She is a knowledgeable writer who asks excellent questions. The effect of these interspersed chapters deepened my knowledge of the bear and their environment substantially. Published in 2009, things have changed with this policy of delisting of the grizzly in the ecosystem surrounding Yellowstone. I wish everyone would read this book to gain insights, respect, and honor for this great bear, an essential part of the rare wildness that remains in the lower 48.
Monthly Choice: The Weight of Ink, Rachel Kadish
567 pages of good writing, layered story lines, truths told and hidden, passions realized and denied. A 2017 offering that held me in its sway for several days as I nursed a cruddy cold – a great comfort. The book features the life and writing of a Jewish woman from the 1600’s who must hide her thirst for knowledge and questioning. This is juxtaposed with a modern day professor of history who has spent her career studying freely, while denying her other passions. Well researched and constructed, I felt lonely for the characters after the last page. Ordered a copy for my niece Sarah for her birthday.
Bonus Book (Category: Not Well Know): A Trail Through Leaves, Hannah Hinchman
This is a most lovely interpretation of why to keep a journal, and how to incorporate drawings and watercolors to provide a deeper integration of daily life. This is journal as spiritual enterprise, as an honoring to life itself, as a reverence to the smallest wonders. Hinchman notices everything and takes the care to document the tiniest nuance to the grandest happenings in drawings and writing. The book was full of memorable quotes and insights. “There’s nothing special about that night that I recall – no breakthroughs, epiphanies, or raptures. The words were simply dreamy impressions. But something happened there, some powerful gathering force was present, though I didn’t know it at the time.” and “I think the journal itself has taught me to revere the ordinary.” I savored this book, and it caused me to go back to a daily personal journal entry. Published 1997, and found at my local used book store inside Copperleaf Chocolates on Central Avenue – love that place, I find so many book treasures there!
Monthly Choice: The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine, Mark Twain and Philip Stead with Illustrations by Erin Stead
Because, Mark Twain! How can a newly published book, 2017, be a new offering from Mark Twain? It is a story that started as a verbal narrative offered to Twain’s young daughters at bedtime. It was never published. Philip Stead has brought it to brilliant life this year. Ostensibly, a children’s book, this gorgeous offering is a true gift of words and illustrations to readers of any age. It is just stunning from start to finish, and I know you’ll enjoy all that it has to offer. And did I mention the illustrations? OMGoodness, they are a exquisite accompaniment to the words – this book is truly a work of art. A gift from Elle – thank you my friend.
Bonus Book (Category: Not Well Know/Something to Learn From/Missed from 2009): Immortal Self, Aaravindha Himadra
This is story of the author’s journey to the Himalayan valley of the immortal masters. It is not a novel, but a story of a real journey. The author starts the book with a disclaimer of sorts that states that most will not believe his tale, and indeed it is full of mysterious, mystical, and unbelievable happenings. There are masters that have overcome death and have lived for hundreds of years – and Himadra talks with them, learns from them, and returns to a mortal and mundane life after spending time in their presence. I was drawn to this book immediately upon hearing about it from a friend, Londa. It was published in 2013, so these meetings with the masters were not something from eons ago, but recent. And the author lives on Orcas Island…that resonated too. A rich and expanding read, much of which I did not understand and much of which was certainly in the realm of out of human experience norm. I am intrigued and will check out his website and teaching offerings.
Monthly Choice: The Wisdom of Sunday, Oprah Winfrey
This book was a lovely gift from my Mom, who knew how much I’d love it. As I paged through it, I knew she was right. It is full to brimming with insights from the masters of spiritual thought and contemplation. The subtitle is “Life Changing Insights from Super Soul Conversations”. These profound thinkers and seekers have all appeared on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday show, and the best of their deep thinking are included in these pages. Oprah’s quote on the opening page, “All of us are seeking the same thing. We share the desire to fulfill the highest truest expression of ourselves as human beings.” And the contributions are from an impressive list including: Eckhart Tolle, Iyanla Vanzant, Marianne Williamson, Don Miquel Ruiz, Gloria Steinem, Thomas Moore, Caroline Myss, Thich Nhat Hanh, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Jack Kornfield, Pema Chodron, Deepak Chopra, Dr. Maya Angelou… and many many more. A beautiful book from cover to cover, with lovely photographs as well. Published 2017.
Bonus Book (Category: Missed from 2004, Something to Learn From) , Ordinary Wolves, Seth Kantner
I deeply love reading about environments blanketed in snow as our northwest winter gets started. This book gave me this immersement and so much more. It’s definitely one of my favorite books of 2017. As the New York Times Book Review says, it is “A magnificently realized story”. The cornerstone of the story is the land, with strong supporting roles given respectful attention including the animals, hunting, the Inupiaq, family relationship, snow, sustenance living and the cold.
There are so many glorious quotes that had me putting the book down to absorb: “Don’t chase money, that’s a cheap way to live”, “Don’t kill animals for glory, that makes you the worst kind of bully”; “makes the day feel good, seeing bear”; “to the old Eskimos the land was everything. They knew the land. I think I was thinking there wasn’t time left… to let you grow up and find your own wilderness. City, it’s everything about insulating you from the earth. I didn’t want to work some job just to afford to get out to the wilderness once in a while. You can’t have both. I like life close to the earth. It’s alive. The city made me feel wrapped and a long way from myself”; “inside my thoughts, I realized finally that, more than in wind or cold or Breakup, the power and absoluteness of wild earth resided in its huge uncompromising silence.” I will remember these words. Published in 2004, this was Kanter’s debut novel. Astonishing.
Bonus Book 2 (Category: Not Well Know/Something to Learn From): Zeitoun, Dave Eggers
How often do I have to say this about authors? How can I not have read Dave Eggers before? Published in 2009, this is a true story of one family’s odyssey after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. After this 2017 season of horrific hurricanes that devastated, and continue to impact, Houston, Florida, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Barbuda this book revealed itself as newly relevant. It is heartbreaking. The hero, a father and husband of Syrian heritage, but of deeply American nationalism, heart, and citizenship, is traumatized by a city demoralized into chaos and inhumanity, and by a political system fraught with prejudice and profiling. It was so hard to read but so well written. The reviews were uniformly stellar. How could this happen in the United States of America? I have no answers, but I learned a lot by reading this book about the realities of that particular hurricane and about life as a minority in our country in the aftermath. Yet another excellent used book find from Copperleaf’s used book carousel outside on Central. I love what my community reads!
Monthly Choice: Green, Sam Graham-Felsen
A new novel for our new year. Will be published on January 2nd (and can be pre-ordered on Amazon), the review below compelled my interest to start the year with this read: “A coming-of-age novel about race, privilege, and the struggle to rise in America, written by a former Obama campaign staffer and propelled by an exuberant, unforgettable narrator.” Race, privilege and the struggle to rise in American – yes, themes that we can all be more aware of. The book has gotten very good initial reviews.
Bonus Book (Category: Missed from 2014, Something to Learn From) , A Plea for the Animals, Matthieu Ricard
Although this was first published in 2014, it was just released in translation to English in 2016, and I missed it. Another gift from my friend Elle, she knew it would resonate deeply and it did. The subtitle, “The Moral, Philosophical, and Evolutionary Imperative to Treat All Beings with Compassion”. How can we not do that? But for those that don’t feel that way, the author makes a deeply compelling argument. The translator Sherab Chodzin Kohn, in his preface, states how well researched the book is, and how it changed him during the process of translating the words. I don’t know how any reader cannot be radically changed by reading this book. Please do read it.
Monthly Choice: Origin, Dan Brown
Disclaimer – do not start this book if you need to accomplish anything else but read! Brown’s suspenseful storytelling has never been better, and the eternal questions of “where did we come from” and “where are we going” form the cornerstones of this new novel. The everlasting division between religion and science has center stage, along with the ubiquitous Professor Robert Langdon, and a smattering of symbology. High technology and AI has prominence too, and the whole tapestry made for a two day read that mesmerized me. It’s not the writing, but the storytelling, and that is first rate – hard to put down. And the fact that all the locations, art, architecture, science and religious organizations are real had me constantly Googling sites in Spain that I was not familiar with and wondered how I wasn’t! I mean, my Goodness (!), Casa Mila and Sagrada Familia by the architect Gaudi, Montserrat Monastery, Chapel Torre Girona, El Escorial, Valley of the Fallen (and its giant cross and subterranean basilica)…and so many more. I loved learning about each of these stunning historical sites and the wonder of their impossibly creative and unique architecture. Published late 2017, I gifted this book to Craig who has read all of Brown’s earlier works, and I devoured it after he read it. Always fun to read the same book and discuss it…