Recommendations from Wisconsin Jan (her Bookclub’s favourites)

Walls, Jeanette (2009 ) Half-broke horses. Simon & Schuster. A debut novel based on the extraordinary life of Jeannette Walls’ maternal grandmother – a sassy, straight-talking heroine for whom saving lives, taming wild horses and beating ranch hands at poker are all in a day’s work.  Glass Castle, a memoir of Jeanette’s childhood, is also a great read.

Watson, Bruce (2010) Freedom summer: the savage season that made Mississippi burn and made America a democracy. Viking.  Focuses on one key period in 1964. This was a time when progress had been slowed and there were serious doubts about whether the effort to eradicate legal segregation in the South and secure genuine citizenship for its black residents could be won. Watson’s book outlines the opposition and hatred civil rights workers faced in Mississippi, the state that historically had both the largest black population and the ugliest record of oppression.  A companion to The Help.

Twenge, Jean et al (2009) The Narcissism epidemic; living in the age of entitlement. Simon & Schuster.  Narcissism – a very positive and inflated view of the self –  is everywhere.  It is, for example, the value that parents teach their children with song lyrics like “I am special. Look at me”, the skill teenagers and young adults obsessively hone on Facebook and the reason high school students physically beat classmates and then broadcast their violence on YouTube for all to see.  A riveting window into the consequences of narcissism; a probing analysis of the culture at large and a prescription to combat the widespread problems caused by narcissism.

Collins, Gail (2009) When everything changed; the amazing journey of American women from 1960 to the present.  Hachette.  Gail Collins, New York Times columnist and bestselling author, recounts the revolution in women’s lives over the past 50 years.  Begins in 1960, when most American women had to get their husbands’ permission to apply for a credit card. It ends in 2008 with Hillary Clinton’s historic presidential campaign.

Wroblewski, David (2008) The story of Edgar Sawtelle. Harper Collins. A contemporary retelling of Hamlet.  On a farm in remote northern Wisconsin the mute and brilliant Edgar Sawtelle leads an idyllic life with his parents. For generations, the Sawtelles have raised and trained dogs.  But when his beloved father mysteriously dies, Edgar blames himself. Grief-stricken and bewildered by his mother’s desperate affair Edgar’s world unravels. One spring night, in the falling rain, he sees his father’s ghost.  Edgar must choose between revenge or preserving his family legacy.  A literary thriller. Highly recommended.

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