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Books for Lunch Bunch checks out the Dust Bowl and more

April’s Books for Lunch Zoom meeting found some interesting threads between historical time periods, what order books should be read in, and the fact we read more books that are translations than we used to.

Pam read Kristin Hannah’s latest book, The Four Winds, a work of historical fiction as all of Hannah’s books are, set during the American Dust Bowl of the 1930’s. It is a new version of The Grapes of Wrath, and I suspect may cause some to read or re-read Steinbeck’s American classic.

An interesting connection in our group was a non-fiction book Bill had read, The Dust Bowl Girls by Lydia Reeder, the story of an Oklahoma college girls’ basketball team who went on to win the national championship. It brings together the theme of surviving and even thriving in tough times, a great sports underdog story, and a picture of what barnstorming the country was like in 1932. The Minneapolis Star Tribune says that it “did what great sports books do in the end – put the reader in the stands.”

“Hard times” was part of the discussion about why we are drawn to these stories lately. The New York Times said, relative to the Hannah book, “Its message is galvanizing and hopeful. We are a nation of scrappy survivors. We’ve been in dire straits before; we will be again. Hold your people close.”

Deb read Elton John’s memoir, Me, and enjoyed it. She pointed out that John doesn’t hold back on gossipy stories. This led to a brief discussion from Bill who enjoyed watching John Denver’s biography and reading Seinfeld’s Is This Anything.

Sherry is re-reading the Narnia series starting with the first one written, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, prompting a discussion about reading a series in the order it was written and not putting later written prequels ahead for the sake of chronological narrative, an interesting topic.

Several people in the group have read books by Fredrick Backman, whose latest is Anxious People, my most recent read. Backman somehow combines humor, the hidden despair that resides in everyone from time to time, and our ineluctable need for acceptance and belonging into wonderful novels. You likely have read A Man Called Ove. Last month Beth noted that her favorite Backman book is Beartown. I’m already looking forward to it.

The Backman discussion led to thoughts on the difficulty of translating (in this case from Swedish to English) while keeping the funny stuff funny, the poignant stuff poignant and the meaning clear. Look for a whole column on that soon. If you think it’s not that complicated, I point you to the 1611 King James Version alone.

Susan read The Barbizon: The Hotel that Set Woman Free by Paulina Bren, the first history of the famous hotel for women. From 1927 – 1981 (when men were first allowed in), the Barbizon was the residential hotel to live in when women went to New York City to establish careers in the post-WWI era and well beyond. Writers, actors, and other career women – from Sylvia Plath to Joan Didion to Liza Minelli and many more – had a safe place to live that included maid service each day.

Tammy read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott which is now out in the 25th anniversary edition. This is a book to encourage writers – and by extension all of us with a project that seems insurmountable – and gets its name from her father advising her ten-year-old brother who procrastinated on a big assignment about birds, to “Just take it bird by bird, buddy, bird by bird.” Critics have attested that this book still reads well.

Kate recommended Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell and Know by Alexandra Horowitz, and if Kate recommended it, it’s good because she is a Westie dog rescuer, foster mom, and trainer extraordinaire and picky about dog everything.

The library has or can get any of these books for you and so much more if these don’t light your fire. Stop in, get a book, and pick up your new library card.

See you at the Library!

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