Books on the Coffeetable
The Last Thursday Book Club

We know next to nothing about the following books, but that does not preclude us from highly recommending them.

Books Suggested in 2017

The Land at the End of the World: A Novel     Paperback – June 25, 2012;  224 pages

by António Lobo Antunes (Author), Margaret Jull Costa (Translator)

Author Antonio Lobo Antunes depicts the life of a newly graduated Lisbon physician who has been sent to Angola from 1971 - 1973, during Portugal's war to preserve its colonies in Africa. Written in 1979 and newly translated by the internationally honored Margaret Jull Costa, the novel opens six years after the speaker has returned to Lisbon from Angola still unable to come to grips with the traumas he faced there. 
The intensity of these feelings and images belie the usual objectivity of a novelist. Like his speaker, the author, too, was a young physician when he was sent to perform military service in Angola from 1971 - 1973, and though this is considered a novel, it is obviously extremely autobiographical.

Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free     Paperback – September 1, 2015    336  pages

by Héctor Tobar      A Finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award

“Héctor Tobar takes us so far down into the story and lives of the Chilean miners that his reconstruction of a workplace disaster becomes a riveting meditation on universal human themes. 
Deep Down Dark is an extraordinary piece of work.” ―George Packer

Get in Trouble: Stories     Paperback – February 9, 2016   368 pages    by Kelly Link   [runner-up for 2016 Pulitzer for fiction]

When the term magical realism is mentioned, it’s not uncommon for it to conjure an eye roll. There is a limited but esteemed number of writers who can pull this genre off well, and Kelly Link fits in nicely among them. She has drawn comparisons to likes of Margaret Atwood, and I would even say Angela Carter. To be sure, Get in Trouble possesses the same sort of dark, crackling wit that is a signature of their works. But Link is in a league all her own. Standouts in this short story collection are the “Summer People,” where an unwitting caretaker finds herself beholden to mischievous fairies (just go with me, here), the melancholy “Origin Story” about a woman and her erstwhile lover (who happens to be a superhero), and the less wondrously weird but affecting “The Lesson” that follows a worried gay couple anticipating the birth of their first child. For all the fantastical elements, Link’s stories dexterously explore the gamut of human emotion. This is Trouble you will enjoy getting into. –Erin Kodicek 

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis       Hardcover – June 28, 2016 
224  pages  by J. D. Vance

Books Suggested for Men's Book Clubs
Beyond the Beautiful Forevers
Kathryn Boo
non-fiction; follows a family through the horror of life in the suburb of Mumbai airport.
The Road to Wigan Pier
George Orwell
This is Orwell's visit to the world of the poor - in coal mining area.
The Rising Tide Jeff Shaara Jeff Shaara previously wrote Gods and Generals, Gone For Soldiers and other historical war novels.  This one covers WWII in Africa, Sicily and Italy and is meant to be the first of a trilogy with D-Day to follow.  It is more of a history than a novel although he does put words in the mouths of his “characters”, Ike, Bradley, Patton, Gaven, Clark, Montgomery among the high ranks and a few real non coms for the battle scenes.  Jeff Shaara is the son of Michael Shaara who wrote the best of the best “The Killer Angels” and has used his fathers style.  Hell of a read.  (Dec. 2006, Steve Coester, USNA '63)
Charlie Wilson's War
Wilson graduated 8th from the bottom in his 1956 USNA class, became a Congressman, got on the Intelligence and Appropriations Committees, and with the help of a rogue CIA agent, funded and armed the Afghan rebels during the 80s.  The defeat of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan ultimately led to the fall of the Berlin Wall.  A true story, and a movie is being made about him starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts.  (Dec. 2006, Ollie Donelan, USNA '63)
The Brothers K
David James Duncan (1992) What novel have I read that was written since 1980 that stuck in my head and came swimming back into my consciousness often?  The one that keeps on giving (as "Catch 22" did in another part of my life), is:  "The Brothers K" by David James Duncan.  It is a huge book--part baseball story, part family tragedy, part exploration of the twisted paths of love.  Not only is it a book you can't leave alone while you're reading it, but it won't leave you alone after you finish. (by retired writing prof in CA)
State of Fear
Michael Crichton
What if commonly held scientific beliefs are really nothing but 
inaccurate propaganda- fed by powerful funding corporations?
What if the political arena is fed the same rhetoric,
supported by an ill informed mass media? What if good natured &
famous celebrities spew inaccurate information to their herds of
followers? What if ulterior motives shaped by financial gain are
ultimately the turnkey of knowledge fed to the general masses?
Fiction? Non-fiction? Science fiction? Crichton's 'State of Fear'
challenges our comfort levels and rings our alarm bells.
My Losing Season
Pat Conroy
Conroy takes the reader through his last year playing basketball
as point guard and captain of the Citadel Bulldogs, presenting
all of the conflict and love that have been at the core of his
novels. He recreates his senior year at the famous military
college and tells the story of his heart-breaking childhood and
the events that conspired to rescue his spirit.
McCarthy's Bar
Pete McCarthy
The book’s premise is that you should never pass up the opportunity 
of having a drink in a bar that shares your name. McCarthy goes back
to rural Ireland, to rediscover his Irishness. He is a serious writer
struggling to make himself heard above the many excellent jokes and
this is what makes McCarthy's book so distinctive. McCarthy has such
a genuine feeling for Ireland, Irishness and Irish history that he
can only temper his writing with side-splitting humor.
 Known World

Edward Jones
Fiction from the black perspective in the 20 or 30 years leading up to the Civil War, about black freed slaves in Virginia owning slaves.  
Recommended by Lee Fox of Newton, MA.  
 A Short History of 
Almost Everything

Bill Bryson
Informative, interesting, and very entertaining.  Will probably appeal to the scientists and engineers in your group,
particularly, although it is written in such a way as to
make the evolution of  "conventional science wisdom" and its often hapless propoents very readable.
Recommended by Lee Fox of Newton, MA.
 The God of Small Things
Recommended by Becky Wilson's book club friends at Page 1.  See the Study Guide.   Excerpts follow:  

"Roy's novel was published 1996, quickly became a best-seller, and won the prestigious Booker Prize in October, 1997.

by Arundhati Roy

"Roy often denies in interviews that she has been influenced by Salman Rushdie, but it is difficult to see how she could have avoided his influence, pervasive among younger South Asian writers. Particularly notable here are such typically Rushdean stylistic tricks as capitalizing Significant Words and runningtogether other words. More importantly, her novel is filled with the same sort of insistent foreshadowing as occurs throughout Midnight's Children, and like Rushdie (and models Günter Grass and Gabriel García Márquez) uses an incongruously jaunty tone to relate tales of horror and tragedy. 

"Her most original contribution in this novel is her portrayal of children, entering into their thinking in a way which does not sentimentalize them but reveals the fierce passions and terrors which course through them and almost destroy them."

Sailing the Wine Dark Sea
Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea - Why the Greeks Matter

Thomas Cahill

Author of "How the Irish Saved Civilization"

The Birthday Boys
Beryl Bainridge

"The Birthday Boys" is a fictionalized account of Scott's voyage to the South Pole in 1912.  The reviews are great, and the book is  highly recommended by friends of the LTBC.
The Ice Beneath You

"The Ice Beneath You" - cover

Christian Bauman
First novel:  Boot camp and real-life experiences woven into a novel.  Reviewed on NPR, it sounds fascinating for a Men's Book Club full of vets.

Just as The Things They Carried and Catch-22 spoke to their generations with truth and dark humor, this brilliant first novel defines the experience of war for its era.

Benjamin Jones, twenty-three, discharged after an army tour in Somalia, heads cross-country on a Greyhound, seeking refuge on the West Coast. He has left behind his best friend, Trevor, and Liz Ross, a female soldier with whom Jones has fallen in love. But Jones has also left behind a tragedy -- a horrible, split-second action made in Somalia -- that Trevor, Jones, and the army have implicitly agreed to forget.

Alone on the streets of San Francisco, and then north on the Washington coast, Jones finds that an uneducated ex-soldier is qualified only as a peep show fantasy object or as a hired hand to a bottom-feeding smuggler and pornographer. Recurring visions of his life as a soldier gradually reveal the full truth -- and agony -- of his experience, and a reunion with Liz and a violent confrontation with Trevor bring the young soldier's journey to a wrenching conclusion -- but one not without hope.

At equal turns tense, brutal, and poetic, The Ice Beneath You is a soldier's story for a time when there weren't supposed to be any more soldiers' stories.

The Paperboy Pete Dexter Mystery, but with strong characters, great writing.  Dexter's novels have been called an archeology of the American male psyche.  [also see his Paris Trout].  See Review
Begin to Exit Here - a novel of the wayward press John Welter Laugh-out-loud funny, yet moving portrayal of loneliness, falling in love, and the struggles of an alcoholic trying to stay dry. 302 pgs.  [also his Night of the Avenging Blowfish].  Excerpt.
* Love Warps The Mind A Little  John Dufresne  A novel that begins with an offhand love affair and focuses on painful truths:  for instance, that everybody's going to die, unpleasantly in most cases, but someone still has to walk the dog.   [also his Louisiana Power and Light].  Excerpt. Review. Five copies in RGLS, plus 3 more in Large Print.
Rule of the Bone Rule of the Bone Russell Banks Banks usually portrays the lost, the dispossessed, the homeless, the fringe of society.  'Bone' concerns a ayoung teen who drifts into drugs and petty crime and winds up in Jamaica with a Rasta wise man.  Humorous, compelling, disturbing, insightful. Review
Black Cherry Blues   James Lee Burke In this winner of the 1990 Edgar Award for best mystery novel, Dave Robicheaux, a former New Orleans policeman, is pursued by a psychopath and flees his home on the Bayou Teche, in the heart of Louisiana, to find a new life in Montana. After settling near the Blackfoot River Canyon,
 Robicheaux finds himself smack dab in the middle of an illegal Mafia takeover of Indian lands. As he struggles to expose the truth, he must face some hard facts about himself, especially after the  appearance of an old Cajun friend, Dixie Lee Pughe. 
* Dirty Work 
Father and Son
Larry Brown  A great author that many great authors mention as their favorite.  The first novel depicts two wounded Vietnam War riflemen, bedridden in a VA hostpital, as they talk through the night.  One is black, one white, both from small towns in Mississippi.  Review.   Only two audio books in ABQ library!
 Father and Son describes a summer of hate set in a southern town. 
Money Ball
John Phillips
The story of how Billy Bean took the statistics on baseball players no one else wanted, and formed a club that won 102 games in 2001, lost Jason Giambi to the Yankees and won 103 games the next year.  By the author of Liars Poker.
Why Things Bite Back
Technology bites.  Non-fiction, highly interesting.  300 pages.
The Tipping Point:  how little things can make a big difference.
Malcolm Gladwell
Herpes was at a constant rate in Baltimore for years and years, then suddenly skyrocketed.  Why?   Crime was at a constant rate in NYC for years, and then suddenly plummeted.  Why?  A fascination theory on why things change, and suddenly.
Year in Provence
A Year in Provence

by Peter Mayle

A light-hearted autobiography as well as a travel/restaurant guide and cultural study of the south of France. Peter Mayle, once a British businessman, has finally chucked it all and bought a house in Provence with his wife and two dogs. He recounts a year of their adventures living and working amid the French.

Reading Group Guide
The Last Run
by Todd Lewan

For all of you who've piloted 
or even ridden in helicopter, and those
who have spent time on the high seas
take a look at "The Last Run" by
Todd Lewan.

Nonfiction about Alaskan fishermen
lost at sea in 1997 in 70 ft waves
and 80 knot winds, and the Coast Guard's
efforts to rescue them. It is
along the lines of "A Perfect Storm"

I thought it was spellbinding.


The Killing of History: How a Discipline Is Being Murdered Keith Windschuttle non-fiction; well reviewed in the Abq Journal.  Suggested by the ever-lovely Princess Never Sweats.
D-Day Stephen Ambrose non-fiction; Pulitzer Prize? - club voted high on his "Undaunted Courage" and "Citizen Soldiers" but felt 'Band of Brothers' was not indicative of his attention to detail.
Memoirs of a Geisha  Arthur Golden  "Part historical novel, part fairy tale, part Dickensian romance, Memoirs of a Geisha immerses the reader in an exotic world."  -  NY Times
 Friday Night Lights: A Team, A Town, and A Dream H.G. "Buzz" Bissinger  [Secretary has read and found interesting reading.]  non-fiction:  The controversial and best selling 1990 publication of the 1988 Permian Panthers (Odessa, West Texas) push for the Texas High School football championship.
 Stones from the River  Ursala Hegi  Recommended by near-mascot P. Blide as 'melt you away' writing;  but is this for women or the MOB (Men Only Bookclub) of Albuquerque?
 Wait Till Next Year  Doris Kearns Goodwin Goodwin won Pulitzer Prize for other historical novel, but this is of 'our time' and her love of the Brooklyn Bums, the Dodgers.
A Memoir by Frank McCourt 

McCourt [born 1930] is currently working on his first novel, on the themes of teaching and women.

The sequel to Frank McCourt's memoir of his Irish Catholic boyhood, Angela's Ashes, picks up the story in October 1949, upon his arrival in America. Though he was born in New York, the family had returned to Ireland due to poor prospects in the United States. Now back on American soil, this awkward 19-year-old, with his "pimply face, sore eyes, and bad teeth," has little in common with the healthy, self-assured college students he sees on the subway and dreams of joining in the classroom.
The Great Santini The Great Santini Pat ConroyPat Conroy, South Carolina

Pat Conroy Websites
(428 pgs in paperback)
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil John Berendt
by John Berendt
Comments by LSSD

Other non-fiction, coping books  -

The Promise of Sleep Denment Sleep apnea:  history and treatment.  Reads for the layman.
Numb Toes and Aching Soles: Numb Toes and Aching Soles   Coping with Peripheral Neuropathy John A. Senneff $19.99 (paperback: 336 pgs)

$29.99 (hardback)

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This page last updated:  7 February 2017