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VB Reads...General Literature

Discuss books from a variety of genres at 7pm, the first Monday of each month. Authors DO NOT attend.

Monday, December 2, 7:00pm

How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence by Michael Pollan

A unique and elegant blend of science, memoir, travel writing, history, and medicine, How to Change Your Mind is a triumph of participatory journalism. By turns dazzling and edifying, it is the gripping account of a journey to an exciting and unexpected new frontier in our understanding of the mind, the self, and our place in the world. The true subject of Pollan's "mental travelogue" is not just psychedelic drugs but also the eternal puzzle of human consciousness and how, in a world that offers us both suffering and joy, we can do our best to be fully present and find meaning in our lives.

How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9781594204227
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Penguin Press - May 15th, 2018

Monday, January 6, 7:00pm

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

In Evicted, Princeton sociologist and MacArthur “Genius” Matthew Desmond follows eight families in Milwaukee as they each struggle to keep a roof over their heads. Hailed as “wrenching and revelatory” (The Nation), “vivid and unsettling” (New York Review of Books), Evicted transforms our understanding of poverty and economic exploitation while providing fresh ideas for solving one of twenty-first-century America’s most devastating problems. Its unforgettable scenes of hope and loss remind us of the centrality of home, without which nothing else is possible. 

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780553447453
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Broadway Books - February 28th, 2017

Monday, February 3, 7:00pm

To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey

In the winter of 1885, decorated war hero Colonel Allen Forrester leads a small band of men on an expedition that has been deemed impossible: to venture up the Wolverine River and pierce the vast, untamed Alaska Territory. Leaving behind Sophie, his newly pregnant wife, Colonel Forrester records his extraordinary experiences in hopes that his journal will reach her if he doesn't return--once he passes beyond the edge of the known world, there's no telling what awaits him.

The Wolverine River Valley is not only breathtaking and forbidding but also terrifying in ways that the colonel and his men never could have imagined. As they map the territory and gather information on the native tribes, whose understanding of the natural world is unlike anything they have ever encountered, Forrester and his men discover the blurred lines between human and wild animal, the living and the dead. And while the men knew they would face starvation and danger, they cannot escape the sense that some greater, mysterious force threatens their lives.

Meanwhile, on her own at Vancouver Barracks, Sophie chafes under the social restrictions and yearns to travel alongside her husband. She does not know that the winter will require as much of her as it does her husband, that both her courage and faith will be tested to the breaking point. Can her exploration of nature through the new art of photography help her to rediscover her sense of beauty and wonder?

The truths that Allen and Sophie discover over the course of that fateful year change both of their lives--and the lives of those who hear their stories long after they're gone--forever.

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To the Bright Edge of the World: A Novel Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9780316242837
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Back Bay Books - August 29th, 2017

Monday, March 2, 7:00pm

Milkman by Anna Burns

In an unnamed city, middle sister stands out for the wrong reasons. She reads while walking, for one. And she has been taking French night classes downtown. So when a local paramilitary known as the milkman begins pursuing her, she suddenly becomes “interesting,” the last thing she ever wanted to be. Despite middle sister’s attempts to avoid him—and to keep her mother from finding out about her maybe-boyfriend—rumors spread and the threat of violence lingers. Milkman is a story of the way inaction can have enormous repercussions, in a time when the wrong flag, wrong religion, or even a sunset can be subversive. Told with ferocious energy and sly, wicked humor, Milkman establishes Anna Burns as one of the most consequential voices of our day.

Milkman: A Novel Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781644450000
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Graywolf Press - December 4th, 2018

Monday, April 6, 7:00pm

Futureface: A Family Mystery, an Epic Quest, and the Secret to Belonging by Alex Wagner

The daughter of a Burmese mother and a white American father, Alex Wagner grew up thinking of herself as a “futureface”—an avatar of a mixed-race future when all races would merge into a brown singularity. But when one family mystery leads to another, Wagner’s post-racial ideals fray as she becomes obsessed with the specifics of her own family’s racial and ethnic history.

Drawn into the wild world of ancestry, she embarks upon a quest around the world—and into her own DNA—to answer the ultimate questions of who she really is and where she belongs. The journey takes her from Burma to Luxembourg, from ruined colonial capitals with records written on banana leaves to Mormon databases, genetic labs, and the rest of the twenty-first-century genealogy complex. But soon she begins to grapple with a deeper question: Does it matter? Is our enduring obsession with blood and land, race and identity, worth all the trouble it’s caused us?

Wagner weaves together fascinating history, genetic science, and sociology but is really after deeper stuff than her own ancestry: in a time of conflict over who we are as a country, she tries to find the story where we all belong.

Futureface: A Family Mystery, an Epic Quest, and the Secret to Belonging Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9780812987508
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: One World - January 8th, 2019

Monday, May 4, 7:00pm

Infinite Detail by Tim Maughan

BEFORE: In Bristol’s center lies the Croft, a digital no-man’s-land cut off from the surveillance, Big Data dependence, and corporate-sponsored, globally hegemonic aspirations that have overrun the rest of the world. Ten years in, it’s become a center of creative counterculture. But it’s fraying at the edges, radicalizing from inside. How will it fare when its chief architect, Rushdi Mannan, takes off to meet his boyfriend in New York City—now the apotheosis of the new techno-utopian global metropolis?

AFTER: An act of anonymous cyberterrorism has permanently switched off the Internet. Global trade, travel, and communication have collapsed. The luxuries that characterized modern life are scarce. In the Croft, Mary—who has visions of people presumed dead—is sought out by grieving families seeking connections to lost ones. But does Mary have a gift or is she just hustling to stay alive? Like Grids, who runs the Croft’s black market like personal turf. Or like Tyrone, who hoards music (culled from cassettes, the only medium to survive the crash) and tattered sneakers like treasure.

The world of Infinite Detail is a small step shy of our own: utterly dependent on technology, constantly brokering autonomy and privacy for comfort and convenience. With Infinite Detail, Tim Maughan makes the hitherto-unimaginable come true: the End of the Internet, the End of the World as We Know It.

Infinite Detail: A Novel Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780374175412
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: MCD x FSG Originals - March 5th, 2019

Monday, June 1, 7:00pm

Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry

Orphaned at age ten, Jayber Crow's acquaintance with loneliness and want have made him a patient observer of the human animal, in both its goodness and frailty.

He began his search as a "pre-ministerial student" at Pigeonville College. There, freedom met with new burdens and a young man needed more than a mirror to find himself. But the beginning of that finding was a short conversation with "Old Grit," his profound professor of New Testament Greek.
"You have been given questions to which you cannot be given answers. You will have to live them out--perhaps a little at a time."
"And how long is that going to take?"
"I don't know. As long as you live, perhaps."
"That could be a long time."
"I will tell you a further mystery," he said. "It may take longer."

Wendell Berry's clear-sighted depiction of humanity's gifts--love and loss, joy and despair--is seen though his intimate knowledge of the Port William Membership.

Jayber Crow (Port William) Cover Image
$15.95
ISBN: 9781582431604
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Counterpoint LLC - August 30th, 2001

Monday, July 6, 7:00pm

The Train to Crystal City: FDR's Secret Prisoner Exchange Program and America's Only Family Internment Camp During World War II by Jan Jarboe Russell

The New York Times bestselling dramatic and never-before-told story of a secret FDR-approved American internment camp in Texas during World War II: “A must-read….The Train to Crystal City is compelling, thought-provoking, and impossible to put down” (Star-Tribune, Minneapolis).

During World War II, trains delivered thousands of civilians from the United States and Latin America to Crystal City, Texas. The trains carried Japanese, German, and Italian immigrants and their American-born children. The only family internment camp during the war, Crystal City was the center of a government prisoner exchange program called “quiet passage.” Hundreds of prisoners in Crystal City were exchanged for other more ostensibly important Americans—diplomats, businessmen, soldiers, and missionaries—behind enemy lines in Japan and Germany.

“In this quietly moving book” (The Boston Globe), Jan Jarboe Russell focuses on two American-born teenage girls, uncovering the details of their years spent in the camp; the struggles of their fathers; their families’ subsequent journeys to war-devastated Germany and Japan; and their years-long attempt to survive and return to the United States, transformed from incarcerated enemies to American loyalists. Their stories of day-to-day life at the camp, from the ten-foot high security fence to the armed guards, daily roll call, and censored mail, have never been told.

Combining big-picture World War II history with a little-known event in American history, The Train to Crystal City reveals the war-time hysteria against the Japanese and Germans in America, the secrets of FDR’s tactics to rescue high-profile POWs in Germany and Japan, and above all, “is about identity, allegiance, and home, and the difficulty of determining the loyalties that lie in individual human hearts” (Texas Observer).

The Train to Crystal City: FDR's Secret Prisoner Exchange Program and America's Only Family Internment Camp During World War II Cover Image
$19.00
ISBN: 9781451693676
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Scribner - January 5th, 2016

Monday, August 3, 7:00pm

The Sasquatch Hunter's Almanac by Sharma Shields

Eli Roebuck was nine years old when his mother walked off into the woods with "Mr. Krantz," a large, strange, hairy man who may or may not be a sasquatch. What Eli knows for certain is that his mother went willingly, leaving her only son behind. For the rest of his life, Eli is obsessed with the hunt for the bizarre creature his mother chose over him, and we watch it affect every relationship he has in his long life--with his father, with both of his wives, his children, grandchildren, and colleagues. We follow all of the Roebuck family members, witnessing through each of them the painful, isolating effects of Eli's maniacal hunt, and find that each Roebuck is battling a monster of his or her own, sometimes literally. The magical world Shields has created is one of unicorns and lake monsters, ghosts and reincarnations, tricksters and hexes. At times charming, as when young Eli meets the eccentric, extraordinary Mr. Krantz, and downright horrifying at others, The Sasquatch Hunter's Almanac is boldly imaginative throughout, and proves to be a devastatingly real portrait of the demons that we as human beings all face.

The Sasquatch Hunter's Almanac: A Novel Cover Image
$20.00
ISBN: 9781627791991
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Holt Paperbacks - January 27th, 2015

Monday, September 7, 7:00pm

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Monday, October 5, 7:00pm

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance

Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans. The disintegration of this group, a process that has been slowly occurring now for more than forty years, has been reported with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.

The Vance family story begins hopefully in postwar America. J. D.’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love,” and moved north from Kentucky’s Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually one of their grandchildren would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of success in achieving generational upward mobility. But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that J.D.'s grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, never fully escaping the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. With piercing honesty, Vance shows how he himself still carries around the demons of his chaotic family history.

A deeply moving memoir, with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country.

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9780062300553
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper Paperbacks - May 1st, 2018

Monday, November 2, 7:00pm

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.

Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780812984965
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Spiegel & Grau - August 18th, 2015

Monday, December 7, 7:00pm

Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations by Georgina Howell

She has been called the female Lawrence of Arabia, which, while not inaccurate, fails to give Gertrude Bell her due. She was at one time the most powerful woman in the British Empire: a nation builder, the driving force behind the creation of modern-day Iraq. Born in 1868 into a world of privilege, Bell turned her back on Victorian society, choosing to read history at Oxford and going on to become an archaeologist, spy, Arabist, linguist, author (of Persian PicturesThe Desert and the Sown, and many other collections), poet, photographer, and legendary mountaineer (she took off her skirt and climbed the Alps in her underclothes).

She traveled the globe several times, but her passion was the desert, where she traveled with only her guns and her servants. Her vast knowledge of the region made her indispensable to the Cairo Intelligence Office of the British government during World War I. She advised the Viceroy of India; then, as an army major, she traveled to the front lines in Mesopotamia. There, she supported the creation of an autonomous Arab nation for Iraq, promoting and manipulating the election of King Faisal to the throne and helping to draw the borders of the fledgling state.

Gertrude Bell, vividly told and impeccably researched by Georgina Howell, is a richly compelling portrait of a woman who transcended the restrictions of her class and times, and in so doing, created a remarkable and enduring legacy.

Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780374531355
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Sarah Crichton Books - April 29th, 2008