Stranger than Fiction (12/07/2021): Shoot Like a Girl: One Woman’s Dramatic Fight in Afghanistan and on the Home Front

Shoot Like a Girl: One Woman's Dramatic Fight in Afghanistan and on the Home Front (cover)

Shoot Like a Girl: One Woman’s Dramatic Fight in Afghanistan and on the Home Front by Mary Jennings Hegar

“A must-read about an American patriot whose courage and determination will have a lasting impact on the future of our Armed Forces and the nation.”—Senator John McCain

On July 29, 2009, Air National Guard major Mary Jennings “MJ” Hegar was shot down while on a Medevac mission on her third tour in Afghanistan. Despite being wounded, she fought the enemy and saved the lives of her crew and their patients. But soon she would face a new battle: to give women who serve on the front lines the credit they deserve…

After being commissioned into the U.S. Air Force, MJ Hegar was selected for pilot training by the Air National Guard, finished at the top of her class, then served three tours in Afghanistan, flying combat search-and-rescue missions, culminating in a harrowing rescue attempt that would earn MJ the Purple Heart as well as the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor Device.

But it was on American soil that Hegar would embark on her greatest challenge—to eliminate the military’s Ground Combat Exclusion Policy, which kept female armed service members from officially serving in combat roles despite their long-standing record of doing so with honor.

In Shoot Like a Girl, MJ takes the reader on a dramatic journey through her military career: an inspiring, humorous, and thrilling true story of a brave, high-spirited, and unforgettable woman who has spent much of her life ready to sacrifice everything for her country, her fellow man, and her sense of justice.


Next Meeting:
December 7th @ 6:30 PM at Virtual

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Stranger than Fiction (11/02/2021): Say Nothing: a true story murder and memory in Northern Ireland

Say Nothing: a true story murder and memory in Northern Ireland (cover)

Say Nothing: a true story murder and memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe

“Masked intruders dragged Jean McConville, a 38-year-old widow and mother of 10, from her Belfast home in 1972. In this meticulously reported book—as finely paced as a novel—Keefe uses McConville’s murder as a prism to tell the history of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Interviewing people on both sides of the conflict, he transforms the tragic damage and waste of the era into a searing, utterly gripping saga.” —New York Times Book Review

Jean McConville’s abduction was one of the most notorious episodes of the vicious conflict known as The Troubles. Everyone in the neighborhood knew the I.R.A. was responsible. But in a climate of fear and paranoia, no one would speak of it. In 2003, five years after an accord brought an uneasy peace to Northern Ireland, a set of human bones was discovered on a beach. McConville’s children knew it was their mother when they were told a blue safety pin was attached to the dress—with so many kids, she had always kept it handy for diapers or ripped clothes.
Patrick Radden Keefe’s mesmerizing book on the bitter conflict in Northern Ireland and its aftermath uses the McConville case as a starting point for the tale of a society wracked by a violent guerrilla war, a war whose consequences have never been reckoned with. The brutal violence seared not only people like the McConville children, but also I.R.A. members embittered by a peace that fell far short of the goal of a united Ireland, and left them wondering whether the killings they committed were not justified acts of war, but simple murders.

From radical and impetuous I.R.A. terrorists such as Dolours Price, who, when she was barely out of her teens, was already planting bombs in London and targeting informers for execution, to the ferocious I.R.A. mastermind known as The Dark, to the spy games and dirty schemes of the British Army, to Gerry Adams, who negotiated the peace but betrayed his hardcore comrades by denying his I.R.A. past—Say Nothing conjures a world of passion, betrayal, vengeance, and anguish.

Look for Patrick Radden Keefe’s latest bestseller, Empire of Pain


Next Meeting:
November 2nd @ 6:30 PM at Virtual

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Stranger than Fiction (10/05/2021): Unidentified: mythical monsters, alien encounters, and our obsession with the unexplained

Unidentified: mythical monsters, alien encounters, and our obsession with the unexplained (cover)

Unidentified: mythical monsters, alien encounters, and our obsession with the unexplained by Colin Dickey

In a world where rational, scientific explanations are more available than ever, belief in the unprovable and irrational—in fringe—is on the rise: from Atlantis to aliens, from Flat Earth to the Loch Ness monster, the list goes on. It seems the more our maps of the known world get filled in, the more we crave mysterious locations full of strange creatures.

Enter Colin Dickey, Cultural Historian and Tour Guide of the Weird. With the same curiosity and insight that made Ghostland a hit with readers and critics, Colin looks at what all fringe beliefs have in common, explaining that today’s Illuminati is yesterday’s Flat Earth: the attempt to find meaning in a world stripped of wonder. Dickey visits the wacky sites of America’s wildest fringe beliefs—from the famed Mount Shasta where the ancient race (or extra-terrestrials, or possibly both, depending on who you ask) called Lemurians are said to roam, to the museum containing the last remaining “evidence” of the great Kentucky Meat Shower—investigating how these theories come about, why they take hold, and why as Americans we keep inventing and re-inventing them decade after decade. The Unidentified is Colin Dickey at his best: curious, wry, brilliant in his analysis, yet eminently readable.


Next Meeting:
October 5th @ 7:00 PM at Virtual

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Stranger than Fiction (09/07/2021): You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington

You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington (cover)

You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington by Alexis Coe

Young George Washington was raised by a struggling single mother, demanded military promotions, caused an international incident, and never backed down—even when his dysentery got so bad he had to ride with a cushion on his saddle. But after he married Martha, everything changed. Washington became the kind of man who named his dog Sweetlips and hated to leave home. He took up arms against the British only when there was no other way, though he lost more battles than he won.
After an unlikely victory in the Revolutionary War cast him as the nation’s hero, he was desperate to retire, but the founders pressured him into the presidency—twice. When he retired years later, no one talked him out of it. He left the highest office heartbroken over the partisan nightmare his backstabbing cabinet had created.
Back on his plantation, the man who fought for liberty must confront his greatest hypocrisy—what to do with the men, women, and children he owns—before he succumbs to death.
With irresistible style and warm humor, You Never Forget Your First combines rigorous research and lively storytelling that will have readers—including those who thought presidential biographies were just for dads—inhaling every page.


Next Meeting:
September 7th @ 6:30 PM at Eastgate Library

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Stranger than Fiction (08/03/2021): Notes from a Young Black Chef

Notes from a Young Black Chef (cover)

Notes from a Young Black Chef by Kwame Onwuachi & Joshua David Stein

By the time he was twenty-seven years old, Kwame Onwuachi (winner of the 2019 James Beard Foundation Award for Rising Star Chef of the Year) had opened–and closed–one of the most talked about restaurants in America. He had launched his own catering company with twenty thousand dollars that he made from selling candy on the subway, yet he’d been told he would never make it on television because his cooking wasn’t “Southern” enough. In this inspiring memoir about the intersection of race, fame, and food, he shares the remarkable story of his culinary coming-of-age.

Growing up in the Bronx, as a boy Onwuachi was sent to rural Nigeria by his mother to “learn respect.” However, the hard-won knowledge gained in Africa was not enough to keep him from the temptation and easy money of the streets when he returned home. But through food, he broke out of a dangerous downward spiral, embarking on a new beginning at the bottom of the culinary food chain as a chef on board a Deepwater Horizon cleanup ship, before going on to train in the kitchens of some of the most acclaimed restaurants in the country and appearing as a contestant on Top Chef.

Onwuachi’s love of food and cooking remained a constant throughout, even when he found the road to success riddled with potholes. As a young chef, he was forced to grapple with just how unwelcoming the world of fine dining can be for people of color, and his first restaurant, the culmination of years of planning, shuttered just months after opening. A powerful, heartfelt, and shockingly honest story of chasing your dreams–even when they don’t turn out as you expected–Notes from a Young Black Chef is one man’s pursuit of his passions, despite the odds.

“This is an astonishing and open-hearted story from one of the next generation’s stars of the culinary world. I am so excited to see what the future holds for Chef Kwame–he is a phoenix, rising into better and better things and showing us all what it means to be humble, hungry, and daring.” –José Andrés


Next Meeting:
August 3rd @ 6:30 PM at Eastgate Library

Stranger than Fiction (07/06/2021): In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin (cover)

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson

The time is 1933, the place, Berlin, when William E. Dodd becomes America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Germany in a year that proved to be a turning point in history.

A mild-mannered professor from Chicago, Dodd brings along his wife, son, and flamboyant daughter, Martha. At first Martha is entranced by the parties and pomp, and the handsome young men of the Third Reich with their infectious enthusiasm for restoring Germany to a position of world prominence. Enamored of the “New Germany,” she has one affair after another, including with the suprisingly honorable first chief of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels. But as evidence of Jewish persecution mounts, confirmed by chilling first-person testimony, her father telegraphs his concerns to a largely indifferent State Department back home. Dodd watches with alarm as Jews are attacked, the press is censored, and drafts of frightening new laws begin to circulate. As that first year unfolds and the shadows deepen, the Dodds experience days full of excitement, intrigue, romance—and ultimately, horror, when a climactic spasm of violence and murder reveals Hitler’s true character and ruthless ambition.

Suffused with the tense atmosphere of the period, and with unforgettable portraits of the bizarre Göring and the expectedly charming—yet wholly sinister—Goebbels, In the Garden of Beasts lends a stunning, eyewitness perspective on events as they unfold in real time, revealing an era of surprising nuance and complexity. The result is a dazzling, addictively readable work that speaks volumes about why the world did not recognize the grave threat posed by Hitler until Berlin, and Europe, were awash in blood and terror.


Next Meeting:
July 6th @ 6:30 PM at Virtual Library

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Stranger than Fiction (06/01/2021): I Contain Multitudes: the microbes within us and a grander view of life

I Contain Multitudes: the microbes within us and a grander view of life (cover)

I Contain Multitudes: the microbes within us and a grander view of life by Ed Yong

Joining the ranks of popular science classics like The Botany of Desire and The Selfish Gene, a groundbreaking, wondrously informative, and vastly entertaining examination of the most significant revolution in biology since Darwin-a “microbe’s-eye view” of the world that reveals a marvelous, radically reconceived picture of life on earth. Every animal, whether human, squid, or wasp, is home to millions of bacteria and other microbes. Ed Yong, whose humor is as evident as his erudition, prompts us to look at ourselves and our animal companions in a new light-less as individuals and more as the interconnected, interdependent multitudes we assuredly are. The microbes in our bodies are part of our immune systems and protect us from disease. In the deep oceans, mysterious creatures without mouths or guts depend on microbes for all their energy. Bacteria provide squid with invisibility cloaks, help beetles to bring down forests, and allow worms to cause diseases that afflict millions of people. Many people think of microbes as germs to be eradicated, but those that live with us-the microbiome-build our bodies, protect our health, shape our identities, and grant us incredible abilities. In this astonishing book, Ed Yong takes us on a grand tour through our microbial partners, and introduces us to the scientists on the front lines of discovery. It will change both our view of nature and our sense of where we belong in it.


Next Meeting:
June 1st @ 6:30 PM at Virtual Library

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Stranger than Fiction (05/04/2021): Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide (cover)

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof & Sheryl WuDunn

From two of our most fiercely moral voices, a passionate call to arms against our era’s most pervasive human rights violation: the oppression of women and girls in the developing world.
With Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn as our guides, we undertake an odyssey through Africa and Asia to meet the extraordinary women struggling there, among them a Cambodian teenager sold into sex slavery and an Ethiopian woman who suffered devastating injuries in childbirth. Drawing on the breadth of their combined reporting experience, Kristof and WuDunn depict our world with anger, sadness, clarity, and, ultimately, hope.
They show how a little help can transform the lives of women and girls abroad. That Cambodian girl eventually escaped from her brothel and, with assistance from an aid group, built a thriving retail business that supports her family. The Ethiopian woman had her injuries repaired and in time became a surgeon. A Zimbabwean mother of five, counseled to return to school, earned her doctorate and became an expert on AIDS.
Through these stories, Kristof and WuDunn help us see that the key to economic progress lies in unleashing women’s potential. They make clear how so many people have helped to do just that, and how we can each do our part. Throughout much of the world, the greatest unexploited economic resource is the female half of the population. Countries such as China have prospered precisely because they emancipated women and brought them into the formal economy. Unleashing that process globally is not only the right thing to do; it’s also the best strategy for fighting poverty.
Deeply felt, pragmatic, and inspirational, Half the Sky is essential reading for every global citizen.


Next Meeting:
May 4th @ 6:30 PM at Virtual Library

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Stranger than Fiction (04/06/2021): Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster

Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World's Greatest Nuclear Disaster (cover)

Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster by Adam Higginbotham

Journalist Adam Higginbotham’s definitive, years-in-the-making account of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster—and a powerful investigation into how propaganda, secrecy, and myth have obscured the true story of one of the twentieth century’s greatest disasters.

Early in the morning of April 26, 1986, Reactor Number Four of the Chernobyl Atomic Energy Station exploded, triggering history’s worst nuclear disaster. In the thirty years since then, Chernobyl has become lodged in the collective nightmares of the world: shorthand for the spectral horrors of radiation poisoning, for a dangerous technology slipping its leash, for ecological fragility, and for what can happen when a dishonest and careless state endangers its citizens and the entire world. But the real story of the accident, clouded from the beginning by secrecy, propaganda, and misinformation, has long remained in dispute.

Drawing on hundreds of hours of interviews conducted over the course of more than ten years, as well as letters, unpublished memoirs, and documents from recently-declassified archives, Adam Higginbotham has written a harrowing and compelling narrative which brings the disaster to life through the eyes of the men and women who witnessed it firsthand. The result is a masterful nonfiction thriller, and the definitive account of an event that changed history: a story that is more complex, more human, and more terrifying than the Soviet myth.

Midnight in Chernobyl is an indelible portrait of one of the great disasters of the twentieth century, of human resilience and ingenuity, and the lessons learned when mankind seeks to bend the natural world to his will—lessons which, in the face of climate change and other threats, remain not just vital but necessary.


Next Meeting:
April 6th @ 6:30 PM at Virtual Library

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Stranger than Fiction (03/02/2021): The Ghost Map

The Ghost Map (cover)

The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson

A thrilling historical account of the worst cholera outbreak in Victorian London-and a brilliant exploration of how Dr. John Snow’s solution revolutionized the way we think about disease, cities, science, and the modern world. From the dynamic thinker routinely compared to Malcolm Gladwell, E. O. Wilson, and James Gleick, The Ghost Map is a riveting page-turner with a real-life historical hero that brilliantly illuminates the intertwined histories of the spread of viruses, rise of cities, and the nature of scientific inquiry. These are topics that have long obsessed Steven Johnson, and The Ghost Map is a true triumph of the kind of multidisciplinary thinking for which he’s become famous-a book that, like the work of Jared Diamond, presents both vivid history and a powerful and provocative explanation of what it means for the world we live in. The Ghost Map takes place in the summer of 1854. A devastating cholera outbreak seizes London just as it is emerging as a modern city: more than 2 million people packed into a ten-mile circumference, a hub of travel and commerce, teeming with people from all over the world, continually pushing the limits of infrastructure that’s outdated as soon as it’s updated. Dr. John Snow-whose ideas about contagion had been dismissed by the scientific community-is spurred to intense action when the people in his neighborhood begin dying. With enthralling suspense, Johnson chronicles Snow’s day-by-day efforts, as he risks his own life to prove how the epidemic is being spread. When he creates the map that traces the pattern of outbreak back to its source, Dr. Snow didn’t just solve the most pressing medical riddle of his time. He ultimately established a precedent for the way modern city-dwellers, city planners, physicians, and public officials think about the spread of disease and the development of the modern urban environment. The Ghost Map is an endlessly compelling and utterly gripping account of that London summer of 1854, from the microbial level to the macrourban-theory level-including, most important, the human level.


Next Meeting:
March 2nd @ 6:30 PM at Virtual Library

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