February 2011 Book Selection

The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
6:30 pm @ The Queen Vic

Ackerman (A Natural History of the Senses) tells the remarkable WWII story of Jan Zabinski, the director of the Warsaw Zoo, and his wife, Antonina, who, with courage and coolheaded ingenuity, sheltered 300 Jews as well as Polish resisters in their villa and in animal cages and sheds. Using Antonina’s diaries, other contemporary sources and her own research in Poland, Ackerman takes us into the Warsaw ghetto and the 1943 Jewish uprising and also describes the Poles’ revolt against the Nazi occupiers in 1944. She introduces us to such varied figures as Lutz Heck, the duplicitous head of the Berlin zoo; Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira, spiritual head of the ghetto; and the leaders of Zegota, the Polish organization that rescued Jews. Ackerman reveals other rescuers, like Dr. Mada Walter, who helped many Jews pass, giving lessons on how to appear Aryan and not attract notice. Ackerman’s writing is viscerally evocative, as in her description of the effects of the German bombing of the zoo area: …the sky broke open and whistling fire hurtled down, cages exploded, moats rained upward, iron bars squealed as they wrenched apart. This suspenseful beautifully crafted story deserves a wide readership.

NY Times review

Interview with Diane Ackerman

Podcast interview with Diane Ackerman

NPR post about the book

Discussion Questions

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A Year in Reading 2010

The Millions annual Year in Reading feature features contributions from John Banville, Emma Donoghue and Margaret Atwood.

For a seventh year, The Millions has reached out to some of our favorite writers, thinkers, and readers to name, from all the books they read this year, the one(s) that meant the most to them, regardless of publication date. Grouped together, these ruminations, cheers, squibs, and essays will be a chronicle of reading and good books from every era. We hope you find in them seeds that will help make your year in reading in 2011 a fruitful one.

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January 2011 Book Selection

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Monday, January 10, 2011
6:30 pm @ BRC

Lauded for his sensitive memoir (My Own Country) about his time as a doctor in eastern Tennessee at the onset of the AIDS epidemic in the 80s, Verghese turns his formidable talents to fiction, mining his own life and experiences in a magnificent, sweeping novel that moves from India to Ethiopia to an inner-city hospital in New York City over decades and generations. Sister Mary Joseph Praise, a devout young nun, leaves the south Indian state of Kerala in 1947 for a missionary post in Yemen. During the arduous sea voyage, she saves the life of an English doctor bound for Ethiopia, Thomas Stone, who becomes a key player in her destiny when they meet up again at Missing Hospital in Addis Ababa. Seven years later, Sister Praise dies birthing twin boys: Shiva and Marion, the latter narrating his own and his brothers long, dramatic, biblical story set against the backdrop of political turmoil in Ethiopia, the life of the hospital compound in which they grow up and the love story of their adopted parents, both doctors at Missing. The boys become doctors as well and Vergheses weaving of the practice of medicine into the narrative is fascinating even as the story bobs and weaves with the power and coincidences of the best 19th-century novel.

Hippocratic Oath

I swear by Apollo, the healer, Asclepius, Hygieia, and Panacea, and I take to witness all the gods, all the goddesses, to keep according to my ability and my judgment, the following Oath and agreement:

To consider dear to me, as my parents, him who taught me this art; to live in common with him and, if necessary, to share my goods with him; To look upon his children as my own brothers, to teach them this art.

I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone.

I will not give a lethal drug to anyone if I am asked, nor will I advise such a plan; and similarly I will not give a woman a pessary to cause an abortion.

But I will preserve the purity of my life and my arts.

I will not cut for stone, even for patients in whom the disease is manifest; I will leave this operation to be performed by practitioners, specialists in this art.

In every house where I come I will enter only for the good of my patients, keeping myself far from all intentional ill-doing and all seduction and especially from the pleasures of love with women or with men, be they free or slaves.

All that may come to my knowledge in the exercise of my profession or in daily commerce with men, which ought not to be spread abroad, I will keep secret and will never reveal.

If I keep this oath faithfully, may I enjoy my life and practice my art, respected by all men and in all times; but if I swerve from it or violate it, may the reverse be my lot.

About Abraham Verghese

Discussion Questions

NY Times Book Review

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Coverspy.

I had a great blog idea when I worked at the pub – track the names of books and the people who read them while they drank or waited for friends in the pub.  I met one of my dearest friends at the pub because she was reading The Life of Pi and I had loved that book so much that I sat down to talk to her about it.  Lots of people came into the pub and read and in fact that’s why Justin started the book club.

Coverspy tracks books seen on the MTA in New York City.  Sometimes I wish I could use public transportation again just so I would have that extra time to read quietly.

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Literary Sandwiches

From the New Yorker

The Balzac: a hundred Ostend oysters, twelve Pre-Sale mutton cutlets, a duckling with turnips, a brace of roast partridges, a sole Normand, without counting hors d’oeuvres, entremets, fifteen kinds of fish, and a pyramid of fruit, served on French bread with a side of black coffee.

The Catcher in the Rye: meatloaf and ketchup on rye bread.

S’more and Peace: marshmallow, melted chocolate, and an olive branch between graham crackers.

The Miss Lonelyhearts: one slice of plain white bread with heart of palm.

The George Perec: ham on a roll with mustard: hold the cheese, pickle, ketchup or anything else with an “e” in it.

Webster’s Dictionary: two or more slices of bread or the like with a layer of meat, fish, cheese, etc., between each pair.

The Nora Roberts: all cheese.

The Dave Eggers: a broken, runny egg on staggeringly thick bread; served with a guide to its enjoyment.

The Thomas Pynchon: no one really knows.

Lady Cheddarley’s Lover: a controversial abundance of melted cheddar and several unprintable ingredients.

Henry James-wiches:
“The Wings of the Dove”: dove meat, Grey Poupon
“The Spoils of Poynton”: spoiled ham, Grey Poupon
“The Golden Bowl”: french fries and Grey Poupon, served in a bowl.

The Animal Farm: supposed to include a variety of meats in equal parts; in practice, though, mostly ham.

 

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Banned Book Quiz

How well do you know your banned books?

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November Book Selection

Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie
Monday, November 8, 2010
6:30 pm @ TBD

Set in an exotic Eastern landscape peopled by magicians and fantastic talking animals, Salman Rushdie’s classic children’s novel Haroun and the Sea of Stories inhabits the same imaginative space as Gulliver’s Travels, Alice in Wonderland, and The Wizard of Oz. In this captivating adaptation for the stage, Haroun sets out on an adventure to restore the poisoned source of the sea of stories. On the way, he encounters many foes, all intent on draining the sea of all its storytelling powers.

The author of The Satanic Verses returns with his most humorous and accessible novel yet. This is the story of Haroun, a 12-year-old boy whose father Rashid is the greatest storyteller in a city so sad that it has forgotten its name. When the gift of gab suddenly deserts Rashid, Haroun sets out on an adventure to rescue his print.

About the Book

About Salman Rushdie

Salman-Rushdie.com

A Study Guide

 

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