We had a large group this month although some were joining us via Zoom. We had a new reader, Beth, joining us from Colorado. She recently retired and is looking for more things to do.

Rodney needed to leave early, so he started us off with The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare by G.K. Chesterton. Written in 1908, this is a story of a group of seven anarchists in London, each named for a day of the week. Chesterton wrote the book “to expose moral relativism and parlor nihilism as the devils they are.” Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution 1863–1877 by Eric Foner recounts America’s most confusing period of U.S. history, with money being a driving factor. The Panic of 1873 ultimately put an end to Reconstruction since no one had any money to spend or invest. Rodney has previously written about the Panic of 1873.

Beth shared her thoughts on Growing Up Human: The Evolution of Childhood by Brenna Hassett. This book explores how our evolutionary history has shaped a phenomenon every reader will have experienced — childhood. Some of the group had read an earlier book by the author, Built on Bones: 15,000 years of Urban Life and Death.

Cynthia had seen Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz on PBS. Later read the book. She thought that just reading the book would have been confusing. The book has a “story within a story” setup. The TV show was better. (Coleen concurs. Skip the book. Watch the TV show.) Celine by Peter Heller was chosen by Cynthia because the author has the same name as her son. Celine is an elegant, aristocratic private eye who specializes in reuniting families. This case involves looking for a nature photographer who went missing on the border of Montana and Wyoming, presumably mauled by a grizzly. Celine and the man’s daughter try to find out exactly what happened. Sparring Partners by John Grisham is a collection of three novellas. The law is a common theme, but each story is a separate situation.

Peggy started us off with The Maid by Nita Prose. Molly is awkward socially but enjoys her job as a hotel maid. One day she discovers one of the guests dead in his bed. Due to Molly’s demeanor, the police suspect her. She and her friends must discover what happened. Won the best mystery vote on Good Reads. Finale: Late Conversations with Stephen Sondheim by D. T. Max, was originally to be an article about the process of writing and staging a show. Ultimately, the show was not produced for various reasons, including Sondheim’s death. The interviews were made into this book. The Grimkes: The Legacy of Slavery in an American Family by Kerri K. Greenidge is about the lives of two sisters who objected to the owning of slaves. They left their family, moved to Philadelphia, and worked as abolitionists. A fictionalized version of their lives was written by Sue Monk Kidd, The Invention of Wings. Inspired by Kat’s report last month, Peggy read The Revolutionary: Samuel Adams by Stacy Schiff.

Kat read Believing: Our 30 Year Journey to End Gender Violence by Anita Hill. Next up was Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, A Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill by Candice Millard. Kat found it more of a factual account with not much analysis of what happened. Last was A Great Current Running: The U. S.-Russia Lena River Expedition with Lena Reunion by C. W. Gusewelle. This was Kat’s first experience reading Gusewelle, and she really enjoyed the book. The book chronicles a journey made in Siberia in 1991 by several Americans and Russians, tracing the Lena River from its source to the Arctic Coast. A film was made of the expedition that has been shown on KCPT, our local PBS station.

David read The Murder of Mr. Wickham by Claudia Gray. He enjoyed it despite being deficient in reading Jane Austen’s books. Clockwork Angels by Kevin J. Anderson is based on a story and lyrics by Neil Peart of the band Rush. A young man trying to follow his dreams is caught between order and chaos in a colorful world of steampunk and alchemy. There is a rigid Watchmaker who imposes precision on every aspect of daily life.

Coleen only managed to read one book this month. Murder, Once Removed by S. C. Perkins (not to be confused with at least three or four other novels titled Murder, Once Removed!). Set in Austin, Texas, the main character is a genealogist who makes a living doing research and writing up family histories. While researching her latest case, she discovers a daguerreotype showing a person having been shot rather than the family legend that the man had been run over by a horse and wagon. This sets lots of wheels in motion involving senators, professors, FBI agents, ranchers, and more! Entertaining and lots of info about genealogy.

Brad read Tokyo Ueno Station by Miri Yu. The main character is a migrant laborer from northeastern Japan who worked on the 1964 Olympic construction sites in Tokyo. Later he is traumatized by the destruction caused by the March 2011 tidal wave. Next, Brad read Slow Horses by Mick Herron. Slough House is where disgraced MI5 agents go to wait out the rest of their careers. Most still want to be in the action, however. He enjoyed it and read the next three in the series of thrillers: Dead Lions, Real Tigers, and Spook Street. Well written and good stories. His recommendation is that they be read in order, as the author often kills off main characters. Lessons from the Edge: A Memoir by Marie Yovanovitch: The author is a former U. S. ambassador to Ukraine and a witness in the first Trump impeachment trial. Profiles in Ignorance: How America’s Politicians Got Dumb and Dumber by Andy Borowitz: The author is a satirist diagnosing how ignorant leaders are degrading, embarrassing, and endangering our nation.

Sharon joined us later. She read Finding Her Voice: A collection of Des Moines Register columns about women’s struggles and triumphs in the Midwest by Rekha Basu. These are stories behind the headlines showing the evolution of women’s roles in this world. She is also reading The Vanished Series by B.B. Griffith. Set on the Navajo Reservation in the Southwest, the thin veil that separates our world from the one beyond is about to open. Three strangers find themselves on the front lines of a supernatural battle.

Christine joined us via Zoom. Due to technical difficulties, she was not able to share her books with us. Hoping to hear about them next month!

Come see us in January on the second Sunday at 2:00 p.m. for a conversation. Book talk begins at 2:30 p.m. (but come even if you are a little late). Snacks are appreciated but not required — just you and your books!