First, the good news is that David is finally home from the hospital/ICU/who knows where else. Coleen says he is making some progress, and that the chemotherapy drugs seem to be working. Doctor and therapy appointments will fill his upcoming days, but it is better than the alternative.

In other health news, Kat tripped while at work and broke her elbow! Pins and plates hold the whole thing together. And Beth fell and twisted her knee!

I continue to wonder, after three deaths, a heart attack, a stroke and now Kat and Beth, is the book club cursed? Or are we just getting old?

Back to books.

Peggy steered the online ship while I attended a lecture at the Kansas City Public Library; I only joined the discussion after the lecture was over. Thank you, Peggy.

Beth and Cynthia joined in, but that was about it. You can find the full list of books we discussed on the Mid America Mensa website:

Book Lovers SIG always meets the second Sunday of each month; in this case June 11. We continue to meet virtually while David, our in-person co-host, recovers from his recent stroke. We generally chat for a bit, starting around 2 p.m., then book discussions begin around 2:20 p.m., more or less.

To join us on Zoom, simply click on the link shown below:

You can also open your Zoom app and use these parameters:

Meeting ID: 946 0436 4344
Passcode: 844358

Beth (Zoom)

Gateway to the Moon by Mary Morris. In 1492, the Jewish and Muslim populations of Spain were expelled, and Columbus set sail for America. Luis de Torres, a Spanish Jew, accompanies Columbus as his interpreter. His journey is only the beginning of a long migration, across many generations. Over the centuries, de Torres’ descendants travel from Spain and Portugal to Mexico, finally settling in the hills of New Mexico. Five hundred years later, it is in these same hills that Miguel Torres, a young amateur astronomer, finds himself trying to understand the mystery that surrounds him and the town he grew up in. Beth in the end found herself thinking, “Ooh, I want to know what else happens!”

Natality: Toward a Philosophy of Birth by Jennifer Banks. Few have ever heard of natality, the term political theorist Hannah Arendt used to describe birth’s active role in our lives. In this ambitious, revelatory book, Jennifer Banks begins with Arendt’s definition of natality as the “miracle that saves the world” to develop an expansive framework for birth’s philosophical, political, spiritual, and aesthetic significance. Natality invites readers to attend birth as a challenging and life-affirming reminder of our shared humanity and our capacity for creative renewal. Beth thought it wasn’t as enlightening as it could be.

I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life by Ed Yong. Pulitzer Prize winner Yong provides 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. Multitudes takes one on a grand tour through our microbial partners and introduces us to the scientists on the frontlines of discovery. It will change both our view of nature and our sense of where we belong in it. Beth has all the admiration in the world for science writers who can take complex information and distill it down into something that makes sense in the real world.

Tomorrow Perhaps the Future: Writers, Outsiders, and the Spanish Civil War by Sarah Watling. Talks about women from outside of Spain who went to Spain to write about the Spanish civil war. America, France and Britain sat on the sidelines, as on one side were the communists and the other Franco’s fascists. We all know how that turned out. Germany got involved, as did Italy. This was the prelude to WWII. Beth said it was just one more thing that skipped over in her public education.

Voices Against Tyranny: Writing of the Spanish Civil War by John Miller. Many famous authors of the time thought the war was a big deal, so they went off to write about it.

The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America by Greg Grandin. Looks at the history of the United States as a tale of frontiers. New frontiers kept being “invented”, because that was our safety valve to cast off the people and ideas that we don’t want to talk about, and hopefully a bunch of them will get killed. But in any case, they will be gone. The author looks at the difference between those sent to Australia and those sent to America.

The Way of the Bear: A Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito Novel (Book 8) by Anne Hillerman. Beth thought it was a fun read, and that Anne had finally captured the voices of the characters created by her father, Tony.

Peggy (Zoom)

Black Tudors, by Miranda Kaufman, Africans who lived in Tudor England were nominally free. This is the story of ten men and women with various trades — musician, diver, pirate — and their lives.

The Turncoat’s Widow and The Counterfeit Wife, by Mally Becker. First two books in a historical mystery series set in the Revolutionary War.

Romantic Comedy and You Think It, I’ll Say It, by Curtis Sittenfield. Romantic Comedy is set in Kansas City and follows a writer on a SNL-type show who returns home during early pandemic days. (An epistolary romance via email). The second book is a collection of stories that originally ran in New Yorker and Atlantic.

Cynthia (Zoom)

Death of a Gossip and Death of a Cad, the first two Hamish MacBeth murder mysteries by M.C. Beaton
The Mayor of MacDougal Street: A Memoir by Dave Van Ronk and Elijah Wald
The Making of Another Motion Picture Masterpiece by Tom Hanks

Brad (Zoom)

The Last by Hanna Jameson. It’s the end of the world as we know it. A history professor is attending a conference at a past-its-prime resort in rural Switzerland. Suddenly cell phones start buzzing with news alerts. There has been an attack on Washington, D.C. A nuclear attack. Then London, Paris, Munich. Most of the resort empties out, with people attempting to reach their loved ones, but 20 remain behind. If things weren’t bad enough, a young girl is found murdered. Who do you trust? Fingers are pointed. Sides are chosen. Yikes! What happens? I’m not gonna tell; you’ll have to read it yourself.

Zoe’s Tale (Old Man’s War, #4) by John Scalzi. Same story from book three, only this time told from the viewpoint of teenager Zoe, the stepdaughter of the main protagonist in this series. The genius of Scalzi is that he can write in the voice of a hardened military veteran, then the voice of the young girl, and both are believable. Such a good writer.

Everybody Knows by Jordan Harper. Another suspense novel. One of the protagonists works in a PR firm that handles dirty jobs, keeping their clients’ names out of the tabloids when bad things happen. Except this time a 14-year-old girl is pregnant, and forces larger than one imagines take over. A dirty, sordid story based in Hollywood. Great writing, good character development.

Michael was not able to attend, as he was visiting relatives out of state. The book he most recently read is Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut. He is looking forward to rereading Welcome to the Monkeyhouse by Vonnegut, because when he was in immigration jail in Thailand one of his students brought him a copy of that book to read.


The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin *****
Hello Beautiful, by Ann Napolitano ****
Demon Copperhead, by Barbara Kingsolver ****

Stina has been out on the road with sporadic internet access, but did provide the following list of books read, in descending order of her enjoyment.

The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino — Nearly perfect inverted mystery about justifiable homicide and an intricate cover-up. Surprisingly mathy. Read for Literally Dead Book Club.

Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors by Hena Khan and Mehrdokht Amini — A children’s picture book with absolutely brilliant artwork, great attention to meter, and a glossary. Read for Asian Readathon.

If the Shoe Fits by Julie Murphy. Light rom-com set on a “Bachelor” type reality TV show. Great fat rep and overall attention to diversity without feeling like the author was ticking marginalized identities off a list.

The Feast of the Moon by Jeremy Lambert — Short graphic novel prequel to the new D&D movie. Also includes a Xenk story by Ellen Boener. A fun little peek at the characters’ backstories.

The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard — A neat little deep space Sherlockian tale featuring a ship mind brewer in the Watson role. Read for Strange Worlds Book Club and Asian Readathon.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding — Interesting to read the story behind all the allusions. Read for Mysterious MAYhem Readathon.

Not particularly recommended but I enjoyed:

A Peculiar Combination by Ashley Weaver — Read for Traps and Trench Coats Book Club
The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide — Read for Mysterious MAYhem Readathon
Less by Andrew Sean Greer — Read for Reading the Rainbow Book Club
The Wehrwolf by Alma Katsu

Not Recommended:

Code by Angie Thompson — Read for Mysterious MAYhem Readathon
Whisper Down the Lane by Clay McLeod Chapman — Read for Literally Dead Book Club
Rocco Adventures in Italy: At the Beach by Rina Fuda Loccisano