December 29, 2011

2012 Selections Through June

The following books are on our agenda for the first six months of 2012:

THE HISTORY OF LOVE by Nicole Krauss - recommended by Mary Helen Stefaniak when she visited us

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS by Rebecca Skloots - recommended by Barb (this will be our nonfiction selection for the year - unless we choose to read more than one!)

THE SUN ALSO RISES by Ernest Hemingway - Mari and Lisa has suggested a Hemingway book and since Cheryl was the only person to vote in the poll, we're going with her pick

THE COFFINS OF LITTLE HOPE by Timothy Shaffert - recommended by Lisa and we're hoping we can get Shaffert to join us to talk about the book

GENERATION A by Douglas Coupland - recommended by Linda

SO MUCH FOR THAT by Lionel Shriver - Shriver has been recommended by both Mari and Lisa

We talked the other night about some other ideas for 2012 but I can't find my notes! If you recall any of the other titles we talked about, or have any other suggestions, please leave a comment with your name!

December Meeting: The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives


That was one of the words used to describe our December selection, The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives by Lola Shoneyin. Given the difficulty in getting our hands on copies of this book, a surprising number of us had gotten this book read and all concurred that it was an interesting look at another way of life. The book was recommended by Mari, who loved it, not surprisingly given how much she loves books set in Africa.

Some readers were, shall we say, a bit taken aback by some of the baser elements of the book. All were willing to concede, however, that we were reading the book from our largely Midwestern sensibilities and the things in the book may be perfectly normal to readers more familiar with the region the book is set in. The varying narratives, it was agreed, did get a bit confusing, particularly because there were many similar names between the wives and their children. Overall, we all liked the book and were glad that Mari had suggested it.

We met at The Cheesecake Factory and it was a bit difficult to stay on task with so much good food to consider. That and the fact that we had a great turnout, including Barb who we rarely get to see any more! We spent some time talking about books we're planning on reading in 2012 and those that we might be interested in. Our confirmed list is now posted.

November 13, 2011

Let's Discuss 2012

There's a poll in one of the center column for 2012's classic read; please be sure to vote. Mari and I had discussed reading something by either Ernest Hemingway or John Steinbeck which is why you see the two of them featured. If you're interested in something else, shoot me a comment here.

Here's what I've got for 2012 so far:

For non-fiction, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloots. This one has earned universal praise for both its insight into the field of medical research and story of Ms. Lacks family.

As recommended by Mary Helen Stefaniak, Nicole Krauss' The History of Love

So Much For That by Lionel Shriver. Mari and I both thought Shriver's We Need To Talk About Kevin was amazing but I know that's a tough one to read. Still, she's a great writer so let's try this one.

And, in the hope that we can get Timothy to join us, Timothy Schaffert's The Little Coffins of Hope.

We can discuss these Tuesday. And please, please come with any recommendations! I want to make sure we're including everyone in choosing our books!

November 8, 2011


Wanted to make sure you had all seen the article in the Omaha World Herald titled "Cancer Pateint Shows Bravery In Blog" a week or so ago. Such a wonderful tribute to our friend! Even having read the entire blog, even having talked to Eleanor about so much of what she went through, I found myself reading the article with tears rolling down my face. At the end, I guarantee you will find yourself saying "Oh, yeah!"

November 6, 2011

An Evening With Mary Helen Stefaniak

Here we are on our best behavior - wouldn't it be nice to think that we had behaved so well the entire time Mary Helen was with us? Sadly...

Bruce probably found getting us to pose more like rounding up cats. So easy for us to be distracted!

What fun it was to have Mary Helen Stefaniak join us in October to discuss her book The Cailiffs of Baghdad, GA! Having heard Mary Helen speak twice at the Omaha Lit Fest and once at a book signing, I knew she'd make a great guest. When you ask Mary Helen a question, you get so much more than a one or two word answer! We spent as much of the evening discussing Stefaniak's writing process as we did discussing aspects of the book. The time Mary Helen spent as a young person visiting family living in the area that this book is set in inspired her to write a book about that part of Georgia and her own family gave her plenty of detail to add to her characters. But it was the bombing of Baghdad that really set her on her path. How, she wondered, could anyone risk destroying a part of the world that is the cradle of civilization? She became convinced that she wanted to write something that included the heritage of Baghdad. But how to tie it in with this family heritage she'd been wanting to write about? Along came Miss Spivey, the new teacher to Two Step, Georgia, who had traveled to Baghdad, Iraq and brought that part of the world straight into Georgia with her. Then the problem became finding a way to make everything realistic - happily, in doing research, Mary Helen discovered that there was, in fact, a link between the Middle East and the very area that her family had lived in.

Conversation between the Bookworms and Mary Helen wasn't limited to the book - we also learned a lot about the Ku Klux Klan from her and we talked about her family. As the World Series was in full swing, we also learned that she is a big fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, much to the delight of several of our members! Would we have her back again? Any time!

October 30, 2011

You Asked For It!

The recap of last Thursday's meeting will be posted as soon as I get pics from Cheryl. In the meantime, here's that video of Linda giving it to the State Legislature in her Susan B Anthony outfit!

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***What the heck? What happened to my YouTube link? You'll have to check out Linda's performance at (it's in the Sunday Salon - October 30 post). ***

October 23, 2011

Pulling The Switcheroo

Because of the difficulty in getting a hold of copies of "The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives," we're going to move "The Three Weissmanns of Westport" from December to November. That meeting is scheduled for November 15th. Any volunteers to host?

We'll plan on reading "Baba Segi" for December. Jill got a copy from the library and has read it and she's passed it along to me so I'll get it read. I believe there is more than one copy available from the library so that is the best bet for this one.

October 4, 2011

Upcoming Meetings

Please note that our October date has been moved from Tuesday, October 18th to Thursday, October 27th. This is in order to accommodate the schedule of Mary Helen Stefaniak, author of The Cailiffs of Baghdad, GA who will be joining us that evening. Please, please make sure you have at least read enough of the book to be able to contribute to the conversation!

For November, our selection, The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives, is going to be a bit difficult to get our hands on. It is only available as an ebook from Barnes and Noble, used copies only are available by internet from Books A Million, BUT you can order a hardcover copy from The Bookworm. I'm going that route. I've emailed them to see if I can pick it up. I'll read it soon and be able to pass it along. The Omaha Public Library system does have several copies and all were available as of this evening.

September 26, 2011

Our September Selection - The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht

Well, this is embarrassing! We read the Pulitzer Prize winner most years, but this year we decided to make a change. After Mari had read Jennifer Egan's A Visit To The Goon Squad and hated it, Ellen recommended we read Orange Prize winner The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht.

Two days before our meeting, it was discovered that only one person had actually even started the book. By the time of our meeting, two of us were about two-thirds of the way through the book, a couple of people had started it and a couple of others still had plans to read the book. The two of us that were well into the book did recommend that the others read it. Both of us were interested in the way Obreht had woven so many stories into one larger story and were particularly taken by the story of the deathless man.

Having since finished the book, I stick by my recommendation of a week ago. I do suggest that once started, readers make a point to finish the book relatively quickly as it's easy to be confused about where you are in time and place.

September 25, 2011

Our August Selection - O Pioneers! by Willa Cather

The Omaha Bookworms met in August to discuss Willa Cather's O Pioneers! and, let's be honest, talk about everything else going on in our lives. Since we're located in Nebraska, we've been talking for some time about reading a book by a Nebraska author. When it came time to choose our classic read for this year, we decided it was time to do just that.

"There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before; like the larks in this country, that have been singing the same five notes over for thousands of years."
Cather's O Pioneers tells the story of Alexandra Bergson, whose family has immigrated to Nebraska from Sweden. After eleven years of hard work to reach the point where the family is debt free, John Bergson dies, leaving Alexandra in charge of the farm, her mother and her three younger brothers. John has chosen wisely; Alexandra has a keen mind when it comes to farming. By listening to others and being willing to go against the general consensus, Alexandra manages to tame the land and help the entire family to prosper.

As attuned as she is to the land, Alexandra is not nearly as attuned to her feelings or those around her. It will be years before she realizes that she is in love with long-time friend, Carl Linstrum and even longer before she becomes aware of the feelings her youngest brother, Emil, has developed for a married woman.
"Marie often wondered if there was anyone else who could look his thoughts to you as Emil could."
"It was like a sigh they had breathed together, almost sorrowful, as fi each were afraid of wakening something in the other."
The greatest love story of the book, however is Cather's love of and respect for the land.
"Winter has settled down over the Divide again, the season in which Nature recuperates, in which she sinks to sleep between the fruitfulness of autumn and the passion of spring."
O Pioneers! was a hit with the Bookworms. Cather's writing particularly impressed; all of those who had finished the book raved about Cather's use of language to describe the land and the people who settled it. For a book that we all agreed is an easy read, this book is full themes to discuss: alcoholism, religion, love, temptation, forgiveness and feminism.