Adult Group Past Reads

Third-Thursday Book Discussion Group past selections: Explore the many titles this group has tackled throughout the years. Start with the last two years of titles, and check back as more past entries are added. Titles are arranged annually and alphabetically by author.



January 2017-May 2017
Ansari, Aziz. Modern Romance. (2015). A Comedian Ansari teams up with sociologist Eric Klinenberg to try to understand how technology has impacted the search for romance in the 21st century. 818.602

Brown, Daniel. The Boys in the Boat: nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Olympics. (2013). The story of working class youths from the University of Washington rowing team who emerge from obscurity and defeat elite international rivals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. 797.123 B

Leithauser, Brad. The Art Student’s War. (2009). The novel follows the life of an art student who comes of age in Detroit in World War II.

Macy, Beth. Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local – and Helped Save an American Town. (2014). Profiles the evolution of Virginia’s Vaughan-Bassett Furniture Company and how the company, its employees and the community were impact by the offshoring of the American furniture-making business, and what its chairman did to fight the trends and save the company. 338.768 M

Nguyen, Viet Thanh. The Sympathizer: A Novel. (2015). An account of a half-French, half-Vietnamese army captain who come to America after the fall of Saigon and tries to build a new life among other refugees in Los Angeles while secretly reporting back to his Communist superiors in Vietnam. Described as an epic of love and betrayal.

January 2016-November 2016
Collins, Paul. Duel with the Devil: the True Story of How Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr Teamed Up to Take on America’s First Sensational Murder Mystery. (2103). An account of a Quaker woman whose dead, mutilated body turned up in the well of Aaron Burr’s Manhattan home in 1779, and how lawyers and political rivals Burr and Hamilton teamed up to defend the young man accused of the slaying. 364.1523 C

Ferber, Edna. So Big. (1924). Michigan native Ferber’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is the story of a gambler’s daughter who decides to be a school teacher in Dutch faming country outside of Chicago in the twenties. When her husband dies after the birth of their son, she works on the farm to provide for her son, trying to maintain their life and dignity among poverty and sexism.

Heller, Peter. The Painter. (2014). A multi-layered novel about an artist trying to outrun his past.  Larson, Erik. Dead Wake: the Last Crossing of the Lusitania. (2015). Larson tells the tragic story of the sinking of the Lusitania by a German U-boat in World War I. Readers get  multiple perspectives on the historic event as Larson uses his trademark skill at weaving together personal experiences, politics and vividly drawn settings. Here Larson writes about the war, submarine technology, the U-boat captain, American President Woodrow Wilson, British Admiralty, and the experiences of passengers and the crew. 940.451 L

Norris, Kathleen. Dakota: A Spiritual Geography. (1993). Norris, whose writings have focused on spirituality, transports readers to the Great Plains, examining her heritage, language, spirituality, and the land itself, raising the contradictions of small-town life on the Plains. 978.303 N 

Novic, Sara. Girl at War: a Novel. (2015). The Croatian civil war shatters the life of a 10-year-old girl who escapes to America. Her past, however, comes to haunt her as she struggles with war-time secrets.

Rutkow, Eric. American Canopy: Trees, Forests, and the Making of a Nation. (2012). Rutkow covers 400 years of American history as he lays out how America has been shaped by its forests and how this valuable material must be preserved. The book makes clear the economic, political, cultural, and environmental significance of the nation’s trees. 582.16 R 

Scherm, Rebecca. Unbecoming. (2015). In a debut novel with plenty of psychological suspense, Scherm details the evolution of a small town girl into a professional international jewel thief.

Stark, Peter. Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson’s Lost Pacific Empire: A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival. (2104). An account of the 1819 expedition westward to establish a trading center in the Pacific Northwest by business magnate Astor. The three-year journey opened up what would become the Oregon Trail. 979.546 S 

Toibin, Colm. Norah Webster: a Novel. (2014). The story of a widow in an Irish village trying to remake her life after the death of her husband.  Weir, Andy. The Martian. (2014). An injured astronaut is stranded on Mars after a windstorm cuts his team’s mission short. Believed dead and left alone in a harsh environment with dwindling supplies, the mission engineer uses his resourcefulness, ingenuity and sense of humor to stay alive.

January 2015-May 2015
Belfoure, Charles. The Paris Architect. (2013)  A Paris architect is paid handsomely to devise secret hiding spaces for Jews in his Nazis-occupied country but struggles with risking his life for a cause he is ambivalent about, until a personal failure brings home their suffering.

Cain, Susan. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. (2012). This book demonstrates how introverts are misunderstood and devalued in American culture. It also presents examples of how to use the talents of introverts to adapt to various situations. 155.232 C

Roy, Arundhati. The God of Small Things. (1997) A story of a family in crisis said to parallel the growing pains of Modern India. At the center of the book – set in the 1960s – are the family’s twins, who try to forge a childhood amid the family’s destruction. The family dynamics unfold at a time when Communism was rattling the age-old caste system. A debut novel by a writer how is a prolific essayist.

Winterston, Jeanette. The Daylight Gate. (2012). This historical novel about the Pendle witch trials in 1612 brings to life 17th-century England during the reign of James I, the Protestant son of Mary, Queen of Scots, a Catholic. One of the novel’s key characters is Alice Nutter, who fights for justice when the women are accused of witchcraft at a time when being Catholic is considered an act of treason.

Yiwu, Liao. The Corpse Walker: Real Life Stories, China from the Bottom Up. (2008). Oral histories of 27 people at the bottom rung of modern Chinese society who were often the most affected by the Cultural Revolution. Among those profiled: a grave robber, a former Red Guard, a leper, a corpse walker who carries the dead to their graves in other cities, and a Buddhist abbot. 362.85 Y

Explore the titles The Salter Center Group has tackled throughout the years. Start with the last two years of titles, and check back as more past entries are added. Titles are arranged annually and alphabetically by author.



January 2017-May 2017
Brown, Daniel. The Boys in the Boat: nine Americans and Their Epic Quest to Gold at the 1936 Olympics. (2013). The story of working class youths from the University of Washington rowing team who emerge from obscurity and defeat elite international rivals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. 797.123 B 

Goodwin, Daisy. The American Heiress. (2011). The story of Gilded Age heiress Cora Cash whose mother is anxious for Cora to have a British title. They head to England and Cora marries the Duke of Wareham and the clash of cultures begins. 

Nicholls, David. Us. (2014). A look at the demands of marriage and parenthood as middle-aged Douglas Petersen tries to recapture the magic with his long-term wife who is talking divorce, and his distant teen-age son. Can a planned trip to European capitals rekindle his marriage and strengthen the family? 

Todd, Charles. A Duty to the Dead. (2009). At the outbreak of WWI, independent minded British gentlewoman Bess Crawford volunteers for the nursing corps, serving from the battlefields of France to the doomed hospital ship Britannic. On one voyage, she promises to deliver a message from a dying officer to his brother. Once she's able to do so, she's disturbed at the brother's indifferent reception of the message, and when an unexpected turn of events provides her with an opportunity to stay with the family for short time, she takes it.

Wilkerson, Isabel. The Warmth of Other Suns: the Epic Story of America's Great Migration. (2010). W Pulitzer Prize-winning Wilkerson details the decades-long migration of almost six million black citizens from the south to northern and western cities in search of a better life. She populates this richly researched history with vivid accounts of three individuals who made the journey, making clear the profound impact the migration had on individuals and the country. 304.809 

February-December 2016

Christie, Agatha. Murder on the Orient Express. (1933). On a three-day journey though the Balkan hills, Hercule Poirot must weed through an array of international suspects to find the passenger who murdered a gangster on the Orient Express. 

Friedan, Betty. The Feminine Mystique. (1963). Views the image of women that prevailed from the end of War War II through the early Sixties, the emerging discontent and the changes that have occurred. 305.42 F

Gottlieb, Eli. Best Boy: A Novel. (2015). Todd Aaron has been institutionalized at Payton Living Center since the age of 11 due to his autism. Despite occupational thoughts about living back home, Todd is mostly content at Payton, where he’s something of an ambassador to new residents. But when a series of events shakes up Todd’s quiet life, returning home takes on a new urgency.

Harrison, Jim. True North. (2004). The son of a wealthy family of timber barons struggles to reconcile himself with the damage his family has done to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula – a scarring that cuts deeply into the fabric of his own family. 

Helfer, Ralph. Modoc: the True Story of the Greatest Elephant That Ever Lived. (1997). Chronicles the life and times of an elephant and her devoted companion and trainer, who journeyed from a small German circus town to international stardom in the Greatest Show on Earth to a tragic 20-year separation. 791.32 H

Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. (1937). Meet the unforgettable Janie Crawford, an articulate African-American woman in the 1930s. The novel traces Janie's quest for identity on a journey to her roots.

Jessop, Carolyn. Escape. (2007). A woman forced into a plural marriage as a teenager with a man 32 years her senior describes the years of psychological abuse she suffered, her decision to escape with her eight children, and her successful battle with the church over custody of her children. BIO JESSOP

Larson, Erik. Dead Wake: the Last Crossing of the Lusitania. (2015). Larson tells the tragic story of the sinking of the Lusitania by a German U-boat in World War I. Readers get multiple perspectives on the historic event as Larson uses his trademark skill at weaving together personal experiences, politics and vividly drawn settings. Here Larson writes about the war, submarine technology, the U-boat captain, American President Woodrow Wilson, British Admiralty, and the experiences of passengers and the crew. 940.451 L

Walbert, Kate. A Short History of Women. (2009). Inspired by a suffragist ancestor who starved herself to promote the integration of Cambridge University, Evie refuses to marry and Dorothy defies a ban on photographing the bodies of her dead Iraq War soldier sons, a choice that embarrasses Dorothy's daughters.

Wharton, Edith. The House of Mirth. (1905). Set among the elegant brownstones of New York City and the opulent country houses on the Hudson, the novel creates a satirical portrayal of what Wharton herself called "a society of irresponsible pleasure-seekers." Her characterization of the doomed Lily Bart, whose beauty and dependence on marriage for economic survival reduces her to a decorative object, becomes a commentary on the nature and status of women in that society.