The Cabin Book Club
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The Cabin Book Club

Perfect summer reads picked by those who know - teachers!

I’m in a book club. When I tell people that, they react in one of two ways; either they look at me strangely like I’m a throwback to another era and have just entered my jam in the county fair, or they smile, sigh, and say, “I love my book club. I never miss a meeting.” Book clubs, like garden societies and quilting groups, are making a comeback in the U.S. People hunger for human connection, and what better way to feel connected than to meet with like-minded friends, all of whom have just finished reading the same book? A shared experience, good food and wine, laughter, tears, and – oh yeah – discussion about the book of the month.

I asked each of my book club friends to name two books they would take to the cabin this summer: one, a book they re-read and never tire of, and two, a book from their must-read list. Here are some of our suggestions.
"Winter World"
By Bernd Heinrich

Betts, our botanist, picked this one. It’s non-fiction, yet has a charming blend of science and creative, personal prose. Have you ever wondered where all the critters you see up at the cabin go during the winter? From chipmunks to voles to birds of prey, Heinrich reveals a world beneath the snow. Heinrich’s wanderings and ponderings through the woods of the Northeast reveal not only a beautiful winter world but also the folksy and loving voice of an observer of nature.

"Pride and Prejudice and Zombies"
By Seth Grahame-Smith

I owe this one to some of my students. Jane Austen’s classic, “Pride and Prejudice” has been standard book list fare for schools and book clubs for years. This take, however, infuses the classic tale of the Bennett clan with a healthy dose of the undead. Most of the book’s original text has been preserved, and the rest has been given a dose of what the writer calls “ultraviolent zombie mayhem.” It’s unabashedly fun, funny and entertaining – not to mention a great way to revisit a classic.

"Prodigal Summer"
By Barbara Kingsolver

This one’s my pick. I’ve read every book by Kingsolver, but this book is my choice for a re-read. Set in southern Appalachia, three tales are intertwined during the course of one hot summer. The standout tale is that of Deanna, a wildlife biologist who craves isolation but finds human contact instead. Even though Kingsolver occasionally tells these stories with the voice of a biologist, you won’t believe how sexy bugs
can be!

"The Green Book"
By Elixabeth rogers and Thomas Kostigen

Kay, a retired gym teacher who now gives sailing lessons to the 55-and-up set, loved this New York Times bestseller for the way it juxtaposes hundreds of facts and simple steps every person can take to live greener, with “ins-
pirational” messages from celebrities about their own green decisions.

Although I definitely can live without advice from Cameron Diaz or Will Ferrell, the information on living green everywhere – from home to the workplace to the shopping mall – is both simple and inspiring.

(Did you know if every U.S. household used a bar of soap as opposed to a bottle of liquid body wash, 2.5 million pounds of plastic containers would be diverted from the waste stream?)
Makes you think: I can do that. That’s the idea.
"High Fidelity"
By Nick Hornby

My son-in-law picked this modern-male romantic classic. It’s the story of a vinyl record shop owner who spends his days among the records he loves, making top five lists with his best buds on everything from best films to best Elvis Costello songs. When the woman he loves leaves him however, he’s forced to create the ultimate top five list, “My desert island, all-time top five most memorable split-ups,” to find out where he’s gone wrong. At turns touching and hilarious, it’s a note-perfect portrayal of a pop culture addicted man-child being pulled into adulthood – kicking and screaming the whole way.
"The Shack"
By William P. Young

The spiritualist in our group, Kathy, would like to re-read this inspirational modern smash. I decided to dig in as well, since everybody is reading this book, it seems. After the first 20 pages, I wondered, “Why?” The prose is simplistic and obvious, yet I found myself turning page after page. It’s the message that resonates: Who has not endured a great loss and struggled to put the pieces of their life back together? The protagonist experiences a crisis of faith (his daughter’s murder). Young tries to help us understand why bad things happen to good people and to realize we are not alone in asking that question. 
"Eat, Pray, Love"
By Elizabeth Gilbert

This was a re-read for Cheryl, an English Teacher. If you haven't read it yet, you've probably been meaning to. The film is coming out soon, so you had better get to it... you know, the books are always better.  This is the story of one woman's journey to find the answer to the age-old question, Who am I? She literally eats, prays and loves her way on a global journey that becomes truly universal, yet at the same time, intensely personal.
"Suite Francaise"
By Irene Nemirovsky

Sabrina, a world history teacher, was left wanting to know more of the 1940s in France after reading this book. Already a successful writer, Nemirovsky began writing this book in 1940. Two years later, she was arrested and deported to Auschwitz, her novel remaining hidden for over 60 years. Nemirovsky's writing is exquisitely descriptive, yet the story is plainly told: thrown together in horrific circumstances, people display either the best or absolute worst of humanity.
"The Devil in the White City"
By Erik Larson

My son-in-law will be making the time to re-read this one this summer. It's a fascinating non-fiction that has the page-turning fun feeling of the best fiction thrillers. It tells the tale of two men: famed Chicago architect Daniel Burnham, the mastermind behind the legendary 1893 Chicago World's Fair, and H.H. Holmes a charming doctor who also happened to be a serial killer. One built the Fair's famed "White City", and the other built the World's Fair Hotel- complete with crematorium and gas chamber. Spell-binding and fascinating, it's a book you won't be able to put down.

Michele Helbacka makes a summer reading list every year, but rarely completes it – the pull of the garden is just too strong.

"Sarah's Key"
By Tatiana De Rosnay

Mae, a retired math teacher, picked this one. You probably think you never need to read another Holocaust book, but this one is captivating. Sarah is a 10-year-old who locks her little brother in a hiding place in their Paris apartment when the French police come to arrest her family during the Nazi occupation. She promises to return, but of course, she has no idea of the horror that awaits. Flash forward to present-day Paris: A journalist, assigned to cover a local commemorative event, discovers secrets many French would rather forget. Historical facts are woven throughout this haunting and powerful tale.

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