Reading Group Favorites

 

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“Just the knowledge that a good book is awaiting one at the end
of a long day makes that day happier.” — Kathleen Norris 

  

The Spark

By Kristine Barnett (Penguin Random House $17)

The Spark is a remarkable memoir of mother and son. Surrounded by “experts” at home and in special ed who tried to focus on Jake’s most basic skills and curtail his distracting interests–moving shadows on the wall, stars, plaid patterns on sofa fabric–Jake made no progress, withdrew more and more into his own world, and eventually stopped talking completely. Kristine knew in her heart that she had to make a change. Against the advice of her husband, Michael, and the developmental specialists, Kristine followed her instincts, pulled Jake out of special ed, and began preparing him for mainstream kindergarten on her own.

 

Call of the Wild

By Jack London (Scholastic $4.99)

Considered to be Jack London’s masterpiece, this story features Buck, a dog shipped to the Klondike to be trained as a sled dog. Buck eventually reverts to his primitive ancestry, and learns about the savage world of man and beast in the wilderness.

 

Tattooist of Auschwitz

By Heather Morris (Harper Collins $16.99)

In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners. Imprisoned for over two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism–but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive. One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.

Beneath a Scarlet Sky
By Mark Sullivan (Union Lake Publishing $14.95)

Pino Lella wants nothing to do with the war or the Nazis. He’s a normal Italian teenager–obsessed with music, food, and girls–but his days of innocence are numbered. When his family home in Milan is destroyed by Allied bombs, Pino joins an underground railroad helping Jews escape over the Alps, and falls for Anna, a beautiful widow six years his senior.

In an attempt to protect him, Pino’s parents force him to enlist as a German soldier–a move they think will keep him out of combat. But after Pino is injured, he is recruited at the tender age of eighteen to become the personal driver for Adolf Hitler’s left hand in Italy, General Hans Leyers, one of the Third Reich’s most mysterious and powerful commanders.

Now, with the opportunity to spy for the Allies inside the German High Command, Pino endures the horrors of the war and the Nazi occupation by fighting in secret, his courage bolstered by his love for Anna and for the life he dreams they will one day share.

When the English Fall
By David Williams (Algonquin $15.95)

When a catastrophic solar storm brings about the collapse of modern civilization, an Amish community is caught up in the devastating aftermath. With their stocked larders and stores of supplies, the Amish are unaffected at first. But as the English (the Amish name for all non-Amish people) in the cities become increasingly desperate, they begin to invade nearby farms, taking whatever they want and unleashing unthinkable violence on the gentle communities.

Written as the diary of an Amish farmer named Jacob who tries to protect his family and his way of life, When the English Fall examines the idea of peace in the face of deadly chaos. Should members of a nonviolent society defy their beliefs and take up arms to defend themselves? And if they do, can they survive?

 

The Couple Next Door

By Shari LaPena (Penguin Random House $16)

Anne and Marco Conti seem to have it all–a loving relationship, a wonderful home, and their beautiful baby, Cora. But one night when they are at a dinner party next door, a terrible crime is committed. Suspicion immediately focuses on the parents. But the truth is a much more complicated story. Inside the curtained house, an unsettling account of what actually happened unfolds. Detective Rasbach knows that the panicked couple is hiding something. Both Anne and Marco soon discover that the other is keeping secrets, secrets they’ve kept for years.