Looking for a booklist for inspiration for your next read? Want to join a book club? We at Fairbanks North Star Borough Public Libraries have you covered!
Dragons for Adults
Many, many children “love” dragons (and dinosaurs, too, for that matter) – however there’s a lot more to dragon lore and dragondom than “Puff the Magic Dragon” or Pete’s Dragon. Hence this month’s list. These are tales of dragons whose personalities, goals, and modus operandi are much more in the adult vein. January is a perfect time for toasty dragon-breath to help chase those winter chills and do battle with the dreaded Cabin Fever season!
Quirky, Off-Beat Books That Are Hard To Describe
This time of year can be stressful and frenetic, so here’s a list of “quirky” books to help you de-stress and slow down a bit. They are all a tad unusual in their format. It takes a bit of time to enjoy these – to savor the little additional details the authors have used to engage a reader’s full attention. Several have been written with a youthful audience in mind, so sit down and share with the younger people in your lives – this time of year can be pretty stressful for them, too. Relax, savor, and enjoy some new reading experiences!
FNSBPL Book Clubs
Great Books Discussion Group
Readings for 2018
Noel Wien Library, Second Tuesday at 7:00 p.m., Group Study Room 2
These discussions generally follow the format and materials available through the Great Books Foundation. Having been through most of their readings, we now supplement with books of our own choosing. Members come from a variety of backgrounds and levels of education. The only requirements are a willingness to read carefully and an interest in discussing subjects that matter. Emphasis is on the experience of struggling to express our own interpretations and ideas rather than learning the latest opinions of academic specialists.
First-time participants should check with Pat Sackinger for copies of the selections and to verify the date. (Schedules sometimes change from the regular 2nd Tuesday. of the month).
All readings through May are selections from Great Books Foundation, Great Conversations 3
- January 9 – pages 7 – 64
- February 13 – pages 65 – 164
- March 13 – pages 165 – 270
- April 10 – pages 273 – 321
- May 8 – pages 325 – 384
- June, July, August – no meeting
The Pardoner’s Tale by Geoffrey Chaucer; An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding by David Hume; A Defence of Poetry by Percy Shelley
The Unknown Masterpiece by Honore de Balzac; Second Epilogue to War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy; The Man Who Would Be King by Rudyard Kipling
Six Characters in Search of an Author by Luigi Pirandello; The Open Boat by Stephen Crane, Death in the Woods by Stephen Anderson
The Garden of Forking Paths by Jorge Luis Borges; Introduction to the Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir; An Interest in Life by Grace Paley.
Selected Poems by Wislawa Syzmborska; The Body of the Condemned by Michel Foucault; Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri.
Library Contact: Georgine Olson – 459-1063 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Discussion Leader: Pat Sackinger – 479-6808
Updated: January 10, 2018
The League of Women Voters of the Tanana Valley
Book Discussion Group, September 2017 – July 2018 Schedule
Noel Wien Library Conference Room, Second Saturday at 10:00 a.m.
The League of Women Voters Book Discussion Group is sponsored by the League of Women Voters of the Tanana Valley, a nonpartisan political organization. The LWV book discussion group began in 2003 and is open to everyone. Titles are selected annually by the members and generally are nonfiction works (biography, contemporary political issues, history, social and economic topics).
September 9, 2017 – Thank You for Being Late by Thomas Friedman
- Journalist Friedman gives a well-researched account of what we are all experiencing with technological changes. He sees 3 huge forces affecting our lives—technology, globalization, and climate change and describes innovations and methods to help us cope. (2016, 453 pages)
October 14, 2017 – Dark Money by Jane Mayer
- Mayer takes a detailed and deep look at the connection between wealth and politics in our age. She spotlights the political activities of billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, among the most influential players in American’s libertarian/conservative movement today. (2016, 380 pages)
November 11, 2017 – Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance or Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie R. Hochschild (Reader’s Choice)
- Both titles look at a large section of the US population that has been overlooked by the media in recent times. Vance’s bestseller provides a personal view of his upbringing in Appalachia and the Rust Belt but ties his family’s challenges to those faced by a larger cross-section of the electorate. Sociologist Hochschild, nominated for a National Book Award for Strangers, spent five years exploring the politics of Louisiana’s displaced and disaffected workers in her quest to bridge “the empathy divide” that separates today’s right and left. Vance (2016, 272 pages); Hochschild (2016, 368 pages)
December 2017 – no meeting
January 13, 2018 – Molly Hootch: I Remember When: growing up in Alaska on the Kwiguk Pass of the Lower Yukon River by Molly Hootch Hymes and/or Coming into the City by Elise Patkotak (Reader’s Choice)
- Molly Hootch has been honored as one of the most influential Alaskans in modern times. Her experience of being sent away to Anchorage to high school changed her life, and now her name is emblematic of a lawsuit that has changed the face of Alaska’s education system. Here she tells the story of her upbringing in the Yukon village of Emmonak. Elise Patkotak experienced a different of type of change when she voluntarily moved to Anchorage after 28 years in Barrow (now Utqiaġvik). Hymes (2011, 236 pages) Patkotak (2013, 126 pages)
February 10, 2018 – The Fix: how nations thrive in a world in decline by Jonathan Tepperman
- The author takes a fresh view of the world’s challenges by seeking out countries that found solutions to seemingly intractable obstacles through active problem solving. (2016, 229 pages)
March 10, 2018 – Viking Economics: how the Scandinavians got it right and we can too by George Lakey
- Lakey examines how the Nordic countries are home to happy and productive workers in economic systems that we Americans find unacceptable. (2016, 248 pages)
April 14, 2018 – Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson
- A quick read that nevertheless tackles cosmic questions of the “essential universe” by popular astrophysicist Tyson. (2017, 224 pages)
May 12, 2018 – Alaska’s First Millionaire: the life and times of Cap Lathrop by Elizabeth A. Tower
- Austin Eugene Lathrop was an entrepreneur with wide interest, who became a leading Fairbanks businessman, publisher, and politician and a staunch opponent of Alaska’s statehood. Read more about him in Tower’s biography. (2006. 216 pages)
June 9, 2018 – Selection of titles for September 2017 – July 2018
February 11, 2017 – Just Mercy: a story of justice and redemption by Bryan Stevenson
- An unforgettable account of a young lawyer dedicated to defending those most in need, the poor, women, children and those wrongly condemned. Unfairness in our justice system is a major theme of our age. This book will make you angry but also hopeful. (2014, 336 pages)
July 14, 2018 – Elephant Company: the inspiring story of an unlikely hero and the animals who helped him save lives during World War II by Vicki C. Croke
- Billy Williams, a WW I veteran, became an elephant “wallah” in Burma. His work with the mammoth animals developed into one of the most unusual stories of heroism in Southeast Asia during World War II. (2014, 368 pages)
LWV Contact: Donna Dinsmore: 479-5265 or email@example.com
Library Contact: Georgine Olson 459-1063 or firstname.lastname@example.org
OSHER LIFELONG LEARNING BOOK CLUB
READING LIST: September 2017 – April 2018
Third Tuesday, 1:30 – 3:00 PM, Conference Room, Noel Wien Library, Fairbanks
September 19 – To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey
- An 1885 wilderness expedition, a female pioneer of photography, and Native American myths come to life make Ivey’s second novel (after The Snow Child) an entrancing, occasionally chilling, depiction of turn-of-the-century Alaska. Through diaries, letters, reports, newspaper clippings, drawings, and photographs, Ivey evokes an Indian Wars veteran’s expedition up the Wolverine River into Alaska’s northern interior. In this splendid adventure novel, Ivey captures Alaska’s beauty and brutality, not just preserving history, but keeping it alive. (PW) (Alaskana Fiction, 2016, 417 pgs)
October 17 – The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman
- Jan Zabinski, the innovative director of the Warsaw Zoo, and Antonina, his wife, lived joyfully on the zoo grounds during the 1930s with their young son, and a menagerie of animals needing special attention. The zoo was badly damaged by the Nazi blitzkrieg, and would have been utterly destroyed but for the director of the Berlin Zoo who wanted Jan’s help in resurrecting extinct pure-blooded species in pursuit of Aryan perfection in the animal kingdom. The Zabinskis turned the decimated zoo into a refuge and saved the lives of several hundred imperiled Jews. Ackerman’s affecting telling of the Zabinskis’ story illuminates the profound connection between humankind and nature, and celebrates life’s beauty, mystery, and tenacity. (Booklist) (Non-Fiction, 2007; 368 pgs)
November 21 – Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
- Foot binding; nu shu, a secret language used exclusively by the women of Hunan Province for 1000 years; and laotong, the arranged friendship between little girls meant to last a lifetime, provide the framework for this riveting look at a little-known chapter in 19th-century Chinese history. In 1903, 80-year-old Lily looks back on her life, which was anchored by her laotong relationship with the beautiful Snow Flower. As little girls, the two communicated in nu shu, writing of their mutual devotion on a fan they passed between each other over the years. According to the traditional restrictions of the times, they lived most of their lives confined to the women’s chamber in their homes, enduring society’s insistence that women are worthless except for their value in producing sons. The laotong bonds of Lily and Snow Flower endure through family tragedies, a typhoid-fever epidemic, and the Taiping Rebellion of 1851-64, but it is a misunderstood message in nu shu, the language that held them together for decades, that tears them apart. See’s meticulous research and exquisite language deliver a story that is haunting, powerful, and, at times, almost too painful to bear. (Library Journal) (Fiction, 2005, 258 pgs)
December 2017 – No Meeting
January 16, 2018 – The Son by Philipp Meyer
- Eli McCullough, the first male child born in the Republic of Texas, is kidnapped at age 13 by Comanches, and from then on his life becomes a study in conflict. During three years of living with the Indians, he wins their respect and is thought of as an upcoming chief. By the time he turns 16, having mastered the art of scalping, he is set free. Forever restless, he becomes a Texas Ranger, a cattle rancher, and, later, a colonel in the Civil War. His son, Pete, is cut from a different cloth and rebels against his family’s history of violence and anti-Mexican racism. His rebellion includes the love of a Mexican woman. Pete’s daughter, Jeanne Anne, struggles to be taken seriously as a rancher and oil tycoon. The broody McCulloughs gain in wealth but often pay dearly. A strain of misunderstood lonesomeness hounds each generation. Treading on similar ground to James Michener, Larry McMurtry, and Cormac McCarthy, Meyer brings the bloody, racially fraught history of Texas to life. (Library Journal) (2013, Fiction, 561 pgs)
February 20 – A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley
- Separated from his older brother on an outing, five-year-old Brierley boarded a train that, instead of taking him back to his home in rural India, traveled over 1,000 miles to Calcutta. Unable to read and write or remember his hometown or his last name, Brierley survived alone for months on the streets of the city, until he was eventually taken to an orphanage. The orphanage attempted to track down Brierley’s family, but the task was impossible because of the distance he had traveled and his inability to describe his home. Though he was adopted by a loving couple in Tasmania, Brierley never gave up hope that he would be reunited with his Indian family. With the advent of Google Earth, the author studied satellite images of India and after years of searching spotted the central business district near his hometown. (Library Journal). (Non-Fiction, 2014, 255 pgs)
March 20 – The Heart of Everything That Is: the untold story of Red Cloud, an American legend by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin
- It’s difficult to believe that one of the most well-known Indians of his time, the Oglala Sioux warrior chief Red Cloud, could be largely forgotten until now. As the de facto leader of the Western Sioux nation – an unprecedented feat in itself given the Sioux’s rigorous individualism and a “culture [that] consisted of fluid, haphazard tribal groups”- Red Cloud and his army stand alone in history as the only Indians to ever defeat the United States in a war. A history inconveniently at odds with the accepted American narrative, the manuscript for Red Cloud’s 1893 autobiography lay in a drawer into the 1990s. Thanks to that work and the authors’ extensive, additional scholarship, we now have a much more thorough understanding of the Plains Indians’ brutal and tragically futile efforts to protect their land and way of living from the progress of “civilization. (PW) (Non-Fiction, 2013, 414 pgs)
April 17 – Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
- In 1904, Frank Lloyd Wright designed a house for Edwin and Mamah Cheney of Oak Park, IL. Five years later, after a clandestine affair, Frank and Mamah scandalized Oak Park by leaving their families to live together in Europe. Stunned by the furor, Mamah wanted to stay in Europe. Eventually, Frank convinced her to return to Wisconsin, where he was building Taliesin as a home and retreat. Horan’s extensive research provides the underpinnings for this engrossing novel, and the focus on Mamah lets readers see her attraction to the creative, flamboyant architect but also her recognition of his arrogance. Mamah’s own drive to achieve something important is tinged with guilt over abandoning her children. Tentative steps toward reconciliation end in a shocking, violent conclusion that would seem melodramatic if it weren’t based on true events. (Library Journal) (Fiction, 2007, 362 pgs)
May 15, 2018 – Booktalk & title selection for September 2018 – April 2019
Library Contact / Discussion Leader: Georgine Olson, 459-1063 or email@example.com
Osher Lifelong Learning Institute: Sarah Garland, 474-6607 or UAF-OLLI@alaska.edu
Updated June 21, 2017
Science Books Discussion Group
Readings for 2018
Noel Wien Library, First Tuesday at 7:00 p.m., Conference Room
The Science Book Discussion Group is Noel Wien Library’s longest running group. It has been meeting for nearly 20 years and does NOT require any particular background in science. The books chosen are those that would be of interest to the general adult reader with an interest in all aspects of science and technology. Books can be borrowed or purchased at cost ($10 or less, often much less).
February 6 – Discussion of Irrefutable Evidence: adventures in the history of forensic science by Michael Kurland & Group planning for future discussions.
NOTE: The Science Book Discussion Group is on indefinite hiatus.
Please check back periodically for updates.
Updated: January 13, 2018
Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Discussion Group
Reading List for 2018
Noel Wien Library, fourth Monday at 7 PM, Group Study Room #1
The Science Fiction / Fantasy Book Discussion Group reads a deliberately chosen variety of books, from new authors to recently-published award winners to classics from the 50s, 60s, and earlier. We read a mix of fantasy, science fiction, young adult fiction – and a horror tale in October. The discussions are informal, often leading to recommendations of other interesting books. It is a small, loyal group, always looking to welcome new members to share our enthusiasm.
January 23 – Uprooted by Naomi Novik (Fantasy)
- Novik drops readers into an instantly immersive Polish fairy tale. The Dragon is actually a man – a wizard who takes young women from rural villages as payment for protecting the region from the poisonous influence of the evil Wood. When Agnieszka is chosen to serve the Dragon for 10 years, she finds she has a rare and incredible talent for magic. She is disaster-prone and homesick, but nonetheless steps up to the role of heroine when the situation demands it. Soon, Agnieszka’s fabulous journey expands to encompass a deadly quest, the terrible glamor of a royal court, a true and unbreakable friendship, and just a touch of romance. Novik weaves a tale that is both elegantly grand and earthily humble, familiar as a Grimm fairy tale yet fresh, original, and totally irresistible. (Fantasy, 2015, 438 pages, Nebula award)
February 27 – House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard (Fantasy)
- In this alternate history, Paris was devastated by a Great War that began in 1914 – a war waged by competing houses of Fallen angels and witches. Sixty years later, the city is still in ruins. Selene, the leader of House Silverspires, struggles to step into the shoes of its founder, the mysteriously missing Morningstar (aka Lucifer); House alchemist, Madeleine, must balance her addiction to angel essence against her fears of being sent back to her former master. Philippe, a former Immortal, is caught sampling the blood of a newly Fallen angel; his attempt to escape triggers a long-hidden curse on Silverspires that sets the Furies and the other houses to seek its destruction. De Bodard aptly mixes moral conflicts and the desperate need to survive in a fantastical spy thriller that reads like a hybrid of le Carre and Milton, all tinged with the melancholy of golden ages lost. (Fantasy, 2015, 402 pages)
March 26 – Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu (SF)
- In 1967, a university student sees Red Guards beat her father to death during China’s Cultural Revolution for failing to recant his belief in science. This shapes the rest of her life AND the future of mankind. Four decades later, after a spate of apparent suicides among elite scientists, Beijing police ask a nanotech engineer to infiltrate a secretive cabal of international scientists. During his investigation, Wang encounters a mysterious online game that immerses him in a virtual world ruled by the intractable and unpredictable interaction of its three suns. This is the Three-Body Problem and is the key to everything: scientists’ deaths, humanity’s place in the cosmos, and the extinction threat humanity now faces. Locus, Hugo & John Campbell nominee; Nebula finalist. (SF; 2014; 400 pgs)
April 23 – The Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters (Horror/SF, YA)
- Hanalee Denney’s father has been haunting the crossroads of Elston, Oregon, right where Joe Adder ran him down in his Model T after a night out drinking. Joe’s out of prison, and Hanalee’s ready to get her revenge, but before she can fire the bullet, Joe convinces her to take a closer look at her stepfather, Uncle Clyde, who married her mother quickly after her father’s death. Winters retells Hamlet in a Prohibition-era Oregon setting, featuring biracial Hanalee, while the prejudices of the day simmer in the background. Hanalee discovers something far more rotten than a murderous uncle; the KKK are eager to rid Oregon of anyone who doesn’t conform to their ideals. Hanalee’s investigation of her father’s murder and her growing friendship with Joe are engrossing enough, but Winters amplifies the story by weaving Oregon’s troubling true history – state-sanctioned discrimination, eugenics, forced sterilization – adding weighty, unsettling context to the slow-burning mystery. A powerful, gripping, and exceptionally well-executed glimpse into a little-known corner of U.S. history. (YA Horror, 2016, 335 pages)
June 4 (May) – Trees by Ali Shaw (Fantasy)
- Trees arrived in the night – wrenching through the ground, thundering up into the air, and turning Adrien’s suburban street into a shadowy forest. Shocked, but determined to get some answers, he ventures out, passing destroyed buildings, felled power lines, and bodies hanging from branches. It is soon apparent that no help is coming and that these trees span far beyond the town, perhaps to the coast, where across the sea in Ireland, Adrien’s wife is on a business trip. Adrien meets Hannah, a woman who, unlike him, believes that the coming of the trees may signal renewal rather than destruction. Hannah persuades Adrien to join her and her son. Together, they set out to find Hannah’s forester brother and Adrien’s wife – and to discover just how deep the forest goes. Their journey through the trees will take them into unimaginable territory: to terrible beauty and violence, deadly enemies and unexpected allies, and also to the power inside themselves. (Fantasy, 2016, 496 pages)
June 25 – Learning the World: a scientific romance by Ken MacLeod (SF)
- In a distant future where humanity has spread to every system within 500 light-years, the inhabitants of an ancient starship enter orbit around an Earth-like planet after a four-hundred-year journey. The crew assumes that they will seed another human, or rather posthuman, colony and continue on their way. It’s something they’ve done often before. Imagine their surprise when they discover that the system is already inhabited – by a batlike species who have just recently entered their own industrial revolution. Meanwhile, on the second planet in the system, a young astronomer has made a startling discovery: something clearly artificial is approaching from interstellar space. As always with this deeply political writer, the book is chock-full of well-done extrapolation concerning the political and economic workings of his various societies. This is contemporary SF at its best. (SF, 2005, 303 pages)
July 23 – Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar (F; First Novel)
- Jevick, a pepper merchant’s son, has been raised on stories of Olondria, a distant land where books are as common as they are rare in his home. When his father dies, Jevick takes his place on the yearly selling trip to Olondria. But just as he revels in Olondria’s Feast of Birds, he becomes haunted by the ghost of an illiterate young girl. In desperation, Jevick seeks the aid of Olondrian priests and quickly becomes a pawn in the struggle between the empire’s two most powerful cults. Yet even as the country shimmers on the cusp of war, he must face his ghost before he has any chance of become free by setting her free; an ordeal that challenges his understanding of art and life, home and exile – and reading. British Fantasy, John Campbell & World Fantasy awards, Nebula nominee (Fantasy, 2013, 320 pages; first book)
August 27 – Nine Fox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee (SF, First Novel)
- If Captain Kel Cheris, disgraced for using unconventional methods in a battle against heretics, is to redeem herself, she must recapture the formidable Fortress of Scattered Needles. Unfortunately, Cheris’s career isn’t the only thing at stake. If the fortress falls, the Hexarchate itself might be next. Cheris’s best hope is to ally with the undead tactician Shuos Jedao. The good news is that Jedao has never lost a battle and may be the only one who can figure out how to successfully besiege the fortress. The bad news is that Jedao went mad in his first life and massacred two armies, one of them his own. As the siege wears on, Cheris must decide how far she can trust Jedao – because she might be his next victim. (SF, 2016, 384 pages; Hugo & Nebula nominee; Locus Award First Novel)
September 24 – To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey (F, Alaskana) (20th Anniversary Discussion)
- Solidly historically based, this fictional 1885 expedition takes Colonel Allen Forrester of the U.S. Army and his small team into the newly acquired Alaska Territory to map the area’s rivers and gather information about the Native populations. By means of the colonel’s journal entries and letters between him and his wife, Sophie, who remains at the Vancouver barracks, Ivey deftly draws the perils of the journey. Forrester describes the challenges he faces, including traveling on rivers of ice, dodging huge ice boulders loosened by the spring thaw, re-routing around narrow canyons, and suffering near-starvation and gut-wrenching illnesses. Sophie chafes at the social restrictions of the barracks, but is determined to teach herself photography in her husband’s absence. This is a compelling historical saga of survival interwoven with Native mythology and magic. (Alaskana Fantasy; 2016, 417 pages)
October 22 – The Curse of Jacob Tracy by Holly Messinger (Horror, First Novel)
- Jacob “Trace” Tracy and his partner, Boz, are looking for jobs to tide them over until they get hired to guide wagon trains West. A Miss Fairweather employs them a seemingly easy task: retrieving a box from a nearby town. Miss Fairweather didn’t choose the duo by chance. She wants Trace for his ability to see the spirit world, a talent he’s had (and hidden) since he was injured at Antietam. The first trip entangles Trace and Boz with Mereck, a man of unusual talents and evil intent. As Trace continues to take jobs for Miss Fairweather, Mereck’s attentions grow more dangerous. This first novel combines well-wrought historical fiction with just the right amount of scenic details and horror. It’s structured almost like a serial, with different adventures and monsters in each section, but tied together by the friendship of Trace and Boz, and the continuing threats that spirits pose for Trace (Horror, 2015; 320 pages)
November 25 – Shadow Run by Adrianne Strickland & Michael Miller (YA SF, “Alaskana”)
- Shadow, a volatile and dangerous galactic energy, can be harvested only through risky piloting known as “fishing.” It seems to affect humans exposed to it – some are driven mad, some become gifted, some experience both reactions, but all can expect an early death. Powerful and greedy families are willing to go to any lengths to acquire the key to shadow affinity; it’s a path to wealth and authority. Captain Qole Uvgamut is supposedly the youngest and most skilled shadow fishing captain in the galaxy and is also rumored to have a special shadow affinity. Nev Dracorte is posing as a shadow loader, hiding his true identity in an effort to persuade Qole to unlock the powers of shadow. These elements are skillfully combined into a grand space adventure, chock-full of action, battles of good and evil, love, and betrayal. The characters are well-developed; Nev and Qole’s initial antagonism and mistrust are authentic, and their companions are also nicely fleshed out. The world-building is excellent, with a convincingly unique source of cosmic energy that has the potential for extraordinary power. The writing is accomplished; the plot, has good twists; and the pace is appropriately fast. (SF, YA, 2017, “Alaskana”, 400 pages)
December 17 – Bride of the Rat God by Barbara Hambly (Fantasy)
- In 1923, Chrysanda Flamande was the sultriest vamp of the silver screen in Hollywood. Then an elderly Chinese gentleman warned her that a trinket she’d worn in her last movie had marked her to be the bride of an ancient devil-god of Manchuria. Now the Rat God is stalking closer, and Chrysanda is discovering that there’s no mousetrap big enough to keep her from being dragged unwilling to the altar! (Fantasy, 1994, 336 pages)
Updated: January 10, 2018