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Posted on: December 1, 2020

The Beauty in Breaking: A Memoir

The Beauty in Breaking

by Michele Harper

The author of this eloquent memoir is an ER doctor and a practitioner of yoga and meditation. Here she recounts how she overcame racist colleagues, a background of domestic violence, and the trauma of seeing suffering people every day at ...

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Posted on: February 9, 2021

Station Eleven

Station Eleven

by Emily St. John Mandel

Reviewed by Linda:Outstanding writing is the hallmark of this bestseller about the lives of people before, during, and after a plague wipes out much of human life on earth, and the remaining humans live in tight communities without...

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Posted on: February 9, 2021

Our Malady: Lessons in Liberty from a Hospital Diary

Our Malady

by Timothy Snyder

Reviewed by Linda:Finally, a book that explains how Americans got to the predicament we are in now, a nation without any of the tools we need to confront a life-threatening pandemic: adequate health care for all, a medical system that pri...

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Posted on: February 9, 2021

The Pull of the Stars

The Pull of the Stars

by Emma Donoghue

Reviewed by Linda:The author of the bestseller Room has written a powerful and gripping work of historical fiction set in Ireland during the deadly 1918 flu pandemic. Julia, a nurse midwife at a Dublin hospital, is working under extremely ...

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Posted on: February 3, 2021

How to Be an Antiracist

How to be an antiracist

by Ibram X. Kendi

Reviewed by Linda:This important book is receiving much well-deserved attention. The author is one of the country’s foremost historians and a leading voice on combatting racism. Here he combines an analysis of racism in America and the po...

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Posted on: February 9, 2021

Disappearing Earth

Disappearing Earth

by Julia Phillips

Reviewed by Linda:It's not often that an author's first book is a National Book Award finalist and a New York Times Best Book of the Year. This novel revolves around the lives that are upended when two young sisters are ...

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Posted on: August 21, 2020

Brother Robert: Growing Up with Robert Johnson

Brother Robert by Annye C. Anderson - An intimate memoir by blues legend Robert Johnson’s stepsister

by Annye C. Anderson with Preston Lauterbach; foreword by Elijah Wald

We are excited to offer this new weekly feature and to share a wide array of books about Black lives in America. It seems appropriate to begin with a new book by a well-known Amherst res...

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Posted on: February 9, 2021

The Thursday Murder Club

The Thursday Murder Club

by Richard Osman

Reviewed by Linda:If you like your murder mysteries charming and your sleuths immensely likable, then this British treasure is for you. The Thursday Murder Club meets weekly in the Jigsaw Room of Coopers Chase, a retirement community. Eliz...

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Posted on: October 7, 2020

Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family

Hidden Valley Road

by Robert Kolker

Reviewed by Linda:What an astonishing true story! The Galvin Family of Colorado was always exceptional owing to its size (10 sons and 2 daughters). Six of the sons were tragically hit with schizophrenia as each reached adulthood. Little wa...

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Posted on: February 9, 2021

Hamnet: A Novel of the Plague

Hamnet: A Novel of the Plague

by Maggie O’Farrell

Reviewed by Linda:This highly acclaimed novel concerns the lives of a penniless Latin tutor; his wife, Agnes, an eccentric but gifted healer, and their three children in Stratford-upon-Avon in sixteenth-century England. Few in...

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Posted on: April 8, 2020

These Fevered Days: Ten Pivotal Moments in the Making of Emily Dickinson

These Fevered Days

by Martha Ackmann

Reviewed by Cyndi:Even if you’re not a fan of Emily Dickinson, Martha Ackmann’s beautiful prose and vivid descriptions are certain to delight you. For Dickinson fans, These Fevered Days provides new insights into the l...

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Posted on: December 26, 2018

Washington Black

Washington Black

by Esi Edugyan

Reviewed by Janet:When the new master arrived after the old master’s death, the slaves on Faith Plantation didn’t know what to expect. For 11-year-old Washington Black, becoming the protégé of the ma...

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Posted on: January 4, 2021

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teaching of Plants

braiding sweetgrass

by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Reviewed by Linda:Robin Wall Kimmerer has written a very personal book about plants and our relationship to them and the natural world. She is both a biologist and a Native American who is steeped in traditional knowledge. Her book h...

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Posted on: February 9, 2021

The Vanishing Half

The Vanishing Half

by Brit Bennett

Reviewed by Linda:This literary bestseller tells a fictional tale that has occurred unknown numbers of times throughout American history. Start with an African-American family and a member of that family who discovers he or she can pass as ...

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Posted on: February 9, 2021

Sea Wife

Sea Wife

by Amity Gaige

Reviewed by Linda:I tumbled into this amazing novel of a family on a year-long voyage through the Caribbean on a newly acquired sailboat, and never wanted to leave. The characters were so real and so sympathetic: Juliet, the mother of two yo...

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Posted on: February 9, 2021

Doomsday Book

Doomsday Book

by Connie Willis

Reviewed by Linda:I picked up this beloved sci fi classic because I thought 2020 might provide a unique opportunity for comprehending the experience of the Black Death that spread across Europe, Asia, and North Africa in the fourteenth cen...

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Posted on: March 29, 2017

News of the World

News of the World

by Paulette Jiles

Reviewed by Janet:Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd spends his days traveling post-Civil War northern Texas, performing readings from newspapers to citizens hungry for news of the world. He finds himself agreeing to return 10 year old Johanna, ...

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Posted on: September 10, 2019

Once More We Saw Stars

Once More We Saw Stars

by Jayson Greene

Two-year-old Greta Greene was sitting with her grandmother on a park bench on the Upper West Side of Manhattan when a brick crumbled from a windowsill overhead, striking her unconscious. She is immediately rushed to the hospital. Once More...

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Posted on: August 7, 2019

The Limits of the World

Limits of the World

by Jennifer Acker

Reviewed by Linda:Jennifer Acker of Amherst College is editor of the school's literary magazine The Common and organizer of LitFest, which brings distinguished writers to campus each spring. This elegantly written and thought-provoking no...

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Posted on: September 10, 2019

A Place for Us

A Place for Us

by Fatima Farheen Mirza

A family caught between two cultures yields a resonant story of faith, tradition, identity, and belonging.

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Posted on: November 7, 2018

Circe

Circe

by Madeline Miller

Reviewed by Linda:Circe, the sorceress of ancient Greek mythology, appeared in tales about the Minotaur, Daedalus and Icarus, and Odysseus, but at last she is at the center of her own tale. This spellbinding novel will keep readers rapt ...

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Posted on: July 24, 2019

The World According to Fannie Davis: My Mother's Life in the Detroit Numbers

The World According to Fannie Davis

by Bridgett M. Davis

Reviewed by Linda:As some of you know, I love to read accounts of inspiring mothers. This book was an outstanding example of this genre. Fannie Davis ran a Numbers racket in the city of Detroit for decades. The granddaughter of slaves,...

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Posted on: September 5, 2018

How Hard Can It Be?

How Hard Can It Be

by Allison Pearson 

Reviewed by Linda:Sisters, if you are in the "Sandwich Generation" and need a hearty laugh, check out this hilarious and very smart novel about a London woman with two beloved children who have become teenage monsters...

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Posted on: July 18, 2018

Educated: A Memoir

Educated

by Tara Westover

Reviewed by Linda:

The author of this remarkable book was raised by survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, where she and her six siblings prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling food. Born at home, Tara had no birth certificate; n...

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Posted on: May 13, 2016

Vanessa and Her Sister

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by Priya Parmar

Reviewed by Linda:

I was mesmerized by this novel about the Bloomsbury Group, which is told from the perspective of the artist Vanessa Bell, sister of Virginia Woolf. In 1905 in the London neighborhood of Bloomsbury, Vanessa and her three si...

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Posted on: March 23, 2016

Harriet Wolf's Seventh Book of Wonders

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by Julianna Baggott

Reviewed by Linda:

Congratulations to Julianna Baggott of Amherst on her latest bestselling novel. Named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and widely praised by reviewers, the novel introduces us to three generations of women, fr...

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Posted on: March 17, 2016

Alice in Bed

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by Judith Hooper

Reviewed by Linda:

In Amherst author Judith Hooper’s fascinating work of historical fiction it wasn’t hysteria that kept the brilliant Alice James trapped in bed. Sister to the famous writer Henry and psychologist William, she suffered as m...

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Posted on: March 9, 2016

Between the World and Me

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by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Reviewed by Linda:

The latest winner of the National Book Award for Nonfiction, Between the World and Me takes the form of a father's passionate letter to his son about racism in America. Although a short book, the devastating knowledge ...

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Posted on: November 17, 2015

One Plus One

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by Jojo Moyes

Reviewed by Janet:

Jess is a single mother, working two jobs to try to keep her family together. Nicky is a Goth 15 year old, being bullied by neighborhood toughs. Tanzie is a 10 year old math prodigy who's been offered a spot in a swanky scho...

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Posted on: November 17, 2015

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

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by Michelle Alexander

Reviewed by Linda:

A devastating analysis of how we have come to have the majority of young black men in our major American cities locked behind bars or labeled felons for life for drug crimes that are largely ignored when committed by...

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Posted on: November 17, 2015

The Invention of Wings

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by Sue Monk Kidd

Reviewed by Janet:

Sarah Grimké is not like other girls her age in 1803 Charleston, South Carolina. So when she is given her own personal slave girl, Hetty, for her 11th birthday, the institution of slavery becomes even more personal. Here ...

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Posted on: November 17, 2015

All I Know and Love

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by Judith Frank

For years, Matthew Greene and Daniel Rosen have enjoyed a quiet domestic life together in Northampton, Massachusetts. Opposites in many ways, they have grown together and made their relationship work. But when they learn that Daniel's twin ...

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Posted on: December 31, 2014

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History

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by Elizabeth Kolbert

Reviewed by Linda:

A New Yorker staff writer, Elizabeth Kolbert knows how to grab and hold our attention in this account of evolution as it is being altered by humankind. Throughout earth's history there have been five major mass extinc...

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Posted on: July 9, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars

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by John Green

Reviewed by Linda:

OK, I admit it. This book was a triple-hanky read for me. A young-adult novel that was just made into a film, the book introduces us to three teens living their fullest lives despite cancer diagnoses. Heart-breaking but not ...

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Posted on: November 12, 2014

Dear Committee Members

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by Julie Schumacher

Reviewed by Janet:

A fun look at academia – told entirely through letters – from a member of the English Department at a small Midwestern college. His own writing career on the rocks, his personal life in tatters, and the campus building...

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Posted on: July 23, 2014

All the Light We Cannot See

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by Anthony Doerr

Reviewed by Janet:

Marie-Laure is a blind girl in Paris, whose father is the master locksmith at the Museum of Natural History. As the German invasion and occupation approaches, they flee to a great-uncle in St. Malo. Werner Pfennig lives i...

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