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Book Discussion Groups

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Fiction | Nonfiction | Speculative Fiction | Cookbooks | Past Books


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Fiction Book Discussions

The library's Fiction Book Club meets the second Monday each month at 1 and 7 PM. All are welcome! Whenever possible copies of each title are borrowed from New Hampshire libraries in advance. Books are available for check out with your PPL card.

Monday August 14 | 1pm & 7pm

The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus by Sonya Sones

Holly, the frazzled heroine of novelist Sones's lates, is a writer grappling with menopause, a daughter about to go to college, a husband who drives her crazy, and a crippling case of writer's block. Her mother is ill and in the care of an ineffectual doctor who puts her on steroids that make her violent and forgetful. In the midst of the everyday chaos, Holly has to figure out how to redefine herself as life keeps on changing on her. Sones mixes things up by writing the entire story in verse, with different anecdotes related in different types of poems.

Monday September 11 | 1pm & 7pm

The Same Sky by Amanda Eyre Ward


Eyre's wrenching fifth novel is a study in contrasts between a middle-class woman in Texas and a young girl in Honduras. In Austin, Jake and Alice have finally decided to give up on having a baby after 10 years. As Alice struggles to come to terms with the fact that she will never be a mother, she throws herself into work at Jake's up-and-coming barbecue joint and tries to funnel her maternal impulses into mentoring a struggling teenager. On the outskirts of Tegucigalpa, 11-year-old Carla lives without a mother in almost unimaginable poverty, where children pick through trash at the dump and sniff glue to stave off hunger.

Monday October 3 | 1pm & 7pm

Beasts of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala

Iweala's visceral debut is unrelenting in its brutality and unremitting in its intensity. Agu, the precocious, gentle son of a village schoolteacher father and a Bible-reading mother, is dragooned into an unnamed West African nation's mad civil war—a slip of a boy forced, almost overnight, to shoulder a soldier's bloody burden. The preteen protagonist is molded into a fighting man by his demented guerrilla leader and, after witnessing his father's savage slaying, by an inchoate need to belong to some kind of family, no matter how depraved.

Monday November 13 | 1pm & 7pm

Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante

LaPlante's impressive first novel sensitively explores the mental disintegration of widowed 64-year-old Jennifer White, a once-lauded Chicago hand surgeon, who charts her own experiences with Alzheimer's both consciously, in notes she writes to herself and thoughts she shares, and unconsciously, as she records conversations and actions she witnesses but doesn't understand. When someone fatally bludgeons Jennifer's best friend, 75-year-old Amanda O'Toole, who lives just three doors away, suspicion falls on Jennifer because the killer surgically removed four fingers from Amanda's right hand.

All synopses from Publishers Weekly.

Nonfiction Book Discussions

Nonfiction Book Discussion meets the third Tuesday each month at 7 PM in the Hilton Garden Room. All are welcome! Whenever possible copies of each title are borrowed from New Hampshire libraries in advance. Books are available for check out with your PPL card.

Tuesday August 15 | 7pm

Ecomind: changing the way we think to create the world we want by Frances Moore Lappé

In this latest from the prolific author of the seminal vegetarian manifesto, Diet for a Small Planet, Lappé proposes that what's paralyzing meaningful action on climate change, rising food prices, and other global crises is a collective mental map "mal-aligned both with human nature and with the wider laws of nature." She believes that we need to "rethink the premises" underlying our present worldview and develop an "eco-mind," moving from "'fixing something outside ourselves to re-aligning our relationships within our ecological home." The book explores seven "thought traps," challenging their "limiting premises" with alternate transformative "thought leaps."

Tuesday September 19 | 7pm

The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester

The Oxford English Dictionary used 1,827,306 quotations to help define its 414,825 words. Tens of thousands of those used in the first edition came from the erudite, moneyed American Civil War veteran Dr. W.C. Minor--all from a cell at the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum. Winchester has told his story in an imaginative if somewhat superficial work of historical journalism. Winchester fills out the story with a well-researched mini-history of the OED, a wonderful demonstration of the lexicography of the word ""art"" and a sympathetic account of Victorian attitudes toward insanity.

Tuesday October 17 | 7pm

Salt: a World History by Mark Kurlansky

Called a "divine substance" by Homer, salt is an essential part of the human body, was one of the first international commodities and was often used as currency throughout the developing world. Kurlansky traces the history of salt's influences from prehistoric China and ancient Africa (in Egypt they made mummies using salt) to Europe (in 12th-century Provence, France, salt merchants built "a system of solar evaporation ponds") and the Americas, through chapters with intriguing titles like "A Discourse on Salt, Cadavers and Pungent Sauces."

Tuesday November 21 | 7pm

Outliers: the Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

In Outliers , Gladwell (The Tipping Point ) once again proves masterful in a genre he essentially pioneered—the book that illuminates secret patterns behind everyday phenomena. His gift for spotting an intriguing mystery, luring the reader in, then gradually revealing his lessons in lucid prose, is on vivid display. Outliers begins with a provocative look at why certain five-year-old boys enjoy an advantage in ice hockey, and how these advantages accumulate over time. We learn what Bill Gates, the Beatles and Mozart had in common: along with talent and ambition, each enjoyed an unusual opportunity to intensively cultivate a skill that allowed them to rise above their peers.

All synopses from Publishers Weekly.

Speculative Fiction Book Discussions

The Portsmouth Public Library Speculative Fiction Book Group will meet on the final Wednesday of each month. Spec Fic is a genre that encompasses fantasy, science fiction, horror and everything in between. Speculative fiction asks, what if?

Venues will be announced prior to each meeting. Each meeting begins at 7 PM. All are welcome! Whenever possible copies of each title are borrowed from New Hampshire libraries in advance. Books are available for check out at the library, or at the meeting, with your PPL card.

xWednesday August 30 | 7pm

The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett


Nine-year-old Tiffany Aching thinks her Granny Aching – a wise shepherd – might have been a witch, but now Granny Aching is dead and it’s up to Tiffany to work it all out when strange things begin happening: a fairy-tale monster in the stream, a headless horseman and, strangest of all, the tiny blue men in kilts, the Wee Free Men, who have come looking for the new ‘hag’. Then Tiffany’s young brother goes missing and Tiffany and the Wee Free Men must join forces to save him from the Queen of the Fairies.

xWednesday September 27 | 7pm

Hard-Boiled Wonderland & the End of the World by Haruki Murakami


'A narrative particle accelerator that zooms between Wild Turkey Whiskey and Bob Dylan, unicorn skulls and voracious librarians, John Coltrane and Lord Jim. Science fiction, detective story and post-modern manifesto all rolled into one rip-roaring novel, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World is the tour de force that expanded Haruki Murakami's international following. Tracking one man's descent into the Kafkaesque underworld of contemporary Tokyo, Murakami unites East and West, tragedy and farce, compassion and detachment, slang and philosophy.'

xWednesday October 25 | 7pm

The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle


People move to New York looking for magic and nothing will convince them it isn't there. Charles Thomas Tester hustles to put food on the table, keep the roof over his father's head, from Harlem to Flushing Meadows to Red Hook. He knows what magic a suit can cast, the invisibility a guitar case can provide, and the curse written on his skin that attracts the eye of wealthy white folks and their cops. But when he delivers an occult tome to a reclusive sorceress in the heart of Queens, Tom opens a door to a deeper realm of magic, and earns the attention of things best left sleeping.

xWednesday November 29 | 7pm

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle


Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger. "Wild nights are my glory," the unearthly stranger told them. "I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me be on my way. Speaking of way, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract". Meg's father had been experimenting with this fifth dimension of time travel when he mysteriously disappeared. Now the time has come for Meg, her friend Calvin, and Charles Wallace to rescue him. But can they outwit the forces of evil they will encounter on their heart-stopping journey through space?

All synopses from Goodreads.

New! Cookbook Book Club

Every Other Month on the Second Tuesday, 6 - 8 PM at the library

Our new bimonthly cookbook book club will be a themed potluck meetup! These events require registration. Please call 766-1703 to register.

Tuesday September 12 | 6pm

Back to the Basics


We will start with the basics and cook from a tried and true cookbook on mastering the basics of cooking. Choose from among several titles including:

Tuesday November 14 | 6pm

Holiday Dishes


Titles will be announced at the September meeting.

Past Book Discussions












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