The FOPSL Book Club meets on the third Friday of the month at 2:00 p.m. (September-June) in The Learning Center at the Library, and is open to everyone. Members of the club read the selected book for the month, then join in lively discussions.
For more information about the FOPSL Book Club, including summaries of past book discussions and additional notes about the titles selected, please visit the Friends of Palm Springs Library Book Club Page.
2017 / 2018 Season
September 15, 2017 - Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson**
October 20, 2017 - The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain**
November 17, 2017 - Ladies of the Canyons: A League of Extraordinary Women and Their Adventures in the American Southwest by Lesley Poling-Kempes**
December 15, 2017 - Lab Girl by Hope Jahren**
January 19, 2018 - For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway**
February 16, 2018 - The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead**
March 16, 2018 - Still Life by Louise Penny**
April 20, 2018 - The Three-Year Swim Club: The Untold Story of Maui's Sugar Ditch Kids and Their Quest for Olympic Glory by Julie Checkoway**
May 18, 2018 - The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot**
June 15, 2018 - The Seven Stairs: An Adventure of the Heart by Stuart Brent
** —This book is also available as a Downloadable Audiobook and/or eBook from PSPL.
September 15, 2017
Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson**
—A Finalist for the 2016 National Book Award
—New York Times Bestseller
—A Seattle Times pick for Summer Reading Roundup 2017
The acclaimed New York Times bestselling and National Book Award–winning author of Brown Girl Dreaming delivers her first adult novel in twenty years.
Running into a long-ago friend sets memory from the 1970s in motion for August, transporting her to a time and a place where friendship was everything—until it wasn’t. For August and her girls, sharing confidences as they ambled through neighborhood streets, Brooklyn was a place where they believed that they were beautiful, talented, brilliant—a part of a future that belonged to them.
But beneath the hopeful veneer, there was another Brooklyn, a dangerous place where grown men reached for innocent girls in dark hallways, where ghosts haunted the night, where mothers disappeared. A world where madness was just a sunset away and fathers found hope in religion.
Like Louise Meriwether’s Daddy Was a Number Runner and Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina, Jacqueline Woodson’s Another Brooklyn heartbreakingly illuminates the formative time when childhood gives way to adulthood—the promise and peril of growing up—and exquisitely renders a powerful, indelible, and fleeting friendship that united four young lives.
October 20, 2017
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain**
Whether he’s sneaking doughnuts, mooning over a pretty girl, or snookering the local boys to do his work for him, Tom Sawyer is the consummate schemer—but his charm and easygoing nature keep him from being in anyone’s bad graces for long. However, when Tom teams up with his friend Huck Finn, their sleepy Missouri town had better watch out.
Based on Mark Twain’s memories of growing up along the Mississippi River, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is both an idyllic picture of boyhood and an affectionate satire of adult conventions.
November 17, 2017
Ladies of the Canyons: A League of Extraordinary Women and Their Adventures in the American Southwest by Lesley Poling-Kempes**
—WILLA Literary Award, 2016
—Western Writers of America Spur Award finalist
Ladies of the Canyons is the true story of remarkable women who left the security and comforts of genteel Victorian society and journeyed to the American Southwest in search of a wider view of themselves and their world.
Educated, restless, and inquisitive, Natalie Curtis, Carol Stanley, Alice Klauber, and Mary Cabot Wheelwright were plucky, intrepid women whose lives were transformed in the first decades of the twentieth century by the people and the landscape of the American Southwest. Part of an influential circle of women that included Louisa Wade Wetherill, Alice Corbin Henderson, Mabel Dodge Luhan, Mary Austin, and Willa Cather, these ladies imagined and created a new home territory, a new society, and a new identity for themselves and for the women who would follow them.
Their adventures were shared with the likes of Theodore Roosevelt and Robert Henri, Edgar Hewett and Charles Lummis, Chief Tawakwaptiwa of the Hopi, and Hostiin Klah of the Navajo. Their journeys took them to Monument Valley and Rainbow Bridge, into Canyon de Chelly, and across the high mesas of the Hopi, down through the Grand Canyon, and over the red desert of the Four Corners, to the pueblos along the Rio Grande and the villages in the mountains between Santa Fe and Taos.
Although their stories converge in the outback of the American Southwest, the saga of Ladies of the Canyons is also the tale of Boston's Brahmins, the Greenwich Village avant-garde, the birth of American modern art, and Santa Fe's art and literary colony.
December 15, 2017
Lab Girl by Hope Jahren**
—Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography
—A New York Times Notable Book
—Winner of the American Association for the Advancement of Science/Subaru Science Books & Film Prize for Excellence in Science Books
—Finalist for the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award
—One of the Best Books of the Year: The Washington Post, TIME.com, NPR, Slate, Entertainment Weekly, Newsday, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Kirkus Reviews
Geobiologist Hope Jahren has spent her life studying trees, flowers, seeds, and soil. Lab Girl is her revelatory treatise on plant life—but it is also a celebration of the lifelong curiosity, humility, and passion that drive every scientist. In these pages, Hope takes us back to her Minnesota childhood, where she spent hours in unfettered play in her father’s college laboratory. She tells us how she found a sanctuary in science, learning to perform lab work “with both the heart and the hands.” She introduces us to Bill, her brilliant, eccentric lab manager. And she extends the mantle of scientist to each one of her readers, inviting us to join her in observing and protecting our environment. Warm, luminous, compulsively readable, Lab Girl vividly demonstrates the mountains that we can move when love and work come together.
January 19, 2018
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway**
In 1937 Ernest Hemingway traveled to Spain to cover the civil war there for the North American Newspaper Alliance. Three years later he completed the greatest novel to emerge from "the good fight," For Whom the Bell Tolls.
The story of Robert Jordan, a young American in the International Brigades attached to an antifascist guerilla unit in the mountains of Spain, it tells of loyalty and courage, love and defeat, and the tragic death of an ideal. In his portrayal of Jordan's love for the beautiful Maria and his superb account of El Sordo's last stand, in his brilliant travesty of La Pasionaria and his unwillingness to believe in blind faith, Hemingway surpasses his achievement in The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms to create a work at once rare and beautiful, strong and brutal, compassionate, moving, and wise. "If the function of a writer is to reveal reality," Maxwell Perkins wrote Hemingway after reading the manuscript, "no one ever so completely performed it." Greater in power, broader in scope, and more intensely emotional than any of the author's previous works, it stands as one of the best war novels of all time.
February 16, 2018
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead**
—Winner of the Pulitzer Prize
—Winner of the National Book Award
—#1 New York Times bestseller
Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad is a magnificent tour de force chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South.
Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood—where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned—Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.
In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor—engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.
Like the protagonist of Gulliver’s Travels, Cora encounters different worlds at each stage of her journey—hers is an odyssey through time as well as space. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre–Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.
March 16, 2018
Still Life by Louise Penny**
—Winner of the New Blood Dagger, Arthur Ellis, Barry, Anthony, and Dilys awards
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surêté du Québec and his team of investigators are called in to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montreal. Jane Neal, a local fixture in the tiny hamlet of Three Pines, just north of the U.S. border, has been found dead in the woods. The locals are certain it's a tragic hunting accident and nothing more, but Gamache smells something foul in these remote woods, and is soon certain that Jane Neal died at the hands of someone much more sinister than a careless bowhunter.
Still Life introduces not only an engaging series hero in Inspector Gamache, who commands his forces—and this series—with integrity and quiet courage, but also a winning and talented new writer of traditional mysteries in the person of Louise Penny.
April 20, 2018
The Three-Year Swim Club: The Untold Story of Maui's Sugar Ditch Kids and Their Quest for Olympic Glory by Julie Checkoway**
—New York Times Bestseller
In 1937, a schoolteacher on the island of Maui challenged a group of poverty-stricken sugar plantation kids to swim upstream against the current of their circumstance. The goal? To become Olympians.
They faced seemingly insurmountable obstacles. The children were Japanese-American, were malnourished and barefoot and had no pool; they trained in the filthy irrigation ditches that snaked down from the mountains into the sugarcane fields. Their future was in those same fields, working alongside their parents in virtual slavery, known not by their names but by numbered tags that hung around their necks. Their teacher, Soichi Sakamoto, was an ordinary man whose swimming ability didn't extend much beyond treading water.
In spite of everything, including the virulent anti-Japanese sentiment of the late 1930s, in their first year the children outraced Olympic athletes twice their size; in their second year, they were national and international champs, shattering American and world records and making headlines from L.A. to Nazi Germany. In their third year, they'd be declared the greatest swimmers in the world, but they'd also face their greatest obstacle: the dawning of a world war and the cancellation of the Games. Still, on the battlefield, they'd become the 20th century's most celebrated heroes, and in 1948, they'd have one last chance for Olympic glory.
May 18, 2018
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot**
—Now a major motion picture from HBO® starring Oprah Winfrey and Rose Byrne
Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they’d weigh more than 50 million metric tons—as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions.
Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave.
Now Rebecca Skloot takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells; from Henrietta’s small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia—a land of wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo—to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live and struggle with the legacy of her cells.
Henrietta’s family did not learn of her “immortality” until more than twenty years after her death, when scientists investigating HeLa began using her husband and children in research without informed consent. And though the cells had launched a multimillion-dollar industry that sells human biological materials, her family never saw any of the profits. As Rebecca Skloot so brilliantly shows, the story of the Lacks family—past and present—is inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of.
Over the decade it took to uncover this story, Rebecca Skloot became enmeshed in the lives of the Lacks family—especially Henrietta’s daughter Deborah, who was devastated to learn about her mother’s cells. She was consumed with questions: Had scientists cloned her mother? Did it hurt her when researchers infected her cells with viruses and shot them into space? What happened to her sister, Elsie, who died in a mental institution at the age of fifteen? And if her mother was so important to medicine, why couldn’t her children afford health insurance?
Intimate in feeling, astonishing in scope, and impossible to put down, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks captures the beauty and drama of scientific discovery, as well as its human consequences.
June 15, 2018
The Seven Stairs: An Adventure of the Heart by Stuart Brent
Here in a new, updated edition is the famous story of an ex-GI named Stuart Brent who turned his passion for reading into a bookstore that became a mecca for book lovers across America. His exuberant memoir reveals the strategies and beliefs that made him one of the nation's most colorful and revered independent booksellers. Filled with personal anecdotes about celebrated authors, pioneering publishers and editors, and illustrious customers such as Katharine Hepburn and Ernest Hemingway, The Seven Stairs provides a rare window on the world of books. For everyone who believes in the power of literacy and the joy of reading, the story shines with conviction and inspiration.