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Thursday, May 5

at 7 PM

Camille Perri

The Assistants

If the characters from HBOas "Girls"were capable of larceny and blackmail, they could be the main characters of Perrias sharp first novel. At age 30, Tina Fontana is the executive assistant to media titan Robert Barlow (think Rupert Murdoch, but with a Texas accent) in New York City. A clerical error on her expense account results in a $20,000 check for Tina, enough to pay off her student loan, which she impulsively decides to do. When a colleague, Emily Johnson, stumbles onto Tina's once-only scam, she talks Tina into performing the same financial prestidigitation for her. Emily also ends up becoming Tina's roommate. In no time, they become the victims of numerous blackmail attempts as other assistants want to have their college loans paid off courtesy of an unknowing Barlow. Things escalate beyond Tina's control, ultimately threatening her relationship with her new boyfriend, Kevin, a hunky lawyer who is also in Barlow's employ. How Tina extricates herself from the situation forms the moral crux of this entertaining slice of millennial life. Perri has a gift for the glib one-liner, and reserved Tina and glamorous Emily make for a great pairing, resulting in smart and fresh novel.

 

Winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize!

Monday, May 23rd

at 7 PM

William Finnegan

Barbarian Days

A deeply rendered self-portrait of a lifelong surfer by an acclaimed New Yorker writer,

"Barbarian Days" is William Finnegan's memoir of an obsession, a complex enchantment. Surfing only looks like a sport. To initiates, it is something else entirely: a beautiful addiction, a demanding course of study, a morally dangerous pastime, a way of life. Raised in California and Hawaii, Finnegan started surfing as a child. He has chased waves all over the world, wandering for years through the South Pacific, Australia, Asia, Africa. A bookish boy, and then an excessively adventurous young man, he went on to become a distinguished writer and war reporter. Barbarian Days takes us deep into unfamiliar worlds, some of them right under our noses off the coasts of New York and San Francisco. It immerses the reader in the edgy camaraderie of close male friendships annealed in challenging waves.

Finnegan shares stories of life in a whites only gang in a tough school in Honolulu even while his closest friend was a Hawaiian surfer. He shows us a world turned upside down for kids and adults alike by the social upheavals of the 1960s. He details the intricacies of famous waves and his own apprenticeships to them. In his youthful folly he drops LSD while riding huge Honolua Bay. He and a buddy, their knapsacks crammed with reef charts, bushwhack through Polynesia. They discover, while camping on an uninhabited island in Fiji, one of the world's greatest waves. As Finnegan's travels take him ever farther afield, he becomes an improbable anthropologist: unpicking the picturesque simplicity of a Samoan fishing village, dissecting the sexual politics of Tongan interactions with Americans and Japanese, navigating the Indonesian black market while nearly succumbing to malaria. Throughout, he surfs, carrying readers with him on rides of harrowing, unprecedented lucidity.

Barbarian Days is an old-school adventure story, an intellectual autobiography, a social history, a literary road movie, and an extraordinary exploration of the gradual mastering of an exacting, little understood art. Today, Finnegan's surfing life is undiminished. Frantically juggling work and family, he chases his enchantment through Long Island ice storms and obscure corners of Madagascar.

 

Tuesday, May 24th

at 7 PM

C.W.  Gortner

Marlene

A lush, dramatic biographical novel of one of the most glamorous and alluring legends of Hollywood's golden age, Marlene Dietrich: from the gender-bending cabarets of Weimar Berlin to the lush film studios of Hollywood, a sweeping story of passion, glamour, ambition, art, and war from the author of Mademoiselle Chanel.

Raised in genteel poverty after the First World War, Maria Magdalena Dietrich dreams of a life on the stage. When a budding career as a violinist is cut short, the willful teenager vows to become a singer, trading her family's proper, middle-class society for the free-spirited, louche world of Weimar Berlin's cabarets and drag balls. With her sultry beauty, smoky voice, seductive silk cocktail dresses, and androgynous tailored suits, Marlene performs to packed houses and becomes entangled in a series of stormy love affairs that push the boundaries of social convention.

For the beautiful, desirous Marlene, neither fame nor marriage and motherhood can cure her wanderlust. As Hitler and the Nazis rise to power, she sets sail for America. Rivaling the success of another European import, Greta Garbo, Marlene quickly becomes one of Hollywood s leading ladies, starring with legends such as Gary Cooper, John Wayne, and Cary Grant. Desperate for her return, Hitler tries to lure her with dazzling promises. Marlene instead chooses to become an American citizen, and after her new nation is forced into World War II, she tours with the USO, performing for thousands of Allied troops in Europe and Africa.

But one day she returns to Germany. Escorted by General George Patton himself, Marlene is heartbroken by the war's devastation and the evil legacy of the Third Reich that has transformed her homeland and the family she loved.

An enthralling and insightful account of this extraordinary legend, Marlene reveals the inner life of a woman of grit, glamour, and ambition who defied convention, seduced the world, and forged her own path on her own terms.

 

 

Saturday, June 11

at 7 PM

Cara Black

Murder On the Quai

The world knows Aimee Leduc, heroine of 15 mysteries in this "New York Times" bestselling series, as a "tres chic," nononsense private investigator-the toughest and most relentless in Paris. Now, author Cara Black dips back in time to reveal how Aimee first became a detective . . . 
November 1989: Aimee Leduc is in her first year of college at Paris's preeminent medical school. She lives in a 17th-century apartment that overlooks the Seine with her father, who runs the family detective agency. 
But the week the Berlin Wall crumbles, so does Aimee's life as she knows it. First, someone has sabotaged her lab work, putting her at risk of failing out of the program. Then, she finds out her aristo boyfriend is getting engaged to another woman. And finally, Aimee's father takes off to Berlin on a mysterious errand. He asks Aimee to help out at the detective agency while he's gone as if she doesn't already have enough to do. But the case Aimee finds herself investigating, a murder linked to a transport truck of Nazi gold that disappeared in the French countryside during the height of World War II, has gotten under her skin. Her heart may not lie in medicine after all, maybe it's time to think harder about the family business.

 

Thursday, June 23rd

at 7 PM

Thad Carhart

Finding Fontainebleau

An American Boy In France

A beguiling memoir of a childhood in 1950s Fontainebleau from the much-admired "New York Times" bestselling author of "The Piano Shop on the Left Bank" 
For a young American boy in the 1950s, Fontainebleau was a sight both strange and majestic, home to a continual series of adventures: a different language to learn, weekend visits to nearby Paris, family road trips to Spain and Italy. Then there was the chateau itself: a sprawling palace once the residence of kings, its grounds the perfect place to play hide-and-seek. The curiosities of the small town and the time with his family as expats left such an impression on him that thirty years later Carhart returned to France with his wife to raise their two children. Touring Fontainebleau again as an adult, he began to appreciate its influence on French style, taste, art, and architecture. Each trip to Fontainebleau introduces him to entirely new aspects of the chateau's history, enriching his memories and leading him to Patrick Ponsot, the head of the chateau's restoration, who becomes Carhart's guide to the hidden Fontainebleau. 
What emerges is an intimate chronicle of a time and place few have experienced. In warm, precise prose, Carhart reconstructs the wonders of his childhood as an American in postwar France, attending French schools with his brothers and sisters. His firsthand account brings to life nothing less than France in the 1950s, from the parks and museums of Paris to the rigors of French schooling to the vast chateau of Fontainebleau and its village, built, piece by piece, over many centuries. "Finding Fontainebleau" is for those captivated by the French way of life, for armchair travelers, and for anyone who has ever fallen in love with a place they want to visit over and over again.

 

 

 

Tuesday, June 28

at 7 PM

Mary Roach

Grunt
The Curious Science of Humans At War

Grunt tackles the science behind some of a soldier's most challenging adversaries- panic, exhaustion, heat, noise-and it introduces us to the scientists who seek to conquer them. Mary Roach dodges hostile fire with the U.S. Marine Corps Paintball Team as part of a study on hearing loss and survivability in combat. She visits the fashion design studio of U.S. Army Natick Labs and learns why a zipper is a problem for a sniper. She visits a repurposed movie studio where amputee actors help prepare Marine Corps medics for the shock and gore of combat wounds. At Camp Lemmonier, Djibouti, in east Africa, we learn how diarrhea can be a threat to national security. Roach samples caffeinated meat, sniffs an archival sample of a World War II stink bomb, and stays up all night with the crew tending the missiles on the nuclear submarine USS Tennessee. She answers questions not found in any other book on the military: Why is DARPA interested in ducks? How is a wedding gown like a bomb suit? Why are shrimp more dangerous to sailors than sharks? Take a tour of duty with Roach, and you'll never see our nation s defenders in the same way again.

 

Thursday, August 4

at 7 PM

Lindsay Hatton

Monterey Bay

A beautiful debut set around the creation of the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium--and the last days of John Steinbeck's "Cannery Row"-
In 1940, fifteen year-old Margot Fiske arrives on the shores of Monterey Bay with her eccentric entrepreneur father. Margot has been her father's apprentice all over the world, until an accident in Monterey's tide pools drives them apart and plunges her head-first into the mayhem of John Steinbeck's" Cannery Row." 
Steinbeck is hiding out from his burgeoning fame at the raucous lab of Ed Ricketts, the biologist known as Doc in "Cannery Row." Ricketts, a charismatic bohemian, quickly becomes the object of Margot's fascination. Despite Steinbeck's protests and her father's misgivings, she wrangles a job as Ricketts's sketch artist and begins drawing the strange and wonderful sea creatures he pulls from the waters of the bay. 
Unbeknownst to Margot, her father is also working with Ricketts. He is soliciting the biologist's advice on his most ambitious and controversial project to date: the transformation of the Row's largest cannery into an aquarium. When Margot begins an affair with Ricketts, she sets in motion a chain of events that will affect not just the two of them, but the future of Monterey as well.

 

 

 

Thursday, August 11

at  7 PM

Lori Ostlund

After the Parade

Sensitive, bighearted, and achingly self-conscious, forty-year-old Aaron Englund long ago escaped the confinements of his Midwestern hometown, but he still feels like an outcast. After twenty years under the Pygmalion-like care of his older partner, Walter, Aaron at last decides it is time to take control of his own fate. But soon after establishing himself in San Francisco, Aaron sees that real freedom will not come until he has made peace with his memories of Mortonville, Minnesota: a cramped town whose four hundred souls form a constellation of Aaron's childhood heartbreaks and hopes. 
After Aaron's father died in the town parade, it was the larger-than life misfits of his childhood who helped Aaron find his place in a world hostile to difference. But Aaron's sense of rejection runs deep: when Aaron was seventeen, Dolores his loving yet selfish and enigmatic mother vanished one night. And when, all these years later, a new friend in San Francisco offers Aaron a way to locate his mother, his past and present collide, forcing Aaron to rethink his place in the world. 
Touching and often hilarious Ostlund writes with acuity and refreshing honesty about the messy complexity of being a social animal in today's world ("Booklist," starred review). Everything here aches, from the lucid prose to the sensitively treated characters to their beautiful and heartbreaking stories. An example of realism in its most potent iteration: not a nearly arranged plot orchestrated by an authorial god but an authentic, empathetic representation of life as it truly is ("Kirkus Reviews," starred review). "After the Parade" is a glorious anthem for the outsider.