Reading Roundup: Booklovers Book Club

Members of the Booklovers Book Club talked books (what else?!) with MSB, and here's what's on their must-read shelf:

Renoir’s Dancer: The Secret Life of Suzanne Valadon by Catherine Hewitt

A wild-child street urchin, circus performer turned artist's model and then an artist in her own right, Valadon was at the vortex of the Parisian art scene. Her beauty, talent, and passion for life pulled mentors and lovers into her orbit and pushed her to challenge social and artistic conventions. Hewitt brings not only captures her spirit but also the times of her life, a biography and cultural history that pulls you in. —by Jan Blodgett


Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

This is at once a laugh out loud and heart-wrenching account of a boy growing up in South Africa.  His book is focused on his own life and experiences, not specifically on apartheid or South African politics.  But through this, the reader gains a greater understanding of the reality of being poor and mixed-race during a politically tumultuous time in South Africa.  Readers can relate to his stories  - particularly those revolving around the universal human condition of not fitting in.  He authentically provides moving, often shocking stories gave me such a greater appreciation for both this author as well as the power of human resilience.   —by Britta Crandall


Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Historical Fiction at its best.  This book has family tragedies, the bond of siblings, heartbreak and a child forced to grow up before her time. I was completely caught up in this story which takes you back and forth between the past and the present weaving a tale of persistence and hope. —by Nancy Lingle 


The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash 

A fascinating snapshot in time of a “real life” local event in history—the 1929 strike at the Loray Mill in nearby Gastonia. Cash blends the real and the imagined to share the story of Ella May Wiggins, a poor mill worker and balladeer who is trying to support her young children. She gets fatally involved in the local union movement and strike. After you read the book and are immersed in Ella May’s story, it’s worth a day trip visit the newly rehabbed Loray Mill in Gastonia, particularly the Kessel History Center at the Mill to learn more about the mill history, Ella May, and the 1929 strike.  —by Autumn Michael


Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

This is my new favorite book, even though it is not new. The writing is beautiful, almost luscious in its use of language, metaphor, and description. And the characters are deeply developed with honest, real voices. This is a book about loyalty and family and survival that makes the heart ache and pull for these characters to persevere in the brief glimpse we get into their lives in the days leading up to Hurricane Katrina. When I finished reading it, I just wanted to hug the book and hold these characters tight.  Gorgeous. —by Nancy Popkin