Book Notes

All Book Notes articles are collected here.

Book Notes | ‘Fox Creek’

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Set in the Northwoods of Minnesota, 'Fox Creek,' the 19th book in the Cork O’Connor mystery series by William Kent Krueger, is about the conflict between Native and white people in the use of natural resources in both the U.S. and Canada.

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Fox Creek, book cover

Book Notes | ‘Strongmen from Mussolini to the Present’

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The topic covered by this well-researched and carefully documented history is depressing but very important as the battle between democracy and autocracy continues around the world today.

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Strongmen, Mussolini to the Present, book cover

Book Notes | ‘Lessons in Chemistry’

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The UMRA Book Club discussion of Elizabeth Zott’s novel brought to light several real-life examples of discrimination against women close to home, including their exclusion from full participation in the University of Minnesota Marching Band until 1972 and the landmark Rajender v. University of Minnesota sex discrimination lawsuit filed in 1973.

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Lessons in Chemistry

Book Notes | ‘The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane’

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Although it represents exhaustive research and is engrossing, Lisa See’s novel about a young woman who becomes a tea entrepreneur in China and the daughter she gives up for adoption by a family in Southern California drew mixed reactions from members of UMRA’s Book Club I.

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The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane

Book Notes | ‘The Heart is a Lonely Hunter’

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Carson McCullers’ debut novel enjoyed a rapid rise to the top of the bestseller lists when first published in 1940, and ranks high on many current lists of best novels. But members of UMRA’s Book Club I found it to be dark and bleak and would not recommend the book to others.

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The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

Book Notes | ‘Flight Behavior’ by Barbara Kingsolver

Set in a poverty-stricken Appalachian town in rural Tennessee, Barbara Kingsolver’s novel delves into the climate change culture wars and the pressures of striving to be an individual while living in a close-knit community.

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Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver, book cover

Book Notes | ‘Miss Benson’s Beetle’

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The power of friendship, the destructive impact of war, and genuine appreciation of the natural world are the overriding themes in this quirky, historical novel about an unlikely expedition by two women in search of an elusive golden beetle.

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Miss Benson's Beetle, book cover

Book Notes | ‘Elephant Company’

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Set in Burma after World War I, this “spellbinding” true story about James Howard Williams and his love for elephants provides lessons in courage, trust, and gratitude.

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Elephant Company, book cover

Book Notes | ‘A House Among the Trees’

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The fictional story and characters portrayed in 'A House Among the Trees' are based on the last will of Maurice Sendak, the renowned author and illustrator of children’s books who died in 2012 and left his entire estate to his longtime personal assistant.

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A House Among the Trees, book cover

Book Notes | 'Nomadland'

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For several years, journalist and author Jessica Bruder followed a group of retirees who lived in their vehicles, everything from small cars to worn out RVs, as they tried to piece together a subsistence lifestyle. Her book chronicles the challenges, the hardships, and the community these modern nomads created for themselves.

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Nomadland, book cover

‘Prof Notes: Wry Observations on Academic Life’

UMRA member and Professor Emerita Melissa Anderson has published a collection of five-line observations— peculiar, delightful, humorous and poignant—on academic life, based on her 36 years at the University.

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Prof Notes book cover

Book Notes | A story of war and the valiant persons who risk their lives to help others

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The story told by author Kristin Harmel in "The Book of Lost Names" is set in the Vichy area of France, where there was an underground network to help Jews and children escape to Switzerland during World War II.

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The Book of Lost Names, book cover

Book Notes | ‘Being Mortal’

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"Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End" by Atul Gawande, MD, MPH, inspired a spirited and sometimes somber discussion by members of UMRA’s Fourth Friday Book Club about end-of-life health challenges.

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Being Mortal book cover

Book Notes | 'West with Giraffes'

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At age 105, Woodrow Wilson Nickel is living in a nursing home. He decides he needs to write his life story, and what a story it is. It’s the story of a destitute young man during the Great Depression who found a reason to keep living against all odds: driving two giraffes from New York City to San Diego.

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West with Giraffes, book cover

Book Notes | This Tender Land

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This Tender Land is an epic coming-of-age story set in Minnesota during the summer of 1932. It chronicles a mesmerizing journey of four children who escape the horrors of the Lincoln Indian Training School and sneak away in a canoe in search of a home.

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This Tender Land, book cover