Book Notes

All Book Notes articles are collected here.

Book Notes | ‘Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law’

Event Date:

Author Mary Roach has gone around the world to collect stories of animal behavior that has come into conflict with humans and to describe the measures that humans have taken to reach compromises to allow the animals and humans to live in harmony. She is a superb researcher and has a witty way of writing.

More...
Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law, book cover

Book Notes | ‘The Scarlet Letter’

Event Date:

Set in the 1600s in a small town in Puritan New England, 'The Scarlet Letter' by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a story of sin, cowardice, and survival. Members of the UMRA Book Club found the writing to be laborious, riddled with many words no longer in use, and wondered why the novel was on high school reading lists.

More...
The Scarlet Letter, book cover 2

Book Notes | ‘The Other Einstein’

Event Date:

In 'The Other Einstein,' an historical novel about the life of Albert Einstein’s first wife, Mileva Marić, author Marie Benedict speculates that Marić contributed significantly to the papers and relativity theory that are attributed to Einstein. The book raises several questions.

More...
The Other Einstein, book cover

Book Notes | ‘Fox Creek’

Event Date:

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.

More...
Fox Creek, book cover

Book Notes | ‘Strongmen from Mussolini to the Present’

Event Date:

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.

More...
Strongmen, Mussolini to the Present, book cover

Book Notes | ‘Lessons in Chemistry’

Event Date:

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.

More...
Lessons in Chemistry

Book Notes | ‘The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane’

Event Date:

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.

More...
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane

Book Notes | ‘The Heart is a Lonely Hunter’

Event Date:

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.

More...
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.

Published:
 
More...
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver, book cover

Book Notes | ‘Miss Benson’s Beetle’

Event Date:

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.

More...
Miss Benson's Beetle, book cover

Book Notes | ‘Elephant Company’

Event Date:

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.

More...
Elephant Company, book cover

Book Notes | ‘A House Among the Trees’

Event Date:

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.

More...
A House Among the Trees, book cover

Book Notes | 'Nomadland'

Event Date:

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.

More...
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.

Published:
 
More...
Prof Notes book cover

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

Event Date:

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.

More...
The Book of Lost Names, book cover