Book clubs offer a great opportunity for friends and book lovers to gather (whether virtually or in person) to catch up and discuss a good book. There’s only two problems with this activity and they seem to come up at every meeting: what book should the group read next and how do you find enough copies for everyone?
TBPL is here to help with our Book Club in a Bag service. Each bag includes 10 paperback copies of the same book, discussion questions for your group to ponder, author information, and book reviews. With over 200 different titles available, there is bound to be one that is the perfect next read for your group.
Visit our online catalogue to place holds on book club bags as well as individual copies of any of the books mentioned below. If you’re looking to view all of the book club bags available, simply click the link and search “book club bag”. Any library patron can place a hold on a bag for pick up at any of our open branches. These bags are loaned out for 8 weeks, which gives you and your book club plenty of time to read and discuss.
Every month, a new set of book club titles will be highlighted in The Book Club Hub post. This month features nonfiction books that take place during the Holocaust. The Thunder Bay Museum is hosting an exhibit titled “And in 1948 I Came to Canada: The Holocaust in Six Dates” which raises awareness about the genocide of the Jews by presenting its history and reflecting on the impacts of racism and discrimination in our society. TBPL has several titles you can pick up to educate yourself about the Holocaust itself, as well as its impact on society ever since. Here, we feature four nonfiction titles to bring to your book club to start the conversation. Here are this month’s selections:
The Zookeeper’s Wife – Diane Ackerman
When Germany invaded Poland, Stuka bombers devastated Warsaw—and the city’s zoo along with it. With most of their animals dead, zookeepers Jan and Antonina Zabinski began smuggling Jews into empty cages. Another dozen “guests” hid inside the Zabinskis’ villa, emerging after dark for dinner, socializing, and, during rare moments of calm, piano concerts. Jan, active in the Polish resistance, kept ammunition buried in the elephant enclosure and stashed explosives in the animal hospital. Meanwhile, Antonina kept her unusual household afloat, caring for both its human and its animal inhabitants—otters, a badger, hyena pups, lynxes. With her exuberant prose and exquisite sensitivity to the natural world, Diane Ackerman engages us viscerally in the lives of the zoo animals, their keepers, and their hidden visitors. She shows us how Antonina refused to give in to the penetrating fear of discovery, keeping alive an atmosphere of play and innocence even as Europe crumbled around her.
I Want You to Know We’re Still Here: A Post-Holocaust Memoir – Esther Safran Foer
A riveting memoir of family, the Holocaust, and the search for truth
Esther Safran Foer grew up in a home where the past was too terrible to speak of. The child of parents who were each the sole survivors of their respective families, for Esther the Holocaust loomed in the backdrop of daily life, felt but never discussed. The result was a childhood marked by painful silences and continued tragedy. Even as she built a successful career, married, and raised three children, Esther always felt herself searching.
So when Esther’s mother casually mentions an astonishing revelation–that her father had a previous wife and daughter, both killed in the Holocaust–Esther resolves to find out who they were, and how her father survived. Armed with only a black-and-white photo and a hand-drawn map, she travels to Ukraine, determined to find the shtetl where her father hid during the war. What she finds reshapes her identity and gives her the opportunity to finally mourn.
I Want You to Know We’re Still Here is the poignant and deeply moving story not only of Esther’s journey but of four generations living in the shadow of the Holocaust. They are four generations of survivors, storytellers, and memory keepers, determined not just to keep the past alive but to imbue the present with life and more life.
How to Fight Anti-Semitism – Bari Weiss
On October 27, 2018, eleven Jews were gunned down as they prayed at their synagogue in Pittsburgh. It was the deadliest attack on Jews in American history.
For most Americans, the massacre at Tree of Life, the synagogue where Bari Weiss became a bat mitzvah, came as a total shock. But anti-Semitism is the oldest hatred, commonplace across the Middle East and on the rise for years in Europe. So that terrible morning in Pittsburgh raised a question Americans can no longer avoid: Could it happen here?
This book is Weiss’s answer.
Like many, Weiss long believed this country could escape the rising tide of anti-Semitism. But now the luckiest Jews in history are beginning to face a three-headed dragon known all too well to Jews of other times and places: the physical fear of violent assault, the moral fear of ideological vilification, and the political fear of resurgent fascism and populism.
No longer the exclusive province of the far right, the far left, and assorted religious bigots, anti-Semitism now finds a home in identity politics and the reaction against identity politics, in the renewal of America First isolationism and the rise of one-world socialism, and in the spread of Islamist ideas into unlikely places. A hatred that was, until recently, reliably taboo, anti-Semitism is migrating toward the mainstream, amplified by social media and a culture of conspiracy that threatens us all.
Weiss’s cri de couer is an unnerving reminder that Jews must never lose their hard-won instinct for danger, and a powerful case for renewing Jewish and American values in uncertain times from one of our most provocative writers. Not just for the sake of America’s Jews, but for the sake of America.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz – Heather Morris
In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.
Imprisoned for more than two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.
One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.
A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful re-creation of Lale Sokolov’s experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions.
These memoirs and biographies offer readers first-hand accounts of what occurred less than 100 years ago. The exhibit runs at the Thunder Bay Museum from April 11th to July 24th, 2022.
Not in a book club? No problem! These books are also available as single copies in our online catalogue.
Book descriptions via GoodReads
Lindsay – www.tbpl.ca. If you have a comment about today’s column, we would love to hear from you
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