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Brown Bag Books

This Library book discussion group meets at noon on the fourth Wednesday of each month and is always open to new members. Books are available at the Reader’s Advisory desk during the month preceding the discussion. Volunteers from among the group lead the discussion, with background materials supplied by the librarian.

*This program is currently a hybrid program, meeting in person AND online. If you are interested in attending via Zoom, please email Tim Sherman at for Zoom link and login information.

Upcoming Titles

Black Cake book cover
The Marsh King's Daughter book cover
Honor book cover
Remarkably Bright Creatures book cover

Black Cake

by Charmaine Wilkerson

May 22


Two estranged siblings delve into their mother’s hidden past—and how it all connects to her traditional Caribbean black cake—in this immersive family saga, “a character-driven, multigenerational story that’s meant to be savored” (Time).

We can’t choose what we inherit. But can we choose who we become?

In present-day California, Eleanor Bennett’s death leaves behind a puzzling inheritance for her two children, Byron and Benny: a black cake, made from a family recipe with a long history, and a voice recording. In her message, Eleanor shares a tumultuous story about a headstrong young swimmer who escapes her island home under suspicion of murder. The heartbreaking tale Eleanor unfolds, the secrets she still holds back, and the mystery of a long-lost child challenge everything the siblings thought they knew about their lineage and themselves.

Can Byron and Benny reclaim their once-close relationship, piece together Eleanor’s true history, and fulfill her final request to “share the black cake when the time is right”? Will their mother’s revelations bring them back together or leave them feeling more lost than ever?

Charmaine Wilkerson’s debut novel is a story of how the inheritance of betrayals, secrets, memories, and even names can shape relationships and history. Deeply evocative and beautifully written, Black Cake is an extraordinary journey through the life of a family changed forever by the choices of its matriarch.

The Marsh King’s Daughter

by Karen Dionne

June 26

The Marsh King’s Daughter is the mesmerizing tale of a woman who must risk everything to hunt down the dangerous man who shaped her past and threatens to steal her future: her own father.

Helena Pelletier has a loving husband, two beautiful daughters, and a business that fills her days. But she also has a secret: she is the product of an abduction. Her mother was kidnapped as a teenager by her father and kept in a remote cabin in the marshlands of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Helena, born two years after the abduction, loved her home in nature, and despite her father’s sometimes brutal behavior, she loved him, too…until she learned precisely how savage he could be.

More than twenty years later, she has buried her past so soundly that even her husband doesn’t know the truth. But now her father has killed two guards, escaped from prison, and disappeared into the marsh. The police begin a manhunt, but Helena knows they don’t stand a chance. Knows that only one person has the skills to find the survivalist the world calls the Marsh King—because only one person was ever trained by him: his daughter.

“[A] nail-biter perfect for Room fans.”—Cosmopolitan

“Sensationally good psychological suspense.”—Lee Child

A Michigan Notable Book!


by Thrity Umrigar

July 24

“In the way A Thousand Splendid Suns told of Afghanistan’s women, Thrity Umrigar tells a story of India with the intimacy of one who knows the many facets of a land both modern and ancient, awash in contradictions.” —Lisa Wingate, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Before We Were Yours

In this riveting and immersive novel, bestselling author Thrity Umrigar tells the story of two couples and the sometimes dangerous and heartbreaking challenges of love across a cultural divide.

Indian American journalist Smita has returned to India to cover a story, but reluctantly: long ago she and her family left the country with no intention of ever coming back. As she follows the case of Meena—a Hindu woman attacked by members of her own village and her own family for marrying a Muslim man—Smita comes face to face with a society where tradition carries more weight than one’s own heart, and a story that threatens to unearth the painful secrets of Smita’s own past. While Meena’s fate hangs in the balance, Smita tries in every way she can to right the scales. She also finds herself increasingly drawn to Mohan, an Indian man she meets while on assignment. But the dual love stories of Honor are as different as the cultures of Meena and Smita themselves: Smita realizes she has the freedom to enter into a casual affair, knowing she can decide later how much it means to her.

In this tender and evocative novel about love, hope, familial devotion, betrayal, and sacrifice, Thrity Umrigar shows us two courageous women trying to navigate how to be true to their homelands and themselves at the same time.

Remarkably Bright Creatures

by Shelby Van Pelt

August 28

NAMED A BEST BOOK OF SUMMER by: Chicago Tribune * The View * Southern Living * USA Today

“Remarkably Bright Creatures [is] an ultimately feel-good but deceptively sensitive debut. . . . Memorable and tender.” — Washington Post

For fans of A Man Called Ove, a charming, witty and compulsively readable exploration of friendship, reckoning, and hope that traces a widow’s unlikely connection with a giant Pacific octopus. After Tova Sullivan’s husband died, she began working the night shift at the Sowell Bay Aquarium, mopping floors and tidying up. Keeping busy has always helped her cope, which she’s been doing since her eighteen-year-old son, Erik, mysteriously vanished on a boat in Puget Sound over thirty years ago. Tova becomes acquainted with curmudgeonly Marcellus, a giant Pacific octopus living at the aquarium. Marcellus knows more than anyone can imagine but wouldn’t dream of lifting one of his eight arms for his human captors—until he forms a remarkable friendship with Tova.

Ever the detective, Marcellus deduces what happened the night Tova’s son disappeared. And now Marcellus must use every trick his old invertebrate body can muster to unearth the truth for her before it’s too late. Shelby Van Pelt’s debut novel is a gentle reminder that sometimes taking a hard look at the past can help uncover a future that once felt impossible.

Previous Books Discussed

2022 | 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000 | 1999

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
The Confidante by Christopher C. Gorham
Trust by Hernan Diaz

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
Caste: The Origin of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
Deacon King Kong by James McBride
Americanon: an unexpected U.S. history in thirteen bestselling books by Jess McHugh
The Latecomer by Jean Hanff Korelitz
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley
The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict

Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart
Black Bottom Saints by Alice Randall
Made in China by Amelia Pang
The Women of the Copper Country by Mary Doria Russell
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
The Stars are Fire by Anita Shreve
The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich
Invisible Women: Bata Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez
Edgar Allan Poe Complete Tales and Poems by Edgar Allan Poe
This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger
Midnight at the Blackbird Café by Heather Webber

Factfulness by Hans Rosling
The Friend by Sigrid Nunez
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
What it Means When a Man Falls from the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah
The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
Days Without End by Sebastian Barry
My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
The Overstory by Richard Powers
The Woman Who Smashed Codes by Jason Fagone
Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler

by Andrew Sean Greer
What the Eyes Don’t See by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha
[no meeting]
The Sport of Kings
by C. E. Morgan
The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
Virgil Wander by Lief Enger
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick
Creatures by Crissy Van Meter
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigiani
Improvement by Joan Silber
Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
The Power by Naomi Alderman
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlen
The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff & Jonathan Haidt
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?
by Roz Chast
News of the World by Paulette Jiles
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens
The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Desert Queen
by Janet Wallach
The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
Once in a Great City by David Maraniss
The Turner House by Angela Flournoy
The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure
One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Ngyuen
Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf
X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
Euphoria by Lily King
Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine
TransAtlantic by Colum McCann
Dead Wake by Erik Larson
The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert
The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin
The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
I Shall Not Hate by Izzeldin Abuelaish
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
by Jonas Jonasson
The View from Castle Rock by Alice Munro
Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
Before You Know Kindness by Chris Bohjalian
Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier
The Round House by Louise Erdrich
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson
Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink
And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

The Language of Flowers
by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
The Tiger’s Wife by Tèa Obreht
Remains of the Day by Kazou Ishiguro
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin
The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers
Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? by Michael J. Sandel
The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Tinkers by Paul Harding
The Art Student’s War by Brad Leithauser
Please Look After Mom by Kyong-Sook Shin
Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof
Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
The Submission by Amy Waldman
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly
Annie’s Ghosts by Steven Luxenberg
Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner
The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Arc of Justice: a saga of race, civil rights, and murder in the Jazz Age by Kevin Boyle
Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

Stealing Buddha’s Dinner by Bich Minh Nguyen
Birds Without Wings by Louis de Berniers
Still Alice by Lisa Genova
Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Kings of New York by Michael Weinreb
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
The Girls From Ames by Jeffrey Zaslow
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
My Ántonia by Willa Cather

Little Heathens
by Mildred A. Kalish
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson
The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch & Jeffrye Zaslow
Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russel
Paul Revere’s Ride by David Hackett Fischer
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Home by Marilyne Robinson

His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph J. Ellis
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
The Nick Adams Stories by Ernest Hemingway
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaleid Hosseini
Atonement by Ian McEwan
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
Go and Come Back by Joan Abelove

by Ian McEwan
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards
A Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell
Julie and Julia by Julia Powell
Digging to America by Anne Tyler
Arc of Justice: a saga of race, civil rights, and murder in the Jazz Age by Kevin Boyle
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
March by Geraldine Brooks
The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham

The Bone People by Keri Hulme
True North by Jim Harrison
Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
Shadow Divers by Robert Kurson
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio by Terry Ryan

Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson
The Three Miss Margarets by Louise Shaffer
Niagara Falls All Over Again by Elizabeth McCraken
Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
Madam Secretary by Madeleine Albright
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

April 1865: the month that saved America
by Jay Winik
The Runaway Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini
Black Dahlia Avenger by Steve Hodel
Saul and Patsy by Charles Baxter
Empire Falls by Richard Russo
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
The Giver, Gathering Blue, & The Messenger by Lois Lowry
Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life by Queen Noor of Jordan
Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks
True to Form by Elizabeth Berg

John Adams by David McCullough
The Water is Wide by Pat Conroy
A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines
The Hours by Michael Cunningham
Angle of Repose by Wallace Earle Stegner
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
The Lucky Gourd Shop by Joanna Catherine Scott
A Year by the Sea by Joan Anderson
West of Kabul, East of New York by Tamim Ansary
Observatory Mansions by Edward Carey
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

A Virtuous Woman
by Kaye Gibbons
Drowning Ruth by Christina Schwarz
Seabiscuit: an American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Ahab’s Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund
The Beet Queen by Louise Erdrich
Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns
Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz
Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

The Girl who Loved Tom Gordon
by Stephen King
The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreve
The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Nine and Counting: The Women of the Senate by Barbara Mikulski, et al.
Samurai’s Garden by Gail Tsukiyama
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
Beach Music by Pat Conroy
Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
A Boy’s Life by Robert R. McCammon
Personal History by Katharine Graham
Sometimes I Dream in Italian by Rita Ciresi

The Shipping News by Annie Proulx
Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
Follow the River by James Alexander Thom
Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang
No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Evensong by Gail Godwin
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon

Charming Billy by Alice McDermott
Father Melancholy’s Daughter by Gail Godwin
We Were the Mulhaneys by Joyce Carol Oates
I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb
The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells
The Dollmaker by Harriette Arnow
Patty Jane’s House of Curl by Lorna Landrik
The Testament by John Grisham
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy