November Book Picnic Recommendations

On the first Wednesday of every month, GWL team members and volunteers share what we’ve read recently at our Book Picnic. In the current climate, our Book Picnic takes place remotely, giving all of us some valuable social interaction and providing us with many excellent book suggestions…

  • Pandora’s Jar: Women in the Greek Myths by Natalie Haynes

    Recommended by Pauline, this is actually the third work by Haynes that has made an appearance in our book picnics (the first two being A Thousand Ships and The Children of Jocasta). Like the previous two, this book retells Greek myths with a female focus, this time centering on creation myths and the four mythic sagas: the Trojan War, the Royal House of Thebes, Jason and the Argonauts, and Heracles. There are many Greek myths with women at the heart of the story, but they are often overshadowed by male heroes. Haynes gives those women a voice and provides a fresh perspective, breathing new life into well-known myths. Pauline found the story to be “quite funny and witty in places”, and she really enjoys Haynes’ writing style overall. 

  • The Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan

    This work has been enthusiastically recommended by Annie, who is halfway through reading it. Winnie and Helen are two friends who have been each other’s confidants their entire lives. When Helen threatens to expose their secrets, Winnie takes it upon herself to tell her tragic life story to her daughter Pearl, only to discover that they both have secrets to tell. This is a story about mother/daughter relationships, family history, Chinese and Chinese-American culture, loss and strength, and a woman’s fight for survival. Tan is a master of complex, authentic characterization, and vivid female characters, and Annie describes her writing as “accessible and elegant.”

  • The Bird in the Bamboo Cage by Hazel Gaynor

    Recommended and enjoyed by Anna, this historical fiction piece is inspired by true events. It takes place in China during WWII, and is centered on the Japanese Army’s internment of teachers and children from a British-run missionary school. Faced with uncertainty and oppression, students look to the school’s Girl Guides group to provide a sense of safety and normalcy. The story is told from the viewpoint of both a 10-year-old student, Nancy, and a young teacher, Elspeth. Meticulously researched and well written, this is a harrowing yet hopeful wartime story.

  • The Silk House by Kayte Nunn

    Also recommended by Anna, who is currently reading it, is this spellbinding gothic novel. There are two timelines, the late 1760s and 2019, and three interwoven stories. In 2019, history teacher Thea arrives at a British boarding school and is told she will live with the girls in Silk House, a quite mysterious building. In the past, Rowan is hired to work in the home of an English silk merchant, and her knowledge of herbs and remedies catches some attention. Concurrently, in London, Mary-Louise dreams of breaking into the male-dominated silk design trade and creates a print with dangerous and deadly flowers. In the present, strange events including noises and the sighting of ghostly figures begin to take place in Silk House, prompting Thea to research its dark past. An atmospheric tale deftly weaving supernatural elements and witchcraft from past to present. Anna finds it fabulous and “absolutely fascinating,” and doesn’t want it to end.

  • World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

    This nonfiction piece was recommended by our librarian, Wendy. It is a refreshing collection of essays about the natural world, along with the author’s own reflections on, and connections with, nature. A warm and lyrical book, it includes facts about plants and animals along with short anecdotes. This unique melding of personal essay and nature writing provokes a feeling of mindfulness and understanding in regards to the way nature frames our lives. Wendy loved reading this book, and found herself “really moved by it.”

If you’re looking to pick up some interesting reads for yourself, GWL is delighted to offer our ‘Select and Collect’ service.

Request up to 6 books in advance, and we’ll have them ready for you to pick up. Or, if you’re not sure where to start, we can select some titles or make up a “book bundle” for you. Click here to find out more!

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