LAVA, a book group of the First Unitarian Church of Rochester, NY, reads a variety of books, especially literary fiction.    Reading and discussion resources are available for our selections since 2004.

Upcoming Discussions

2021
Apr 9 Warlight by Michael Ondaatje. 285 pages, 2018.

This novel's first sentence is: "In 1945 our parents went away and left us in the care of two men who may have been criminals." The title refers to the wartime restrictions that permitted only a few dim lights during the night. Minneapolis Tribune: "The pleasure of spy novels is their suggestion that smarter and savvier figures are protecting our lives. Ondaatje tweaks the notion, considering Nathaniel's life in the context of spies falling down on the job."   LAVA's reading resources

May 14 Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead. 213 pages, 2020.

Based on an actual institution that operated for 111 years, this is the story of "two boys unjustly sentenced to a hellish reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida." New York Journal of Books: "His story is utterly engrossing, funny, at times, suspenseful, flawlessly constructed, moving, and absolutely brilliant." New York Times Book Review: "[Whitehead] applies a master storyteller's muscle not just to excavating a grievous past but to examining the process by which Americans undermine, distort, hide or 'neatly erase' the stories he is driven to tell." This novel won the Pulitzer Prize.

Jun 11 A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. 418 pages, 2013.

In this novel, a sixteen-year-old girl in Tokyo puts her thoughts to her diary and decides to commit suicide; a novelist living on a remote island in the Pacific Northwest discovers the diary in a Hello Kitty lunchbox -- possibly debris from the 2011 tsunami. Sunday Times (London): "While Ozeki is unflinching about life's brutalities, she is also a deeply uplifting writer... Her novel is saturated with love, ideas, and compassion. It is, in short, an absolute treat." The author is a novelist, film maker and Zen Buddhist priest. This novel was shortlisted for both the Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Jul During this month we traditionally share a restaurant meal and see a film together at the Little Theater.
Aug 13 Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by David W. Blight. 764 pages, 2018.

A biography of the African American who escaped slavery and became an abolitionist leader, orator, and major literary figure. New York Times: "Blight isn't looking to overturn our understanding of Douglass, whose courage and achievements were unequivocal, but to complicate it -- a measure by which this ambitious and empathetic biography resoundingly succeeds." NPR: "In the end, this lavish, sprawling biography ... is mostly an extended meditation on the prized and peculiar American penchant for self-invention and re-invention." This book won the Pulitzer Prize for History.

Sep During this month we traditionally share a restaurant meal and see a film together at the Little Theater.
Oct 8 The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz by Erik Larson, 503 pages, 2020.

Publisher's description: "Drawing on diaries, original archival documents, and once-secret intelligence reports, Larson provides a new lens on London's darkest year through the day-to-day experience of Churchill and his family." Minneapolis Star Tribune: "The entire book comes at the reader with breakneck speed. So much happened so quickly in those 12 months, yet Larson deftly weaves all the strands of his tale into a coherent and compelling whole."

Nov 12 During this month, we traditionally open our discussion to the public for the book chosen by Writers & Books for their "Rochester Reads" program. 
Dec 10 The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham. About 240 pages, 1908.

This classic children's book revolves around two characters: Mole, who is peaceful and reflective, and Toad, whose recklessness makes him, this novel is a "rare book that sits on the line between children's and adult literature. Allusive and multilayered, Willows is not merely a book for two audiences, however. The reader can turn to it over and over again: as a child, as an adult, and as an informed and curious student of literature eager to examine the interactions among the book's structure, narrative, and meaning."

2022
Jan In January we hold a special meeting to share information and opinions about the books that have been proposed for the coming year.  Please note that this meeting is on a Saturday instead of the usual Friday.  Details for this meeting are sent via email.
Feb 11 Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America; A Recent History by Kurt Anderson. 388 pages, 2020.

Not long ago, the U.S. had a huge middle class, and the disparity in incomes between classes was not large enough to be destabilizing. According to the author, however, the last several decades have seen a planned and sustained attack on the middle class, resulting in a growing disparity of incomes. The New York Times Book Review called it "a radicalized moderate's moderate case for radical change." The Chicago Tribune says "The book is, perhaps counterintuitively, terrifically entertaining and engaging."