Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Ever Read a Banned Book?

Since 1982, the American Library Association has been celebrating the freedom to read by promoting Banned Books Week during the last week of September. The message that libraries want to communicate is that Free People Read Freely. From time to time individuals or groups, for one reason or another, have challenged our right to read certain books or have retricted access to those books. One such book is the Bible. Here are some others.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

This year Banned Books Week is September 24 to October 1. See the American Library Association site for a list of 100 of the most frequently challenged books.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Most Borrowed Books

Here is a list of the Most Borrowed Library Books in the U.S.A., for the week of September 15, from Library Journal. See the complete list at that site.

1. 4th of July, James Patterson
2. The Mermaid Chair, Sue Monk Kidd
3. Lifeguard, James Patterson and Andrew Gross
4. The Broker, Grisham, John
5. True Believer, Nicholas Sparks

1. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, Stephen J. Dubner
2. French Women Don't Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure, Mireille Guiliano
3. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, Malcolm Gladwell
4. 1776, David McCullough
5. My Life So Far, Fonda, Jane

Favorite Selections

What were your top five best book club selections? It's difficult for me to select just five; I think these were my favorite ten:

My Sister's Keeper
The Da Vinci Code
Savannah Blues
The House Next Door
The Glass Castle: A memoir
Lovely Bones
Three Weeks With My Brother
West of Kabul, East of New York
Dear Senator
Dreams from My Father

Sunday, September 18, 2005


1. Meet the writer, Janisse Ray on September 26 at 6:30 PM at the Okefenokee Regional Library. She has just had her third book published, Pinhook:Finding Wholeness in a Fragmented Land. Pinhook is the swamp in northern Florida that connects Okefenokee Swamp to the Osceola National Forest. Ray's other books are Ecology of a Cracker Childhood and Wild Card Quilt.

2. Thanks Shelley for joining us at Andrew's Grill on Friday. We enjoyed telling you all about Ansary's book, West of Kabul

3. Rebecca has been rehearsing for a musical Sing Hallelujah. It opens the last weekend in September at the Ritz Theater, downtown.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Our Selections for 2005

2005 Selections

January 17
Inside the Kingdom: My Life in Saudi Arabia by Carmen Bin Ladin

February 21
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

March 18
Salem Falls by Jodie Picoult

April 15
Dear Senator: A Memoir by the Daughter of Strom Thurmond by Essie Mae Washington-Williams

May 20
The House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons

June 17
Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama

July 15
Death Match by Lincoln Child

August 19
Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield

September 16
West of Kabul, East of New York: An Afghan American Story by Tamim Ansary

October 21
At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon

November 18
The Glass Castle: a memoir by Jeannette Walls

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Okefenokee Book Selections 2002-2004

2002 Book Selections

Reach for the summit by Pat Summitt

So Far Back by Pam Durban

Mississippi Solo: A River Quest by Eddy Harris

The Woman Next Door and Lake News by Barbara Delinsky

A Man Named Dave by Dave Pelzer

Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich

The Silent Bride by Leslie Glass

Stupid White Men and other sorry excuses for the state of the nation by Michael Moore

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

2003 Book Selections:

Savannah Blues by Mary Kay Andrews

Cane River by Lalita Tademy

The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum

Prey by Michael Crichton

Portrait of a killer: Jack the Ripper by Patricia Cornwell

Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson

Revenge: A story of hope by Laura Blumenfeld

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

Beautiful Mind: the life of mathematical genius and Nobel Laureate John Nash by Sylvia Nasar

The Amber Room by Steve Berry

Seabiscuit: an American legend by Laura Hillenbrand

2004 Book Selections:

Jekyl Island Club by Brent Monahan

The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi

The Last Juror by John Grisham

Living History by Hilary Rodham Clinton

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodie Picoult

Three Weeks with my Brother by Nicholas Sparks

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

Slave by Mende Nazer and Damien Lewis

Sunday, September 11, 2005

At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon


At Home in Mitford is the first novel in the Mitford series by Jan Karon. Mitford is peaceful and described as a village with turn of the century charm and beauty. This small town discourages tourism and the Mayor would like it to be known as "the pause that refreshes". In other words, the town welcomes visitors but expects the visitors to just pass through.

Father Tim

The story centers around Father Tim, a 60 year old Episcopalian rector, who is longing to get married. We learn a lot about Father Tim. He is diabetic and has a sweet tooth. His church office is organized by Emma, his 58 year old Secretary. His home is organized by Puny Bradshaw, his housekeeper. Strange name. Even more strange is the name Mule Skinner, one of the minor characters in the book.

Father Tim becomes attached to a dog as big as a Buick that he calls Barnabas. Barnabas is the only boisterous and quirky character in the book. Barnabas responds positively to quotes from scripture and to poetry. Scripture is quoted throughout the book.

The tone is light and funny. The first major challenge that Father Tim faces in the story revolves around a gift to the church; a painting which may or may not be a valuable Veneer. He spends his time doing the expected duties such as praying for the sick and visiting the elderly but has unusual tasks as well. This includes matchmaking,praying for single women to find a husband, solving mysteries such as the missing marmalade cake, missing 11 year old boy, missing Bible, and missing diamonds.

Interestingly, Father Tim has a new and very attractive neighbor who is a writer, artist and cat owner; Cynthia.

Final Comments

I read Garden of Eden by Eve Adams recently and I see some similarities with this book. First, both books are about life in small town America. Secondly, both the village of Eden and Mitford have Ministers who are the voice of reason in the community and are confidantes to the residents. However, whereas life in Mitford is sugary sweet, life in Eden is much more rowdy. Rambunctious is actually the word that comes to my mind. Also, the characters in Eden are far more quirky. Interestingly, one of the minor characters in Mitford is named Evie Adams.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

West of Kabul East of New York: An Afghan American Story

The E-mail

September 11 happened. Enraged radio listeners called radio stations demanding the US Government nuke Afghanistan, the birth place of the writer, Tamim Ansary. He wrote an e-mail to a few friends and the next thing he knew, within days his message had reached a worldwide audience. What did he write? Who is Tamim Ansary?

The Man behind the E-mail

Tamim wrote that the Taliban were a bunch of ignorant psychotics and Bin Laden was equal to Hitler. Suddenly the writer was called upon to be spokesperson for Afghanistan, a country he left at age 16.

This book is Tamim's way of explaining who he is and what he percieves Islam is all about. And what a story this Afghan American, writer of children's books, ironically married to an American Jew, has to tell.

This book reminded me of other books we have selected for our book club discussion, specifically Inside the Kingdom by Carmen Bin Ladin, Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama and Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi. This does not make Tamim's story less interesting. He has his own unique life story with vivid descriptions of his travels and meaningful lessons on the Islamic way of life to pass on.

I noticed that Tamim's mother and Barack's mother have some things in common. Both were educated American women who were attracted to the exotic, so they married outside their culture. They both relocated to extremely underdeveloped countries, birth places of their husbands, then suddenly it dawned on them that they wanted to raise their children with American values. Both women home schooled their children using an American curriculum.

Both Tamim's mother and Carmen bin Ladin spent their married life pining after the western lifestyle to which they were accustomed.

Tamim and his siblings were exposed to American food, records, books and families so for all of Tamim's sixteen years in Afghanistan he lived in two worlds. He chose the American world yet could not quite separate from the Afghan world. In America, Tamim chose the hippie lifestyle of the sixties which allowed him to live in a commune similar to his old communal life with the clan in Afghanistan.

What I liked

The writing was good and some of the stories taught important life lessons. The book made world history come alive for me.

I found Tamim's early life in Afghanistan interesting. He stated that the ideal marriage in that culture was between first cousins. Ironically, he married a woman who he was so close to that he thought they had a relationship similar to that of cousins.

The cultural aspects were interesting. Love for the clan in Afghanistan, as in the Saudi Arabia described by Carmen Bin Laden, reigned supreme. When Tamim's father was faced with the choice of his wife and children and living in America versus the clan and living in an oppressive Afghanistan, he chose the clan.

I enjoyed the account of Tamim's travels to the Islamic world: Morocco, Algeria, Tunis, Turkey. The encounter with fellow American Jake and his experience at the Iranian embassy were fascinating.

It was interesting to read what Muslims in other countries had to say about Islam. In Tunis, one said the core of Islam is the separation of the sexes. In Morocco, one opined that European ways rule Muslim lands: Algeria follows France, Egypt follows America. In Turkey, a Puerto Rican Muslim explained Islam in a single phrase: Greet the guest, feed the stranger.

Final Comments

What happened to Jake? Jake was like a tick on Tamim's back during his travels then suddenly he disappeared from the story.

I would have liked to see photos in the book of the family.

It was just coincidence that we chose this book for discussion so close to the anniversary of September 11. This in itself reminded me of the book we selected last month called Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield. That book made a big deal out of coincidences.

Just this morning I heard President Bush saying we need to learn more about the language and cultures of the Middle East. Our book club selections covering Iran, Saudi Arabia and now Afghanistan are certainly giving me a good education on the culture of the people in these countries.


Welcome to the blog of the Okefenokee Book Club in Waycross, Georgia. We are an informal group of book lovers and first started meeting in January of 2002. The first book we selected for discussion in February 2002 was Reach For the Summit by basketball coach, Pat Summitt.

What is the criterion for membership? Anybody can join. Numbers at the meeting vary from 4 to about 10 persons. We first started meeting at KD's Restaurant and now we meet at Andrew's Grill and Cafe at 6:00 PM on Elizabeth Street, downtown, Waycross. We meet on the third Friday of the month. We do not meet in December.

What do we do? We meet, discuss what we liked and disliked about the book, socialize and eat. The person who recommends a book, leads the discussion.

What kind of books do we read? All kinds. We decided we would try to select books that were about 300 pages or less, and avoid self-help books as well as books about vampires. We also try to alternate fiction and non-fiction.

Join us. These are the books we have selected for the rest of the year:

West of Kabul, East of New York: An Afghan American Story by Tamim Ansary - September 16, 2005

At Home In Mitford by Jan Karon - October 21, 2005

The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeanette Walls - November 18, 2005

If you have read the books, write your feedback. To avoid spam, only members can comment.