Novelists, poets, historians, biographers, and more — we bring both new authors and old favorites to talk with you about their latest books. We also host book groups and celebrate new releases and other special occasions.
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Wednesday, January 31, noon: The Bookaholics book group will discuss The Ecliptic by Benjamin Wood.
Situated on a Turkish island, Portmantle might be the strangest, most exclusive artists’ colony around. Its brilliant residents linger for years, all expenses paid and living under assumed names. Relieved of the burdens of time and ego, they are free to create their next masterpieces.
Elspeth Conroy (aka “Knell”) is a Scottish painter who has been at Portmantle for a decade, a refugee from the hectic London art scene. Her fellow longtimers include Quickman, whose sole book became a classic and paralyzed his muse; MacKinney, a playwright who left behind her family; and Pettifer, an architect obsessing over an unfinished cathedral.
The hermetic world at Portmantle shatters when the 17-year-old Fullerton arrives at the gates, his provenance and talents unknown. As Knell searches for answers, she reveals the path that led her to this place: her intimate bond with her gruff drunk of a mentor; her early successes and crushing failures; a journey across the Atlantic and into the psychiatrist’s office; and a grand commission of astronomical significance.
Wednesday, February 14, 6 p.m.: Book signing with Janet Beard, who will read from her new novel, The Atomic City Girls.
In November 1944, 18-year-old June Walker boards an unmarked bus, destined for a city that doesn’t officially exist. Oak Ridge, TN, has sprung up in a matter of months — a town of trailers and segregated houses, 24-hour cafeterias, and constant security checks. There, June joins hundreds of other young girls operating massive machines whose purpose is never explained. They know they are helping to win the war but must ask no questions and reveal nothing to outsiders.
The girls spend their evenings socializing and flirting with soldiers, scientists, and workmen at dances and movies, bowling alleys, and canteens. June longs to know more about their top-secret assignment and begins an affair with Sam Cantor, the young Jewish physicist from New York who oversees the lab where she works and understands the end goal only too well, while her roommate Cici is on her own mission: to find a wealthy husband and escape her sharecropper roots. Across town, African-American construction worker Joe Brewer knows nothing of the government’s plans, only that his new job pays enough to make it worth leaving his family behind, at least for now. But a breach in security will intertwine his fate with June’s search for answers.
When the bombing of Hiroshima brings the truth about Oak Ridge into devastating focus, June must confront her ideals about loyalty, patriotism, and war itself.
Wednesday, February 21, 6 p.m.: The Southern Writers Book group will discuss Sweet Water by Christina Baker Kline.
Cassie Simon is a struggling artist living in New York City. When she receives a call from a magistrate in Sweetwater, TN, telling her she has inherited 60 acres of land from her grandfather, whom she never knew, she takes it as a sign: it’s time for a change. She moves into the house where her mother, Ellen, was born — and where she died tragically when Cassie was three.
From the moment she arrives in Sweetwater, Cassie is overwhelmed by the indelible mark her mother’s memory had left behind. As she delves into the thicket of mystery that surrounds her mother’s death, Cassie begins to understand the desperate measures the human heart is capable of.
Wednesday, February 28, noon: The Bookaholics book group will discuss My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman.
Elsa is 7 years old and different. Her grandmother is 77 years old and crazy — as in standing-on-the-balcony-firing-paintball-guns-at-strangers crazy. She is also Elsa’s best, and only, friend. At night Elsa takes refuge in her grandmother’s stories, in the Land-of-Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas, where everybody is different and nobody needs to be normal.
When Elsa’s grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to people she has wronged, Elsa’s greatest adventure begins. Her grandmother’s instructions lead her to an apartment building full of drunks, monsters, attack dogs, and old crones but also to the truth about fairy tales and kingdoms and a grandmother like no other.
My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry is a story about life and death and one of the most important human rights: the right to be different.
Sunday, March 4, 2 p.m.: Book signing with Jon Jefferson, author of Wave of Terror.
Astronomer Megan O’Malley sees things on a cosmic scale — hidden planets, colliding galaxies, imploding stars deep in the universe. But this time, she’s sensing something much closer to home. And she can feel it underfoot, too: explosive seismic shifts along a geologic fault line that could unleash an apocalyptic disaster. O’Malley also discovers something even more terrifying: the cataclysm is intentional. Someone is determined to trigger a mega tsunami.
FBI Special Agent Chip Dawtry is a big-picture guy, too. He lost his brother on 9/11, and ever since, he’s focused on preventing the next massive terrorist attack. Now, it isn’t hypothetical — it’s unfolding fast. But only he and O’Malley see the peril.
When O’Malley vanishes, Dawtry races to find her. It’s up to them to stop a 150-foot wall of water ready to roil — and wipe out America’s Eastern Seaboard. Each new terrifying rumble means it may be too late.