Photo Credit: Wallpapers Wide
Every two years, we’re treated to the epic talent and competition that comprise the Olympics, and I’m a huge fan. I love the summer and winter games alike and follow a few sports from each pretty closely. Whether it’s this seemingly magical flipping from the gymnasts, this incredible artistry from ice dancing and ice skating, or this superhuman speed in the pool, we can all agree that the Olympics showcase truly admirable skill that’s worth noticing.

So, I’ve been enjoying the Rio games over the past week or so, and the athletes are wildly impressive as usual, and it’s also offered a nice reprieve in a way. It’s fun to see the Olympics all over the news for a little while instead of violence, terrorism, and politics, and they also get me hyped in a good way. Since the games are concluding soon, I started thinking about inspirational sports stories that would fit well with the Olympic time of year and make the hype last a little longer! These are some of my favorites here as well as a few that are on my to-do list. Let me know what you think! 

To Watch

The Blind Side 
Who doesn’t love Sandra Bullock as Leigh Anne Tuohy, I wanna know? She truly shines as this well-known, successful mom and designer who took in Michael Oher, a young man who was born in the Memphis projects and spent most of his childhood in foster care. Leigh Anne and her husband Sean adopted Michael during his late teens and encouraged his unique gifting in football, eventually seeing him play in college and professionally. 

42 
A masterfully told account of Jackie Robinson, the first African American man to play professional baseball. Harrison Ford turns in a particularly quality performance as Jackie’s team manager. The film is thoughtful, honest, emotional, humorous, and addresses difficult content with excellence. 

Cinderella Man 
One of my favorite movies, and probably my all-time favorite inspirational sports film. James J. Braddock was a successful professional boxer in the 1920s, but a hand injury and the Great Depression threatened his career, as the movie so poignantly tells. As the film unfolds, uncertainty and poverty become new normals for James and his wife Mae and their three children. But the Braddocks cling to perseverance and family unity even when the odds are sharply against them. Yes, this is a story about a man who made a remarkable comeback and left a mark on professional boxing, but it’s also a film about hardship, courage, and how family love can sustain the human spirit through incredible difficulty. Russell Crowe and Renée Zellweger are true joys to watch as James and Mae.

To Read

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown 
This is a book I’ve mentioned before (it made my list of good book club picks!) and will likely keep mentioning, as I now consider it one of my favorite books ever. A riveting account of the nine-man American rowing team at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, The Boys in the Boat is a true underdog story with spirit and suspense. The nine boys on the team were from the University of Washington in Seattle and entered the Olympics with many factors against them, not to mention that these particular Olympics were staged for Nazi propaganda. You will cry and cheer from your reading spot as you see the courage and incredible teamwork on display through these guys. 

For the Glory by Duncan Hamilton 
One of my current reads and I’m loving it! Most of us know Eric Liddell from the film Chariots of Fire – he was a remarkably fast runner known as the “Flying Scotsman,” and he shocked the world when he withdrew from his best event in the 1924 Olympics because it interfered with Sunday worship. He further stunned audiences when he won gold in an event in which he had considerably less skill. But what the movie lacks this book brings to light – after his Olympic success, Liddell bypassed opportunities for fame and money and served as a missionary in China for the rest of his life. Even in his final years in a Japanese internment camp, he was known for his kindness, prayerful attitude, and sacrificial service to those around him. I’m looking forward to better “knowing” this Eric Liddell through the pages of this book. 

Greater than Gold by David Boudia 
On my to-read list! This one came out just this month to tie in with the Rio games; current Olympic diver David Boudia shares his personal testimony in it. This is his third time to represent the USA at the Olympics, and what I’ve read of his story so far is equally encouraging and challenging. He shares in detail in this book how he used to dive for fame, human praise, and pride in himself. But he came to know Jesus after the 2008 Beijing games, and that has radically transformed his motivation and focus in diving. I can’t wait to read his story in full. Check out this interview for a taste, and watch David and his teammate Steele Johnson in the individual diving events tonight, tomorrow, and Saturday during NBC’s prime time! 

What are your favorite inspirational sports stories? Have you been enjoying the Rio Olympics? What have been your favorite parts to watch? I'd love to hear in comments!
Hello! I mentioned recently that I’d be heading to Boston with my family soon because of a conveniently placed business trip for my dad. He graciously brought my mom and brother and me with him and allowed us to enjoy the city for a few days. It wasn’t long before I knew I’d want to return to Massachusetts one day. Boston, Cambridge, Rockport, Lexington, Concord… there is so much to see and so much history in this state! I loved all that I got to see this time and look forward to one day seeing more. I hope you enjoy the highlights here!

I’ve always liked a good skyline picture, and I was glad for the chance to get this one when we took a ride on the Charles River. This is the Boston skyline; I thought the sailboats were nice accents. The Charles River runs between Boston and Cambridge, and there was always plenty to see on both sides. Both are beautiful cities brimming with life, business, history, and innovation. 

But as may be expected, history nerd that I am, I enjoyed the heavily historical sites most. Lexington, Concord, and the Freedom Trail point sharply to our nation’s beginning, and I was grateful for a glimpse of the events that were so foundational to it. We visited Lexington and Concord early in the trip, and the guide on the bus tour we did gave us a detailed look at the first battle of the American Revolution via superb narration as the bus took us to corresponding places of significance. Later in the week, we stopped at a few places on the Freedom Trail. It felt odd but still made me thankful and somewhat reverential as I thought of battles that unfolded on the very places we stood and of the famous people who had walked in the various buildings we toured. They can seem distant and other-worldly when talked of today, but walking where they walked brought their lives, work, and humanity to the center of my mind, and I was grateful. 

The battle green where the first major battle of the American Revolution took place
The tavern where the militia hid, regrouped, etc. on the night of that first battle
On display inside the tavern. All original items from the 1700s. The vest belonged to John Hancock!

The Old North Bridge in Concord, location of the Battle of Concord, which took place on the first day of the American Revolution. According to tradition, this is where "the shot heard 'round the world" was fired. The famous Minute Man statue stands at the end.
Inscriptions on the memorial statue and the Minute Man Statue at the bridge
Paul Revere's house on the Freedom Trail. Many items original to his family are still preserved inside, including many things he made while in trade as a silversmith.

Our second stop on the Freedom Trail: the Old North Church, where lanterns were hung to signal the approach of the redcoats to Paul Revere. Upon seeing them in the tower, he rode to Lexington to warn the people.
Inside the church. The pipe organ was gorgeous.

Also inside the church. Seeing this was one of those moments that kind of just makes you stand back in awe for me.
But perhaps my favorite stop of the whole trip was a quaint old 1860s house on a quiet street in Concord – the home of Louisa May Alcott, or Orchard House, as it’s formally named. Louisa May Alcott’s classic book, Little Women, was a staple in my girlhood and teen years, so it was a joy to see the place where this author lived and wrote her masterpiece. So many artifacts and treasures have been preserved, including Louisa May Alcott’s writing desk and many of her sisters’ possessions, a wedding dress and piano among them. I loved every bit of it and was so happy for the chance to feel like I was stepping back in time and seeing a tiny piece of this cherished author’s life. 



My souvenir from Orchard House. I've been eyeing this edition for a while, and now I can say I got it at the place it was written. Could hardly pass up that opportunity!
Have you ever been to Boston or other places in Massachusetts? What should I make a point to do the next time I'm there? I'd love to hear!
Emilia Clarke as Louisa Clark and Sam Claflin as Will Traynor in the 2016 film adaptation of Me Before You
Photo Credit: Alpha Coders
{Warning: Thorough spoilers from Me Before You ahead} 

If you’ve been on the Internet at all over the last five months, you’ve likely seen approximately twelve million reviews on Jojo Moyes’s book Me Before You and its recent film adaptation starring Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin. I read the book at the beginning of this year, wrote some initial thoughts on it here, and have now also seen the movie. Once the film trailer was released, the web virtually exploded with criticism of the story from Christian and secular groups alike. Much of the criticism is well-founded, and yet, much of it also bothered me. This is my attempt to lay out more detailed thoughts on the story. I hold to the view that it’s still worthwhile, though I disagree with many aspects of it. I’m still glad I read the book and watched the movie and will likely revisit both. Here’s my take on everything, whatever it’s worth, and why I still recommend the book and film. 

The Story 

For the few who possibly have still not read about the storyline, Me Before You centers on Louisa Clark, an optimistic, vibrant young woman who takes a job as caregiver-companion to Will Traynor, who has been in a wheelchair for about two years after a motorcycle accident left him a quadriplegic. 

Will used to be a cutthroat business executive, worldwide traveler, and extreme sportsman. By the time Lou arrives, he doesn’t see much point to life anymore. He spends most days sitting at home in his wheelchair and spitefully mocking anyone who tries to engage him. But unlike others, Lou isn’t afraid to bluntly call him out when he’s being nasty, which in turn helps Will to look outside his own misery. The primary tension arises when Louisa discovers Will is planning to end his life via physician-assisted suicide. This understandably horrifies her and she sets out to show Will that life is still worth living.

Photo Credit: Alpha Coders

The Controversy 

If you didn’t already know or guess, at the story’s end, Will does go through with his plans, much to Louisa’s grief. For this, the book and film have been scathingly criticized, particularly by disability groups and Christian organizations. And I want to make clear that I don’t agree with the conclusion. I wish it had ended differently and will always be conflicted about it. But I still liked many things about the story and have felt that many criticisms of it have not taken the whole narrative into account. Here are the most common feelings I’ve read: 

- It sends the message that you are better off dead than living with a disability. 
- It conveys that disabled people are an awkward discomfort and burden to the able-bodied. 
- It romanticizes physician-assisted suicide and heralds it as a noble, brave, and sacrificial act. 

While I agree that there are elements of truth to these claims, I wouldn’t slap them down as all-encompassing labels on the story. I believe that to do that would be to dismiss many narrative complexities and to shortchange Jojo Moyes’s writing. Yes, she was obviously pushing an agenda, but I can’t see that she intended readers to walk away with clear-cut answers to every possible question or scenario involving physician-assisted suicide. 

How I Interpreted the Story 

It’s important to note that Scripture quickly renders physician-assisted suicide indefensible. In Me Before You, the debate comes down to Will’s choice (more on that soon). It’s his life and his body, so it ought to be his decision, the story argues. But the Bible counteracts this idea because it says that our bodies are not our own (1 Corinthians 6) and that every life, regardless of its independence or perceived usefulness, possesses inherent value because the sovereign Creator God has granted it purpose and His own dignity (Genesis 1-2, Psalm 139). These are the ultimate reasons why the story’s ending disappointed me and left me wanting. 

Having said that, Jojo Moyes was clearly not operating from a Christian perspective as she wrote Me Before You, so as I read, I could not hold her to Scripture like I would a Christian writer. I’d certainly use Bible verses now while discussing the book or film with someone, but as I’ve often heard it said, we should expect non-Christians to act like non-Christians, authors being no exception. 


But all that aside, I still found Me Before You an extremely layered story that’s supposed to be complicated and make you squirm. I think it’s particularly unfair to say it romanticizes or applauds Will’s actions, or that it conveys death is better than disability because it’s written in such a way that the reader is meant to be rooting for Louisa the whole time, hoping along with her that Will changes his mind and sees that his life is still worth living, though it will be unavoidably different and perhaps shorter than an average one in the long run. And Louisa does break through Will’s misery and self-pity in many ways, making the conclusion all the more heartbreaking. The moment he tells her he’s sticking to the plan is possibly the most gut-wrenching and frustrating point in the book and film alike. Louisa weeps uncontrollably and rages at Will, ending the exchange by shamelessly cussing him out. And I agreed with her: 

Don’t say another word. You are so selfish, Will. So stupid…is that all you can say to me? I tore my heart out in front of you. And all you can say is, “No, you’re not enough for me. And now I want you to come watch the worst thing you can possibly imagine.” The thing I have dreaded ever since I first found out about it. Do you have any idea what you are asking of me? (Chapter 23) 

And many readers no doubt echo her sentiments. Louisa has done so much for Will and loves him deeply, but he outright dismisses her feelings. Him in the wheelchair isn’t the real him, Will argues. Life can’t be as big as it once was and he insists that anything less than that is not enough for him. He refuses to entertain the possibility of what could be simply because he can’t imagine it will ever measure up to what used to be. He says he can’t be the kind of man who “just accepts” and emphasizes that in the long run, she will be better off without having to be “tied” to him. And it was easy for me (and others I’ve talked to) to see that as terribly selfish, not brave or sacrificial.

But even so, the book seemed to argue that at the end of the day, personal choice had the final say. Will’s kind nurse Nathan particularly drove this point home in a grim exchange with Louisa: 

He can’t bear it. I’ve sat there with him and there is nothing I can say to the guy, nothing that is going to make it any better… and although there is nothing I’d like more in the world than for the big guy to be happy, I-I can’t judge him for what he wants to do. It’s his choice. It should be his choice… I want him to live if he wants to live. If he doesn’t, then by forcing him to carry on, you, me – no matter how much we love him – we become just another sh**ty bunch of people taking away his choices. (Chapter 22) 

Choice. That was what I felt Moyes was arguing for more than anything else. We’re quite naturally heartbroken and conflicted over Will’s loss, but in the end, she wants us to respect someone’s choice to end his or her life if that’s what they want. I can’t agree with this point of view, but I also didn’t think Moyes demeaned disability in itself at all. If anything, she highlights that the disabled are still normal people and deserve to be treated as such. As Louisa begins caring for Will, she realizes how insensitive and needlessly uncomfortable the general public can be towards the disabled:

[With “working-class” people,] I had observed a few basic routines as far as Will was concerned. Most would stare. A few might smile sympathetically, express sympathy, or ask me in a stage whisper what had happened. I was often tempted to respond, “Unfortunate falling-out with MI6,” just to see their reaction, but I never did. 
Here’s the thing with middle-class people. They pretend not to look, but they do. They’re too polite to actually stare. Instead, they do this weird thing of catching sight of Will in their field of vision and then determinedly not looking at him. Until he’s gone past, at which point their gaze flickers toward him, even while they remain in conversation with someone else. They won’t talk about him though. Because that would be rude. (Chapter 12) 

 Photo Credit: Alpha Coders

Louisa – and by extension, the audience – sees how patronized Will feels because other characters either jump in with supposed “solutions” for his life or awkwardly tiptoe around him as if he were a different species. But Louisa learns to see past the wheelchair to the person in it – she does her best to help him however she’s able, but she’s also not afraid to tell him when he’s being horrible. For me, this aspect of the story was actually a good and helpful reminder for how we ought to view the disabled and stand up for them. But according to Moyes, giving them choices – even the choice to end their lives – is part of treating them with respect, and that’s obviously where I must differ. 

What I’ve Learned From Criticisms 

As I’ve mentioned, though I agreed with some criticisms of the book and film, many of the more disdainful reviews irritated me. But I did try to remain open-minded and I read many of them, particularly trying to listen to opinions from disabled groups. The primary concept I’ve gleaned from the negative opinions is that the author likely created Will to simply push her agenda. I’ve been sharply reminded that he is not a fair or accurate portrayal of all or even the majority of disabled people, and I’d now give that caution when recommending Me Before You. There are a few other disabled voices in the story, mainly from an online support group that Louisa joins in order to research and ask advice from other quadriplegics. However, they are given little stage time, so Will is the story’s primary example of a disabled person, and I was reminded to take his perspective with a grain of salt. 

My Conclusion and Why I Still Loved It 

And yet, overall, I can’t pretend I didn’t enjoy Me Before You. I enjoyed it immensely, in fact. Jojo Moyes is a talented writer and created interesting, dynamic characters. Her dialogue is snappy, fun, entertaining, and fast-paced. Though I cried in frustration and sadness at the end of the book and the movie, I laughed out loud through the first three-quarters of both. Louisa and Will were immediately likable, even when they annoyed me. Louisa’s larger-than-life personality charmed me – she’s awkward, klutzy, and joyful. Will’s sarcastic humor and dry mockery of Louisa’s scrapes had me rolling with laughter. Their exchanges are hilarious because they make fun of each other and they both have a knack for clever, witty one-liners. 

In short, I found these two lead characters delightful and I wanted to spend time with them. Though the ending was disappointing, I’m glad I “knew” them. And the film only heightened my enjoyment of them, as Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin turned in performances both weighty and charming that also packed emotional punches in the bargain.
 

 Photo Credit: Alpha Coders

What’s more, I appreciated Me Before You because it made me think. Even if I don’t agree with its stance, I can usually value any story that unflinchingly tackles a difficult subject and makes me think about it for weeks afterwards. Me Before You definitely did that for me, considering I’m still thinking about it six months after first reading it. It’s healthy to read and watch stories that make you think about tough issues, and this one accomplished that well for me. 

And I’d say this story is actually beneficial for Christians in particular to ponder. Will Traynor’s hopelessness in the story provides a sharp contrast to our eternal security. As I read the book, I kept thinking of people who have become blessings to others not in spite of their disabilities, but because of them. Joni Eareckson Tada, Jay and Katherine Wolf, and Kara Tippetts were the primary people on my mind – all of them endured or are enduring conditions seen as terrifying by worldly standards, but they’ve courageously used their stories to reach millions to say that there is hope. And Me Before You made me all the more grateful for that eternal hope I have in Christ. Will Traynor pins his happiness on earthly life, reminding me that many people do put that kind of stock into earthly life when they don’t have hope of a better life to come. I’m grateful that I do have that hope, and thus don’t have to look to this imperfect world to deliver the fulfillment we long for.
After far too long, I have another post of fun Internet finds, quotes, and updates. For some reason, these can be the most difficult to compile. Still trying to work out why, to be honest, but here we are and I hope you enjoy. 

Life 

First off, a few updates! As you may know if you read this and this, I’ve got a few big things coming up! I’m now only about a month away from both my long-awaited trip to England and from moving to Washington D.C. In the meantime, I’m cramming in last visits with family and friends as well as a family vacation to Boston! Thanks for having a nicely located business trip, dad. ;) My parents and brother and I are leaving at the end of the week, and hopefully the trip will offer a small break from family craziness (yes, there’s been lots). As usual, I’m very excited to visit a place I’ve never been and will no doubt have a full report or two to post afterwards. Stay tuned with me on Instagram to follow the action live.
A favorite recent friend outing. The Little Mermaid was a delight!

Links

25 Books to Read When You Feel Like the World is Falling Apart  
Lots of great titles on this list and a timely word from Anne Bogel. 

Things Lucy Maud Montgomery Lied to Me About
But really though. 

This Book Nerd’s Tweet to a Bookstore’s Official Twitter Account Ended in a Love Story 
A book nerd’s dream, am I right? 

Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin Go Speed Dating!
I finally saw Me Before You last week, and the performances of these lead actors packed an emotional punch, making me laugh and cry in equal measure. They were just as delightful to watch in this interview that is mostly silly and thoroughly fun. (And if you’re now looking askance at me because of how Facebook exploded with criticism of this movie, check out my review of the book here. I don’t agree with everything about it, but I still argue that it’s a worthwhile story.) 

What I’m Into These Days 

Hamilton
Yes, I’ve gotten caught up in the hype of Lin Manuel-Miranda’s musical Hamilton and have been listening to the soundtrack repeatedly. So far, I’d say it lives up to all the talk. Truly brilliant. I’m also checking out the source material – Ron Chernow’s biographical book titled Alexander Hamilton. We’ll see if it holds me for the 800+ pages.


Doctor Thorne

With the departure of Downton Abbey, it was refreshing to watch this new work of Julian Fellowes. It’s only four episodes long and has all the charm, wit, love, and glamour we’ve come to expect from period drama. 
Stefanie Martini as Mary Thorne, Tom Hollander as Doctor Thorne, Richard McCabe as Frank Gresham, and Rebecca Front as Lady Arabella in Doctor Thorne
Screen Capture Source: YouTube

Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber 
I’ve mentioned this book before and will likely mention it many more times in the future. It is without a doubt one of my new favorite books, likely in the top five at the moment. I read it for the first time back in February/March and just read it again this summer. Carolyn Weber shares how she became a Christian while in graduate school at Oxford in this gem, and she is thoughtful, vulnerable, engaging, and a masterful storyteller. You’ll likely forget you’re reading a true story because of how she draws you in and paints beautifully vivid pictures in her writing. Read it. 


Grantchester 
Here’s another one for fans of British drama, though I wouldn’t classify Grantchester as a strict period piece. Set in 1950s England, it brings together an unlikely crime solving team – Anglican vicar Sidney Chambers and gruff police detective Geordie Keating. Sidney has unrivaled people skills while Geordie relies on logic and hard facts. And in the midst of all the murder cases to solve – there are a surprising number of them in this quiet little village of Grantchester – these two men are also facing PTSD to one degree or another, having both fought in WWII. Friendship, crime mysteries, post-war changes, and social issues abound in this drama and I highly recommend it!
Robson Green as Geordie Keating and James Norton as Sidney Chambers in Grantchester
Photo Credit: Grantchester on Facebook

Quotes 

If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden. –The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett 

God doesn’t do contracts. You have nothing to barter with. –Matt Chandler 

It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that. –Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling 

We always value something for which we’ve had to labor. –Dr. Nuttham, Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber 

A place ain’t a place without a bookstore. –Lambiase, The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin 

This was a day for soft wool, warms socks, loafers, and literature. –The Brontë Plot by Katherine Reay 

You can do more with a castle in a story than with the best cardboard castle that ever stood on a nursery table. –C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy 

I like books. They’re so much less terrifying than people. –Leonard Finch, Grantchester (2015 TV Series) 

It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. –Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling 

As I aimed to become a teacher, God made me a student. My spirit as a questioner does not affront Him; rather, it reflects Him, and honors Him, and pulls me toward Him. –Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber
Despite the title of this post, sadly, I’ve actually never been part of an organized book club (anyone want to help me change that? Working on it). However, I think I have a decent idea of what makes a good book club pick. A great book does not necessarily mean it’ll be a good book club book. If everyone loves it, that’s excellent, but there has to be more to it than that. Book clubs need discussable material. Books with social issues, deep characters, complex and biased themes, and author agendas would be right at home in a book club. If people disagree on certain aspects of a story, all the better. It makes for a more interesting and layered conversation. So I’ve come up with a list of ten good book club picks here, and I hope you’ll join in with your favorite discussable books!

1. Seven Men by Eric Metaxas 
Biography snapshots. Various times throughout history. Seven widely different men of huge accomplishment and great sacrifice. 
Discussables: How do these men exemplify sacrifice? Where were they right and where did they stumble? How can we look to these men and emulate them today? 

2. Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling 
Fantastical world of witchcraft and wizardry. A school of magic. A quest to defeat an evil dark lord. Marketed as children’s and young adult fantasy, but applicable for all ages. 
Discussables: Friendship, love, family, death, purpose in life, sacrifice, standing up for what is right, good and evil, coming of age, learning from mistakes and tragedy, creativity in the writing of the magical world 

3. Poldark Series by Winston Graham 
Opens on the 1780s in Cornwall, England. Struggling economy. Copper mining. Complicated family relationships. Aristocracy juxtaposed against the impoverished. Fights for justice for the less fortunate. Twelve books in all. 
Discussables: Class and rank, social justice, hypocrisy, role of law and lawmakers, family, marriage, effects of war on a nation, role of the affluent in helping the poor

4. The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom 
1790s Virginia. Slavery. Confusion about race relations and status. Servant-to-employer connections, some positive and some negative. Colonial women with rightful confusion about their place in society.
Discussables: The plight of many slaves in colonial America, class and rank, racial prejudice in colonial times, relationships between slaves and masters, ill-treatment of women (both slaves and free) in the 1700s, marriage expectations for women in the 1700s

5. The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown 
The story behind the victory of the nine-man American rowing team at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The Great Depression. Nazi propaganda. Ultimate underdog story. 
Discussables: How much did you know about competitive rowing before reading? What surprised you? What would it have been like to fend for yourself like Joe in the middle of the Great Depression? The friendships between the team members are strong and inspiring – how did it affect you as you read? How did you feel reading the accounts of the boat races?

Photo Credits: A Happy Little Family Blog, BookFifty on Instagram

6. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah 
1940s France. Nazi occupation. Two sisters in unimaginable situations. Secret French Resistance movement. Harsh look at World War II brutalities. 
Discussables: Where did the sisters make the right and wrong decisions? What would you have done in their shoes? Are there ever easy choices for them? What was the worst situation? Do you identify more with Vianne or Isabelle? What do you make of their relationship with their father?

7. The Help by Kathryn Stockett 
1960s Mississippi. Civil Rights Movement. Dangerous but rewarding friendship between races at the time. 
Discussables: Civil Rights Movement, history of race relations in America, female friendship, unlikely friendships 

8. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
1960s-1990s Afghanistan. Multi-generational scope. Mistreated women. Rise of the Taliban. Unlikely friendship for survival’s sake. 
Discussables: Middle Eastern perception of women, whether the women in the story made right choices in various difficult situations, our role as America in defending innocents in the Middle East

9. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes 
Quadriplegia. Loss. Identity questions. Unexpected friendship and love. Controversial ethical questions. 
Discussables: What do you make of Will and Louisa’s connection and how did it change as the story progressed? How did you react when the controversial plot element was introduced? How did you feel with the resolution? Who was in the right and who was in the wrong at the end? Did you sympathize more with Will or Louisa? 

10. Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay 
Sister relationships. Cancer. Family. Food and literature. Marriage and parenting. Processing grief and tragedy. Guilt and forgiveness. 
Discussables: How are Lizzy and Jane both at fault for their difficult relationship? What do you make of their relationship with their dad? How do they help and hurt one another? Who are the steadying, calming figures in the story? When did you think the sisters were making progress and then were surprised by another difficult twist?


What books would YOU choose for a book club and why? What types of books have you found work particularly well in discussions?