Don’t let 2013 slip away without reading Melanie Benjamin’s bestselling novel, The Aviator’s Wife. In the spirit of Loving Frank and The Paris Wife, acclaimed novelist Melanie Benjamin pulls back the curtain on the marriage of one of America’s most extraordinary couples: Charles Lindbergh and Anne Morrow Lindbergh.
“The history is exhilarating. . . . The Aviator’s Wife soars. . . . Anne Morrow Lindbergh narrates the story of the Lindberghs’ troubled marriage in all its triumph and tragedy.”—USA Today
“Fictional biography at its finest.”—Booklist (starred review)
A well-stocked stocking is perfect for the holidays, and if you are at a loss for a good read to include, then we have a few suggestions below for every type of reader in your life.
The Tools by Phil Stutz and Barry Michels. Need help finding your creative flow? The 5 tools presented in this bestselling book will help readers find courage, creativity, and willpower to live life in forward motion.
Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman This bestselling memoir will satisfy many literary needs. In one great book you get: a memoir, humor, current issues, and a story that will stay with you long after you finish the final chapter.
The Tenth of December by George Saunders. For the short story lover in your family. George Saunders is the undisputed master of the short story. We are groupies for this literary rockstar, and you should be, too! If you are new to George, then we have 10 reasons why you should be reading him this holiday season!
The Boleyn King by Laura Andersen. We can’t get enough of this series! Historical fiction with a twist? A BIG twist, no less! Andersen dares to imagine what would have happened if Anne Boleyn gave Henry VIII a son who grew up to be king.
Aimless Love by Billy Collins. Give the gift of Billy this holiday season! Two-term Poet Laureate of the United States, Billy Collins, presents his first compilation of new and selected poems in twelve years. Aimless Love combines more than fifty new poems with selections from four previous books.
Rob Delaney by Rob Delaney. Rob Delaney, the funniest man on Twitter, is a man of many talents and now author is added to that list! The comic lover in your life will love these hilarious and heartbreaking true stories about how Rob came to be the man he is today.
The holidays are right around the corner, so now is the perfect time of year to curl up with a favorite holiday book (or author)! This year, we are excited to read New York Times bestselling author Nancy Thayer’s A Nantucket Christmas. We have some copies to share, so enter below for your chance to win!
Holidays on this Massachusetts island are nothing short of magical, and the season’s wonderful traditions are much loved by Nicole Somerset, new to Nantucket and recently married to a handsome former attorney. Their home is already full of enticing scents of pine, baking spices, and homemade pie.
But the warm, festive mood is soon tempered by Nicole’s chilly stepdaughter, Kennedy, who arrives without a hint of holiday spirit. Determined to keep her stepmother at arm’s length—or, better yet, out of the picture altogether—Kennedy schemes to sabotage Nicole’s holiday preparations. Nicole, however, is not about to let anyone or anything tarnish her first Christmas with her new husband.
Nancy Thayer’s wonderful tale reminds us that this is the season of miracles. Before the gifts are unwrapped, surprise visitors appear, and holiday joy comes to all, both naughty and nice.
In Innocence, #1 New York Times bestselling author Dean Koontz blends mystery, suspense, and acute insight into the human soul in a masterfully told tale that will resonate with readers forever.
Questions for Discussion:
1. What do you make of the epigraph by Petrarch, “Rarely do great beauty and great virtue dwell together?” Would you agree with this statement? How does it play out in the novel? What other juxtaposed qualities figure into the story—for example, arrogance versus humility—and what do these themes imply about human nature and our world at large? How did the epigraph inform your idea of the story at the onset, and did that idea take on new meaning by the end?
2. What does Addison mean when he says to Gwyneth: “We hold each other hostage to our eccentricities.”? Do you find this applicable to your own relationships?
3. Gwyneth wears a nose ring fashioned as a snake devouring its own tail, which is a commonly recognized symbol of recurrence, recreation and renewal, or the emergence of an inextinguishable primordial force. In what ways do we see that meaning manifest in the story?
4. Both Addison and Gwyneth cloak themselves in an attempt to go largely unnoticed. While Addison perceives Gwyneth’s Goth look more as a type of courage than a costume, his own cover is necessary to ensure his very survival. But as Addison notes, there are others who hide their “corruption and pitiless cruelty” behind masks of their own creation. Discuss the importance of veils and how they are applied throughout the novel. Does this seem to imply that everyone has something to hide from the outside world? What qualities do you feel are most reviled (and thus concealed) and most celebrated in our contemporary world and how is this reflected in the novel?
5. Addison says of Gwyneth that “although she led a severely circumscribed life…she had vastly more experience than I.” Why is it that Gwyneth seems not only more in tune with the workings of the world, but primed to confront the evils within it, when both she and Addison have been exposed to its horrors in equal amounts? How are their attitudes toward the world both similar and different, and what influences have shaped them to that end?
6. Do you agree with Father’s theory that “there is no chance” in the universe, “only choice, no luck, but only consequences,” that what happens to us is of “our own election”? How does this belief change Addison’s perspective and guide his decisions from then on? Do you feel that Father is less innocent than Addison?
7. Addison describes Father’s sacrifice and says “knowing how the sight of his face and eyes would consume their attention, he offered his life for mine, and when he said ‘Endure,’ he meant many things.” What things did Father mean? What enables Addison to go on in the wake of such a loss, and do you think he would have continued to endure indefinitely on his own?
8. Addison says that “although this story is of the Modern Age, I have not written it for the Modern Age.” What does he mean by this and who is his intended audience?
9. Throughout the book, Addison mentions his “terrible difference” and when asked what he is, Addison calls himself “a miscreation, freak, abomination.” What did you think this “terrible difference” was and why? Were you surprised by what it was revealed to be?
10. Discuss the marionettes and Father’s theory about the Princess and Frog music box and similar objects. Do you feel that the creative spirit behind works of art—whether transcendent or transgressive—manifests itself in the wider world?
11. The interconnectedness of all things is a major theme of Innocence. What elements of the story most vividly illustrated that theme for you?
12. Ultimately, do you think this is a cautionary tale or a message of hope?
In Melanie Benjamin’s Random House Reader’s Circle essay, she discusses what makes a book a “book club” book, Anne Lindbergh, and what drew her to writing about this subject in The Aviator’s Wife. We have an excerpt below for you to enjoy!
THE LAST TO KNOW An Essay by Melanie Benjamin
What makes a book a “ book-club” book? Why are some books read and immediately passed around, so eager are readers to discuss them with someone? What kind of topic or writing style or time period provokes this kind of response more than others?
Those are million-dollar questions, of course. No one knows the real answer; there ’s no formula that can be passed along from author to author. We write what we have to, never imagining what the true response will be to the finished product. And occasionally, we get lucky.
“This is a great book-club book!” “I can’t wait to discuss it at our next meeting!” “I just had to tell all the women in my life to read it!”: These have been some of the heartfelt responses to The Aviator’s Wife, and I confess that every time I hear something like this, I giggle. And then scratch my head, trying to figure out just what I did in this book, what idea or emotion or overriding theme within the pages spoke to so many readers. And I think I’ve come up with a couple of answers.
First of all, Anne. Or Anne’s journey, I think it’s safe to call it. Tragic, brave, wry, sensitive, strong, passive, loyal (to a fault), duplicitous…all these adjectives have been used to describe her. And they all fit, at different times in her story; that ’s one reason why I was drawn to writing about Anne Morrow Lindbergh. There is such a duality to her! One minute she ’s a typical bride of her generation, docile, passive, allowing her husband to speak for her. The next, she’s flying through the air on her own, setting records, achieving firsts. One minute she’s frustratingly loyal to a man who doesn’t deserve it; the next she ’s embarking on a passionate affair. She ’s a tragic figure, suffering through her child ’s death; she ’s a controversial one, championing Hitler prior to World War II. We want to understand her, and we do, at times. Then we don’t. She’s not a one-size-fits-all heroine, not at all, and so we continue to examine her, parse her actions, better understand the time in which she lived, try to walk a mile in her shoes from a different era. Some of us can, others cannot. And so we continue to discuss her.
Then, of course, there is Charles. I’m honestly perplexed when readers tell me what a jerk he was in my book, how my bias against him is so obvious. Well, the truth is, I kind of liked him while I was writing him. Or perhaps the better way to put it is that I had a lot of sympathy for him—at times. I never stopped admiring what he had accomplished so young; I never stopped trying to understand how becoming the world ’s hero at the age of twenty-five—forever living your life pursued and hounded, always being asked to give more, do more, be more—might change a person. I never stopped remembering how his failure to bring his child home to Anne had to have haunted him the rest of his life.
I also never stopped being disappointed by him, however. Frustrated, as well. Just as Anne must have been. So Charles, too, provokes much discussion, particularly among younger women. Women born long after the feminist movement, who take it for granted that they’d never put up with a man like him, who would never stay loyal to him as Anne did. Women who don’t remember that they’ve come a long way, baby.
Then there is the history; there is simply so much of it! So much we didn’t read in our fourth-grade American history books. I came to this suspecting that while we all “knew” the Lindberghs, it was only in bits and pieces, never completely. And from the number of readers who have told me, “I had no idea!” about different parts of Anne and Charles’s story, I now know that I was right.