The End of an Era

Today marks the end of an era. My mother has been the book group leader at the Mount Olympus Senior Center, in Salt Lake City, for the last 11 years, and today was the last book group meeting she would lead — at age 89, she is retiring from her volunteer job. She needs to have her own quiet reading time now, and deservedly so.

She chose the last book carefully — Unaccustomed Earth, by Jhumpa Lahiri, and prepared as she always does for these meetings: she reads the book and then researches the author and the circumstances of the story; Then she rereads the book and marks special passages she wants to share with her group. She was completely ready to share another wonderful book with the loyal, long-time members of this book group (as many as 14 come every month!), but she didn’t plan on the snowstorm that kept her housebound and unable to drive or even schedule the shuttle bus, and she was very disappointed.

But snowstorm or not, the fact remains that for the last 11 years, she tirelessly lead the senior center book group members through book after book, and I think her choices were wonderful. It’s a remarkable list:

1. The Education of Little Tree, by Forrest Carter
2. This House of Sky, by Ivan Doig
3. The Color of Water, by James McBride
4. The Notebook, by Nicholas Sparks
5. Mutant Message/Down Under, by Marlo Morgan
6. The Road From Coorain, by Jill Ker Conway
7. Refuge, by Terry Tempest Williams
8. Wait Till Next Year, by Doris Kearns Goodwin
9. A Place of Her Own, by Dori Sanders
10. Angela’s Ashes, by James McCourt
11. Katherine Graham, A Personal History
12. Greatest Generation, by Tom Brokow
13. Under a Wing, by Reeve Lindbergh
14. No Ordinary Time (1st half of the book), by Doris Kearns Goodwin
15. No Ordinary Time (2nd half of the book), by Doris Kearns Goodwin
16. Abigail Adams, by Natalie S. Bober
17. Having Our Say & On My Own at 107, by Delany Sisters
18. Jewel, by Brett Lott
19. Tuesdays With Morrie, by Mitch Albom
20. Four Letters of Love, by Niall Williams
21. Dancing at the Rascal Fair, by Ivan Doig
22. Life and Death in Shanghai, by Nien Cheng
23. Tis, by Frank McCourt
24. The Professor and the Madman, by Simon Winchester
25. Bound Feet and Western Dress, by Pang-Mei Chang
26. Daughter of Fortune, by Isabel Allende
27. Growing Up, by Russell Baker
28. Where Rivers Change Direction, (A Collection of Essays)
29. Chocolat, by Joanne Harris
30. Jefferson: Man on the Mountain, by Natalie S. Bober
31. West With the Night, by Beryl Markham
32. Letters From Yellowstone, by Diane Smith
33. 84, Charing Cross Road, by Helene Hanff
34. Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World, by Jennifer Armstrong
35. Helen Sekaquaptewa: Me and Mine, as told to Louise Udall
36. Mankiller: A Chief and Her People, by Wilma Mankiller & Michael Wallis
37. Girl With a Pearl Earring, by Tracey Chevalier
38. Wish You Well, by David Baldacci
39. The Professor’s House, by Willa Cather
40. Death Comes For the Archbishop, by Willa Cather
41. Barbara Jordon: American Hero, by Mary Beth Rogers
42. Washington, by Meg Greenfield
43. A Kitchen God’s Wife, by Amy Tan
44. A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson
45. Hanna’s Daughters, by Marianne Fredriksson
46. October Sky, by Homer H. Hickam
47. Simon’s Family, by Marianne Fredriksson
48. Bend in the Road, by Nicholas Sparks
49. Seldom Disappointed, by Tony Hillerman
50. Galileo’s Daughter, by Dava Sobel
51. Yellow Raft on Blue Water, by Michael Dorris
52. The Optimist’s Daughter, by Eudora Welty
53. First Mothers, by Bonnie Angelo
54. Prodigal Summer, by Barbara Kingsolver
55. Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, by Anne Fadiman
56. Skipping Christmas, by John Grisham
57. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, by Dai Sijie
58. Inside Islam: The Faith, The Conflicts, introduction by Akbar S. Ahmed
59. A Girl Named Zippy, by Haven Kimmel
60. Thousand Pieces of Gold, by Ruthanne Lum McCunn
61. Peace Like a River, by Leif Enger
62. Seabiscuit, by Laura Hillenbrand
63. The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd
64. The #1 Ladies Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith
65. To America: Personal Reflections, by Stephen E. Ambrose
66. Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind, by Ann B. Ross
67. Blessings, by Anna Quindlen
68. Leap of Faith, by Queen Noor
69. Breaking Clean, by Judy Blunt
70. Mount Vernon Love Story, by Mary Higgins Clark
71. Reading Lolita in Tehran, by Azar Nafisi
72. Reason For Hope, by Jane Goodall
73. Plainsong, by Kent Haruf
74. The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown
75. Kitchen Privileges, by Mary Higgins Clark
76. The Lady and the Unicorn, by Tracy Chevalier
77. Thanks For the Memories, Mr. President, by Helen Thomas
78. Michelangelo and The Pope’s Ceiling, by Ross King
79. The Guardian, by Nicholas Sparks
80. The Blood Runs Like a River Through My Dreams, by Nasdiff
81. Founding Mothers, by Cokie Roberts
82. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon
83. An Unfinished Life, by Mark Spragg
84. Miss Julia Meets Her Match, by Ann B. Ross
85. The Sinister Pig, by Tony Hillerman
86. When The Emperor Was Divine, by Julia Otsuka
87. Chinese Cinderella, by Adeline Yen Mah
88. The Kite Runner, by Khalad Hasseini
89. A Northern Light, by Jennifer Donnelly
90. True Believer, by Nicholas Sparks
91. Abigail Adams, by Natalie Bober
92. Lucky Child, by Loung Ung
93. All That Matters, by Jan Goldstein
94. A Lesson Before Dying, by Ernest Gaines
95. Our Endangered Values, by Jimmy Carter
96. My Antonia, by Willa Cather
97. March, by Geraldine Brooks
98. The Voice That Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle For Equal Rights, by Russell Freedman
99. The Mermaid’s Chair, by Sue Monk Kidd
100. The Story of My Life, by Farah Ahmadi
101. Redbird Christmas, by Fannie Flagg
102. Delights and Shadows, by Ted Kooser
103. Snow Flower and The Secret Fan, by Lisa See
104. After This, by Alice McDermott
105. Dear John, by Nicholas Sparks
106. The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls
107. Warriors Don’t Cry, by Melba Beals
108. Palestine: Peace Not Aparteid, by Jimmy Carter
109. The Good Husband of Zebra Drive, by Alexander McCall Smith
110. The Space Between Us, by Thrity Umrigar
111. The Family Tree, by Barbara Delinsky
112. The Infidel, by Ayaan Hiirisi Ali
113. The Namesake, by Jhumpa Lahiri
114. Jane Austen (Share a book or movie)
115. A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini
116. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
117. The Worst Hard Times, by Timothy Egan
118. Born Standing Up, by Steve Martin
119. A Thousand White Women, by Jim Fergus
120. Double Cross, by James Patterson
121. The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
122. The Innocent Man, by John Grisham
123. Chocolat, by Joanne Harris
124. Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortensen
125. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith
126. Unaccustomed Earth, by Jhumpa Lahiri

I am incredibly proud of my mother, and is there any wonder where my own passion for reading comes from, or why I started this blog as another way for us to share books?

Kudos to you, Mom! You are an inspiration! I love you!

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19 thoughts on “The End of an Era

  1. Robin

    Thanks, Kristy. She sent me an email this evening and told me she really couldn’t choose a favorite, there were so many she enjoyed.

    Thanks, Paulina. Me, too!–I hope to be like her one of these days, too! She’s very special.

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  2. Wendi B. - Wendi's Book Corner ~ Rainy Day Reads in Seattle

    Robin – your Mom seems like a remarkable woman! I’ve read 9 of the books you have listed here. They were each wonderful.

    🙂 Wendi

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  3. Chris

    What a FANTASTIC list of books!! I wish I had people in my family that read that much. Congratulations to your mom on her years of hard, yet fun work. I hope she enjoys her reading time to herself now 🙂

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  4. Robin

    Thanks, Wendi B. She really is remarkable in many different ways!

    Thanks, Chris. She’ll be very happy to hear about your good wishes. It will be very nice for her to have more of her own reading time now. I can’t wait to see what she reads next.

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  5. Red lady-Bonnie

    What an inspiring story..thanks so much for sharing it here. That is a great list of books and your mom must have many memories over the years of leading the group as well as friendships.

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  6. Nan

    You are both so lucky to have one another. This is a lovely tribute to her, Robin. She has been a role model to me ever since I've been reading your blog. My favorites on her list are:
    8, 13, 14 & 15, 33, 62, 64, 101, and 109. What impresses me the most is the great variety of books from different genres and topics. Those people are going to miss her. Will she still attend as a participant? I love the pictures of her.

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  7. Robin

    Thanks for stopping by, Anna. I agree–it really is a great list. I’ve read a lot of them, but have so many more I’d like to read off of it!

    Thanks, FarmLaneBooks! I am very proud of her. She’s my inspiration.

    Thanks, Red Lady-Bonnie. She’s got quite a few stories she could tell about those book group experiences, both good and not so good!

    Thanks, Tara. I’ll pass along your kind words.

    Thanks, Nymeth. I think her choices show some interesting things about her — she was right in the middle of all things books, AND she loves American history.

    Thanks, Nan. I’ll share your favorites with her, for sure, but especially your kind words. The photos were taken at both ends of the experience — the first one when she first started in early 1998, and the second one just last week. And, of course, she’s into a new book now already. It helps that she lives next door to a library!

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  8. Les

    What a beautiful story! I’ve read 54 from her list and think I’ll print the entire list out to share with my f2f bookclub. Maybe we’ll just work our way through her list!

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  9. Robin

    Danielle, I went to one of the meetings a few years ago while I was visiting her. It was a pretty lively discussion! I enjoyed myself!

    Thanks, Les. I’d seen the list before, but as I put it all together in one big list, I was so impressed once again with her choices. She’ll be very pleased to know that you liked it and are going to share it with your book group.

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  10. Lois (Robin's Mom)

    Thanks to all you for the very kind responses to the book list. When I saw so many responses it took my breath away. From the beginning I’ve called myself a “selfish volunteer” because I love to read. I met many interesting people who made important contributions over those years. There were some funny moments when we shared a good laugh. There were ones who didn’t like the book and said so, and after the discussion decided to read it after all. It was so disappointing when I couldn’t get over to the last book group. Once again, I loved your responses to the book list.

    Thanks, Robin. You have been my support all the way. Your suggestions and encouragement have meant so much to me. And how special of you to share it on your blog.
    Lois/Mom

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