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Guaranteed Good Reads for the Rest of the Year

Recommendations from the Monday Night Book Club

Monday Night Book Club selections

The Monday Night Book Club in our town has been meeting for years, way before I was ever a member. We’re no different from thousands of other monthly book clubs across the country; we’re just women who enjoy reading and talking about books while mixing it up with socializing and food.

We choose our selections for an entire year. The reading schedule, meeting places, and facilitators shuffle around when we need to adapt to the “life” that invariably happens. We’re nothing, if not flexible. We have three books left to read before gearing up for 2021.

Our last chosen books of the year are guaranteed to be good ones. If you’re looking for recommendations, these were selected by fourteen “well-read” women from a list of 30 books we had compiled from member input.

Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan

Mark Sullivan’s novel is based on the true story of Pino Lello, a 17-year-old Italian boy. The Germans have occupied Italy, and the Italian people are led by a puppet-leader, Mussolini.

After Milan is bombed by the Allied forces, Pino’s family sends him to live in a school for boys run by a benevolent priest where the boys are secretly trained to help Jews escape over the mountains.

Pino’s family, however, have different plans for him, and he is urged to join the German army BEFORE he is drafted so that he can choose his division.

Through the twists and turns of fate, Pino becomes the driver for one of the highest German generals in Italy. Unbeknownst to him, his love interest is the maid of this general’s mistress. The plot thickens when we find that Pino’s uncle works for the Resistance, giving Pino an opportunity to help the country he loves.

If you’re hesitant to read historical fiction because you don’t know how much is actually true, don’t worry about this one. Beneath a Scarlet Sky is heavily researched and documented, based on real events. Mark Sullivan, the author, did these things:

  • Spent three weeks with Pino Lello while he was still alive and able to show Sullivan the places he described in the book. Pino was 79 in 2006 when Sullivan spent time with him listening to his story.

  • Met with a retired priest, a forger with an underground railroad that helped smuggle Jews out of the country.

  • Researched for two weeks in the German archives and a week in the U.S. archives.

  • Talked to war and Holocaust historians along with many elderly men who had taken part in the Resistance.

  • Refined research by spending an additional three weeks in Germany and Italy checking details of his research.

  • Interviewed the daughter of the general who Pino had chauffeured around.

  • Finished several years of research before he even started writing.

Read it and be amazed.


If you’re interested in “spy” stories, you might want to check out another Monday Night Book Club selection. A Woman of No Importance is a NONFICTION book details the life of Virginia Hall, a woman credited with changing the course of the war through intelligence work and the networking that resulted in a powerful Resistance movement in France:

The Overstory by Richard Powers

I can’t wait to read this one. It’s the Pulitzer Prize-Winner for Fiction in 2019.

The review in The Atlantic says this:

“The novel follows nine characters — among them a Vietnam veteran, a young coding prodigy, and the last descendant of immigrant pioneers — whose close relationships with trees, lasting sometimes for generations, lead them to a deep appreciation of the world’s threatened forests. Nearly all the characters become activists in some form — five of them eventually come together in protest against a timber company — and throughout their personal transformations, the trees around them are so exquisitely rendered that they seem like characters themselves.”

As a child, I was terrified of the apple-throwing trees in Wizard of Oz. Later, I was thrilled by the Ent Trees in The Lord of the Rings. I love the smell of pine, the sound of rustling leaves, and the drastic danger-dance of trees in a storm. One of my favorite poems is Whitman’s “I Saw In Louisiana A Live Oak Growing.” No wonder that I’m happy our book club chose this one, especially since I want to read every Pulitzer Prize Fiction Winner of the last twenty years.

Buy The Overstory here from Amazon:

Buy The Overstory here from

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger

I discovered William Kent Krueger when Book Club chose Ordinary Grace as a novel early in the year. I loved the book, so I’m excited about reading another Krueger’s works.

This Tender Land is a companion to Ordinary Grace and follows the travels of four orphaned children who escape from a Native American boarding house in 1932.

This work of complete fiction that traces the journey of kids through a world that is both brutal and beautiful. In a kind of Huckleberry-Finn-coming-of-age, the kids travel down the Mississippi by canoe and experience all aspects of life.

The Star-Tribune calls This Tender Land,

“…a compelling tale told through the eyes of a boy who translates the world in all its beauty and meanness and emerges hopeful on the other side.”

“Epic.” “Picaresque.” “Gritty.” “Divine.” Krueger’s novel has been acclaimed and was an instant bestseller because of its predecessor, Ordinary Grace, and because of Krueger’s reputation as a powerful novelist. This Tender Land is his twentieth book.

Can the Monday Book Club COUNT?

Wondering why we have THREE books left and there are FOUR months left in the year? In December, we have our annual party, an all-evening-affair with appetizers, wine, dinner, and dessert. Throughout the evening, we talk about all the books that we have “thrown into the pot” of choices for the upcoming year. Each book gets a summary and a brief introduction from the person who recommended it. We ask questions and banter about the “buzz” of the book, and then we vote for ELEVEN books to read in the year ahead.

Every year, I go home gleefully anticipating new adventures found from roaming the world of books.

Melissa Gouty is a lover of stories of any kind, fact to fiction and everything in between. Her biggest fear is that she won’t have nearly enough time to read and write everything she wants to — no matter how long she lives. She also LOVES the Monday Night Book Club’s annual Christmas party.

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