Silas Marner: The Weaver of Raveloe

by George Eliot

Set in the early years 19th century, this novel is about Silas Marner, a poor linen weaver whose life is destroyed by a false accusation. Renounced by his bride to be and his former friends, he moves to a distant village where he lives as a recluse, hoarding gold coins from his earnings. The coins are stolen but soon after, another treasure is discovered. On a cold winter night, an abandoned child appears on his doorstep—a foundling, whose mother has died of a drug overdose. He adopts the child as his own and, with the help of a kindly neighbor, becomes an exemplary father and parent. When the child reaches adolescence even this happiness is threatened when the real father attempts to reclaim her as his own.

Mary Ann Evans (1819 – 1880), better known by her pen name George Eliot, was an English novelist and one of the leading writers of the Victorian era.

Publisher: Signet; Re-issue edition (2007)

Galileo’s Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love

by Dava Sobel

This memoir explores the relationship between Galileo and his daughter, Sister Maria Celeste, a cloistered nun who gave her father much-needed moral and emotional support during his challenges involving the Church. Based on Sister Maria’s surviving letters, their correspondence provides insight into the world in which they lived, and the attitudes of the papal court during a time when humanity’s perception of its place in the cosmos was about to be overturned. Through their correspondence, we gain a deeper understanding of Galileo’s life and work, and also of his daughter, a woman of incredible brilliance and energy.

Galileo’s Daughter was nominated for the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography. Dava Sobel, a former New York Times science reporter, writes for several on-line and print publications.

Publisher: Penguin (2000)

The Most Noble Adventure: The Marshall Plan and How America Helped Rebuild Europe

by Greg Behrman

Through detailed and comprehensive research, Behrman tells the story of the Marshall Plan, the unprecedented American foreign policy project that helped Europe get back on its feet after WWII. Launched in 1947 by then Secretary of State George C. Marshall, the four-year 13 billion dollar plan sought to modernize Western Europe’s economies, launch those countries on a path to prosperity, and help prevent the spread of communism. More than a humanitarian endeavor, the Marshall Plan was one of the most effective foreign policies in American history.

Greg Behrman, formerly a Henry Kissinger Fellow at The Aspen Institute, is the founder, CEO, and editor-in-chief of NationSwell, a digital media company focused on American renewal.

Publisher: Aurum Press (2008)

The Lost Child of Philomena Lee

by Martin Sixsmith

This is the true story of Philomena Lee who, as a teenager in Ireland in 1952, had an out-of-wedlock son. Disowned by her father, she was sent to a convent where she was considered a “fallen” woman and, like thousands of others, forced to give up her baby for adoption. In 2004, Philomena, with the help of journalist, Martin Sixsmith, traveled to America determined to find her son, not realizing that he had been searching for her in Ireland before he died in 1995. The Lost Child of Philomena Lee is the story of an extraordinary woman whose will power, courage, and determination will inspire many others, including those who have suffered a similar fate.

Martin Sixsmith is a former BBC journalist and director of communications for the British government. He lives in London.

Publisher: Pan Macmillan (2009)

All the Light We Cannot See: A Novel

by Anthony Doerr

Set in occupied France during World War II, this New York Times bestseller centers on the relationship between Marie-Laure, a blind French girl, and Werner Pfennig, a Nazi trained radio technician, who has become disillusioned with the war. Their lives converge in 1944 against the backdrop of the D-Day invasion of Normandy when Werner is ordered to trace and destroy Allied intelligence reports. He disobeys the order in hopes that the reports will aid the invasion. In the meantime, Werner and Marie develop a strong bond of love and friendship as they struggle to survive in war-torn France. All the Light We Cannot See won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

Anthony Doerr, an American novelist and short story writer, lives in Boise, Idaho.

Publisher: Scribner (2014)

The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt’s Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer

by Anne-Marie O’Connor

This is the fascinating story of Gustav Klimt’s dazzling 1907 gold-leaf portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, which was stolen by the Nazis during World War II, and the subsequent legal dispute decades later between her heirs and the Austrian government. Maria Altmann, principle heir to the Bloch-Bauer estate, fled the Nazis in 1938 and settled in Los Angeles, CA where she and her husband lived quietly for 60 years. In 1998 she decided to sue the Austrian government for ownership of the Adele Bloch-Bauer portrait and other paintings from her uncle’s collection. After a lengthy court battle, it was established in 2006 that Maria Altmann was the rightful owner of this and four other paintings by Gustav Klimt.

Anne-Marie O’Connor, a contributor to the Washington Post, is a veteran foreign correspondent, culture writer and former war reporter.

Publisher: Vintage (2015)


A Simple Twist of Fate, 1994

Inspired by George Eliot’s 1861 novel, Silas Marner, this film, stars Steve Martin as Michael McCann, a high school music teacher who feels betrayed after his wife reveals he is not the father of their unborn child. McCann retreats into a life of solitude as a furniture maker in rural Virginia, his only companion a valuable collection of gold coins. The coins are stolen, but a few weeks later his life is transformed when an abandoned toddler, whose mother has died of a drug overdose, wanders into his house. McCann adopts the child and becomes a dedicated parent. Unbeknownst to him, the child is the illegitimate daughter of a local man of high social position who later attempts to gain custody of the child.

Available: DVD; Rated PG-13

What about Bob? 1991

This outrageously funny American comedy is about Bob Wiley (Bill Murray), a neurotic New Yorker with multiple phobias, and his therapist, noted psychiatrist Dr. Leo Marvin (Richard Dreyfuss). After their first session, Bob, unable to cope with Marvin’s leaving for a month-long vacation, shows up unexpectedly at the therapist’s lakeside retreat. A manipulative and obsessively compulsive narcissist, Bob ingratiates himself to Marvin’s family and becomes the proverbial house guest who just won’t leave. While Marvin’s family takes a liking to Bob, Leo grows increasingly frustrated with his patient’s antics. In the end, Bob drives the stressed-out therapist absolutely crazy! What about Bob? was both a critical and financial success.

Available: DVD; Rated PG

Good Night and Good Luck, 2005

Set in the early days of broadcast television, this film pays homage to legendary newsman Edward R. Murrow and his courageous fight to end the communist witch hunts of the early 1950s. Rising above personal attacks and defying corporate sponsorship, Murrow single-handedly challenged and discredited anti-communist crusader Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin, whose fear-mongering tactics had destroyed lives and careers. He also helped bring an end to the tyranny of the blacklist and the House Un-American Activities’ anti-Communist hearings. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards

Available: DVD; Rated PG

Interstellar, 2014

This science fiction movie explores a post-apocalyptic future in which planet Earth has been devastated by drought and famine. With humanity facing extinction, a mysterious rip in the space-time continuum is discovered and a crew of astronauts must travel beyond our solar system through a recently discovered wormhole. In their last-ditch effort to find a new habitable planet, the astronauts must leave behind their own families in order to save the remaining people on earth. Interstellar was a box office success and won numerous awards.

Available: DVD; Rated PG-13

The Snow Walker, 2003

In this adventure movie, Charley Halliday, a brash, young Canadian bush pilot and World War II veteran, reluctantly agrees to transport a critically ill Inuit woman to a hospital in Yellowknife, a city in northern Canada. In route to the city, his plane goes down on the Arctic tundra, and he and the Inuit woman find themselves marooned with a broken radio and meager supplies. Forced to depend on each other in order to survive the brutality of the looming northern winter, they forge a bond of friendship and love that transcends social and cultural barriers. Based on the short story Walk Well, My Brother, by Farley Mowat, the movie won numerous awards.

Available: DVD; Rated PG

Dancing at Lughnasa, 1998

This movie, an adaptation of Brian Friel’s internationally acclaimed award-winning play, stars Meryl Streep in a beautifully crafted ensemble drama about five sisters, who live in a cottage in rural Ireland in the 1930s. Although none of the sisters are married, one has a young son named Michael who lives with them. Despite numerous economic challenges, the household works well enough in its own way. But things are never the same after the sisters’ addle-minded brother, Jack, returns from Africa, and Michael’s freewheeling, absentee father, Gerry, returns for a short visit.

Dancing at Lughnasa was nominated for numerous awards.

Available: DVD; Rated PG

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