Big If
A shrewd literary novel that takes on contemporary politics, this 2002 National Book Award nominee follows Secret Service agent Vi Asplund as she guards the vice president during the New Hampshire primary. Her tortured brother Jens, brainchild behind a violent computer war game called Big If, faces a cyber-age crisis when he begins to wonder about the morals of his creations—bad guys who are heavily armed and all too human. Along with their father, an insurance adjuster who investigates gruesome accidents, the threesome form an oddly modern family, and the book focuses on their idiosyncrasies while delving into Secret Service doings. Provocative and unsettling, this is a wonderfully original portrait of contemporary America.
A reading group guide is included in the book. 

Everything Is Illuminated
This dazzling debut from the 24-year-old Foer explores the dark legacy of World War II in Eastern Europe while recounting the quest of a smart young Jewish American (named Jonathan Safran Foer). Accompanied by Alex, his Ukrainian translator, a scrappy dog named Sammy Davis Jr. and Alex's grandfather, Foer travels to Eastern Europe in search of the woman who rescued his own grandfather from the Nazis. Alex narrates the bulk of the book through a series of letters written in fragmented English and filled with his unworldly, often hilarious observations. Foer fills in the rest with a detailed historical portrait of Jewish life in the Ukraine before the Germans invaded. A smart, humorous tribute to Jewish history and culture, this best-selling novel is the work of a whiz-kid.
A reading group guide is available in print and online at 

Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science
This engaging collection of essays, written by Gawande, who is a former Rhodes scholar, a surgeon and a staff writer for The New Yorker, explores the world of modern medicine, taking readers behind the scenes of one of America's biggest industries. The author's personal accounts of risky surgical procedures—including treatment of morbid obesity—the newest medical innovations and the dangers of misdiagnosis deliver the challenges of a physician's career to readers with wonderful drama and detail. In Gawande's hands, the arcane world of medicine is finally made accessible. By turns confessional, comic and frightening, this collection was a 2002 National Book Award finalist and a bestseller in hardcover. 

Small Wonder: Essays
The popular novelist returns with a collection of 23 nonfiction pieces that reflects her expansive range and considerable wisdom. Nature and conservation are Kingsolver's specialties—she studied biology in college—and that expertise is showcased here in essays like "Lily's Chickens," in which she considers the dangers of pesticides and the challenges of living off the land. Several of the selections, including the title essay, deal with the tragic events of 9/11. Covering everything from contemporary politics to the American family, from genetic engineering to TV, each of these elegantly written, perceptive pieces is an eye-opener. A national bestseller, Small Wonder contains the same terrific imagery and graceful prose that makes Kingsolver's fiction so appealing.
A reading group guide is available in print and online at

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