“Hunting makes you animal, but the death of an animal makes you human.”

hisforhawkBrown Baggers met at Central on October 18 to discuss the memoir H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald. Published in 2014, H is for Hawk is part hawk training manual and part dissection of grief. A lifetime falconer, Macdonald decides to try training a much more difficult, larger, and stronger goshawk after her father suddenly dies. She reflects on her modern day experience through the lens of author T. H. White, who recounted his attempt in the book The Goshawk.

Readers really enjoyed Macdonald’s writing style. They found it beautiful and evocative, admiring how she seemed to meditate on each subject and the expert way she wove all of them together. Those who had listened to the audiobook, narrated by the author, founding it equally compelling.

One of the most interesting parts of the book, readers found, was Macdonald’s examination of the feral in humans and the humanity in animals. The hawk she trained, Mabel, led her to a wild place deep in her grief but also led her back to her human self in the end. Readers who had no interest in birding, falconry, or hawks found themselves enthralled by the story despite its naturalist themes – a testament to her skill as a writer.

Some felt the process of training hawks was too violent and controlling, especially when hawks no longer serve a purpose of acquiring food for their handlers. Readers discussed whether it was necessary for the author to exert control over another animal to feel in control herself, after the loss of her father.

The sheer social isolation of the author was also discussed, as was the varying depth and experience of grief depending on the individual. While the prose makes it seem like she was completely without social contact while raising the hawk, she does have family, friends, and a professional and falconry community that kept her tethered while she grieved.

Brown Baggers will meet again on November 15 at noon to discuss The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom.

Other titles mentioned:
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
The Once and Future King by T. H. White (and other works)

More information:
Interview with author
Second interview
Author bio
PBS documentary (which Central is showing on 10/25 at 7pm)
National Geographic article about falconry in the U.A.E.
Information on falconry

Stress Management Books

Stress Management - Blog Post Header

Everyone deals with stress, but it’s how we go about dealing with it that matters. While finding a professional to talk to may be the best recourse when times are tough, the next time you find yourself looking for ways to overcome the various stressors that affect your life you can try out one of these books available from your local library:

Hack Your Anxiety by Alicia H. Clark – Weaving together modern neuroscience, case studies, interviews, and personal anecdotes, this guide demonstrates how anxiety can be reclaimed as a potent force for living our best lives.

Stop, Breathe, Chill by Beth Stebner – Presents mindfulness exercises designed to help teens and young adults focus on the present and avoid stressing about the future.

Anxiety Happens by John P. Forsyth & Georg H. Eifert – Offers 52 quick and powerful mindfulness-based strategies to help readers break free from fear, worry, and panic, and cultivate genuine, lasting happiness.

The End of Stress by Don Joseph Goewey – Uses the latest research in neuroscience and neuroplasticity to offer a four-step process to eliminating stress by switching the brain’s auto-pilot from habitual stress and anxiety to a calmer state.

Project You by Aubre Andrus – Shares over 50 ideas for destressing, relaxing, and finding balance, including taking a staycation, playing mood music, starting a nature journal, and practicing good posture.

Modern Mindfulness by Rohan Gunatillake – Covers the basic principles and techniques of mindfulness meditation and presents 60 exercises which show how the practice can be incorporated into daily life.

The Stress Test by Ian Robertson – An eye-opening study of why we react to pressure in the way we do and how to be energized rather than defeated by stress.

The Upside of Stress by Kelly McGonigal – Combining science, stories, and exercises, a respected health psychologist uses cutting-edge discoveries and new research to overturn long-held beliefs about stress, revealing how it can make people stronger, smarter, and happier if they learn how to embrace it.

“What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments when you shouldn’t be?”

thehateugiveBooks on Tap read and discussed the CvilleOneBook title The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas on Thursday, October 4 at Champion Brewery. The award-winning young adult novel is being read and discussed in local schools this fall thanks to a specially printed edition of the book funded by community donations and the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation.

There was a lot to unpack with this book and the discussion was lively and lengthy. The plot revolves around 16-year-old Starr Carter who witnesses a police-involved fatal shooting of her friend and the subsequent impact on her, her family and her community.

While the book dealt with many difficult issues, everyone in the group gave it positive reviews for how the subjects were handled. Themes include stereotyping and racism, activism, bravery, family and community. The characters make historic references to Emmett Till, The Black Panthers, Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, Tupac Shakur (title reference/Thug Life), Dr. Martin Luther King and mention very recent victims of police brutality.

One reader said that her church discussion group found the language in the book offensive. The Books on Tap group felt that the book would not seem authentic if the author had cleaned up all the language. Who is the book meant to appeal to? Teens.

The group also discussed the extent of code-switching that Starr and many THUG characters go through in order to fit in. Many of us also do the same, but to a generally lesser degree and the group discussed a few personal examples.

We briefly discussed the importance of reading diverse books to get exposure to other people’s worlds and build understanding and a sense of community. The characters and the issues in THUG are deftly portrayed to make the book appealing, not defensive.

National Book Award Longlist
Michael L. Printz Honor Book
Edgar Allan Poe Award Nominee (Mystery Writers of America)
Coretta Scott King Honor (Author)
Boston Globe-Horn Book Award
William C. Morris Award

Other books mentioned:
Between the World & Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Black Klansman by Ron Stallworth
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

More information:
Upcoming movie (release date 10/19)
Controversy around THUG as required reading

The Atlantic
Huffington Post

At the November 1 meeting, the group will choose titles to discuss January-May 2019.

Have a suggestion for future titles? Add them to this list.

Previous titles