Brown Baggers 2020 Holiday Potluck

The Brown Baggers met virtually on December 17 for their annual holiday potluck, and to pitch and discuss titles for the upcoming June 2021-June 2022 season. Votes will be collected digitally through January 10, 2021. All previous title selections, as well as our next batch of books, once picked, can be seen here. Festivities were slightly hampered by the inability to share food and chat in person, but there was plenty of excitement in looking ahead. Enthusiasm is high for December 2021 (which will hopefully be held in person). 

The Brown Baggers will meet again virtually on January 21 to discuss The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger, and will be joined by the author himself, a Charlottesville local. Email for details on how to participate via computer or phone.

Titles Suggested:

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

The Dutch House by Anne Patchett

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Until the End of Time: Mind, Matter, and Our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe by Brian Greene

The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

Afterlife by Julia Alvarez

The Cotton Kingdom: A Traveller’s Observations on Cotton and Slavery in the American Slave States by Frederick Law Olmstead

The Last Town on Earth by Thomas Mullen

The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home by Denise Kiernan

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carre

Tracks: A Woman’s Solo Trek Across 1,700 Miles of Australian Outback by Robyn Davidson

Spartina by John Casey

Jacob’s Room by Virginia Woolf

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson

Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education by Michael Pollan

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman

A Perfect Spy by John le Carre

The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish

In An Instant by Suzanne Redfearn

Beartown by Fredrik Backman

Ask Again Yes by Mary Beth Keane

The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd

What Are You Going Through by Sigrid Nunez

The Yellow House by Sarah Broom

Blindness by Jose Saramago

A Patchwork Planet by Anne Tyler

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Get in Trouble: Stories by Kelly Link

The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

“The tattooing has taken only seconds, but Lale’s shock makes time stand still.”

The Central Library Brown Baggers book group met virtually on Nov. 19th to discuss  The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris. 

This book tells the story of Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, who is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer, tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners. One day, Lale meets another prisoner named Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.

The Brown Baggers were impressed with Lale’s character, describing him as flashy, charming, charismatic, optimistic, dogged, and determined. They were less impressed with Gita, mentioning she is hard to empathize with, as she is presented as a fairly flat person, not a well-developed character. Many of the group members felt the reading experience was weird or uncomfortable, due to the romantic plot in such horrific settings, calling it the ‘Hallmark’ version of a WWII story. 

Nevertheless, many enjoyed the read, although cited WWII fatigue after reading A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Purnell last month. There was also much discussion of what concentration camp historical sites are like in the modern day, with several Brown Baggers describing trips they or their family had made to the sites, and the horrors still represented within.

The Brown Baggers will meet again virtually on Thursday, December 17th at noon to select future titles (for June 2021-May 2022).  Please email for details on how to participate from your computer or phone.

Books Mentioned:

Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris

The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry


La Vita e Bella (Life is Beautiful), (1997)


Synchronicity Films to Bring the Tattooist of Auschwitz to the Screen

Daily Mail – The Tattooist of Auschwitz Controversy: Author in Clash with Holocaust Survivor’s Son Over ‘Mistakes’ In International Bestseller

Love To Teach – A Discussion of the Tattooist of Auschwitz

“Valor rarely reaps the dividends it should.”

On October 15th, the Central Library Brown Baggers book group met virtually to discuss A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win WWII by Sonia Purnell.

This book tells the story of how, in 1942, the Gestapo sent out an urgent transmission: “She is the most dangerous of all Allied spies. We must find and destroy her.” This spy was Virginia Hall, a young American woman–rejected from the foreign service because of her gender and her prosthetic leg–who talked her way into the spy organization dubbed Churchill’s “ministry of ungentlemanly warfare,” and, before the United States had even entered the war, became the first woman to deploy to occupied France. Virginia Hall was one of the greatest spies in American history, yet before this book, her story was untold.

While the Brown Baggers were very impressed with Virginia Hall and her achievements, many were underwhelmed by the quality of the writing, and found it hard to get through at points. Some found Hall herself so compelling they were not bothered by the writing, and all expressed admiration for the impact Hall had on the world, and history, especially in the face of extreme disadvantage and prejudice from her own side. 

The Brown Baggers will meet again virtually on Thursday, November 19 at noon to discuss The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris.  Please email for details on how to participate from your computer or phone.

Books Mentioned:

The Spy Who Came In From The Cold by John Le Carre

The Night Witches by Garth Ennis

True Grit by Charles Portis

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania  by Erik Larson

Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy, France by Carolyn Moorehead

Madame Fourcade’s Secret War by Lynne Olson

Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill by Sonia Purnell

Woman of No Importance (play) by Oscar Wilde

Other books on Virginia Hall:

Hall of Mirrors by Craig Gralley (historical fiction recounting Virginia Hall’s life)

The Wolves at the Door by Judith Pearson


 Julia (1977)


Deadline – ‘Paramount Buys Spy Novel ‘A Woman of No Importance’ for ‘Star Wars’ Daisy Ridley’ by Mike Flemming Jr.

IMDB – Upcoming Movie Page

NPR – ‘Female WWII Pilots: The Original Flygirls’ by Susan Stamberg

Women Airforce Service Pilots (general information)

Night Witches (general information)