What You’re Reading

Tim Hickman, principal at Substance Architecture, is reading “The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday, 2016) and “Gone With the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell (Macmillan, 1936):

“I love character-driven fiction and have been reading novels lately that reflect on American history. Reading these two titles at the same time is a mind-expanding game, as they take totally different views of Georgia, the Civil War, race and relationships. The characters that drive these two books are as juicy as they get—the spunky Cora, whose adventure we vicariously experience, and the selfish, relentless and deluded Scarlett O’Hara.”


Ellen Hubbell just finished reading “Ambition and Desire: The Dangerous Life of Josephine Bonaparte” by Kate Williams (Ballantine Books, 2014): “Beginning to end, this is an epic love story, but it is much more. In addition to a social history, it is a psychological study of a man whose unfettered ego destroys the very things he lived for: his marriage and his empire.

“Two unlikely people, a Creole with distant aristocratic connections from the island of Martinique and a rube of a general from Corsica, meet in Paris. Through love, ambition and intrigue, they are soon catapulted into the glamorous and powerful seat of the French government.

“Throughout the narrative, Josephine’s character is more constant as a warm, compassionate person who reinvents herself by mastering the social etiquette of early 19th-century Paris. It is this accomplishment that attracts Napoleon. She, in turn, helps facilitate his own transformation, making him acceptable among the top strata of French society.”


John Viars, executive director of Des Moines Community Playhouse, just finished reading “Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?” by Thomas Frank (Metropolitan Books, 2016):

“The author of ‘What’s the Matter With Kansas?’ gives liberal Democrats a rough time for promising to be the party of the people and instead becoming big-government corporatists who abet the divide between the haves and have-nots. I’m looking for balance in this crazy political season, so this was my choice for my book club.”

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