Recommendations from Susan Zana, Vestavia Hills High School Librarian

The best part of being a librarian is talking to both students and teachers about books. To build a community of readers among the staff, we started an after-school book club for teachers. Many teachers read the book club selection even if they can’t attend the meeting. We chat quickly in the halls between classes or in the workroom and meet throughout the year to discuss the books. I love that we have something to talk about besides school. Here are a few of our selections.


By Laura Lane McNeal

This book was an unofficial selection. We didn’t choose it for book club, but more than half of our members read it and loved it. Young Liberty “Ibby” Bell is sent to live with her eccentric grandmother, Fannie, in 1964 New Orleans. Fannie’s black cook, Queenie, and her daughter, Dollbaby, help Ibby navigate the social change of the ’60s and teach her the true meaning of family.


By Yaa Gyasi

In 18th century Ghana, Effia becomes the wife of an English slave trader; her sister Esi is sold into slavery. The narration of each chapter alternates between a descendent of Effia and a descendant of Esi and progresses from the 18th century to present day. You need the family tree at the front of the book to keep it all straight, but Gyasi’s heart-wrenching novel is well-worth the effort. What I learned from reading this book was augmented by the post-reading research I did on the Cape Coast Castle. This book from Gyasi, who grew up in Huntsville, is a treasure.

The Dollhouse

By Fiona Davis

After Homegoing, we need something lighter, so we elected to see 1950s New York City through the eyes of Darby, a secretarial school student living among aspiring models at the Barbizon Hotel for Women. The narrative alternates between Darby in the ’50s and Rose Lewin, a present day reporter who works to uncover the mystery of what happened to Esme, one of the maids at the Barbizon. We were split when it came to whose story we liked best, but we all enjoyed watching the women in the novel find strengths they didn’t know they had.

The Hideaway

By Lauren Denton

We were thrilled to be able to discuss it with the author, Homewood’s Lauren Denton. When Sara’s grandmother dies, she leaves Sara her beloved bed and breakfast. Sara is charged with renovating the property but becomes enthralled in the history of the place and of the grandmother. Follow Sara’s journey as she learns about her grandmother’s rich, secretive past and grows to love The Hideaway and the sweet group of senior citizens who still live there. Set on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay, this relaxing read has a setting most of us with recognize.

The Water is Wide

By Pat Conroy

Pat Conroy’s memoir about his time teaching on an island off the coast of South Carolina is a favorite among teachers. Set in 1969, The Water is Wide recounts Conroy’s days as an idealistic young teacher in a two-room schoolhouse in a segregated school district. We loved reading about the lengths Conroy went to in order to bring the outside world to his isolated students and provide them with the education they deserved but had long lived without. The rich and diverse range of characters brings this book to life.