Books and Banter

Books and Banter Reading Schedule

Fall 2019-Spring 2020

All Books and Banter discussions are held in the Houston Room at the Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, 8000 St. Martin’s Lane at Willow Grove Avenue. Sessions begin promptly at 7:30 p.m., and end by 9:00 p.m. All are welcome at our open discussions.

Participants locate their own copy of the book, borrowing from the Free Library of Philadelphia (various branches) or from the Montgomery County Library system; reading on a Kindle, or buying a used copy.

Monday, September 9, 2019
Amity and Prosperity: One Family and the Fracturing of America, by Eliza Griswold.  (2018, 336 p.)
Recommended by Martha Repman and Dick Haggard.
A “classic American story, grippingly told, of an Appalachian family struggling struggling to retain its middle-class status in the shadow of destruction wreaked by corporate oil fracking,” Columbia University said in announcing this year’s Pulitzer winners. Griswold, a Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction.

Monday, October 14, 2019
The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro. (2015, 345 p.)
Recommended by Linda Page.
In post-Arthurian Britain, the wars that once raged between the Saxons and the Britons have finally ceased. Axl and Beatrice, an elderly British couple, set off to visit their son, whom they haven’t seen in years. And, because a strange mist has caused mass amnesia throughout the land, they can scarcely remember anything about him. As they are joined on their journey by a Saxon warrior, his orphan charge, and an illustrious knight, Axl and Beatrice slowly begin to remember the dark and troubled past they all share. By turns savage, suspenseful, and intensely moving, the novel, by the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, is a luminous meditation on the act of forgetting and the power of memory.

Monday, November 11, 2019
The Man Who Planted Trees: A Story of Lost Groves, the Science of Trees and a Plan to Save the Planet, by Jim Robbins. (2012, 216 p.)
Recommended by a local storyteller.
Describes the efforts of a former alcoholic nurseryman whose near death experience prompts him to try and find the best specimens of the 872 known species of trees in the U.S. and use them to propagate offspring around the world.

Monday, December 9, 2019
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce. (2012, 384 p.)
Recommended by Chrissa Pedersen.
Goodreads synopsis: Meet Harold Fry, recently retired. He lives in a small English village with his wife, Maureen, who seems irritated by almost everything he does. Little
differentiates one day from the next until Harold receives a letter in a shaky scrawl from a woman he hasn’t seen or heard from in twenty years. Queenie Hennessy is in hospice and is writing to say goodbye. Harold pens a quick reply and, leaving Maureen to her chores, but then, as happens in the very best works of fiction, Harold has a chance encounter, one that convinces him that he absolutely must deliver his message to Queenie in person. And thus begins the unlikely pilgrimage at the heart of this author’s debut novel, long-listed for the Man Booker Prize.

Monday, January 13, 2020
The Promise of the Grand Canyon, by John Ross. (2018, 400 p.) 
Recommended by Dick Haggard.
Basically, this is the biography of John Wesley Powell, from Civil War actions through his post-Colorado River trips (the center of the narrative) to many years as chief US surveyor, and his struggles as head of key institutions mapping and preserving much of the West. A man of great fortitude and capability, part of US history, and a well-written summary of his life, with great detail on the adventure through the Grand Canyon. (The later parts of politics and networking can be skimmed, if desired. The outdoor adventure is where the primary story lies.)

Monday, February 10, 2020
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (2018, 384 p.)
For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life - until the unthinkable happens. The novel is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a coming-of-age story, and a tale of possible murder. (Note: We also will consider the One Book, One Philadelphia selection as an optional read for February.)

Monday, March 9, 2020
The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, by Stephen Greenblatt (2011, 368 p.)
Recommended by Chrissa Pedersen.
The book hunter Poggio Bracciolini from the Vatican discovered an ancient copy of Lucretius’ poem, On the Nature of Things, in the winter of 1417 at a remote monastery. It poses that the universe works without the aid of gods, that matter is made up of atoms, and that matter was made up of very small particles in eternal motion, colliding and swerving in new directions. Greenblatt proposes that this find created fertile ground for the emergence of the Renaissance. The book won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction and the 2011 National Book Award for Nonfiction.

Monday, April 13, 2020
Two Books by George Orwell
Recommended by Rich Himmer and Martha Repman.
1984, (1949, 328 p.)
Winston Smith wrestles with oppression in Oceania, where there is perpetual war and the Party watches humans via “thought police”. He dares to rebel by pursuing a relationship with Julia, an illegal act.
The Politics of the English Language, (1946, an essay of 28 p.)
The author criticizes the “ugly and inaccurate” written English of his time and examines the connection between politics and the debasement of the language.

Monday, May 11, 2020
Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, by Jack Weatherford. (2004, 352 p.)
Recommended by Daphne and David Raasch.
The book is a narrative of the rise and influence of Genghis Khan and his successors, and their influence on European civilization. Weatherford provides a different slant on Genghis Khan than has been typical in most Western accounts, attributing positive cultural effects to his rule. Weatherford is professor of anthropology at Macalester College.

Monday, June 8, 2020
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, by Jamie Ford. (2009, 290 p.)
Recommended by the Rev. Anne Thatcher.
A tender and satisfying novel set in a time and a place lost forever, the novel gives us a glimpse of the damage that is caused by war—not the sweeping damage of the battlefield, but the cold, cruel damage to the hearts and humanity of individual people. Especially relevant in today’s world.

Regular Sunday Schedule

8:00 a.m. Holy Eucharist
9:15 a.m. worship.together (Eucharist for preschool families)
9:15 a.m. Parish Forum & Christian Education (Kairos)
10:30 a.m. Choral Eucharist

Other Days

Morning prayer is offered at 7:30 a.m. weekdays, in the Mary Chapel.

Silent morning meditation is offered at 8:15 a.m. weekdays, in the Mary Chapel.

Mid-week Eucharist is offered at 12:15 p.m. Wednesdays, in the Mary Chapel.

Compline is offered at 7:00 p.m. on 2nd & 4th Wednesdays, in the Church.

Choral Evensong is offered at 5:00 p.m. on 1st Sundays, Oct.-June, in the Church.

We would love to have you join us.


This Episcopal church is located in the heart of the historic neighborhood of Chestnut Hill, five blocks west of Germantown Avenue at the corner of St. Martin’s Lane and West Willow Grove Avenue.

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