February Book Clubs at Kona Stories Bookstore

February 10, 2018, 9:00 AM HST
* Updated September 8, 4:06 PM
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Brenda McConnell and Joy Vogelgesang. Kona Stories courtesy photo.

Kona Stories Book Shop hosts three monthly book club meetings every month to discuss works of fiction, travel and nonfiction.

The fiction group meets on the second Tuesday of each month at 6:30 p.m.; the travel group meets on the third Tuesday of each month at 6:30 p.m.; and nonfiction meets on the fourth Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m.

Book meetings are free to attendees who purchase the featured books at Kona Stories Book Shop. Otherwise a $5 donation is appreciated. Participants are encouraged to bring a pūpū or beverage to share and may attend any or all of the groups. For more information, call Brenda or Joy at (808) 324-0350 or visit

The following books will be featured this month:

Fiction Group – Feb. 13, 6:30 p.m.: “Nicotine” by Nell Zink


Synopsis: Recent business school graduate Penny Baker has rebelled against her family her whole life by being the conventional one. Her mother, Amalia, was a member of an Amazonian tribe called the Kogi; her much older father, Norm, long ago attained cult-like deity status among a certain group of aging hippies while operating a ‘healing center’ in New Jersey. And she’s never felt particularly close to her much-older half-brothers from Norm’s previous marriage—one wickedly charming and obscenely rich (but mostly just wicked), one a photographer on a distant tropical island.


But all that changes when her father dies and Penny inherits his childhood home in New Jersey. She goes to investigate the property and finds it occupied by a group of friendly and charming anarchist squatters who have renamed the property Nicotine House. The residents of Nicotine House (defenders of smokers’ rights) possess the type of passion and fervor Penny feels she’s desperately lacking, and the other squatter houses in the neighborhood provide a sense of community she’s never felt before. Penny soon moves into a nearby residence, becoming enmeshed in the political fervor and commitment of her fellow squatters.

As the Baker family’s lives begin to converge around the fate of the Nicotine House, Penny grows ever bolder and more desperate to protect it—and its residents—until a fateful night when a reckless confrontation between her old family and her new one changes everything.

Travel Group – Feb. 20, 6:30 p.m.: “Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe” by Kapuka Kassabova


Synopsis: In this extraordinary work of narrative reportage, Kapka Kassabova returns to Bulgaria—the country she emigrated from 25 years ago as a girl—to explore the border it shares with Turkey and Greece. When she was a child, the border zone was rumored to be an easier crossing point to the West than the Berlin Wall, and it swarmed with soldiers and spies. During holidays in the “Red Riviera” on the Black Sea, she remembers playing on the beach only miles from a bristling electrified fence whose barbs pointed inward toward the enemy—the citizens of the totalitarian regime.

Kassabova discovers a place that has been shaped by successive forces of history: the Soviet and Ottoman empires, and, older still, myth and legend. Her exquisite portraits of fire walkers, smugglers, treasure hunters, botanists and border guards populate the book. There are also the ragged men and women who have walked across Turkey from Syria and Iraq. But there seem to be nonhuman forces at work here too. The densely forested landscape is rich with curative springs and Thracian tombs, and the tug of the ancient world—of circular time and animism—is never far off.

Border is a scintillating, immersive travel narrative that is also a shadow history of the Cold War, a sideways look at the migration crisis troubling Europe, and a deep, witchy descent into interior and exterior geographies.

Non-Fiction Book Group – Feb. 27, 6 p.m.: “Paradise Now: the Story of American Utopianism” by Chris Jennings

Synopsis: In the wake of the Enlightenment and the onset of industrialism, a generation of dreamers took it upon themselves to confront the messiness and injustice of a rapidly changing world. To our eyes, the utopian communities that took root in America in the nineteenth century may seem ambitious to the point of delusion, but they attracted members willing to dedicate their lives to creating a new social order and to asking the bold question: What should the future look like?

In Paradise Now, Chris Jennings tells the story of five interrelated utopian movements, revealing their relevance both to their time and to our own. Among them is Mother Ann Lee, the prophet of the Shakers who grew up in newly industrialized Manchester, England, and would come to build a quiet but fierce religious tradition on the opposite side of the Atlantic. Even as the society she founded spread across the United States, the Welsh industrialist Robert Owen came to the Indiana frontier to build an egalitarian, rationalist utopia he called the New Moral World. A decade later, followers of the French visionary Charles Fourier blanketed America with colonies devoted to inaugurating a new millennium of pleasure and fraternity. Meanwhile, the French radical Etienne Cabet sailed to Texas with hopes of establishing a communist paradise dedicated to ideals that would be echoed in the next century. And in New York’s Oneida Community, a brilliant Vermonter named John Humphrey Noyes set about creating a new society in which the human spirit could finally be perfected in the image of God.

Over time, these movements fell apart, and the national mood that had inspired them was drowned out by the dream of westward expansion and the waking nightmare of the Civil War. Their most galvanizing ideas, however, lived on, and their audacity has influenced countless political movements since. Their stories remain an inspiration for everyone who seeks to build a better world, for all who ask: What should the future look like?

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