It’s that time of year again; book clubs are organizing their lists for monthly discussions. How do you pick books for your book club?
When my book clubs identify books a few years old, I’m often reluctant to reread, especially if it would require me to take notes on the characters; however, a time-honored book by one of my favorite authors is never a chore, and I relish immersing myself in the story again. Wallace Stegner’s Crossing Into Safety appears on one list, and the title jarred me into remembering why I liked it so much – it’s worth rereading to get that feeling again.
Not many book clubs identify best sellers or just published books – maybe because those books are not readily available in the library, or maybe because they just haven’t come to the attention of the group. Sometimes when I am reading a new book, I wonder what others would think about it, but it’s often years before it appears on a book club list. My good friends across the waters often save me with immediate discussions by email.
Now and then, a book I’ve missed appears on a book club list – usually nonfiction and finally in paperback – and I am grateful to know it. Book clubs can trigger a new interest or provide an informative window. I still remember reading and discussing Barbara Chase-Riboud’s Hottentot Venus and Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel, and gaining new insights into areas I never would have picked to read about.
Here are a few selections for discussion from book clubs I’d like to join. Have you read any? Are any on your list of books to read soon? The first set is from my friends in California, the second is closer to home.
- The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck
- The Good Daughter by Jasmine Darznik
- Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
- Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegman
- Prairie Fires: The American Dream of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser
- The Map of Salt and Stars by Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar
- The Ghost Writer by Philip Roth
- Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
- The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
- The Overstory by Richard Powers
- Green Island by Shawna Yang Ryan
- All for Nothing by Walter Kempowski
Discovering National Reading Group Month was October hasn’t kept me from ordering some off their list of favorite books for book clubs in November. With their mission to encourage groups to read and discuss books, the Women’s National Book Association has conveniently listed books for “Great Group Reads.” You can find the complete list with links to book reviews and summaries – here:
I’ve ordered Pachinko
“When Sunja, the unmarried, pregnant daughter of a fisherman and an innkeeper agrees to marry a kind but sickly minister heading from Korea to Japan instead of becoming the mistress of the wealthy married man whose child she carries, she chooses a life in exile that will affect her family on through the generations.”
– a finalist for the National Book Award to be announced later in November.
Other National Award Finalists for this year include:
- Dark at the Crossing by Elliott Ackerman
- The Leavers by Lisa Ko
- Her Body and Other Parts by Carmen Maria Machado
- Sing, Unburied Sing by Jasmyn Ward
The Broke and Brookish suggestion to list books for a book club discussion had me reviewing my reading and thinking about what I would like to discuss. One of my book clubs is about to reveal the list of books for 2017 at their annual luncheon in November; books are chosen by the person hosting the discussion but must be readily available in the library. Another smaller group picks books bimonthly at the end of each meeting – sometimes newer books not yet in the library system and one none of us have read. Constantly looking for another book to read, book lists are like candy to me. I devour them instantly and want more.
Here is my short list (with links to my reviews) but there are so many more…
Florence Gordon by Brian Morton
The Many by Wyl Menmuir
The Other Side of the Bridge by Mary Lawson
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
The Door by Magda Szabó
Waterstones bookstore on Princes Street in Edinburgh has the ambiance of those venues I fondly remember. Four stories of books, comfy big chairs in nooks in the stacks, and a coffee shop with plenty of tables and chairs. The free wifi is a bonus, and a display of Gabaldon’s “The Fiery Cross,” reassuring. Big carryall bags proudly proclaim their philosophy:
“Words cannot do justice to the pleasures of a good bookshop. Ironically.”
A group of ladies at a nearby table were sipping tea and discussing a book, with a few forays into their personal lives. Although I tried, my eavesdropping could not reveal the name of the book. Later, when I browsed the store’s piles of books, I found Fiona McFarlane’s “The Night Guest” proudly displaying the sticker – W Book Club. Of course, I bought it and am now reading it to scare me to sleep at night.
“In an isolated house on the New South Wales coast, Ruth, a widow…lives alone. Until one day a stranger, Frida, shows up…announcing she has been sent to be Ruth’s caregiver….(After a while), Ruth senses a tiger prowling through the house at night. Is she losing her wits? Can she trust Frida? ….can she trust herself?”
I can’t wait to find out.
Discussing a book at the library – what a novel idea. Children’s story time has long been popular at local libraries, but adults – sometimes strangers – gathering to dissect a popular book is the anomaly rather than the rule. Yet, what better place to talk about books – among books – provided you can find a corner where the librarian will not shush the voices.
In my travels through California, I found an article in the local newspaper announcing two library venues for book discussions – both midweek and in the morning, so readers must not be among the working group. The local calendar in the newspaper included a discussion of “The Orphan Master’s Son” by Adam Johnson and another of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain. I haven’t read either book yet, but I have been to book club discussions where that doesn’t matter so much. Somehow, one in the library seems to require some preparation, but maybe I’ll just stop by to listen.
Have you been to a book club discussion at a library?