A Look Back at Book Club Picks

Unknown  When I was coordinating a book club years ago, I tried unsuccessfully to incorporate the discussion into my online site – posting reviews of current club picks, encouraging comments from readers. Sadly, not many members used computers to communicate – about books, anyway.  Undaunted, I have posted the year’s picks of the group annually, and it has become a popular click for the curious.  Although it goes back to 2009, someone recently accessed the slate for 2012 – so that’s where I started – and ended with this year’s selections.

The Book Club Slate for 2012 included one of my favorite books – Jane Gardam’s Old Filth, and a reminder of how long Ann Patchett has been popular with State of Wonder on the list.  Skipping over to the Book Club Picks for 2015, I was reminded of my introduction to Maria Semple in Where’s You Go Bernadette?  and Hector Tobar with The Barbarian Nurseries. In The 2016 Club Picks, Kent Haruf’s Our Souls at Night and Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train demonstrated the range of books discussed.  Last year  brought back Ann Patchett with Commonwealth.  The slate for 2018 has one of my favorites – Amor Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow.  

Are any of these on your book club list this year?

2018 Book Club Picks

Monthly Meetings (except November and December)

  1. Handling Sin by Michael Malone
  2. The Hynotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty
  3. Small Great Things by Jody Picoult
  4. The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman
  5. Midnight in Broad Daylight by Pamela Rotner Sakamoto
  6. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
  7. The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout
  8. Being Mortal by Atul Gawande
  9. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
  10. American Wolf by Nate Blakeslee

Another Book Club Plans for Half Year at a Time:

  1. The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith
  2. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
  3. My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok
  4. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian/Between the World and Me by Sherman Alexie/Ta-Nehisi Coates
  5. The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain by Maria Rosa Menocal

 

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Suggestions for Next Year’s Book Club

unknownLooking forward to next year, some books clubs have already finalized their monthly reading list. Others are having parties to discuss possibilites, or desperately asking their members to host a book – any book.  As I reviewed the books I’ve read in 2017, I thought about those I would be willing to reread for a discussion, and which would offer some value for expanding knowledge, nudging introspection, or just be fun to revisit.

 

With its inherent possibilities for comparison to what really happened, historical fiction is strong on my list.  Requiring the host to research (but google is so easy), the fictionalized lives imagined by the author compared to facts recorded in history could make for a lively discussion.  Kate Manning’s My Notorious Life adds the possibility of comparison to the popular PBS series “Call the Midwife,” based on its own memoir.   Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate opens a hornet’s nest but also addresses foster care.  News of the World by Paulette Giles, set in post Civil War Texas and nominated for the 2016 National Book Award, with its “True Grit” flavor, is an easy and direct tale of a young girl and her gritty escort but with surprising twists.  All four books are easy to follow and carry the weight of information worth knowing.  Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders is another of my favorites based on historical fact and is well worth reading, but may be too ambitious for some book clubbers (there – I’ve thrown down the challenge).

Meeting new authors, especially if the book is short, a little frivolous, but with a smattering of philosophy, is always good for mixing up the list.  Joanna Trollope, an author new to me but who many already have read, has a new book – City of Friends.  Lisa Allardice describes Trollope’s books as “tales of quiet anguish and adultery among the azaleas; Trollope created the original desperate housewives.” Kathleen Rooney’s Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk will be welcomed by readers who enjoyed The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper.  Rooney adds a dash of New York City as she reminisces on her New Year’s Eve walk through the city.

Not a big fan of nonfiction, I still feel compelled to include one on my list.  Alan Burdick’s Why Time Flies offers enough scientific inquiry with relatable anecdotes to  be readable.  The National Book Awards recently published their longlist for best nonfiction, but they seem too political for me.  You can decide for yourself – National Book Awards nominees for Nonfiction.  I have yet to read Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002) by David Sedaris, but I expect to like it – more a memoir, but could fit the nonfiction category.

When bestsellers are not in the library system, classics are usually available, and this year I reread Edna Ferber’s So Big – with an amazingly contemporary message.  Wallace Stegner’s books Crossing to Safety and Angle of Repose should be required reading for everyone, but this year I read one of his earlier, shorter books – Remembering Laughter – a good book to start a discussion of this famous author.

For my final two, I nominate a coming of age story – Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger, and a story about an abandoned child – Leaving Lucy Pear.  

My list has 11 books, one month off the year for the annual luncheon or decision-making party.  If you click on the title, you will be directed to my book review.  What books are on your book club list for next year?  What books would you recommend?

MY LIST:

  1. My Notorious Life
  2. Before We Were Yours
  3. News of the World
  4. Lincoln in the Bardo
  5. City of Friends  
  6. Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk
  7. Why Time Flies
  8. So Big
  9. Remembering Laughter
  10. Ordinary Grace
  11. Leaving Lucy Pear

Books from 2016:

I have not included books from earlier years, but, if not yet discussed, I would point to:

The President on Books and Reading

President giving a speech clipartAs one of the most literate United States Presidents, Obama discussed books with Michiko Kakutani, the chief book critic for the New York Times. In an interview as he leaves office,  Obama noted “…the power of words as a way to figure out who you are and what you think, and what you believe, and what’s important, and to sort through and interpret this swirl of events that is happening around you every minute.”

Citing books he has recommended for his daughter as she prepares for college – how many have you read? –  he included:

  • The Naked and the Dead
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude
  • The Golden Notebook 
  • The Woman Warrior
  • The Moveable Feast

From some of his favorite authors, I found a few familiar names and two new ones I might try:

  • Marilynne Robinson
  • science fiction writer, Liu Cixin (The Three-Body Problem)
  • Lauren Groff (Fates and Furies)
  • Toni Morrison (Song of Solomon)
  • V.S. Naipaul (A Bend in the River)
  • Jhumpa Lahiri
  • Junot Diaz
  • and leaders: Mandela, Martin Luther King, Churchill, Gandhi, Teddy Rossevelt, Abraham Lincoln

And he offered a clue about what he might be doing after January 20th, when a new President will be inaugurated:

“…and so in my post-presidency, in addition to training the next generation of leaders to work on issues like climate change or gun violence or criminal justice reform, my hope is to link them up with their peers who see fiction or nonfiction as an important part of that process.”

Read the full interview – here

Liane Moriarty Recommends Books

imagesIn her interview for the New York Times “By the Book,” author Liane Moriarty identifies a few of her favorites:

  1. Kansas in August by Patrick Gale
  2. The Course of Love by Alain de Botton
  3. The Dry by Jane Harper
  4. The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood
  5. In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
  6. Crow Lake by Mary Lawson

Only the last two are in my library system, so I am starting with them.

I share Moriarty’s admiration of author Anne Tyler.  When Moriarty was asked which author she would want to write her life story, she answered:

“Anne Tyler, please, because she would make my ordinary life extraordinary and my flaws adorable, and she’d find some beautiful truth that I would only recognize once she pointed it out to me.”

Related Reviews:  

Freshman Reads – Required Reading

9czrjGRcEWhen a good friend, and an alumna of Mt. Holyoke, mentioned Americanah as the college’s choice for the incoming freshman class, I wondered what other books were on the agenda for freshmen.  At most colleges new students come to campus ready to debate and analyze the book.   Here’s a short list –

See your school?  Read the books?  Have one to add?

Freshman Summer Reads

  • Duke University: Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel
  • Tufts Univeristy: Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation by Eboo Patel
  • Cornell University: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  • University of Pennsylvania: The Big Sea by Langston Hughes
  • Columbia University: The Iliad by Homer
  • Johns Hopkins University: The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • The Pennsylvania State University: The Boom by Russell Gold
  • University of Maryland: Head Off and Split by Nikky Finney
  • University of Vermont: The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman
  • New York University:  Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

and Berkelely has a Summer Sampler – books not required but a great recommended list: http://reading.berkeley.edu/