Book Club Picks for 2015

images-1Whether or not you like to discuss books, a list of possible new reads is always tempting to explore, and next year’s selection of books from one of my local book clubs offers quite a range.  Only ten books, one a month; November is for lunching and December for the holidays.

The books I’ve read and reviewed are in red; click on the link to read my thoughts.  I checked out summaries and review of the others – just to see what there are about…

Have you read any on the list?

Book Club Picks for 2015

1) The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

2) China Dolls by Lisa See

“…three young women who come up together on the “Chop Suey Circuit” — all-Asian nightclub shows for mostly white audiences: Helen {is} from the traditional family of a well-heeled Chinatown merchant; Grace escaped an abusive home in the Midwest; and Ruby is a scrappy climber, a Japanese dancer “passing” as Chinese. They pledge everlasting friendship to one another, only to see their bond suffer the ravages of fame, time and war, particularly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.”  from Jennifer Keishin Armstrong review in the New York Times

3) Fear the Worst by Linwood Barclay

“A crime thriller based on a daughter’s mysterious disappearance… thrusts her father into the world of violence and deception that lurks just below the surface of his nondescript Connecticut suburb.”  from Kirkus Reviews

4) The Blue Zone by Dan Buettner

Review from the New York Times: How To Live Longer Without Really Trying 

5) The Tattoo by Chris McKinney

“Ken Hideyoshi is the new guy in Halawa Correctional Institute (Hawaii)…. observes his cellmate Cal—the mute tattoo artist of the prison, a wife murderer. SYN, a gang symbol, is tattooed on his hand, and he has a Japanese emblem inscribed on his left shoulder. He asks Cal for a tattoo on his back…While he is being worked on, he tells Cal his life story, a tale of hardship and abuse… ”  from the Barnes and Noble Overview

6) Heaven Is For Real by Todd Burpo

“Just two months shy of his fourth birthday, Colton Burpo, the son of an evangelical pastor in Imperial, Neb., was rushed into emergency surgery with a burst appendix.  He woke up with an astonishing story: He had died and gone to heaven, where he met his great-grandfather; the biblical figure Samson; John the Baptist; and Jesus…  Colton’s father, Todd, has turned the boy’s experience into a 163-page book…”  from Julie Bosman’s New York Times Review

7) The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie

Short story collection by Nigerian author of “Americanah”

8) The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry  by Gabrielle Zevin

9) The Barbarian Nurseries by Hector Tobar

“Héctor Tobar’s second novel sweeps its central character from almost-serfdom and sends her on an odyssey through the teeming mysteries of Los Angeles and the wild jungles of the California judicial system…”

Book Review: The Barbarian Nurseries  by Richard Rayner, Special to the Los Angeles Times

10) Where’d You Go, Bernadette?  by Maria Semple

The Quality of Life Report

Meghan Daum may be the L.A. Times equivalent of Maureen Dowd in the New York Times.  Her political columns are witty and acerbic, attacking idiosyncracies with the smile and parry of  Jon Stewart – funny with underlying truth.  Although I have sworn off memoirs, I read her latest book – looking for that humor and zing.  Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived in That House did not disappoint.

 Daum refers to using the royalties of the novel she wrote while in Nebraska – one of her many places to live – to ultimately buy a house.  I found that novel – The Quality of Life Report.

Although fiction, the book matches some of Daum’s brave revelations about her personal life in her exaggerated memoir – you write what you know?   The character Lucinda Trout might have been having the same adventures as Meghan Daum, but I had read the nonfiction sequel, and Lucinda was (mostly) fiction.

In the novel, after a visit to Prairie City, Nebraska to cover a news story on drugs, and noting the difference in rentals – 1000 square feet for $400 a month compared to her New York 400 square foot rental for $2000 – Lucinda Trout creates a documentary project that would have her feeding reports on “the quality of life” from her on-site experiences over a year from Prairie City.

Lucinda’s New Yorker sensibilities confronted with rural life of coyotes and truck stops give Daum the opportunity to demonstrate her cynical humor as Lucinda explores her new surroundings.   Mason Clay, a combination Sam Shepard/Brad Pitt, grain elevator operator with three children from three different women, becomes the love interest – an echo of the Nebraska “ex boyfriend” Daum often references in her memoir.

While the book was funny in places, it didn’t hold the same interest for me as “Life Would Be Perfect…”  I had been fascinated with Meghan’s real adventures; when I read them as pieces of a fictionalized venture with Mason – not so much.   But I still like Daum’s style – maybe the next book will reel me back in.