Looking 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 Notorious Life
- Before We Were Yours
- News of the World
- Lincoln in the Bardo
- City of Friends
- Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk
- Why Time Flies
- So Big
- Remembering Laughter
- Ordinary Grace
- Leaving Lucy Pear
Books from 2016:
I have not included books from earlier years, but, if not yet discussed, I would point to:
- A Gentleman in Moscow
- The Nest in comparison to The Heirs
- Vinegar Girl in comparison to Taming of the Shrew
- Wolf Hollow
- Crow Lake (one of my favorites).