Month's Staff Recommends
Book Talk: We Recommend
Recommended by Mary Wasmuth, Job-Search Coach, Main Library
This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz. 213 pages
If your group thrives on controversy, Junot Diaz is your man. And if you see in fiction a means to move past, as Diaz puts it “the checkpoints on your social borders,” you’ll do well to jump the fences of language and attitude and venture deep into the, as
Publisher’s Weekly puts it, “precarious, unappreciated, precious lives in which intimacy is a lost art, masculinity a parody, and kindness, reason, and hope struggle to survive like seedlings in a war zone.”
Many of Diaz’s compelling, perfectly made, stories focus on a recurring character, Junior, as he moves from the Dominican Republic to New Jersey and later to Boston. With him, we watch his womanizing older brother flail against the cancer that will kill him. And we watch Junior fall in love, destroy love, and mourn its loss, over and over. This funny, aching, thought-provoking collection is guaranteed to get your book group talking.
The Round House by Louise Erdrich. 321 pages
Joe Coutts is thirteen years old when his mother is brutally raped. She’s further brutalized by a justice system skewed against native women. Joe’s attempt to achieve some resolution thrusts him into the complexities and traumas of adult life, and he learns he can no longer rely on the connections that had sustained him—his easy friendships, his open and loving parents, and the unquestioning acceptance of his extended family.
Over the years, Louise Erdrich has created a unique body of work, vividly populated and richly described; hilarious and heart-wrenching; many of them set in the Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota. Introduce your book group to this amazing writer, and they’ll be forever grateful.
Someone by Alice McDermott. 232 pages
Someone opens with a crowded Brooklyn street viewed through the eyes of seven-year-old Marie, who, she says, is the “sole survivor, now, of that street scene.” We know from this that we’re reading about a community deeply connected in a way few today have experienced. We see that we’ll be moving back and forward through time with Marie, an extraordinarily perceptive guide. McDermott’s layered, moving novel is dense with reflection and feeling, a deceptively simple story about the life of an apparently ordinary woman. But we know better.
Unlike many titles recommended for groups, Someone doesn’t take on contemporary issues. Instead, it examines the meaning of family, love, loss, and community and shows us, subtly and beautifully, how a life accrues value and purpose. I’d call these topics worth discussing.
There But For The by Ali Smith. 236 pages
At a suburban-London dinner party, a guest locks himself in the bathroom and refuses to come out. Extending from days to weeks, Miles’s stay turns into a media circus, and an unlikely group of people assembles to support him. The book is narrated by four characters who know Miles slightly: Anna, a woman in her forties who encountered him on a high-school trip; Mark, a gay man in his sixties who met him at the theater; May, an elderly woman suffering from dementia; and "preternaturally articulate" ten-year-old Brooke.
It may well take a book group to unravel the mysteries of this intricate, funny, literate, and affecting novel. Mine had a great time doing it.
And a Few More
The long and the short:
The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin, 426 pages;
The Buddha in the Attic*
by Julie Otsuka, 129 pages
The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud, 253 pages;
The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg, 273 pages
Even More Ideas
Book Browse Book Club Resources
Great Group Reads (selected by the Women’s National Book Association)
Indiebound’s Indie Next Lists
(focus on book groups several times a year)
Reading Group Choices
Reading Group Guides
Reviewed in 2014
Book Talk: We Recommend
Mary Murphy, Circulation.
This is a story of love, guilt and redemption that takes place in the Low Country. Eleanor is a young woman who is guilt ridden because of an accident that has paralyzed her sister when they were 14. It is the lure of a piano that convinces her to take a job with her boss’s elder, Aunt Helene. This shared passion for music bonds these two characters. This bonding reveals a past history of guilt and love with Aunt Helene’s sisters during Nazi occupation in Hungary during World War II. This becomes a story about recognizing second chances and taking them.
Goliath : Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell
Gladwell discusses by examples and through a period of time how people with what is generally perceived as a disadvantage creatively turn it in to an advantage. He starts with the story of David and Goliath. Goliath makes an assumption that David will fight in the same manner as he. These types of assumptions often lead to failure. He talks about people with physical and mental deficits developing their strengths and using these to become very successful. He wants you to think and approach life events with possibilities in mind. Gladwell is persuasive.
Book Talk: We Recommend
Telegram by Liz Trenow
The threads of love, loss, guilt and consequences are beautifully interwoven in this emotional novel. Told as a series of flashbacks, the story draws on the experience of an English girl on the Home Front during World War II.
With thoughts of a romantic future, Lily Verner’s life is forever altered when tragic events force her to assume control of her family’s silk factory, kept afloat by the demand for wartime parachute silk. Lily makes a disastrous decision that haunts her adulthood, but she is finally able to come to terms with her choices as she nears the end of her life.
The author, from a centuries old silk-weaving family, adds authenticity with her industry knowledge.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
A beautifully written book with Death as its narrator, the Book Thief follows the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster child in World War II Germany. At the heart of the story are the relationships that Liesel builds with her foster parents. Her best friend and a secret guest in her home are drawn slowly into her life, and her love of books and the power of reading bind them to her. The story itself offers a fresh take on the German WWII experience, told through the eyes of ordinary Germans caught in a growing storm.
The power of this book lies within the language engaged by the author.
Book Talk: We Recommend
Calling Invisible Women by Jeanne Ray
Clover Hobart has become invisible, not just in the way middle aged women tend to feel they disappear, but truly invisible. Though loved by family and friends, hardly anyone notices. Clover finds a support group of women like her, and with humor and determination she uses her invisibility for the greater good. Hold onto your kleenex. You’ll see why!
The Silent Wife by A.S.A Harrison
Though it has been compared to the darkly disturbing novel
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, The Silent Wife delves in more depth with the main character, Jodi, a psychiatrist who lives her life with carefully constructed ideals of flexibility and freedom. She applies this deeply held approach to her partner of twenty years, leaving much room for his indiscretions and undisciplined behavior… until he tells her he is leaving. As her world disintegrates, Jodi becomes increasingly aware that the way she approaches life is rooted in negative events in her childhood. Psychologically enlightening.
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