Monday, May 5, 2008

You Can't Please Everyone All of the Time, Or, Selecting Book Group Books

The evening book group will duke it out (in a very polite and civilized way, of course) over which titles to read for the next six months next Tuesday, May 13 at 7 p.m. Everyone is welcome to recommend titles; just bring a little information about the books you're recommending.

Last week I heard Chris Bohjalian speak at a conference about his experiences with reading groups and the backstory to The Double Bind, so that's why I am going to suggest The Double Bind, a literary thriller with references to the Great Gatsby.

Jodi Picoult's review of The Double Bind summarizes, "The story centers on a young social worker who stumbles across photographs taken by a formerly homeless client and tries to understand how a man who'd taken snapshots of celebrities in the 50s and 60s might have wound up on the streets . . . Bohjalian resurrects details from The Great Gatsby, which become 'real' in the context of his own novel Laurel lives in West Egg; part of her hunt for her photographer's past involves meeting with the descendants of Daisy and Tom Buchanan."

The library director suggested that the book club read the very short epistolary novel-with-a-twist, Address Unknown by Kathrine Kressmann Taylor (read Anne's short review here), first published in 1938, paired with Fred Wander's The Well. The Well is a collection of stories based on the author's experiences in German concentration camps and was first published in 1971 in Eastern Germany.

Then there's Stormy Weather by Paulette Jiles, which was recommended for book groups in a newsletter put out by our book distributor, Ingram. Keddy Ann Outlaw of Library Journal gave Stormy Weather a great review: "While their father was alive, the Stoddard family followed him to the booming oil towns of Texas. Then came the dust and drought of the 1930s, and the family crawled home to its abandoned farm in central Texas. To survive, Elizabeth Stoddard and her three daughters concoct two schemes that go beyond hardscrabble farming: shares in a wildcat oil well and ownership of an untrained racehorse named Smokey Joe. Told mostly from the perspective of the plucky middle sister, Jeanine."

My last pick is Leaven of Malice by Robertson Davies (because I loved his novel Fifth Business). It won a Canadian literary prize for best humor novel and has drawn comparisons with Mark Twain and P.G. Wodehouse's work. You can read another blogger's review here; it's on his advice that I'm skipping the first novel in the Salterton Trilogy and going straight to book 2, Leaven of Malice.

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