I had a phone call at the store recently from a reader who follows this blog and was checking if a certain book would be a good book for her book club. Unfortunately I was not able to speak with her for very long because the store was super busy but I did say that her choice was a good one.
I thought this week I'd talk about good book club books and what topics you could investigate as you discuss the books. As I have mentioned before, in the book club I attend, the facilitator, Alexis, is awesome. She always researches the book completely for discussion and brings in many topics and ideas. She sets the bar high for those of us who volunteer to facilitate a book or two. Alexis also told us that she never reads the book ahead of suggesting it to the group. I think this is important as she comes to it with fresh eyes and sometimes is as surprised as we are.
So, here are some books I think are book club worthy and topics for discussion.
The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood - If you've never read a book by Atwood, this might be a good place to start. It is a story about a young couple living in their car because they have lost their jobs. They get the opportunity to be part of a special social experiment where they live comfortably in a gated community but, there are conditions. Topics to explore in this book include what freedoms are people willing to give up to live comfortably, what should be the role of prisons in society, can jobs influence personality, and could this really happen.
The Beguiled by Thomas Cullinan - This book was initially written in 1966 under the title The Devil's Mask. The story centers around a girl's boarding school in Virginia in 1863. The school still houses a small number of girls who can't go home because of the war. One of them finds a wounded Yankee in the woods and brings him back to the house to be treated. That's when the trouble starts. Discussion topics would be characterization (specifically who are the good/bad characters), what is the moral duty one has to an enemy, and who was beguiled in this book.
Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance - This book hooked me right at the introduction. It is about the young life of J.D. Vance, a man who grew up in the rust belt of Middletown, Ohio. Vance's grandparents were from the Appalachian region of Kentucky and he chronicles how their peculiar culture followed them even as they tried to escape from the poverty they experienced as children. Some topics to discuss would be generational poverty (does it exist? how do we change it?), can the culture described in the book be applied to all groups of poor people, what is the government's role - if any - to an impoverished group, and what are the positive values of the culture Vance talks about in his book.
The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian - The story is about a bachelor party gone wrong. Richard Chapman throws a bachelor party for his younger brother and one of the groomsmen hires strippers. They arrive with their handlers and soon the house becomes a crime scene. Topics for discussion include bachelor/bachelorette parties and how far is too far, family values, sex trafficking, loyalty, protection of the innocent, and the domino effect of bad decisions.
The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant - Written in the first person, the story is about Addie Baum, a woman who grew up as an immigrant in the 1900's in Boston. While her life in the tenements was hard she found support and lifelong friends at a library book club. Diamant pulls in a lot of information and history from her own Jewish heritage and writes with authenticity. Discussion topics include the difference between immigration in the early 1900's and now, the role of education in success, why books are important, and what is the role of the government regarding immigrant acclimation.
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Do you have any books you think would be good book club reads? (Oh, by the way, The Reading Group by Elizabeth Noble would be a good one too!)