Chapter 48 - The Book Club
We are starting to move into the time of year when many book clubs are picking selections for next year. Unfortunately many of us are still planning to have book club via Zoom or some other virtual method. While this isn't nearly as much fun or social as meeting face to face and noshing on homemade snacks together, at least for the foreseeable future,we will have to make do.
The biggest challenge for many book clubs is how to choose a book which will enable great discussion. In some groups it is the coordinator/leader who does this, in other groups it is done by the group itself. However you do it, the goal is not to choose something everyone will like necessarily, but to choose books that allow for lots of talk and perspective sharing.
Here are some guidelines for picking books -
Ask the Group - We all have books on our list we'd like to read, so find out what is on the wish list of your club members.
Pick Books That Are Easily Available - Books which are brand, spanking new are great but...often they are expensive or not available at the library. Pick a book which is accessible to all.
Switch Up Genres - If you just read a book about another country, make your next one Historical Fiction or something located in the United States. Don't exclude Classics because they are too hard/boring and don't jettison Popular Fiction because you think the writer is a hack. Popular Fiction is popular for some reason and your group might just find a new author they wouldn't have tried otherwise.
Check Out Your Local Bookstore - The booksellers at your local indie bookstore are experts in what is good to read. Hit them up for suggestions. Sometimes they will even give you a break on multiple copies of books for your group or even (in the case of used bookstores) find the book for you. Give them a copy of your yearly list.
Remember the Length - While some of us have all the time in the world to read, others have multiple things they are doing and may not be able to commit to a 900 page tome even if it is a terrific read unless you decide to take a holiday or summer break.
So now that you know the rules of the road, so to speak, here are some terrific books for book club discussions.
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks - While Brooks received a Pulitzer prize for her book, March, I feel this is a much richer and more interesting book. It tells the story of a book conservator who has been asked to come to Sarajevo to restore a Haggadah, the Jewish book of Passover. In the restoration she finds artifacts which tell their own story of the book.
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn - Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn has received much notice and was even made into a movie but Sharp Objects was Flynn's first novel and, I think, the better one. A young reporter who has her own issues goes back to her hometown to report on a few murders. The story is a good mystery but it goes much deeper than that.
The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict - This story about Hedy Lamarr tells of her rise to be a star in her native country, her escape to Hollywood, and how she developed a communication system during World War II.
The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey - Someone in the club always loves Science Fiction and all the rest rebel against it. Here is a book that is definitely Sci-Fi but which won't lose the rest of the club. There has been a virus which has infected a large population turning them into flesh eating brain dead Zombies. (I know but stay with me on this.) A group of children have the virus but have all the cognitive and motor skills of normal humans. A group of scientists and military types are experimenting on the children to be able to find a vaccine. There is an uprising...enough said?
Animal Farm by George Orwell - Classics are classics for a simple reason that the story still has something left to tell us. This book first published in 1945 is full of themes and allegory which may still apply to our world and human nature. It is worth a new read even if you read it in high school. It will, at the very least, provoke discussion.
Do you have any great book club suggestions? Let me know!