Book Club Bash Choices: August 2018
Beartown: A Novel by Fredrick Backman (Washington Square $17). This book reads like a thriller, even though it’s told in flashback. You’ll root for these kids and families and neighbors because they are authentic and mostly likable. Sometimes their truth is hard to hear when Beartown confronts the question, “What is the right thing to do when things go very wrong?” Every person must choose. (Anne)
Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez (Vintage $15). In a dilapidated apartment complex in a forgotten part of Delaware, an immigrant boy and a girl fall in love. They are too young, too poor, and innocent. This book is gentle, suspenseful, and timely. It is rich in originality, spirit and humanity. (Anne)
The Cheer Leader by Jill McCorkle (Algonquin $12.95). One of McCorkle’s two debut novels published simultaneously in 1984, The Cheerleader is a flood of pure character. Jo Spenser documents her young life from before it even began through a disastrous first love to the harrowing breakdown during her freshman year in college. What impressed me most was how the author really put Jo out there hovering over the abyss and then reeled her back in. (Tony)
Five Carat Soul by James McBride (Riverhead $27 pb due 9/26 Riverhead $16). These stories have all the magnificent qualities of McBride’s National Book Award winning novel, The Good Lord Bird: quirky and poignant and hilarious characters amid life in myriad situations, humanity at its most human presented in beautiful writing. (Mamie)
The Girls by Emma Cline (Random House $17). Fourteen-year-old Evie stumbles upon a group of hippies living under the influence of sex, drugs and a charismatic rockstar wannabe. Sound familiar? This fictional account of life in a Manson Family-like cult is beautifully written, cerebral, and tense (even though we know where the story ends). (Chelsea)
The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne (Hogarth $17). We first meet Cyril Avery as he describes his pregnant teenage mother being denounced from the altar and kicked out of her rural Irish town by the parish priest in 1945. We follow Cyril, and indeed Ireland, through seven decades of growth and change. While utterly heartbreaking at times, this may be the funniest book I’ve ever read. (Tony)
A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby (Riverhead $16). It is New Year’s Eve, and four people from varying walks of life happen upon each other on a rooftop, all planning to jump. Hornby approaches the serious subject of suicide with a constant wit-filled dialogue and a string of belly laughs. The characters are annoying, grimy, and pathetic yet brimming with a relatability I have yet to find in any other book tackling mental illness. (Chelsea)
Red Clocks by Leni Zumas (Little Brown $26, pb due 10/9 Back Bay $16.99). The America in Leni Zumas’s new novel, Red Clocks, is so familiar it seems normal. In a small Oregon fishing town, very different women navigate age-old questions surrounding motherhood, identity, and freedom. (Anne)
Spoils by Brian Van Reet (Back Bay $15.99). A former Army tank crewman in Iraq, Van Reet delivers a powerful and beautifully written story told by three characters: two American soldiers and one mujahideen fighter. And while he doesn’t pull any punches with the gory details, Van Reet doesn’t hit you over the head with “War is Hell” pronouncements. There is much moral and emotional gray area, but there are no winners and losers in this war. Only losers. (Tony)
The Vegetarian by Han Kang (Hogarth $15). A young wife, Yeong-hye, makes a commitment to eschew meat because of disturbing dreams she has. The winner of the 2016 Man Booker International Award, this is not a book for those looking for a light read, but Deborah Smith’s translation of Kang’s book, originally written in Korean, is lyrical and hypnotic. (Mamie)
Through Lab Girl by Hope Jahren (Vintage $16), I recaptured my childhood delight when the zinnia seeds I planted blossomed brilliantly in my parents’ back yard. Dr. Jahren’s story of her devotion to and struggles in studying everything green leaves me in awe of these impossibly persistent living marvels and their vital roles in our lives. (Belinda)
Obsessive Genius: The Inner World of Marie Curie by Barbara Goldsmith (W W Norton $14.95) brilliantly pierces the skewed portrait of two-time Nobel Prize winner Marie Curie, a fiercely dedicated scientist and combatant of prejudices, personal challenges and world intrusions whose research begat discovery and insights of our world. (Belinda)
Polio: An American Story by David M. Oshinsky (Oxford University Press $16.95) took me back to the time when the fear of polio relentlessly stalked the nation. Through the author’s skill and use of primary source letters, lab notes and interviews, I was brought to tears by the desperation, wrenching regrets, and ultimate success of those who combated this dreaded disease. (Belinda)
The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon (Delacorte Press $18.99). Natasha and Daniel are witty, flawed, fully-developed teenage characters who meet at random and can't seem to stop meeting. Their love story is anything but simple, and you will root for them until the very last page. This YA portrayal of a young interracial relationship is both innocent and mature, funny and serious, heartwarming and tear-inducing. (Chelsea)
All This Happened Long Ago—It Happens Now by Iris Tillman (Poetry) (Main Street Rag $12). Tillman, founding director of Duke’s Center for Documentary Studies, explores her history as an American Jewish child during World War II and that of her relatives in Europe. If the horrors of that time can be made palatable, it is through Tillman’s elegant poetry. (Mamie)
Now an HBO Original Series
“You’ll love this engrossing novel.” —People
Named a Best Book of the Year by LibraryReads, BookBrowse, and Goodreads
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Anxious People, a dazzling and profound novel about a small town with a big dream—a
A stunning novel of hopes and dreams, guilt and love—a book that offers a resonant new definition of what it means to be American and "illuminate[s] the lives behind the current debates about Latino immigration" (The New York Times Book Review).
May not be available - email or call for information
Jo Spencer is a girl who knows what to be and how to be it-straight-A student, cheerleader, May Queen, popular and cute and virginal, and in perfect control. But halfway through her first year in college in the early seventies, her carefully normal life explodes and she comes completely undone.
One of The New York Times' 100 Notable Books of 2017
“A pinball machine zinging with sharp dialogue, breathtaking plot twists and naughty humor... McBride at his brave and joyous best.” —New York Times Book Review
THE INSTANT BESTSELLER • An indelible portrait of girls, the women they become, and that moment in life when everything can go horribly wrong
Named Book of the Month Club's Book of the Year, 2017
Selected one of New York Times Readers’ Favorite Books of 2017
Winner of the 2018 Goldsboro Books Glass Bell Award
“One New Year’s Eve, four people with very different reasons but a common purpose find their way to the top of a fifteen-story building in London. None of them has calculated that, on a date humans favor for acts of significance, in a place known as a local suicide-jumpers’ favorite, they might encounter company.
In this ferociously imaginative novel, abortion is once again illegal in America, in-vitro fertilization is banned, and the Personhood Amendment grants rights of life, liberty, and property to every embryo.
Five women. One question. What is a woman for?
May not be available - email or call for information
It is April 2003. American forces have taken Baghdad and are now charged with winning hearts and minds. But this vital tipping point is barely recognized for what it is, as a series of miscalculations and blunders fuels an already-simmering insurgency intent on making Iraq the next graveyard of empires.
WINNER OF THE INTERNATIONAL BOOKER PRIZE • “[Han] Kang viscerally explores the limits of what a human brain and body can endure, and the strange beauty that can be found in even the most extreme forms of renunciation.”—Entertainment Weekly
NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD WINNER • NATIONAL BESTSELLER • Geobiologist Hope Jahren has spent her life studying trees, flowers, seeds, and soil. Lab Girl is her revelatory treatise on plant life—but it is also a celebration of the lifelong curiosity, humility, and passion that drive every scientist.
The bestselling, "excellent…poignant—and scientifically lucid—portrait" (New York Times Book Review) of the remarkable Marie Curie.
Here David Oshinsky tells the gripping story of the polio terror and of the intense effort to find a cure, from the March of Dimes to the discovery of the Salk and Sabin vaccines--and beyond.
The #1 New York Times bestseller and National Book Award Finalist from the bestselling author of Everything, Everything will have you falling in love with Natasha and Daniel as they fall in love with each other.
Iris Tillman grew up in Brooklyn, New York and published poems, many years ago, in The Grecourt Review when she was an undergraduate at Smith College. After working as editor-in-chief at university presses in Texas, Georgia, and North Carolina, she became the founding director of Duke’s Center for Documentary Studies. In recent years she returned to writing poetry. Her poems have appeared in Tar River Poetry; The Comstock Review; Women’s Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal; and Love (Jacar Press); Generations: A Journal of Ideas and Images; drafthorse: a lit journal of work and no work (online); the 2012 Nazim Hikmet Poetry Festival’s Chapbook; and others.