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10 Incredibly Popular Book Club Choices of the First Half of 2017 with Links to Book Club Questions

  1.  The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (August 2016) – This is a novel about slavery and the underground railroad, which in this novel, becomes a virtual railroad.  Review & Book Club Guide.
  2. Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance (June 2016) – This is a memoir from a young man who grew up living between Kentucky and Ohio in the hillbilly culture.  A few things steered his life away from the direction he was headed.  He ended up going on to Ohio State for college and to Yale Law School.  He writes about his experience growing up as a hillbilly as well as the hillbilly culture at large.  There is a political bent to the way he thinks and this book has been touted as one of the best books to read to understand Trump’s presidential success.  Review & Book Club Guide.
  3. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanthini (January 2016)- This book is a memoir of a neurosurgeon who is faced with a diagnosis of terminal lung cancer at the age of 39.   He has grappled with the meaning of life since high school and his search for life’s essence led him to a career in neurosurgery.  Having spent so much time reflecting on life’s meaning, makes his memoir especially poignant.  That combined with his medical background and longtime interest in writing creates the right conditions for a well versed and thoughtful memoir on death and dying.  Review & Book Club Guide.
  4. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (September 2016) – An aristocrat  is found guilty of writing a poem inciting resistance to Bolshevism.  He is placed under house arrest in the Hotel Metrol in Moscow over a period of 30 years as the world outside undergoes tremendous change.  Review & Book Club Guide.
  5. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (February 2015) – A beautiful emotional novel about two sisters in France during WWII and the ways in which they resist the Nazis.  It is a love story, a story of loss and tragedy and a wonderful tribute to all the women who played important and dangerous roles in WWII behind the battle lines.  Review & Book Club Guide.
  6. Commonwealth by Ann Patchett (September 2016) – This novel shows how a seemingly enchanted moment in time completely disrupts two families resulting in divorce and remarriage, leading to neglect, anger, and distance.  It is beautifully written, each chapter effectively it’s own short story.  Review & Book Club Guide.
  7. My Grandmother Asked me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman (June 2015) – A fairy tale of a novel in which an 8 year old Elsa and a dying grandmother have a very close relationship.  The grandmother weaves complicated fairy tales that after her death help to make sense of the world around the young Elsa.  Review & Book Club Guide.
  8. Born a Crime:  Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah (November 2016) – An amazing collection of autobiographical essays about Trevor Noah, a boy born to a black mother and a Swiss/German father under apartheid in South Africa. The essays are incredible, shedding much light on life in South Africa during and after apartheid. There is so much heart, courage, strength, humor and tremendous good fortune contained within these essays.  Review & Book Club Guide.
  9. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (June 2016) – This is an epic novel spanning hundreds of years, beginning in Africa and following two sides of a family as one side is sold into slavery and brought to America and the other side remains in Africa. It is a story of race, roots, and remembrance.  Review & Book Club Guide.
  10. The Girls by Emma Cline (June 2016) – This novel is Emma Cline’s re-imagining of Charles Manson’s ranch.  It is much less focused on Charles Manson and more so on “the girls” who are drawn to it.   It imagines the allure of the ranch to these girls, their connections to each other and to the outside world.  It is told from the viewpoint of a woman who had been a young girl at the ranch, at a point in time when this grown adult encounters another “girl” who could have just as easily been pulled into the ranch’s enticements.  Review & Book Club Guide.

5 Debut Novels of 2016 and the New Authors Behind Them

What is better than finding a new author to love?  It opens up a whole new perspective, vantage point, and reads differently from what we are used to.   Here are 5 debut books of 2016 and the authors behind these great new works.

  1.  “Ways to Disappear” by Idra Novey – Published February 9, 2016

idra_photo25746685Residence:  She grew up in a small mining town in Pennsylvania.  She has lived in Chile and Brazil.  She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Work:  She has translated the work of several Brazilian writers; she’s taught at Princeton, Columbia, Fordham, NYU, The Catholic University of Chile, and in the Bard Prison Initiative

Something Interesting:  She met her husband on the subway and immediately knew she would marry him before even speaking to him.

 

 

2.  Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler – Published May 24, 2016

 

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th-4Lives:  Brooklyn, NY.  She moved to NYC after graduating from Kenyon College.

Work:  After waitressing, she obtained a MFA in creative writing from the New School and began work on her novel.

Something Interesting:  She is obsessed with poetry, there are pieces of poetry scattered throughout this novel.

3.  Rich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam – Published June 7, 2016

 

th-1Lives: in New York with his husband and 2 sons

Work: Has worked in magazine publish26890725-1ing and advertising.  Now, he writes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.  Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi– Published June 7, 2016

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Residence:  Born in Ghana, raised in Huntsville, Alabama.  She and her boyfriend now live in the Bay area.

Work: She is a graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop.  She spent 7 years writing and researching this novel, which was published when she was only 26 years old.  The novel has been nominated for many awards.

 

5.  Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris – Published August 9, 2016

 

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Residence:  She grew up in England but has spent much of her adult life in France.  She is the mother of 5 daughters.

Work:  She has wo29437949rked both in finance and as a teacher.

Something Interesting:  She had suspicions about a friend’s marriage and her imagination is what provided the inspiration for writing this novel.

 

 

 

9 of the Most Popular Book Club Books of 2016

Choosing a book for book club can often be a fun yet laborious process.  I love the choosing of new books, hearing recommendations from others, discussing the pros and cons of reading different books, and trying to look for a book from a different genre than previously read.  Here are some books that have been repeatedly tagged on goodreads as “book club 2016.”  For each, I have attached a link to my review which  contains discussion questions as well as links to excellent reviews published in highly regarded places.  These books will be listed in the order of popularity.  Following the title are 3 words to try to best describe each novel.

 

 

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  1.  The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah –                                  Historical, France, WW2

This book is about the experience of two sisters during World War II in France and the ways in which they aid in the French resistance. It is a moving, emotional book, one in which you are not sure who the narrator is looking back over that time period.

Published Feb 2015

Review & discussion questions for The Nightingale

 

 

 

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2.  Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff – Literary, Marriage, Secrets

This novel is about a marriage. It is told in two parts, the first half from his perspective, the second half from hers. It is brilliantly written and a fascinating read. It was President Obama’s favorite book of 2015.

Published Sept 2015

Full review with discussion questions for Fates and Furies

 

 

 

 

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3.  My Grandmother asked me to tell you she’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman – Fantasy, Humor, Family

This novel, written by Swedish author, Fredrik Backman, is about the relationship between an 8 year girl and her grandmother. The grandmother has created a magical fantastical world which serves as a framework for understanding the people in her life and apartment building after her grandmother dies.

Published June 2015

Full review with discussion questions for My Grandmother asked me to tell you she’s Sorry

 

 

 

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4.  The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood –                                          Dystopian, Sci-Fi, Fantasy

This novel is about a dystopian society in which a young couple is given the option to live inside this compound where they will live in an idealistic community one month and prison on alternating months. It is a hilarious spoof on society as well as a chilling warning.

Published September 2015

Full review and discussion questions for The Heart Goes Last

 

 

 

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5.  Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld – Romance, Chick-lit, Retelling

This is a hilarious and addictive read.  Even though it is 500 pages long, it flies by.  This novel is a modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice set in Cincinnati.  It is so fun and light and leaves the reader with all the warm fuzzy excitement that Pride and Prejudice did.

Published April 2016

Full review and discussion questions for Eligible

 

 

 

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6. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi –                                       Memoir, Medicine, Death

This is the only non-fiction book on this list.  It is the memoir of a  young neurosurgeon facing a terminal cancer diagnosis.  It is deeply philosophical and offers beautiful insights on life and death.

Published January 2016

Full review and discussion questions for When Breath becomes Air

 

 

 

 

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7.  The Girls by Emma Cline – Historical, Coming-of-Age, Thriller

 

A piece of historical fiction, reimagining the draw of Charles Manson’s ranch and the girls who lived there.  It is told from the perspective of adulthood and the contrast between girlhood and adulthood is shocking, amazing and informative.

Published June 2016

Full review and discussion questions for The Girls

 

 

 

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8.  My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout –                        Literary, Family, Poverty

A beautiful piece of writing by Elizabeth Strout that begins with the relationship and conversations between a mother and daughter.  The daughter is in the hospital for complications of appendicitis.  What goes unsaid between them is just as important as what is said.

Published January 2016

Full review and discussion questions for My Name is Lucy Barton

 

 

 

9.   The Underground Railroad by Colson Whithead                       Historical, Slavery, Race

A brilliant insightful novel highlighting the horrors of slavery and some of its aftermath.  It features a virtual underground railroad.

Published in August 2016

Full Review and discussion questions for Underground Railroad