A COMPENDIUM OF BOOK CLUB SUGGESTIONS FROM SEASON ONE
(January ~ June, 2010)
Chicago, and The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany. In the novel Chicago, Egyptian medical students and professors at the University of Illinois Medical School experience various culture clashes and interpersonal problems. The Yacoubian Building holds all that Egypt was, and has become over the 75 years since its namesake was built on one of downtown Cairo’s main boulevards.
Ship Fever and Other Stories, and, The Voyage of the Narwhal by Andrea Barrett. Ship Fever is a brilliant first collection of stories--many set in the historical past, and all concerning varieties of scientific pursuit and discovery. The Voyage of the Narwhal captures a crucial moment in the history of exploration. Combining fact and fiction, the novel focuses on Erasmus Darwin Wells, a 19th-century scholar/naturalist and his expedition to search for an open polar sea.
Mr. Timothy by Louis Bayard. Mr. Timothy is Tiny Tim Cratchit. This spin-off reveals what happens after Ebenezer Scrooge reforms at the end of A Christmas Carol and the curtain goes down on the Cratchit family in improved circumstances.
The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett. British screenwriter, playwright, and novelist Bennett, presents a wry and unusual story about the subversive potential of reading.
The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle. A timely, provocative account of immigration in central California.
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks. A young Australian book conservator is called to analyze the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, a priceless six-hundred-year-old Jewish prayer book that has been salvaged from a destroyed Bosnian library.
The Yiddish Policemen’s Union and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. The Yiddish Policemen’s Union is a black-humor combo of Dashiell Hammett crossed with Isaac Bashevis Singer. In The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Chabon gives us an exhilarating triumph of language and invention, a stunning novel in which the tragicomic adventures of a couple of boy geniuses reveal much about what happened to America in the middle of the twentieth century.
Gone Tomorrow by Lee Child. Jack Reacher, latter-day gunslinger and nomad, finds his latest killing field in the New York City Subway.
Little Bee by Chris Cleave. A haunting novel about the tenuous friendship that blooms between two disparate strangers--one an illegal Nigerian refugee, the other a recent widow from suburban London.
The Hours by Michael Cunningham. Draws inventively on the life and work of Virginia Woolf to tell the story of a group of contemporary characters struggling with the conflicting claims of love and inheritance, hope and despair.
Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay. On the sixtieth anniversary of the 1942 roundup of Jews by the French police in Paris, American journalist Julia Jarmond is asked to write an article on this dark episode and embarks on an investigation that leads her to long-hidden family secrets.
Tipperary by Frank Delaney *(also a highly recommended book on CD). The focus of this novel is Castle Tipperary, one of the "grand houses" of the Anglo-Irish. Its story is told through the love of Charles O'Brien, an itinerant healer, for April Burke, the only child of a noble Irish family.
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. A rich, impassioned vision of the Dominican Republic and its diaspora, filtered through the destiny of a single family.
Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens. A satiric masterpiece about the allure and peril of money.
Homer and Langley, Ragtime and World’s Fair by E.L. Doctorow. Doctorow combines true history with literary invention in these fascinating novels.
Love Medicine and Shadow Tag by Louise Erdrich. Love Medicine is the first book in Erdrich's Native American Series; other titles include: The Beet Queen, Tracks, and The Bingo Palace. In these novels she provides an authentic and emotionally powerful glimpse into the Native American experience. Shadow Tag chronicles the emotional war between Irene America and her husband Gil.
The Pillow Boy of the Lady Onogoro by Alison Fel. This exquisite, exuberant novel set in feudal Japan tells the story of a concubine who hires a stable boy to whisper erotic stories from behind a screen while she entertains her master, a samurai general.
From Time to Time and Time and Again by Jack Finney. An adept moves from his modern NYC back to the one that existed in 1882 – sequel takes the hero back to the heady days just before WWI in Gotham.
The Hornblower novels by C.S. Forester feature adventure and British heroics during the Napoleonic Wars. Order in which to read them:
Mr. Midshipman Hornblower
Hornblower and the Hotspur
Hornblower and the Atropos
Beat to Quarters
Ship of the Line
Admiral Hornblower in the West Indies
Night Soldiers novels by Alan Furst: Superb WWII espionage thrillers, truly exciting, and so accurate as to time and place it seems they must have been written in that era.
The Polish Officer
The World at Night
Kingdom of Shadows
Blood of Victory
The Foreign Correspondent
The Spies of Warsaw
Spies of the Balkans
Old Filth by Jane Gardam. The marvelously versatile Gardam dips into British imperial history for her extraordinary portrait of a Raj orphan.
Still Alice by Lisa Genova. Still Alice is a compelling debut novel about a 50-year-old woman's sudden descent into early onset Alzheimer's disease.
T is for Trespass and U is for Undertow by Sue Grafton. Both part of the Kinsey Millhone series, these novels follow private investigator Kinsey Millhone in the fictional city of Santa Teresa, California.
The Ministry of Fear by Graham Greene. A released mental patient becomes the victim of a Nazi spy ring, threatening his life & his sanity.
A Respectable Trade and The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory. A Respectable Trade is a sobering account of the English slave trade, with a bit of romance thrown in. The Other Boleyn Girl features sisterly rivalry in a fresh, wonderfully vivid retelling of the story of Anne Boleyn; other titles in Gregory’s Tudor Series include: The Queen's Fool, The Constant Princess, The Boleyn Inheritance, The Wise Woman and The Other Queen.
Bound and The Widow’s War by Sally Gunning. Two compelling historical novels set in early New England that depict women’s restricted roles in that era and detail the strength of mind it took to move beyond them.
The Long Shadow by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles (#6 of a series of 32 British historical novels depicting the Morland Dynasty). The idea of this extensive and interesting series is to present “history without tears” through fictional characters in a real historical background.
Haunted Ground by Erin Hart. When farmers cutting turf in a peat bog make a grisly discovery - the perfectly preserved severed head of a young woman with long red hair - Irish archaeologist Cormac Maguire and American pathologist Nora Gavin team up in a case that will open old wounds.
Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi. At the beginning of World War I, Trudi Montag, a dwarf, is born to an unstable mother and a gentle father in a small Rheinish town. Through the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich into the era following World War II she first struggles with--and later draws strength and wisdom from--her inability to fit into a conformist and repressive society.
Ripley Series by Patricia Highsmith: Four superb and black as pitch novels starring a strangely engrossing sociopathic killer.
The Talented Mr. Ripley
The Boy Who Followed Ripley
Mrs. De Winter and The Woman in Black by Susan Hill. Mrs. De Winter is a suspenseful ``completion'' of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca. The Woman in Black is an eerie and chilling British ghost story set in Victorian times.
The Knitting Circle by Ann Hood. The death of a child is the catalyst for this novel of friendship and redemption.
31 Bond Street by Ellen Horan. Horan brings to life a sensational 19th-century New York City murder trial in which a woman is accused of viciously killing her husband.
Uncle Silas by Joseph S. Le Fanu. A terrifying Victorian Gothic mystery/thriller novel by the Anglo-Irish writer J. Sheridan Le Fanu. It is notable as one of the earliest examples of the"locked room" style mystery.
Native Speaker by Chang-rae Lee. Assigned to spy on a fellow Korean American, Henry Park faces an acute crisis of cultural conscience.
The Piano Teacher by Janice Y.K. Lee. In the sweeping tradition of The English Patient, a gripping tale of love and betrayal set in WWII era Hong Kong.
Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem. The short and shady life of Frank Minna ends in murder, shocking the four young men employed by his dysfunctional Brooklyn detective agency/limo service.
My Latest Grievance by Elinor Lipman. Pitch-perfect novel about a young woman, too smart for her own good, and the chaos that ensues when her path crosses that of her glamorous new next-door neighbor.
Banishing Verona by Margot Livesey. Deceptively simple love story of Zeke, a 29-year-old painter and carpenter with the face of a Raphaelite angel, and 37-year-old Verona, a pregnant radio host.
The Wrong Hostage by Elizabeth Lowell. South-of-the-border mayhem, with refreshing twists amid the genre conventions. Lowell has a flair for writing about the dark corners of well-traveled places, in this instance San Diego and its Mexican sister city, Tijuana.
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann. McCann's most ambitious work to date offers a dazzling and hauntingly rich vision of the loveliness, pain, and mystery of life in New York City in the 1970s. The famous 1974 tightrope walk between the World Trade Center towers is a central motif in this paean to the adopted city of Dublin-born McCann.
Vanishing Point by David Markson. Those who adored experimentalist Markson's previous two outings will be ecstatic anew as the writer keeps up his near-single-handed effort to keep American prose fiction significant, deep, and subtle.
The Lost Books of the Odyssey by Zachary Mason. Re-imagines Homer's classic story of the hero Odysseus and his long journey home after the fall of Troy.
No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency Series by Alexander McCall Smith: The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series tells the story of the delightfully cunning and enormously engaging Precious Ramotswe, a traditionally built lady of Botswana who is drawn to her profession to "help people with problems in their lives”.
The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency
Tears of the Giraffe
Morality for Beautiful Girls
The Full Cupboard of Life
The Kalahari Typing School for Men
In the Company of Cheerful Ladies
Blue Shoes and Happiness
The Good Husband of Zebra Drive
The Miracle at Speedy Motors
Tea Time for the Traditionally Built
Double Comfort Safari Club
The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon. Science Fiction writer Moon, who is the mother of an autistic son, movingly depicts an autistic adult struggling with a momentous decision in a near-future world.
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton. A cottage on the Cornish coast is home to secrets that pull together three generations of women, despite the decades and oceans that separate them.
Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky. Beginning in Paris on the eve of the Nazi occupation in 1940.Suite Françaisetells the remarkable story of men and women thrown together in circumstances beyond their control.
Magwitch by Michael Noonan. Noonan grafts onto a classic and delightful tale of his own, written flawlessly in the original vein. In it, "Pip" of Dickens' Great Expectations confides how he spent his time when he was "absent from England" after the death of his "benefactor”, convict Abel Magwitch.
Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer. A grand love story set against the backdrop of Budapest and Paris, an epic tale of three brothers whose lives are ravaged by WWII, and the chronicle of one family’s struggle against the forces that threaten to annihilate it.
A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park. In this tale of courage and devotion, a single shard from a celadon vase changes the life of a young boy and his master. (Shelved in Juvenile fiction section.)
Songs of the Humpback Whale by Jody Picoult. This uniquely constructed first novel, the literary equivalent of counterpoint in music, is told in five voices whose polyphonic development delineates a multifaceted love story on different levels for different individuals.
The Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. This marvelously written prequel to Jane Eyre tells the story of the first Mrs. Rochester, Antoinette (Bertha) Mason, a white Creole heiress, from the time of her youth in the Caribbean to her fraught marriage and relocation to England.
Blindness by Jose Saramago. Marvelous magical realism, philosophical, decadent, divine.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows. Powerful, yet accessible account of the German occupation of the Channel Islands, recalled in letters between a London reporter and an eccentric gaggle of Guernsey islanders.
The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Catherine Schine. Jane Austen's beloved Sense and Sensibility has moved to Westport, Connecticut, in this enchanting modern-day homage to the classic novel.
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. Foot binding; nu shu, a secret language used exclusively by the women of Hunan Province for 1000 years; and laotong, the arranged friendship between little girls meant to last a lifetime, provide the framework for See's riveting look at a little-known chapter in 19th-century Chinese history.
The Laughing Policeman by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo. On a cold and rainy Stockholm night, nine bus riders are gunned down by an unknown assassin. The crime seems random, but Superintendent Martin Beck suspects otherwise, for the killer has managed to target one of Becks best detectives, and he, surely, would not have been riding that lethal bus without a reason.
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. As her mother prepares to be a contestant on the 1980s television game show, "The $20,000 Pyramid," a twelve-year-old New York City girl tries to make sense of a series of mysterious notes received from an anonymous source that seems to defy the laws of time and space. (Shelved in juvenile fiction under the author’s last name).
Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner. A lyrical exploration of an enduring friendship between two couples through good times and bad.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett. The relationships between white middle-class women and their black maids in Jackson, Miss., circa 1962, reflect larger issues of racial upheaval in Mississippi-native Stockett's ambitious first novel.
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. The abrasive, vulnerable title character sometimes stands center stage, sometimes plays a supporting role in these 13 sharply observed dramas of small-town life in Maine.
The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti. In this dark but rousing 19th-century picaresque about a one-handed orphan who falls in with rogues, Tinti pays homage to 19th-century biggies, particularly Twain, Dickens and Stevenson, creating a fictional world unique, yet hauntingly familiar.
Brooklyn by Colm Toibin. In this absorbing novel, the author contrasts small-town Ireland and big-city Brooklyn in the early 1950s, highlighting the vast differences between the two in customs and opportunity.
The Queen of Big Time by Adriana Trigiani. Trapped in a small Pennsylvania town not unlike the small Sicilian village her family left behind, Nella dreams big-and falls for a disarmingly charming poet who just as disarmingly disappears. Set at the turn of the 20th century.
The Barsetshire Chronicles by Anthony Trollope: Series of six novels by the English author Anthony Trollope, set in the fictitious cathedral town of Barchester. These classics of Victorian literature concern the dealings of the clergy and the gentry, and the political, amatory, and social maneuverings that go on among and between them.
The Small House at Allington
The Last Chronicle of Barset
The Maine Massacre by Janwillem van de Wetering
The Little Stranger by Sara Water
Maisie Dobbs Series by Jacqueline Winspear: Readers will be amazed by the sensitivity and wisdom with which Maisie does her detective work. those familiar with Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency might think of Maisie Dobbs as its British counterpart.
Birds of a Feather
Messenger of Truth
An Incomplete Revenge
Among the Mad
The Mapping of Love and Death
Fifty-nine in ‘84: Old Hoss Radbourne, Barehanded Baseball, and the Greatest Season a Pitcher Ever Had by Edward Achorn (796.357 ACH) - Chronicles the career of Charles Old Hoss Radbourn, who, in 1884, had the winningest single season of any major-league baseball pitcher
American Girl: Scenes from a Small-town Childhood by Mary Lee Cantwell (B CANTWELL) – Cantwell recounts her days in the small town of Bristol, Rhode Island, a place where she knew everyone and everyone knew her.
Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son by Michael Chabon (B CHABON) - presents his hilarious and moving memories of childhood, of his parents' marriage and divorce, of moments of painful adolescent comedy and giddy encounters with the popular art and literature of his own youth.
The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals that Protect Us from Violence by Gavin de Becker (362.88 DEB) – about how everyone can feel safer, act safer, be safer -- if they learn how to listen to their own sixth sense about danger.
Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe (and Parents Sane) by Gavin de Becker (649.1 DEB) - de Becker empowers parents to trust fully their own intuition when it comes to their children's safety.
Crazy in the Kitchen by Louise DeSalvo (coming soon) - memoir of growing up in Italian-American New Jersey, Louise DeSalvo proves that your family's past is baked right into the bread you eat.
On Moving by Louise DeSalvo (809 DES) - A literary exploration of one of life’s most taxing, emotional, and pervasive experiences: moving.
Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat by David Dosa (362.1 DOS) – When Oscar first arrived at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Rhode Island he was a cute little cat with attitude, but this ordinary cat possesses an extraordinary gift: he knows instinctively when the end of life is near.
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave & Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl: Written by Herself by Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs (B DOUGLASS) - combines the two most important African American slave narratives into one volume.
You Say More Than You Think by Janine Driver (153.6 DRI) - Body language expert Janine driver has created the ultimate 7-day plan to help you grasp the essentials of using the new body language to get everything you want.
Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert (B GILBERT) - Around the time Elizabeth Gilbert turned thirty, she went through an early-onslaught midlife crisis. This memoir chronicles her yearlong journey of self-discovery to Rome, India, and Bali.
A Mountain of Crumbs by Elena Gorokhova (B GOROKHOVA) - presents an evocative memoir of her childhood in St. Petersburg during the Cold War and her path to immigration to the United States.
Hard Living on Clay Street by Joseph T. Howell (coming soon) - revealing study of a white working class neighborhood in Washington, D.C., Howell shows us that there is more than one kind of blue collar worker in America today.
Cherry and Lit, memoirs by Mary Karr (B KARR) - Written with Karr's relentless honesty, unflinching self-scrutiny, and irreverent, lacerating humor, it is a truly electrifying story of how to grow up- as only Mary Karr can tell it.
Crashing Through by Robert Kurson (362.41 KUR) - the stunning true story of one man’s heroic odyssey from blindness into sight and a fascinating account of one man’s choice to explore what it means to see–and to truly live.
Shadow Divers: The True Adventure of Two Americans Who Risked Everything to Solve One of the Last Mysteries of World War II by Robert Kurson (940.5451 KUR) - a true tale of riveting adventure in which two weekend scuba divers risk everything to solve a great historical mystery–and make history themselves.
Random Family by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc (305.235 LEB) - tells the American outlaw saga lurking behind the headlines of gangsta glamour, gold-drenched drug dealers, and street-corner society.
Chasing Hepburn by Gus Lee (B LEE) - the story of the Lee family—a saga spanning four generations, two continents, and a century and a half of Chinese history.
Ten Hills Farm by C.S. Manegold (326.09744 MAN) - tells the powerful saga of five generations of slave owners in colonial New England.
Safe Return Doubtful: the Heroic Age of Polar Exploration by John Maxtone-Graham (919.8 MAX) - A history of the efforts to reach the North and South Poles from Parry's Arctic expedition of 1827 to the achievement of the South Pole in 1911-12.
The Color of Water: a Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother by James McBride (B MCBRIDE) - relates to readers of all colors as a vivid portrait of growing up, a haunting meditation on race and identity, and a lyrical valentine to a mother from her son.
Wicked Conduct by Rory Raven(364.1523 RAV) – this historic true tale took place in Tiverton, Rhode Island when local authorities grew skeptical of a woman’s apparent suicide, and a reverend’s conduct appeared increasingly suspect. Eventually the extensive evidence of their tortured relationship set off a groundswell of public interest and media attention in 1830s New England.
Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories that Heal by Rachel Naomi Remen (610.92 REM) - Remen focuses on the healing power of stories, drawing evidence both from the experiences of her patients and from her own battle with the effects of Crohn's disease.
My Grandfather’s Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge and Belonging by Rachel Naomi Remen (296 REM) - Remen broadens the idea of blessings, showing that one of the most important ways to express our humanity is through serving each other and loving each other.
The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less by Terry Ryan (B RYAN) - about an enterprising woman who kept poverty at bay with wit, poetry, and perfect prose during the "contest era" of the 1950s and 1960s.
A Year at the Races: Reflections on Horses, Humans, Love, Money & Luck by Jane Smiley (798.4 SMI) - draws upon her firsthand knowledge of horses, as well as the wisdom of trainers, vets, jockeys, and even a real-life horse whisperer, to examine the horse on all levels–practical, theoretical, and emotional. She shares not only “cute stories” about her own horses, but also fascinating and original insights into horse–and human–behavior.
Breakfast with Socrates: An Extraordinary (Philosophical) Journey Through Your Ordinary Day by Robert Rowland Smith (128 SMI) - uses the ideas of past philosophers, psychologists, and artists to analyze the daily, and sometimes mundane, actions of our lives.
Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Stewart (978.703 STE) - about a widow and mother who washed clothes for a living in Denver, then planned to work as a housekeeper for some rancher while learning all she would need to know about homesteading a place for herself.
The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain by Barbara Strauch (616.89 STR) - A leading science writer examines how the brain's capacity reaches its peak in middle age.
Once Upon a Time When We Were Colored by Clifton Taulbert (323.1196 TAU) - a view of life in a close, nurturing family in a small Mississippi town during the late 1940s and early 1950s.
The Last Train North by Clifton Taulbert (323.1196 TAU) – sequel to the above recounts Taulbert’s 1963 migration from the small segregated Mississippi town of his birth to the big integrated city of St. Louis, where opportunity was everywhere.
Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton (362.88 THO) - eleven years after Thompson-Cannino “picked” Ronald Cotton as the man who attacked her, Cotton was cleared of wrongdoing by DNA evidence. The two later meet face to face and forge an unlikely friendship that demonstrates profound nature of human grace and the healing power of forgiveness.
The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court by Jeffrey Toobin (347.7326 TOO) - Toobin (a CNN senior legal analyst and New Yorker staff writer) has constructed an inside-the-beltway account of the United States Supreme Court under Chief Justices Rehnquist and Roberts.
The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls (362.82 WAL) - An account of growing up nomadic, starry-eyed, and dirt poor in the '60s and '70s.
Duke of Deception: Memories of My Father by Geoffrey Wolff (B WOLFF) – a profoundly stirring autobiography in which Geoffrey Wolff unravels the enigma of his Gatsby-esque father, an inveterate liar who falsified everything but love.
This Boy’s Life: a Memoir by Tobias Wolff (B WOLFF) - Wolff dreams of escape in his tragicomic autobiography, which describes his difficult rite of passage and his growing up Catholic in Seattle--with a mother he loves, a stepfather he hates, and a history of troublemaking he yearns to leave behind.
This list compiled and annotated by the Reference Staff at the Barrington Public Library – books recommended by participants in previous Library Book Club Sessions.