October 24, 2017

November 27, 2017 - The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson

We'll meet November 27 at Kathy's house to discuss The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.

As always, let me know if you come across good supplemental materials and I'll add them here.  Check back later for more supplemental materials.

Supplemental materials (most of which contain SPOILERS):

October 23, 2017

Slate for 2017-2018 and tonight's pitches

November 27:  The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson - at Kathy's house. Start at 6:00.

January 8:  Etta and Otto and Russell and James, Emma Hooper

January 29 (5th Monday):  The Testament of Mary, Colm Toibin

February 26:  Citizen: An American Lyric, Claudia Rankine

March 26:  The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead

April 23:  Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, J.D. Vance

May 21 (3rd Monday):  The Turner House, Angela Flouroy

June 25:  East of Eden, John Steinbeck

July 23:  Difficult Women, Roxane Gay

August 27:  Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi

September 24:  The Buried Giant, Kazuo Ishiguro

October 22:  BOOK PICKING NIGHT!!!!

Here are our pitches (with votes in parens) from tonight!

Classic Slot (First round classic/Tie-breaking vote classic/General vote)
East of Eden, John Steinbeck - Katherine (34/uncounted)
The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson - Steph (34/uncounted/39)
1984, George Orwell - Kerry (32/not in the voting/6)

General 
Shantarum, Gregory David Roberts - Karen (12)
The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead - Connie (36)
Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi - Suzanne (34)
Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance - Julie (22)
Citizen: An American Lyric, Claudia Rankine - Kerry (28)
Etta and Otto and Russell and James, Emma Hooper - Susan (31)
The Testament of Mary, Tolm Coibin - Steph (36)
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Book Store, Robin Sloane - Suzanne (9)
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, Alison Bechdel - Katherine (9)
The Buried Giant, Kazuo Ishiguro - Julie (46)
The Turner House, Angela Flouroy - Susan (22)
The Sympathizer, Viet Thanh Nguyen - Steph (6 + handful uncounted)
Difficult Women, Roxane Gay - Katherine (31)
Fortune Smiles, Adam Johnson - Julie (16)
My Name is Lucy Barton, Elizabeth Strout - Susan (5)

September 27, 2017

Long Lists - October 2017

Tell me your long lists, and I'll post them here! Check back occasionally for updates to this entry.

Connie

Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead

  • Winner of the Pulitzer Prize
  • Winner of the National Book Award
  • #1 New York Times bestseller

A magnificent tour de force chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South.

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood—where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned—Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.

In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor—engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.

Like the protagonist of Gulliver’s Travels, Cora encounters different worlds at each stage of her journey—hers is an odyssey through time as well as space. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre–Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.


Julie

The Buried Giant, Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Named one of the best books of the year by Washington Post, NPR, Chicago Tribune, others
  • Kazuo Ishiguro won the Nobel Prize in Literature (October 2017). NYTimes story about him winning the award, and a commentary about him deserving the award.
"Kazuo Ishiguro is a remarkable novelist, both for the quality of his work…and because he does not ever write the same novel, or even the same type of novel, twice. In The Buried Giant…he begins with clear, unhurried, unfussy language to describe the England of some 1,500 years ago, in a novel as well crafted as it is odd…Fantasy and historical fiction and myth here run together with the Matter of Britain, in a novel that's easy to admire, to respect and to enjoy…The Buried Giant does what important books do: It remains in the mind long after it has been read, refusing to leave, forcing one to turn it over and over…Ishiguro is not afraid to tackle huge, personal themes, nor to use myths, history and the fantastic as the tools to do it. The Buried Giant is an exceptional novel…" (New York Times Book Review)

A Brief History of Seven Killings, Marlon James

A “thrilling, ambitious . . . intense” (Los Angeles Times) novel that explores the attempted assassination of Bob Marley in the late 1970s.

In A Brief History of Seven Killings, Marlon James combines masterful storytelling with his unrivaled skill at characterization and his meticulous eye for detail to forge a novel of dazzling ambition and scope.

On December 3, 1976, just before the Jamaican general election and two days before Bob Marley was to play the Smile Jamaica Concert to ease political tensions in Kingston, seven unnamed gunmen stormed the singer’s house, machine guns blazing. The attack wounded Marley, his wife, and his manager, and injured several others. Little was officially released about the gunmen, but rumors abounded regarding the assassins’ fates. A Brief History of Seven Killings is James’s fictional exploration of that dangerous and unstable time in Jamaica’s history and beyond. Deftly spanning decades and continents and peopled with a wide range of characters—assassins, drug dealers, journalists, and even ghosts—James brings to life the people who walked the streets of 1970s Kingston, who dominated the crack houses of 1980s New York, and who reemerged into a radically altered Jamaica of the 1990s. Brilliantly inventive, A Brief History of Seven Killings is an “exhilarating” (The New York Times) epic that’s been called “a tour de force” (The Wall Street Journal).


Karen

Shantarum, Gregory David Roberts

It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured." So begins this epic, mesmerizing first novel by Gregory David Roberts, set in the underworld of contemporary Bombay. Shantaram is narrated by Lin, an escaped convict with a false passport who flees maximum security prison in Australia for the teeming streets of a city where he can disappear.


Katherine

Hillbilly Elegy, A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, J.D. Vance

From a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, a powerful account of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town that offers a broader, probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans.

The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, has been reported on with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.

Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi
  • Winner of the NBCC's John Leonard First Book Prize
  • A New York Times 2016 Notable Book
  • One of Oprah’s 10 Favorite Books of 2016
  • NPR's Debut Novel of the Year
  • One of Buzzfeed's Best Fiction Books Of 2016
  • One of Time's Top 10 Novels of 2016
“Homegoing is an inspiration.” —Ta-Nehisi Coates

The unforgettable New York Times best seller begins with the story of two half-sisters, separated by forces beyond their control: one sold into slavery, the other married to a British slaver. Written with tremendous sweep and power, Homegoing traces the generations of family who follow, as their destinies lead them through two continents and three hundred years of history, each life indeliably drawn, as the legacy of slavery is fully revealed in light of the present day.

Effia and Esi are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia’s descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation.

Difficult Women, Roxanne Gay

Award-winning author and powerhouse talent Roxane Gay burst onto the scene with An Untamed State—which earned rave reviews and was selected as one of the best books of the year by the Washington Post, NPR, the Boston Globe, and Kirkus—and her New York Times bestselling essay collection Bad Feminist (Harper Perennial). Gay returns with Strange Gods, a collection of stories of rare force and beauty, of hardscrabble lives, passionate loves, and quirky and vexed human connection.

The women in these stories live lives of privilege and of poverty, are in marriages both loving and haunted by past crimes or emotional blackmail. A pair of sisters, grown now, have been inseparable ever since they were abducted together as children, and must negotiate the marriage of one of them. A woman married to a twin pretends not to realize when her husband and his brother impersonate each other. A stripper putting herself through college fends off the advances of an overzealous customer. A black engineer moves to Upper Michigan for a job and faces the malign curiosity of her colleagues and the difficulty of leaving her past behind. From a girls’ fight club to a wealthy subdivision in Florida where neighbors conform, compete, and spy on each other, Gay delivers a wry, beautiful, haunting vision of modern America reminiscent of Merritt Tierce, Jamie Quatro, and Miranda July.

The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas
  • "Absolutely riveting!" —Jason Reynolds
  • "Stunning." —John Green
  • "This story is necessary. This story is important." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
  • "Heartbreakingly topical." —Publishers Weekly (starred review) 
  • "A marvel of verisimilitude." —Booklist (starred review)
  • "A powerful, in-your-face novel." —The Horn Book (starred review)
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, Elena Ferrante (#3)
Soon to be an HBO series, book three in the New York Times bestselling Neapolitan quartet about two friends in post-war Italy is a rich, intense, and generous-hearted epic by one of today's most beloved and acclaimed writers, Elena Ferrante, “one of the great novelists of our time.” (Roxana Robinson, The New York Times).

In the third book in the Neapolitan quartet, Elena and Lila, the two girls whom readers first met in My Brilliant Friend, have become women. Lila married at sixteen and has a young son; she has left her husband and the comforts her marriage brought and now works as a common laborer. Elena has left the neighborhood, earned her college degree, and published a successful novel, all of which has opened the doors to a world of learned interlocutors and richly furnished salons. Both women are pushing against the walls of a prison that would have seen them living a life of misery, ignorance and submission. They are afloat on the great sea of opportunities that opened up during the nineteen-seventies. Yet they are still very much bound to each other by a strong, unbreakable bond.

Ferrante is one of the world’s great storytellers. With the Neapolitan quartet she has given her readers an abundant, generous, and masterfully plotted page-turner that is also a stylish work of literary fiction destined to delight readers for many generations to come.

East of Eden, John Steinbeck (Classic)

In his journal, John Steinbeck called East of Eden "the first book," and indeed it has the primordial power and simplicity of myth. Set in the rich farmland of California's Salinas Valley, this sprawling and often brutal novel follows the intertwined destinies of two families-the Trasks and the Hamiltons-whose generations helplessly reenact the fall of Adam and Eve and the poisonous rivalry of Cain and Abel.

Adam Trask came to California from the East to farm and raise his family on the new, rich land. But the birth of his twins, Cal and Aron, brings his wife to the brink of madness, and Adam is left alone to raise his boys to manhood. One boy thrives, nurtured by the love of all those around him; the other grows up in loneliness, enveloped by a mysterious darkness.

First published in 1952, East of Eden is the work in which Steinbeck created his most mesmerizing characters and explored his most enduring themes: the mystery of identity, the inexplicability of love, and the murderous consequences of love's absence. A masterpiece of Steinbeck's later years, East of Eden is a powerful and vastly ambitious novel that is at once a family saga and a modern retelling of the Book of Genesis.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, Alison Bechdel

A fresh and brilliantly told memoir from a cult favorite comic artist, marked by gothic twists, a family funeral home, sexual angst, and great books.

This breakout book by Alison Bechdel is a darkly funny family tale, pitch-perfectly illustrated with Bechdel's sweetly gothic drawings. Like Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, it's a story exhilaratingly suited to graphic memoir form.

Meet Alison's father, a historic preservation expert and obsessive restorer of the family's Victorian home, a third-generation funeral home director, a high school English teacher, an icily distant parent, and a closeted homosexual who, as it turns out, is involved with his male students and a family babysitter. Through narrative that is alternately heartbreaking and fiercely funny, we are drawn into a daughter's complex yearning for her father. And yet, apart from assigned stints dusting caskets at the family-owned "fun home," as Alison and her brothers call it, the relationship achieves its most intimate expression through the shared code of books. When Alison comes out as homosexual herself in late adolescense, the denouement is swift, graphic—and redemptive.


Kathy


Kerry


Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell

1984 is a dystopian novel by English author George Orwell published in 1949. The novel is set in Airstrip One (formerly known as Great Britain), a province of the superstate Oceania in a world of perpetual war, omnipresent government surveillance and public manipulation, dictated by a political system euphemistically named English Socialism (or Ingsoc in the government's invented language, Newspeak) under the control of a privileged elite of the Inner Party, that persecutes individualism and independent thinking as "thoughtcrime."

The tyranny is epitomised by Big Brother, the Party leader who enjoys an intense cult of personality but who may not even exist. The Party "seeks power entirely for its own sake. It is not interested in the good of others; it is interested solely in power." The protagonist of the novel, Winston Smith, is a member of the Outer Party, who works for the Ministry of Truth (or Minitrue in Newspeak), which is responsible for propaganda and historical revisionism. His job is to rewrite past newspaper articles, so that the historical record always supports the party line. The instructions that the workers receive specify the corrections as fixing misquotations and never as what they really are: forgeries and falsifications. A large part of the ministry also actively destroys all documents that have been edited and do not contain the revisions; in this way, no proof exists that the government is lying. Smith is a diligent and skillful worker but secretly hates the Party and dreams of rebellion against Big Brother. Orwell based the character of the heroine of the novel, Julia, on his second wife, Sonia Orwell.

As literary political fiction and dystopian science-fiction, Nineteen Eighty-Four is a classic novel in content, plot and style. Many of its terms and concepts, such as Big Brother, doublethink, thoughtcrime, Newspeak, Room 101, telescreen, 2 + 2 = 5, and memory hole, have entered into common use since its publication in 1949. Nineteen Eighty-Four popularised the adjective Orwellian, which describes official deception, secret surveillance and manipulation of recorded history by a totalitarian or authoritarian state. In 2005, the novel was chosen by Time magazine as one of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005. It was awarded a place on both lists of Modern Library 100 Best Novels, reaching number 13 on the editor's list, and 6 on the readers' list. In 2003, the novel was listed at number 8 on the BBC’s survey The Big Read.

Citizen, Claudia Rankine
  • Winner of the 2015 PEN Oakland-Josephine Miles Literary Award
  • Winner of the 2015 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in Poetry
  • Winner of the 2015 Forward Prize for Best Collection
  • Winner of the 2015 PEN Open Book Award Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry
  • Winner of Poets and Writers' Jackson Poetry Prize
  • One of the Guardian's Best Politics Books of 2015
  • One of the Guardian's Readers' Books of the Year for 2015
  • One of Entropy's Best Nonfiction books of 2015
  • One of MPR's, The Atlantic's, the Guardian's, Pioneer Press, Bitch Media's, Subtext Bookstore's Best Books of 2015
  • Featured in the Millions "Year in Reading 2015" by Angela Flournoy and Katrina Dodson
  • Finalist for 2014 National Book Award in Poetry
  • Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism
  • One of the Millions' Most Anticipated Books
  • Featured in Literature Works' Christmas Wish List of 2015 by Kathryn Simmonds
  • Featured in the Conium Review's Best of 2015by James R. Gapinski
"Marrying prose, poetry, and the visual image, Citizen investigates the ways in which racism pervades daily American social and cultural life, rendering certain of its citizens politically invisible. Rankine's formally inventive book challenges our notion that citizenship is only a legal designation that the state determines by expanding that definition to include a larger understanding of civic belonging and identity, built out of cross-racial empathy, communal responsibility, and a deeply shared commitment to equality."—National Book Award Judges' Citation.

I Refuse, Per Petterson

In his signature spare style, Petterson weaves a tale of two men whose accidental meeting one morning recalls their boyhood thirty-five years ago. Back then, Tommy was separated from his sisters after he stood up to their abusive father. Jim was by Tommy's side through it all. But one winter night, a chance event on a frozen lake forever changed the balance of their friendship. Now Jim fishes alone on a bridge as Tommy drives by in a new Mercedes, and it's clear their fortunes have reversed. Over the course of the day, the life of each man will be irrevocably altered.




Ruth


Steph

The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson

The Haunting of Hill House is a 1959 novel by American author Shirley Jackson. A finalist for the National Book Award and considered one of the best literary ghost stories published during the 20th century, it has been made into two feature films and a play. Jackson's novel relies on terror rather than horror to elicit emotion in the reader, utilizing complex relationships between the mysterious events in the house and the characters’ psyches.

Stephen King, in his book Danse Macabre (1981), a non-fiction review of the horror genre, lists The Haunting of Hill House as one of the finest horror novels of the late 20th century.

The Testament of Mary, Colm Toibin
  • Shortlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize
“Tóibín is at his lyrical best in this beautiful and daring work” (The New York Times Book Review) that portrays Mary as a solitary older woman still seeking to understand the events that become the narrative of the New Testament and the foundation of Christianity.

In the ancient town of Ephesus, Mary lives alone, years after her son’s crucifixion. She has no interest in collaborating with the authors of the Gospel, who are her keepers. She does not agree that her son is the Son of God; nor that his death was “worth it”; nor that the “group of misfits he gathered around him, men who could not look a woman in the eye,” were holy disciples. Mary judges herself ruthlessly (she did not stay at the foot of the cross until her son died—she fled, to save herself), and her judgment of others is equally harsh.

This woman whom we know from centuries of paintings and scripture as the docile, loving, silent, long-suffering, obedient, worshipful mother of Christ becomes a tragic heroine with the relentless eloquence of Electra or Medea or Antigone. Tóibín’s tour de force of imagination and language is a portrait so vivid and convincing that our image of Mary will be forever transformed.

Susan

The Professor's House, Willa Cather

Willa Cather's lyrical and bittersweet novel of a middle-aged man losing control of his life is a brilliant study in emotional dislocation and renewal.

Professor Godfrey St. Peter is a man in his fifties who has devoted his life to his work, his wife, his garden, and his daughters, and achieved success with all of them. But when St. Peter is called on to move to a new, more comfortable house, something in him rebels. And although at first that rebellion consists of nothing more than mild resistance to his family's wishes, it imperceptibly comes to encompass the entire order of his life. The Professor's House combines a delightful grasp of the social and domestic rituals of a Midwestern university town in the 1920s with profound spiritual and psychological introspection.

The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood

LaRose, Louise Erdrich

In this literary masterwork, Louise Erdrich wields her breathtaking narrative magic in an emotionally haunting contemporary tale of a tragic accident, a demand for justice, and a profound act of atonement with ancient roots in Native American culture.

North Dakota, late summer, 1999. Landreaux Iron stalks a deer along the edge of the property bordering his own. He shoots with easy confidence—but when the buck springs away, Landreaux realizes he’s hit something else, a blur he saw as he squeezed the trigger. When he staggers closer, he realizes he has killed his neighbor’s five-year-old son, Dusty Ravich.

Horrified at what he’s done, the recovered alcoholic turns to an Ojibwe tribe tradition—the sweat lodge—for guidance, and finds a way forward. Following an ancient means of retribution, he and Emmaline will give LaRose to the grieving Peter and Nola. “Our son will be your son now,” they tell them.

Inspiring and affecting, LaRose is a powerful exploration of loss, justice, and the reparation of the human heart, and an unforgettable, dazzling tour de force from one of America’s most distinguished literary masters.

When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi
  • #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
  • PULITZER PRIZE FINALIST
  • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times Book Review • People • NPR • The Washington Post • Slate • Harper’s Bazaar • Esquire • Time Out New York • Publishers Weekly • BookPage Finalist for the PEN Center USA Literary Award in Creative Nonfiction and the Books for a Better Life Award in Inspirational Memoir
This inspiring, exquisitely observed memoir finds hope and beauty in the face of insurmountable odds as an idealistic young neurosurgeon attempts to answer the question: What makes a life worth living?

At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality.

What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when the future, no longer a ladder toward your goals in life, flattens out into a perpetual present? What does it mean to have a child, to nurture a new life as another fades away? These are some of the questions Kalanithi wrestles with in this profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir.

Paul Kalanithi died in March 2015, while working on this book, yet his words live on as a guide and a gift to us all. “I began to realize that coming face to face with my own mortality, in a sense, had changed nothing and everything,” he wrote. “Seven words from Samuel Beckett began to repeat in my head: ‘I can’t go on. I’ll go on.’” When Breath Becomes Air is an unforgettable, life-affirming reflection on the challenge of facing death and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a brilliant writer who became both.

The Turner House, Angela Flournoy
  • A New York Times Notable Book
  • Named a Best Book of the Year by: O, The Oprah Magazine • Entertainment Weekly • NPR • Essence • Men’s Journal • Buzzfeed * Bustle • Time Out • Denver Post • Publishers Weekly • Kirkus Reviews • BookPage • Literary Hub • Kobo • The Week
“A page-turner. Richly wrought prose and intimate, vivid dialogue. A–.” — Entertainment Weekly
 
“Flournoy’s knockout debut is one of those books that should, by rights, be described as the Great American Novel.” — NPR

For over fifty years the Turners have lived on Yarrow Street. Their house has seen thirteen children get grown and gone—and some return; it has seen the arrival of grandchildren, the fall of Detroit’s East Side, and the loss of a father. But when their powerful mother falls ill, the Turners are called home to decide their house’s fate and to reckon with how their past haunts—and shapes—their future. The Turner House is a striking examination of the price we pay for our dreams, and the ways in which our families bring us home.

My Name is Lucy Brown, Elizabeth Strout
  • #1 New York Time Bestseller
  • Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 
A simple hospital visit becomes a portal to the tender relationship between mother and daughter in this extraordinary novel by the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Olive Kitteridge and The Burgess Boys.

Lucy Barton is recovering slowly from what should have been a simple operation. Her mother, to whom she hasn’t spoken for many years, comes to see her. Gentle gossip about people from Lucy’s childhood in Amgash, Illinois, seems to reconnect them, but just below the surface lie the tension and longing that have informed every aspect of Lucy’s life: her escape from her troubled family, her desire to become a writer, her marriage, her love for her two daughters. Knitting this powerful narrative together is the brilliant storytelling voice of Lucy herself: keenly observant, deeply human, and truly unforgettable.

The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead - see blurb above in Connie's list

Etta and Otto and James and Russell, Emma Hooper

This “poetic, poignant” (US Weekly) debut features last great adventures, unlikely heroes, and a “sweet, disarming story of lasting love” (The New York Times Book Review).

Eighty-three-year-old Etta has never seen the ocean. So early one morning she takes a rifle, some chocolate, and her best boots and begins walking the 3,232 kilometers from rural Saskatchewan, Canada eastward to the sea. As Etta walks further toward the crashing waves, the lines among memory, illusion, and reality blur.

Otto wakes to a note left on the kitchen table. “I will try to remember to come back,” Etta writes to her husband. Otto has seen the ocean, having crossed the Atlantic years ago to fight in a far-away war. He understands. But with Etta gone, the memories come crowding in and Otto struggles to keep them at bay. Meanwhile, their neighbor Russell has spent his whole life trying to keep up with Otto and loving Etta from afar. Russell insists on finding Etta, wherever she’s gone. Leaving his own farm will be the first act of defiance in his life.

Moving from the hot and dry present of a quiet Canadian farm to a dusty, burnt past of hunger, war, and passion, from trying to remember to trying to forget, Etta and Otto and Russell and James is an astounding literary debut “of deep longing, for reinvention and self-discovery, as well as for the past and for love and for the boundless unknown” (San Francisco Chronicle). “In this haunting debut, set in a starkly beautiful landscape, Hooper delineates the stories of Etta and the men she loved (Otto and Russell) as they intertwine through youth and wartime and into old age. It’s a lovely book you’ll want to linger over” (People).

The House Girl, Tera Conklin
Lina Sparrow is an ambitious young lawyer working on a historic class-action suit seeking reparations for the descendants of American slaves. Josephine is a seventeen-year-old house slave who tends to the mistress of a Virginia tobacco farm—an aspiring artist named Lu Anne Bell. Alternating between antebellum Virginia and modern-day New York, The House Girl is a searing tale of art, history, love, and secrets that intertwines the stories of two remarkable women.

Suzanne

This is a list of books from another book group of Suzanne's.  I will add blurbs and book covers later.

A Gentleman in Moscow,  Amor Towles
“In all ways a great novel, a nonstop pleasure brimming with charm, personal wisdom, and philosophic insight . . .this book more than fulfills the promise of Towles' stylish debut, Rules of Civility." – Kirkus Reviews (starred)

From the New York Times bestselling author of Rules of Civility—a transporting novel about a man who is ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel.

With his breakout debut novel, Rules of Civility, Amor Towles established himself as a master of absorbing, sophisticated fiction, bringing late 1930s Manhattan to life with splendid atmosphere and a flawless command of style. Readers and critics were enchanted; as NPR commented, “Towles writes with grace and verve about the mores and manners of a society on the cusp of radical change.”

A Gentleman in Moscow immerses us in another elegantly drawn era with the story of Count Alexander Rostov. When, in 1922, he is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the count is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him a doorway into a much larger world of emotional discovery.

Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count’s endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose.
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Under the Wide and Starry Sky, Nancy Horan
  • NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
  • TODAY SHOW BOOK CLUB PICK
  • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POST AND ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH 
From Nancy Horan, New York Times bestselling author of Loving Frank, comes her much-anticipated second novel, which tells the improbable love story of Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson and his tempestuous American wife, Fanny.

At the age of thirty-five, Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne has left her philandering husband in San Francisco to set sail for Belgium—with her three children and nanny in tow—to study art. It is a chance for this adventurous woman to start over, to make a better life for all of them, and to pursue her own desires. Not long after her arrival, however, tragedy strikes, and Fanny and her children repair to a quiet artists’ colony in France where she can recuperate. Emerging from a deep sorrow, she meets a lively Scot, Robert Louis Stevenson, ten years her junior, who falls instantly in love with the earthy, independent, and opinionated “belle Americaine.”

Fanny does not immediately take to the slender young lawyer who longs to devote his life to writing—and who would eventually pen such classics as Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In time, though, she succumbs to Stevenson’s charms, and the two begin a fierce love affair—marked by intense joy and harrowing darkness—that spans the decades and the globe. The shared life of these two strong-willed individuals unfolds into an adventure as impassioned and unpredictable as any of Stevenson’s own unforgettable tales.
Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

The Little Paris Bookshop, Nina George

Monsieur Perdu can prescribe the perfect book for a broken heart. But can he fix his own?

Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life. Using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs, Perdu mends broken hearts and souls. The only person he can't seem to heal through literature is himself; he's still haunted by heartbreak after his great love disappeared. She left him with only a letter, which he has never opened.

After Perdu is finally tempted to read the letter, he hauls anchor and departs on a mission to the south of France, hoping to make peace with his loss and discover the end of the story. Joined by a bestselling but blocked author and a lovelorn Italian chef, Perdu travels along the country’s rivers, dispensing his wisdom and his books, showing that the literary world can take the human soul on a journey to heal itself.

Internationally bestselling and filled with warmth and adventure, The Little Paris Bookshop is a love letter to books, meant for anyone who believes in the power of stories to shape people's lives.

Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi - see the entry above under Katherine's long list

A Separation, Katie Kitamura

“A slow burn of a novel that gathers its great force and intensity through careful observation and a refusal to accept old, shopworn narratives of love and loss.” —Jenny Offill, author of Dept. of Speculation

“A novel so seamless, that follows its path with such consequence, that even minor deviations seem loaded with meaning. Wonderful.” —Karl Ove Knausgaard, author of My Struggle

This is her story. About the end of her marriage. About what happened when Christopher went missing and she went to find him. These are her secrets, this is what happened...

A young woman has agreed with her faithless husband: it's time for them to separate. For the moment it's a private matter, a secret between the two of them. As she begins her new life, she gets word that Christopher has gone missing in a remote region in the rugged south of Greece; she reluctantly agrees to go look for him, still keeping their split to herself. In her heart, she's not even sure if she wants to find him. As her search comes to a shocking breaking point, she discovers she understands less than she thought she did about her relationship and the man she used to love.

A searing, suspenseful story of intimacy and infidelity, A Separation lays bare the guilt that divides us from the inner lives of others. With exquisitely cool precision, Katie Kitamura propels us into the experience of a woman on edge, with a fiercely mesmerizing story to tell.

Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore, Robin Sloan

  • The New York Times Bestseller
  • A Winner of the Alex Award, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for First Fiction,
  • Named a Best Book of the Year by NPR, Los Angeles Times, and San Francisco Chronicle

The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon away from life as a San Francisco web-design drone and into the aisles of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. But after a few days on the job, Clay discovers that the store is more curious than either its name or its gnomic owner might suggest. The customers are few, and they never seem to buy anything—instead, they "check out" large, obscure volumes from strange corners of the store. Suspicious, Clay engineers an analysis of the clientele's behavior, seeking help from his variously talented friends. But when they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, they discover the bookstore's secrets extend far beyond its walls. Rendered with irresistible brio and dazzling intelligence, Robin Sloan's Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is exactly what it sounds like: an establishment you have to enter and will never want to leave.
Istanbul Passage by Joseph Kanon

The Secret Scripture, Sebastian Barry
  • Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize
  • Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist
  • Winner of the Costa Book of the Year
  • Winner of the Irish Novel of the Year
An epic story of family, love, and unavoidable tragedy from the two-time Man Booker Prize finalist. Now a major motion picture starring Rooney Mara.

Sebastian Barry's latest novel, Days Without End, is now available. Sebastian Barry's novels have been hugely admired by readers and critics, and in 2005 his novel A Long Long Way was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. In The Secret Scripture, Barry revisits County Sligo, Ireland, the setting for his previous three books, to tell the unforgettable story of Roseanne McNulty. Once one of the most beguiling women in Sligo, she is now a resident of Roscommon Regional Mental Hospital and nearing her hundredth year. Set against an Ireland besieged by conflict, The Secret Scripture is an engrossing tale of one woman's life, and a vivid reminder of the stranglehold that the Catholic church had on individuals throughout much of the twentieth century. The Secret Scripture is now a film starring Rooney Mara, Eric Bana, and Vanessa Redgrave.

Hillbilly Elegy, J. D. Vance - see the entry above under Katherine's long list

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Survey for 2016-2017

Please take the survey for 2016-2017 by October 16!

Building Stories, Chris Ware - September 25, 2017

We met September 25 at Steph's to discuss Building Stories by Chris Ware.

Supplemental materials:

The Orphan Master's Son, Adam Johnson - August 28, 2017

We met August 28 at Katherine's house to discuss The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson.

The Sunken Cathedral, Kate Walbert - July 24, 2017

We met July 24 at Susan's house to discuss The Sunken Cathedral by Kate Walbert.

The Architecture of Happiness, Alain de Botton - June 26, 2017

We met June 26 at Karen's house to discuss The Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Botton.

Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Gabriel Garcia Marquez - May 22, 2017

We met May 22 at Kerry's to discuss Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

The Story of a New Name, Elena Ferrante - April 24, 2017

We met at Karen's house to discuss The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante.

March 28, 2017

Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - March 27, 2017

You met at Connie's house to discuss Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Supplemental materials:

  • Video of TED Talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - We Should All be Feminists
  • Video of TED Talk by Chimananda Ngozi Adichie - Danger of a Single Story
  • Morality Quiz
  • Jonathan Haidt book, The Righteous Mind, and links to related materials

February 27, 2017

The Feast of Love, Charles Baxter - February 27, 2017

We're meeting at Ruth's house on Feb. 27 to discuss The Feast of Love by Charles Baxter.

Supplemental materials;

Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates - January 30, 2017

We met at Julie's house on Jan. 30 to discuss Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

December 30, 2016

H is for Hawk, Helen Macdonald - January 2, 2017


We will meet at Kerry's house on Jan. 2, 2017 to discuss H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald.

Supplemental materials, below. As always, please let me know if you find anything good to add to this list.
  • Video, Hunting Pheasants with Goshawks in Ireland (can see so many things that Macdonald describes - bells, game bag, transponder searching, the walking and walking)
  • Discussion questions, Lake Forest Library
  • Discussion questions, Durham County Library
  • Video, talk by Helen Macdonald, 5x15 (16 min)
  • Video, BBC interview with Macdonald (3 min), interesting answer to question about how open she is in the book
  • Video, reading and Q/A by Helen Macdonald at a bookstore, Politics and Prose (60 min)

November 28, 2016

Jane Eyre - November 28, 2016

We're meeting at Steph's house on November 28 to discuss Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

Supplemental materials:

  • PBS discussion questions
  • Victorian Web discussion questions 
  • Exclusive Books discussion questions
  • Washington Post piece comparing Rebecca and Jane Eyre
  • Inquiries Journal piece comparing Rebecca and Jane Eyre
  • Jane Eyre Wikipedia entry
  • Charlotte Bronte Wikipedia entry