Thursday, January 15, 2015

Book Groups

Do you belong to a book group? I belong to one that had its annual meeting this week to pick the books for the entire year. I love the process because you all know I love to talk about books. Anyone in the group can nominate up to three books. They're supposed to be books that are available in paperback, so we don't do recent books. The books are a mix of fiction and nonfiction. And, once they're nominated, we meet and discuss all the titles, and then we vote on the books we'll read in the current year. Here are the books we're reading in 2015. If you're in a book group, feel free to tell us what you're reading this year.

The book that received the most votes this year was Gabrielle Zevin's The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. I'm not leading the February discussion of this book, but it was the best book I read in 2013, so I'm looking forward to the discussion. It's the story of a publisher's rep, an eccentric bookstore owner on a island, and the gift left in the bookstore that changed lives in the entire island community.





Fannie Flagg's Can't Wait to Get to Heaven is our March selection. It's the story of an octogenarian who is surprised when she's up a tree to find herself on a adventure running into people she didn't expect to meet. At the same time, her experiences lead her small Southern town to wonder, "Why are we here?"







Our April book is nonfiction, Lauren Kessler's Dancing with Rose: Finding Life in the Land of Alzheimer's. Kessler, the daughter of a woman who suffered from Alzheimer's, was devastated by the disease. To better understand the disease that took her mother, the journalist becomes a caregiver at an Alzheimer's facility, and learns lessons that challenge what we know about the disease.





In May, we're reading My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor. It's the inspirational story of the forces that impacted and shaped the woman who would go on to be a Supreme Court Justice.









Every summer, we have a potluck and read and discuss a book that might appeal to teens. Members encourage their children and friends to read the book and come to the meeting. This June, the book will be Elizabeth Wein's  Code Name Verity. It's a novel about a British spy plane that crashes in Occupied France in 1943. The female pilot and her passenger are friends. One has a chance to survive. The other has already lost the game. When "Verity" is arrested by the Gestapo, she's told she must confess her mission or face execution. Verity's "confession" of her life may be enough to save her. Or it might not.


William Landay's Defending Jacob is our July selection. How far would a parent go to defend their child? Andy Barber, an assistant district attorney, is as shocked as anyone else in his town when a young boy is stabbed to death in a park. However, he's even more stunned when his own son, Jacob, is accused of the crime. He believes in his son's innocence, even as evidence mounts, his marriage starts to fall apart, and the murder trial starts to destroy the family. How far will Andy go to defend his son?





The woman who suggested Barbara Kingsolver's Flight Behavior, our August book, said she loves monarch butterflies. Ron Charles said, "Kingsolver has written one of the more thoughtful novels about the scientific, financial and psychological intricacies of climate change. And her ability to put these silent, breathtakingly beautiful butterflies at the center of this calamitous and noisy debate is nothing short of brilliant."






I'm leading the discussion of William Kent Krueger's award-winning Ordinary Grace. A man in his fifties looks back at the summer when he was thirteen, a life-changing summer of tragedy in a small Minnesota town.









Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's memoir, This Child Will Be Great, is the October selection. The woman who became the President of Liberia after fourteen years of civil conflict, tells of her life, and her rise to power.










Being Mortal by Atul Gawande was a Barnes & Noble Best Book of 2014. The surgeon looks at elder care, end-of-life treatment, and hospice care, with an awareness that patients and their families want comfort, peace, and dignity.









In December, we'll discuss TaraShea Nesbit's debut novel, The Wives of Los Alamos. It's an unusual book, told as a collective "we", of the women who left behind their familiar lives, and their parents and extended families, unable to tell them where they were going as they followed their scientist husbands to New Mexico. There, they lived under dismal military conditions without even knowing what project their husbands were working on.






Our January meeting is always our planning meeting, as it was this week. But, we usually select our February book ahead of time. So, in February, 2016, we'll be reading Amy Greene's Long Man. In a small town about to be submerged for the sake of progress, one woman and her three-year-old daughter are one of the last holdouts. When the daughter disappears, the community comes together one last time to aid in the crisis.

Those are the books we've selected for the next year's reading. What is your book group reading in 2015?

17 comments:

Kay said...

My mystery group has done DEFENDING JACOB and ORDIINARY GRACE. Both were great discussions. I'm interested in several more of these books, but the only one I think might work for the mystery group is CODE NAME VERITY. Looks like a diverse and interesting year for your group, Lesa.

BPL Ref said...

In our library's Nevermore book club, members read whatever they want, then bring the book in to tell everyone else about it. Defending Jacob made the rounds of most of the members. There was another book that came out about the same time but with a British setting that would make a good companion book: Child Who by Simon Lelic. I did a review on our blog: http://bristol-library-bookblog.blogspot.com/2012/06/child-who-by-simon-lelic.html I want to Fikry.

BPL Ref said...

Got interrupted. I was trying to say I want to READ The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. I'm reading another you recommended now, also about a bookstore, The Moment of Everything by King.

Lesa said...

It's always an interesting year with this group, Kay. It's fun to see what's nominated, and what books make the final cut.

Lesa said...

BPL Ref - The Moment of Everything was really good, but I LOVED Fikry! And, the man who is leading our February discussion picked it as his favorite book of the year.

Patricia T said...

Lots of wonderful books and I absolutely LOVED "Can't Wait to Get to Heaven"!

Lesa said...

Good to know, Patricia, since I haven't read it yet. Thank you!

Page said...

My book has already read The Big Sleep and Destiny of the Republic. Our next three selections are
January 15 - The Historian by Elizabeth Kostkova

February 19 - Local Souls by Allan Gurganus

March 19 - Blue Angel by Francine Prose

Lesa said...

Wow, Page! Your book group does heavier books than we tend to do. I don't know if I'd be in our book group if the selections were that literary.

Kaye Barley said...

What an interesting collection! I've read some of these, and several of them have me adding them to my list. You know, of course, how I feel about Fikry - one of the best books I've read, I think. And - I feel that way about Ordinary Grace, which I resisted for a while because it wasn't one of his Cork O'Connor novels. Silly me. it may very well be the best thing he's written, which is saying a lot.

Lesa said...

And, I resisted it because the title didn't do anything for me, Kaye. Plus it won the Edgar for Best Mystery, and so many times I'm not impressed with that particular title. So, I didn't even give it a chance.

holdenj said...

What a great list, maybe I'll read along at some point! Code Name Verity was amazing.

Lesa said...

It's an interesting list, Holdenj. Last year, my sister went through a lot of the books on the group's list.

Melissa Bo said...

Lots of great choices! I saw a few that I would like to read. =)

Lesa said...

I hope you get a chance, Melissa. I think there are some good choices here.

Gayle Boyce said...

I enjoyed Can't Wait To Get To Heaven. Very humorous story about an elderly lady, her life and her death.

Ordinary Grace was excellent. One of Krueger's best, that I have read.

Lesa said...

Thanks, Gayle! I'll look forward to reading Can't Wait to Get to Heaven. It sounds fun.