A Bookseller Recommends - Elese - Favorite Book Club Reads
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I'm in a book club with some thoughtful, talented & interesting people, and we've read some truly excellent books. Here are my personal favorites from 10 years of book club reading. I think you'll like them, too. --Elese
Absolutely exquisite writing. This is a book where the intricacies of the plot have faded away but certain scenes are forever imprinted on my memory. Who would have guessed a book about a convent receiving a new bell could be so engaging?
Before reading this Ursula Le Guin novel, I might have been as ill-informed as to tell you that I didn't much care for sci-fi. How wrong I was. The politics and cultural anthropology Le Guin imbues into this story of an ambassador's journey completely blew my mind.
The story of a young man named I Am Not Sidney Poitier is about as absurdist as it sounds. Different chapters loosely draw on the plots of Sidney Poitier dinner - the Guess Who's Coming to Dinner chapter is divine - and somehow Ted Turner appears as a major character. Percival Everett is a genius and deserves to be much more widely read. Here's a great place to start.
HHhH - the title is derived from a German phrase that translates to "Himmler's brain is called Heydrich" - is on its face about the assassination of Nazi leader Reinhard Heydrich in 1942, but it's also a novel about the process of writing a historical novel about the assassination of Heydrich. And somehow it's still a page-turning thriller. Translated from French. Truly spectacular.
A wholly unsettling literary masterpiece.
The Sympathizer begins with a harrowing scene on an airport tarmac during the Fall of Saigon and doesn't let up from there. With almost episodic writing, this is both spy thriller and literary political commentary as we follow the story a young man from Vietnam to Southern California and back again. Even better, there's a sequel (The Committed) due out in March.
I think this is officially categorized as "weird fiction" - part police procedural, part fantasy, all great.
Written as a letter to Hadrian's successor Marcus Aurelius, Yourcenar captures with incredible, authentic depth the likely thoughts and experiences of a 2nd century emperor's life - a time when the Roman gods were waning but before Christianity was widely established. Is it a novel? A biography? With writing this gorgeous, does it matter? (*Don't miss the author's Reflections on Composition at the end of the book!)
For lovers of words, etymology, factoids, and asides. Set prior to the First Opium War in various locales across Asia and the Indian Ocean, this is an epic historical saga. I've read most of Ghosh's backlist and have enjoyed every one, but this might be my favorite.
Our book club does gravitate to some lesser-known classics, and here is another great one. This story of a 30-year-old "spinster" filling her days with church work and other "women's" labors in post-WWII London is hilarious is full of sly British wit and social commentary.
Our book club has enjoyed several novels featuring the adventures of unusual older ladies (see also Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead) but possibly none quite as eccentric as this fantastic Leonara Carrington novel. We were delighted to discover NYRB Classics was publishing a new edition with an introduction by none other than Olga Tokarczuk! A surrealist tale of murder and, let's just say, bizarre happenings at an institution for the elderly.
Met with universal acclaim by my fellow bookclubbers, this hilarious romp of a novel that is full of more heart & humanity than most things I read showcases a writer at the top of his game.
Gorgeous, otherwordly, beautiful. Nature writing isn't usually my thing, but the way Cather describes the desert! I felt this one in my bones.
An outlandishly decaying hotel full of stray cats might be considered the true main character of this novel. There's the Irish War of Independence, there's the antics of the hotel's stalwart guests, there's pigs on the squash courts, but the cats!