Quarterly Update on Book Club Books

A look back at the books my two book clubs read for the second quarter of the year, focusing especially on how they worked as discussion titles.

April

The Deliberate Reader book club (TDR) read Dark Matter and my in-person book club, Broadened Horizons (BH) read A Gentleman in Moscow.

While completely different in style and genre, both are amazing for discussion, and I’d highly recommend both. I’m still disappointed that I had to miss the A Gentleman in Moscow discussion, as the novel had so much depth to explore. Dark Matter is almost a perfect book club title: quick and easy to read, and lots to discuss. The only caution I really have with it is the potential for spoilers, as it’s really one you want to read first without knowing what happens in it.

May

TDR read Hannah Coulter, and BH read My Antonia, an inadvertant book pairing that provided me with an interesting comparison between the two. While I enjoyed My Antonia, and it is a recommended title for book clubs by way of being a classic, it actually suffered quite a bit in comparison to Hannah Coulter, which is the one I’d really recommend for book clubs looking for that sort of novel.

June

TDR discussed Uprooted, and BH read Into Thin Air, which provided plenty of contrast between the two clubs for me, after the similarities from April.

Fantasy can be a challenging genre to recommend to those who are new to it, and I find it frequently is somewhat difficult to pick out one title for a book group to read and discuss. In part that’s because the genre seems to include so many series (usually a good thing as far as I’m concerned). However, when I’m looking for a stand-alone title it means I’m excluding many otherwise strong options. Uprooted worked as a discussion title, and if your book group is looking for a fantasy novel I’d say you should definitely consider it, but it’s not one that I’m so enthusiastic about for discussion that I insist you have to use for your group.

Into Thin Air also brings forth similar feelings from me: it has good potential as a discussion title, but it’s not so amazing as one that I’m going overboard pushing for it (as I am with April’s titles).


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Three on a Theme: Jane Eyre

My in-person book club reads an annual “book flight,” inspired by a post at Modern Mrs. Darcy.

This year the theme voted on by our members was Jane Eyre. (I’m excited about this, as I didn’t think it would be the winner, but it was my pick).

The first book in our trio is, not surprisingly, Jane Eyre.

For a reimagining of the Jane Eyre story, we’ll also read Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye. What sort of reimagining? Well, Jane is a serial killer, so I’m guessing a pretty creative one.

The final book in our flight is the 2016 biography Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart, by Claire Harman. I’m hoping we gain a new appreciation for Brontë’s work through looking at her life and times.

I can’t wait to dive into these three, which is good because, at over 1500 pages between the three, I need to get moving on reading them before our October meeting where we’ll be discussing them. 🙂

Find Jane Eyre: Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads

Find Jane Steele: Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads

Find Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart: Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Introducing April’s Book Club Selection: Dark Matter

dark-matter

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

What’s It About?

(Description from Goodreads)

“Are you happy with your life?”

Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.

Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.

Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.

Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

From the author of the bestselling Wayward Pines trilogy, Dark Matter is a brilliantly plotted tale that is at once sweeping and intimate, mind-bendingly strange and profoundly human—a relentlessly surprising science-fiction thriller about choices, paths not taken, and how far we’ll go to claim the lives we dream of.

Why Was This Title Selected

I wanted a thriller for the year, and one that would be super readable and accessable for those who don’t typically read that genre. Buzz I was hearing about the book led me to think this would be a compelling, thought-provoking read that would promote a great discussion!

Anything Else to Know About It?

The discussion will begin soon in the Facebook group, and you’re welcome to come and join us.

If you haven’t read it yet, there’s still time for you to join us – it’s a very quick read, so you should be able to get it read and then join in on the discussion. Heads-up though that I’d stay away from the chat about it until you’ve finished the book; it’d be an easy one to spoil and you’ll miss out on a lot of the fun if you know too much about it before reading it.

It’s available in Print, for Kindle or Nook, or via Audible.

What’s Coming Up in May?

hannah-coulterHannah Coulter by Wendell Berry

What’s it about? An elderly farmwife looks back on her life and world.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Nook | Audible | Goodreads
(Note that you can get the Audible version for a reduced price if you buy the Kindle version first.)

See all the books we’ll be reading in 2017 here.


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Introducing March’s Book Club Selection: Emma

emmaEmma by Jane Austen

What’s It About?

(Description from Goodreads)

Beautiful, clever, rich – and single – Emma Woodhouse is perfectly content with her life and sees no need for either love or marriage. Nothing, however, delights her more than interfering in the romantic lives of others. But when she ignores the warnings of her good friend Mr. Knightley and attempts to arrange a suitable match for her protegee Harriet Smith, her carefully laid plans soon unravel and have consequences that she never expected.

With its imperfect but charming heroine and its witty and subtle exploration of relationships, Emma is often seen as Jane Austen’s most flawless work.

Why Was This Title Selected

I wanted one classic for the year, and I’m curious to see how this one compares with Pride and Prejudice.

Anything Else to Know About It?

The discussion will begin soon in the Facebook group, and you’re welcome to come and join us.

It’s available in Print, for Kindle or Nook, or via Audible. And you can get the Audible version for a reduced price if you buy the Kindle version first. You can also listen for free from Librivox.

What’s Coming Up in April?

dark-matterDark Matter by Blake Crouch

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Nook | Audible | Goodreads

See all the books we’ll be reading in 2017 here.


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Introducing February’s Book Club Selection: Moloka’i

molokaiMoloka’i by Alan Brennert

What’s It About?

(Description from Goodreads)

This richly imagined novel, set in Hawai’i more than a century ago, is an extraordinary epic of a little-known time and place—and a deeply moving testament to the resiliency of the human spirit.

Rachel Kalama, a spirited seven-year-old Hawaiian girl, dreams of visiting far-off lands like her father, a merchant seaman. Then one day a rose-colored mark appears on her skin, and those dreams are stolen from her. Taken from her home and family, Rachel is sent to Kalaupapa, the quarantined leprosy settlement on the island of Moloka’i. Here her life is supposed to end—but instead she discovers it is only just beginning.

Why Was This Title Selected

Rave reviews from trusted sources, and an unusual setting made this my historical fiction pick for the year. I’ve been excited to dive into it!

Anything Else to Know About It?

The discussion will begin soon in the Facebook group, and you’re welcome to come and join us.

It’s available in Print, for Kindle or Nook, or via Audible. And if you buy the Kindle version first, you can get the Audible version for only $3.99.

What’s Coming Up in March?

emmaEmma by Jane Austen

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Nook | Audible | Goodreads

And a heads-up: you can get the Audible version for a reduced price if you buy the Kindle version first. You can also listen for free from Librivox.

See all the books we’ll be reading in 2017 here.


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

2017 Book Club Selections

the-deliberate-reader-2017-book-club-selections

It’s only November, but it’s time to look ahead to next year’s book club! Like this year, we’ll be discussing each month’s book in our closed Facebook group. You’re welcome to join us for one month or all twelve.


January

animal-vegetable-miracleAnimal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

Why did I select it? I wanted a discussable nonfiction title, and this one seemed like a fun way to start the year. Plus it’s been on my to be read stack for years.

What’s it about? Following a move from Arizona to Appalachia, Kingsolver spends a year focusing on a locally-produced diet and the provenance of everything her family eats.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Nook | Audible | Goodreads

February

molokaiMoloka’i by Alan Brennert

Why did I select it? Fantastic reviews, and it’s an unusual setting. Last year’s historical fiction book took us to Iceland, so this year we’ll warm up in Hawaii.

What’s it about? A seven-year-old Hawaiian girl who contracts leprosy and is quarantined on the island of Moloka’i during the 1890s.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Nook | Audible | Goodreads
And a heads-up: you can get the Audible version for a reduced price if you buy the Kindle version first.

March

emmaEmma by Jane Austen

Why did I select it? It’s a classic, and I’ve never read it. I wanted one classic novel for the year, and wanted it to be one that I wouldn’t have to force myself to read. I think Austen should work for that. 🙂

What’s it about? As daughter of the richest, most important man in the small provincial village of Highbury, Emma Woodhouse is firmly convinced that it is her right–perhaps even her “duty”–To arrange the lives of others.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Nook | Audible | Goodreads

And a heads-up: you can get the Audible version for a reduced price if you buy the Kindle version first. You can also listen for free from Librivox.


April

dark-matterDark Matter by Blake Crouch

Why did I select it? Science fiction/thriller to add some variety to the year. I’ve also tried to mostly pick books that have been out for a year or two (to make it easier to find them at the library), but thought it would be fun to have one newer one on the list. This is that one, as it just released this year.

What’s it about? An ordinary man is kidnapped, knocked unconscious–and awakens in a world inexplicably different from the reality he thought he knew.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Nook | Audible | Goodreads

May

hannah-coulterHannah Coulter by Wendell Berry

Why did I select it? Our literary fiction pick for the year, and because I’ve been wanting to get to one of Berry’s books.

What’s it about? An elderly farmwife looks back on her life and world.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Nook | Audible | Goodreads

And a heads-up: you can get the Audible version for a reduced price if you buy the Kindle version first.


June

UprootedUprooted by Naomi Novik

Why did I select it? The year’s fantasy option, chosen because Jessica raved over it. It was also surprisingly difficult to find a stand-alone fantasy novel – so many of the ones I was finding were series reads (or at least trilogies), and I didn’t want to choose one that wouldn’t be complete in one book.

What’s it about? Agnieszka’s native village of Dvernik is menaced by something in the surrounding woods, protected only by the local sorcerer. Every decade he chooses a village girl to serve him. Agnieszka is about to find out what happens to those girls during their years of service.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Nook | Audible | Goodreads

And a heads-up: you can get the Audible version for a reduced price if you buy the Kindle version first.


July

true-gritTrue Grit by Charles Portis

Why did I select it? I’ve never read a western, so I thought it’d be fun to try one. This one appears on a lot of “best of” lists, and if we’re only going to read one, I want it to be a good one.

What’s it about? Fourteen-year-old Mattie Ross recounts the time when she sought retribution for her father’s murder.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Nook | Audible | Goodreads

And a heads-up: you can get the Audible version for a reduced price if you buy the Kindle version first.


August

the-diamond-ageThe Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson

Why did I select it? The year needed a science fiction selection, and Stephenson’s novel was highly recommended to introduce the genre to non-science fiction readers.

What’s it about? A young girl named Nell grows up in a future world in which nanotechnology affects all aspects of life.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Nook | Audible | Goodreads

And a heads-up: you can get the Audible version for a reduced price if you buy the Kindle version first.


September

plainsongPlainsong by Kent Haruf

Why did I select it? Contemporary fiction that turned up on a lot of recommended reading lists, as well as some lists specifically geared towards book clubs.

What’s it about? The interwoven lives of a community in Colorado.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Nook | Audible | Goodreads

And a heads-up: you can get the Audible version for a reduced price if you buy the Kindle version first.


October

funny-in-farsiFunny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas

Why did I select it? I wanted one memoir for the year, about someone not American or English, and not have it be completely gut-wrenching in subject matter. This ended up being a last-minute substitution when my original pick turned out to be a novel, based on true events.

What’s it about? Describes struggles with culture shock after Firoozeh’s family moved from Iran to America when she was 7 years old

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Nook | Audible | Goodreads

And a heads-up: you can get the Audible version for a reduced price if you buy the Kindle version first.


November

ordinary-graceOrdinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

Why did I select it? The year’s mystery selection. I wanted either a stand-alone or the first in a series. This is a stand-alone, although Kreuger does have a series as well.

What’s it about? Looking back at a tragic event that occurred during his thirteenth year, Frank Drum explores how a complicated web of secrets, adultery, and betrayal shattered his Methodist family and their small 1961 Minnesota community.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Nook | Audible | Goodreads

And a heads-up: you can get the Audible version for a reduced price if you buy the Kindle version first.


December

Swear on This LifeSwear on This Life by Renee Carlino

Why did I select it? This was the hardest category for me to select – light(ish) fiction. I didn’t want complete fluff, but did want an easy to read pick (filling the role Big Little Lies did in 2016). I’m hoping this is a fun choice to wrap up the year.

What’s it about? A struggling writer must come to grips with her past, present, and future after she discovers that she’s the inspiration for a pseudonymously published bestselling novel.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Nook | Audible | Goodreads

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

2017-the-deliberate-reader-book-club-choices

Planning for 2017’s Book Club

book club planning

The Original Plan

In a post not long ago, I mentioned the planning I had done about possible books for my in-person book club to read in 2017. And I mentioned the next step was a survey for everyone to vote on what they wanted.

However, as I made the survey (and was reminded just. how. long. it. was) I couldn’t help but realize that for most people (i.e., everyone who isn’t obsessive about book possibilities like me), it was going to be completely overwhelming.

So. Rethinking things I realized that the main reason I wanted to pick all the books for that book club in advance was so I could be sure to pick different books for my Facebook book club. As last year there was a strong preference by everyone to know all the titles for the year in advance, I wanted to do that again. And that didn’t *really* require the in-person group to decide everything first.

New Plan

I will go ahead and pick what I want for my Facebook book club. My in-person book club will continue to pick books on a shorter lead time (although at least 3 months out, to provide plenty of time for everyone to acquire and read the books).

I’ve got a good start on that plan, and hope to announce those picks in late November, so anyone joining in will have all of December to read January’s pick.

Looking Ahead at 2017’s Books

As with this year’s selections, I’m intentionally picking books that I have *not* read, but am trying to read enough about them to ensure they’re going to be good discussion options.

Also like this year, I’m aiming for a mix of genres, and I think my biggest struggles so far has been picking the ONE option for various genres. I have two Science Fiction books that both seem like they’d be great – which one to choose? I have about 8 Fantasy possibilities, and need to really look into them to decide which will be selected. I’m scared to even do a final count of all of the Historical Fiction I’m considering – it’s a lot.


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

Three years ago: Book Review: WorkShift

A Book Club Dinner Party

Last Thursday was my in-person book club’s annual dinner party, one of my favorite nights of the year.

This year our book was My Life in France, so of course we had a French-themed dinner!

My Life in France dinner party meal(photo credit: Janet McKnight)

We had beef bourguignon & garlic mashed potatoes, asparagus with hollandaise, Provencal tomatoes, green salad, and bread.

Plus macarons, chocolate cake, and wine. 🙂

It was, as always, a lovely evening.

While we don’t always match the menu to the book, it worked well this month, and it added quite a bit to the appreciation of the book to actually taste some of the items she described in it.

The only downside to the dinner party is I find we rarely discuss the book much, and I’m always happy that typically our book club actually discusses our books. We chatted briefly about the book, and the reality of trying to cook meals like that, but mostly we just socialized. By now we know that’s likely to happen at this meeting, and we choose our book for the month accordingly. 😉

It is a lovely book however, so don’t take our lack of discussion about it to mean that it’s not worth reading. It absolutely is, and you can read more about my thoughts on it in my original post about it from 2012.


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

Four years ago today I started this blog – thank you all so much for reading it!
Two years ago: Magic in the Mix
Three years ago: First Blog Birthday
Four years ago: Welcome to The Deliberate Reader

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

2017 Planning: How We’re Selecting Our Book Club Choices for 2017

The last few weeks I’ve been obsessing over possible book club choices for next year.

I think sometimes I like the planning almost as much as the actual reading – all that potential, and the wonderful possibilities that there are!

Planning for Book Club Choices

Step One: Begin with All The Books

I started with the master list of book possibilities that we’ve kept for years (and a refresh about what books we’ve already read). Next we asked for suggestions from other members. Then I went digging through reference guides and book lists I’ve been compiling. I paid a visit to my own blog posts for fiction and nonfiction possibilities to refresh my memory as to books worth trying.

Step Two: Show Some Restraint, and Reduce it to a Reasonable Level

That’s when it became lots of fun for me. I started grouping possibilities into themed units, for voting purposes. Instead of having a list of 100 books, it becomes a more manageable list – here are a few classics; which one would you like to read? Here are a few historical fiction titles; which one do you like best?

I ended up re-configuring the groupings multiple times, trying to keep things fairly balanced between the groups, with a nice mix of themes and types of books.

One note of clarification: I still have the master list with all.the.books listed. We’ll look at that next year when it’s time to decide on books for 2018. Only if we decide that we are definitely NOT going to read a book does it get deleted off that list.

Step Three: Collect the Votes!

Ultimately I finished with 16 groups, with 3 or 4 choices in each group. Next up for me is to make the actual survey and send it out to the club members.

As part of the survey, not only am I asking everyone to pick their favorite(s) from each grouping, I’m asking them to select which groups they actually want to read. We don’t want to pick a fantasy novel (even if everyone votes for the same one) if no one really wants to read a fantasy novel!

Step Four: Make the Final Decisions

Once the votes are in, we’ll look over them all and see what the members requested. And at that point we’ll start figuring out when the books best fit in our book club calendar!

Next week (?) I plan to share the list of books I’m sending out to members for voting consideration. I’m excited about the possibilities and wish we could read all of them!


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Bookroo: A Bookish Subscription Service

Introducing August’s Book Club Selection: Climbing the Mango Trees

Climbing the Mango TreesClimbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in IndiaClimbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India by Madhur Jaffrey by Madhur Jaffrey

What It’s About

Description from Goodreads:

Today’s most highly regarded writer on Indian food gives us an enchanting memoir of her childhood in Delhi in an age and a society that has since disappeared.

Madhur (meaning “sweet as honey”) Jaffrey grew up in a large family compound, where her grandfather often presided over dinners at which forty or more members of his extended family would savor together the wonderfully flavorful dishes that were forever imprinted on Madhur’s palate.

Climbing mango trees in the orchard, armed with a mixture of salt, pepper, ground chilies, and roasted cumin; picnicking in the Himalayan foothills on meatballs stuffed with raisins and mint and tucked into freshly fried pooris; sampling the heady flavors in the lunch boxes of Muslim friends; sneaking tastes of exotic street fare–these are the food memories Madhur Jaffrey draws on as a way of telling her story. Independent, sensitive, and ever curious, as a young girl she loved uncovering her family’s many-layered history, and she was deeply affected by their personal trials and by the devastating consequences of Partition, which ripped their world apart.

Climbing the Mango Trees is both an enormously appealing account of an unusual childhood and a testament to the power of food to evoke memory. And, at the end, this treasure of a book contains a secret ingredient–more than thirty family recipes recovered from Madhur’s childhood, which she now shares with us.

Why Was This Title Selected

I was looking for a memoir with a non-US focus. This one had been languishing on my TBR list for several years, and it seemed like it would provide some good discussion fodder. Why this one in particular? I almost always love food memoirs, and hoped others would enjoy that element as well.

Anything Else to Know About It?

Madhur Jaffrey is credited for being the one to introduce Indian cuisine to the West through her 1973 cookbook, An Introduction to Indian Cookery. She’s also an award-winning actress.

Discussion about the book is starting today, but if you’d like to join in the first few questions will be very general, and you’ll have time to catch up by the time we get into anything substantive. It’s available in print, for Kindle, or Nook, or on Audible. And a heads-up: you can get the Audible version for a reduced price if you buy the Kindle version first.

What’s Coming Up in August?

Burial RitesBurial RitesBurial Rites by Hannah Kent by Hannah Kent

Why did I select it? I’ve been eyeing it, and then Audible included it on a list as one of their titles that has near perfect narration ratings. That seemed like an extra bonus to choosing it from my list of possible historical fiction titles. Two additional reasons: Iceland is not my usual sort of setting, and I always love reading fiction that’s been inspired by real events.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads

And a heads-up: you can get the Audible version for a reduced price if you buy the Kindle version first.


See all the books we’ll be reading in 2016 here.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!