Top Ten Tuesday: Book Club Picks

Today’s prompt for Top Ten Tuesday is books we think would be good for book clubs.  Visions of Oprah dance in my head, because really, the only other book club I’ve attempted to participate in fizzled and died after two books, one of which I never read.  The group was on Facebook, which may have been part of the problem.

So what this really boils down to is what books do I want everyone else to read?  That’s easy.  The problem is figuring out which ones a broad range of people might actually enjoy.  So, instead of foaming at the mouth about how everyone should read everything Ray Bradbury has every written, I’ll try to make a list with wider appeal.

(Disclaimer: some of these actually are book club picks.)

1.  “Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen.  A likable protagonist, a creepy villain (I never saw the movie but I’m confident Cristoph Weitz was the perfect choice), and a detail-rich Depression-era circus setting.  I had my doubts since this book was one of those books that everyone and their mom (but mostly the moms) was reading, but I really enjoyed it.

2. “Memoirs of a Geisha” by Arthur Golden.  Fun fact: geishas aren’t prostitutes, although geishas-in-training funded their schooling by having their virginities auctioned off.  That’s one of many details about Japanese culture you’ll learn in this elegant book, set as WWII is about to break out.

3. “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood.  For me, a book club would be a return to the small-group discussions from college days, which I sometimes really miss, especially when reading something heavy like “Handmaid’s Tale” (or “The Road,” ack) that I really just want to analyze.

4. “The Namesake” by Jhumpa Lahiri.  Lahiri writes beautifully and tells beautiful, poignant stories, as evidenced by the fact that her first-ever publication (“Interpreter of Maladies”) won a Pulitzer.  “Namesake” is, on the surface, the story of an Indian immigrant family and their son as they all adjust to their cultural differences, but even someone who’s lived in the same country their whole life can relate to the relationship intricacies that Lahiri creates: husbands and wives, parents and children, boyfriends and girlfriends, extended families, etc.  This is one of my favorite books from college and it introduced me to one of my all-time favorite authors.

5. “Watchmen” by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.  This ain’t your ordinary book-club read, but it’s exploding with symbolism and imagery.  I’ve read it three times and every time I notice new things.

6. “The Mists of Avalon” by Marion Zimmer Bradley.  Again, not your ordinary book-club read.  “Mists of Avalon” is an enormous book that follows the Arthurian saga through the eyes of its female characters.  I have trouble with this book being called “feminist literature” because I don’t think its female characters are  very well developed (see essay here), but in general it’s beautifully written and presents an interesting take on the saga.  Good for fantasy nerds and history buffs alike.

7. “My Name Is Mary Sutter” by Robin Oliveira. A slightly lighter pick for the feminist-minded book club.  Mary Sutter is a midwife who aspires to be a surgeon during the American Civil War and encounters almost every possible loss and obstacle to get there.  Oliveira did incredibly thorough research and the descriptions of everything from upstate New York to the battlefield to a birth are vividly described (sometimes almost too vividly).  It would bring up great discussions of family loyalty, love and relationships, women in medicine, and the politics and human cost of the Civil War.

8. “The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society” by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer.  Fun fact: I didn’t realize the title had the word “pie” in it until I was about ten pages into the book and someone mentioned potato peel pie.  It simply had not registered.  Mind blown.  Anyway, I’m nearly finish with this book and I’ve loved every page.  It’s told as a collection of letters between the characters, which means plot details drop at unexpected times, and the story it tells is fantastically unique.  It unveils a dark, little-known chapter of WWII in a realistic, non-preachy way, something “Sarah’s Key” attempted and failed at.

9. “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee.  I don’t think you’re ever too old for this book, especially once you reach the age when you can appreciate Gregory Peck in the movie version (rowr).  As books that address racism go, this one is an easy but effective read, and it’s still rife with possible interpretations.

10. Because I want a book club in which I can finally read it…“The Help” by Kathryn Stockett.  I still haven’t read this, and I’m sure I’m going to want to wade into the racial issues it brings up, especially because it’s told via a white protagonist.

What books did you read in a book club that stood out for you?  What would you want to discuss?

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3 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Book Club Picks

  1. I’m in a book club currently, and I’m glad we’ve been able to keep it going for the past year and a half or so. We’re primarily a YA book club, although we have deviated a bit from time to time, and I have to say that one of my favorite reads of ours was Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. It’s such a classic, and is so special to most of the other girls in the book club, but this was my first time reading it, and I felt like I was in amazing company, to be able to share my first-time experience with all these diehard fans.

    You should try and get another one going among friends! I have to drive an hour every time our club meets up because they all live in the Bay Area, but it’s totally worth it for the company and the book-talking.

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