The Un-Book Club

If you don’t belong to a book club but wish you did, welcome to my ever-growing list of suggestions.

 

The Weight of Ink
by Rachel Kadish

I haven’t read a book this good in a long time. Recommended by my friend Joan, I stuck it out even though I had a hard time getting into it. It’s a very well researched historical fiction that is incredibly interesting. I learned so much. It’s got beautifully developed characters from the 17th century juxtaposed against present day ones, all set in London. The. Best. Book!

 

The Orchardist
by Amanda Coplin

This was very enjoyable. The subject is a bit dark, but the writing so beautiful, so masterly. It’s like Little House on the Prairie meets All the Pretty Horses. Recommend!

 

Bel Canto
by Ann Patchett

I loved Bel Canto—a story about a party, an opera singer, and an international guest list, all taken hostage by guerrillas! Ann is one of my favorite authors. And I’m surprised how varied her books are. Different times, places, subjects that have a very different mood. So good.

 

The Mars Room
by Rachel Kushner

I read a review of The Mars Room somewhere…and it sounded good. I didn’t get to finish it because I checked it out of the ‘library’ through Libby and my loan ran out before I could read all of it. I’m undecided about whether or not I want to finish it. It’s pretty heavy and maybe not for me. Has anyone else read this?

 

Commonwealth
by Ann Patchett

Commonwealth is absolutely my kind of book. I love the writing: smart but not too smart, the vivid descriptions that transport you into the story with an interesting time and place and comic/tragic characters and story. Loved it.

 

Firefly Lane
by Kristen Hannah

I really thought I would like Firefly Lane since I loved The Nightingale, but the writing was … painful. It’s the story of two girls/women and how their lives divert but their friendship endures, which sounds like a solid winner but it was so Young Adult and ridiculous I suffered all the way through. Sorry, Kristen. 🙁

 

Debriefing
by Susan Sontag

I don’t even know why I got Debriefing as a gift. I don’t remember putting it on a wish list or ever mentioning that I like Susan Sontag. I’d never read anything by her. This collection of fictional ‘essays’ was said to be unlike her other more well-known work. At first it seemed interesting. It was challenging and odd and artsy and weird which I really appreciated, but parts of it were so out there I couldn’t even understand what I was reading or why. Since it is a collection of very different stories I could put it down for long stretches while I read other things. I finally pushed through to the end and hoped it was somehow character-building. I will say it was a good antidote to the mind-numbing boredom of suburban existence.

 

Wonder
by R.J. Palacio

Well, actually, I read Wonder to my kids, but I’m including it because it was really good.

 

Codependent No More
by Melody Beattie

I read Codependent No More because someone recommended it to me recently and as I was about to say I already read it (in like 1994) I realized I might not have read more than the title page… So I decided to get it and actually find out what it says. This should probably be required reading in schools.

 

Manhattan Beach
by Jennifer Egan

Manhattan Beach had everything in it to be a good read: female protagonist, 1940s NYC, family secrets, mobsters, diving… yes, diving, but, it fell flat. I couldn’t understand why it didn’t feel like it ever ‘took off’. I had to read some reviews so I could understand why it was problematic and realize it wasn’t just me. I wanted to like it more but had to work to get through it.

 

Golden Son
by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Golden Son was delightful and I highly recommend it. You may think, I don’t have a great interest or love of Indian culture, but I don’t think that should stop you. It’s a story of two people from India with very different life paths and it was such a page turner. So beautiful.

 

Good Morning, Midnight
by Lily Brooks-Dalton

This surprised me. It seemed like it would be sad, not a good summer read but I really liked it. The language was so effortless—if that makes any sense. An astronomer stranded in the Arctic, an astronaut possibly stranded in space. A beautifully articulated book about loneliness and connection. It’s funny because I have this irrational fear of struggling to survive in extreme cold. I don’t know why. I can’t watch any movies about Everest or anything like that. I also get very stressed out when I think about being lost in space. We recently watch the reboot of Lost in Space on Netflix and I barely made it through. I’m also not a fan of the idea of the world ending. Probably just me.

 

A Gentleman in Moscow
by Amor Towels

Oh my gosh! I loved this book. It’s long but so good. It got me through the winter. I did a lot of reading it in the bath. It’s about a man, obviously, who in is put under lifetime house arrest at a hotel in the center of Moscow beginning in 1922 when he is a young man. I thought, what could happen while confined to one building that could be at all interesting? SO MUCH. This is my favorite book since The Goldfinch.

 

Night of the Animals
by Bill Broun

This is Animal Farm meets 12 Monkeys. Broun is American but has lived in England and some of the language is so English it hurt my brain. But seriously, I really enjoyed this book and found it extra fascinating because I actually know the author. This futuristic epic tale follows Cuthbert’s mental illness which drives him to release the animals in the London Zoo while a second protagonist, policewoman Astrid, with similar mental health challenges is charged with stopping him. I love when two character’s destinies converge.

 

The Year of Living Danishly
by Helen Russell

I love Scandinavian culture, so this account of a British transplant dealing with the culture shock of moving to Denmark was a two-fer. A completely separate tangent, but this led to me watching the fabulous series Hjørdis and then Rita on Netflix.

 

The Forgotten Garden
by Kate Morton

Having already read The Secret Keeper, I knew I would love this book which unravels the mystery of a little girl who travels alone by boat from England to Australia. The story line has us bouncing back and forth between present and past — 1900, 1913, 1975 and 2005. It is reminiscent of The Secret Garden, which I read and loved when I was little, but goes much deeper into complex family dynamics and history. I was so incredibly hooked. My favorite read all summer. (Note: I found this book in a little free library in Carversville, PA so double win!)

 

Born a Crime
by Trevor Noah

I grabbed this book one day at the library because I was heading to do one of these really-fun-for-the-kids-really-boring-for-the-moms thing and needed a book to read while they played. I’m trying to not be that person on their phone who’s ignoring everyone. I feel way cooler reading a book and ignoring people and this somewhat controversial title seemed like the perfect way to do that, so extra points for me.

I was somewhat unprepared for how heavy it would get. I should have known. But what an amazing story. So worth reading.

 

The Nightingale
by Kristin Hannah

I get a lot of recommendations from my aunt Cindy and she thought this one was so good and thought I would love it so much  that she ordered it on Amazon for me. We were talking about it at the Memorial Day picnic and the next thing I knew it was in my mailbox.

An epic page turner, told from the point of view of two french women living through WWII. I mean, I knew the war was bad but this made me feel like I personally lived it. And I gotta tell you, I was so mad at the Germans. The author really drives home the indignities endured, like having their priceless paintings taken and not having any coffee. Brutal.

But seriously, everyone should read this. It felt so significant to me at this time in our country’s history.

 

The Painted Drum
by Louise Erdrich

This book. It didn’t look that interesting at first. I couldn’t remember where I got it. Then I remembered: I read a review about it (probably in Marie Claire or Elle), put it on my Amazon wish list and then my lovely sister Missy bought it for me for my birthday. I finally go around to reading it. The initial plot is rich and dark and draws you in, but then it’s like a story within a story. It was so interesting, so unlike anything I’ve ever read. I won’t tell you anything else. Just read it.

 

Go Set a Watchman
by Harper Lee

The book takes place in the 1960s, in the south. Our beloved Scout is an adult now and visits her home town from New York City. The unrest of the Civil Rights movement is rising and she is confronted by some unpleasant attitudes toward blacks.

There are some rich, descriptive flashbacks to her childhood, robust character development and the creative and insightful writing style that Harper Lee is known for. I wish she had written more books during her life. I felt a connection to her or maybe to Jean Louise and enjoyed spending time with her.

Is it a good book? I don’t know. If you don’t compare it to Mockingbird? Maybe. I’m glad I read it. In the end I learned a great lesson. A lesson about myself and my convictions and confronting things that are unpleasant. With the political climate right now and the ideologies I encounter living where I do, it couldn’t have come at a better time.

 

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