Thursday, December 4, 2014

Book Club Business: What to Suggest? 2014 edition

It is a about this time of year when people start asking for ideas for books to suggest for their book clubs for the upcoming year.  Not only do several Facebook status updates show up on my feed, but I have a number of people who ask me directly for books I think their clubs might enjoy.

I've already posted about what I'll most likely suggest for my book club, but I thought I'd put a list together of books I've read this year that I think would make good discussion fodder.  I did not absolutely enjoy each and every book on this list, and not every book that I went gaga over ended up on this list, but I think this is a good place to start if you just don't have a clue what to suggest.

I'm only including books that I've read (and, in a couple of cases, re-read) from January - November 2014 and are listed in the order that I read them.  Some of the books were released this year and others are a bit older.

Etched on Me by Jenn Crowell
This is a bit of tough one to read, but well worth it.  It deals with a number of issues around mental illness and Corwell hits the nail on the head with it.  It does strike me as absolutely crazy that Crowell is a Pacific Northwesterner and not a Brit--but that's just a testament as to how well she developed the voice of this book.

The Wives of Los Alamos by TaraShea Nesbit
This is one that I was a little lukewarm on, but I still think would lend itself to some great discussion.  Also, it seems that I'm in the minority about my feelings in the book.  The viewpoint of this book, the plural first-person, might be a roadblock to some readers, but it is definitely unique.

West of the Moon by Margi Preus
This is a middle-grade to young adult book, which might automatically cross it off some lists, but it is definitely worth the read.  It has a fantastic heroine, a fast-paced plot, and a bit of magic realism thrown into the mix.  Plus, it is a quicker read than some of the books on this list, which might lend itself well to a summer selection or for the month after you read War and Peace.

The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi
This book was nominated, and made it to the finals, of the Goodreads best book of the year in both the Best Fiction and Best Author Debut categories, but I still think it hasn't yet received the recognition it deserves.  This is a beautifully heart-breaking novel about 2 Afghani women, separated by about 100 years, and the trials they face.  It is both timely and timeless and a definite must for people who enjoy the books of Khaled Hosseini.

Evergreen by Rebecca Rasmussen
If your group likes character-driven novels, this one should be right up your alley.  It's a quiet book in that there isn't a lot of "big" moments in the book, but the prose can't be beat.  It's a great novel to discuss family and secrets.

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
Hurry and read this one before the movie comes out!  I actually don't know when that is supposed to be, so you probably have time--but don't put it off.  This is based on a true story and is brought to life in the most heart-wrenching way.  All the accolades for this book are well-deserved.  That being said, if they plan to stick with Jennifer Lawrence playing Agnes, I hope they wait for about 20 years to make the movie when she's actually the right age for the character!

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
This one was actually suggested as a possibility for my book club last year and wasn't picked up, so it might show up again for this year.  It's a tear-jerker folks.  Seriously, if you make it through this book with a dry eye, you do not have a soul.  I think it is probably especially poignant for mothers, so if you have a lot of those in your group, be sure to stock up on tissues.

Wake by Anna Hope
This one deals with the aftermath of war, specifically on the women (in this's a historical novel set after World War I).  This one really gave me much to think about when I hear of young men and women heading into combat now and I really believe that this book is one that should be read with an eye on the modern world.

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell
Have you ever read a book about hoarding?  Well, if not, here you go!  However, lest you think this book is TLC material, I assure you that it is well worth the read.  Jewell does an excellent job of developing the family at the center of the novel and chronicling the mother's descent into a full-blown illness (which is what it is) that I couldn't put it down.

I Shall Be Near To You by Erin Lindsay McCabe
When I read this, I stated that this might be my favorite book of 2014.  It definitely still holds the title for best novel of the year for me, and is right there with Amy Poehler for best book.  This is another historical novel (yes,I know this list is historical-fiction heavy, but that is what I read most), this time set during the Civil War where a woman passes herself as a man to follow her husband into battle, a scenario that was surprisingly common.  This book could have been a sappy romance, but McCabe was able to rise above that and write something that is so much more.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
This is definitely one of the "it" books this year and I think you'll hear quite a bit about it for a while, so I won't go into too much detail other than its Historical Fiction (surprise!) set, mostly in France, during World War II.  The two main characters, a young German soldier and a blind French girl, are captivating and the story is sublime.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
I've now done this book in 3 different book clubs and it has been a success every time.  This is a definite must for lovers of literature, especially those who are on Team Bronte (any of the Brontes will work).  It's very dark and twisty, so I recomend discussing it in October!

Juliet's Nurse by Lois Leveen
I think it is almost unfair to say that this is a re-telling of Romeo and Juliet.  Instead, it is a fantastic (historical, again) novel that happens to have as its main character a woman who also shows up in Romeo and Juliet.  Since I think everyone is more than familiar with Shakespeare's star-crossed lovers, everyone should come into this book from the same knowledge point, which is helpful in book clubs.  It's a fun read and one that evokes a bit of a story we all know, but is its own work at the same time.

Yes, Please! by Amy Poehler
Up until this book, I could have said that these were the best novels to suggest--the fact that this list is so fiction-heavy is purely coincidental.  However, I have no choice but to break the fiction-streak and include this book.  Yes, it's a funny (okay, outright hilarious) book.  But it's also completely thought-provoking.  It recently won the Goodreads Award for best Humor book of 2014 and, while that is a well-earned award, I almost feel it should have won Best Memoir as well.  Heck, maybe it should have won Best Business book!  Let's just say it is the best book of the year, okay?  This was one of these books that actually impacted the way I think about myself and the world and one I think everyone should read--or listen to.  As I said in my review, this is a case where I would recommend audio over long as you have have headphones!

So, there you have it...a handful of suggestions to get you going.  Of course, these are only the books I read last year--I had to limit it somehow or this list would never end.  If you are in a book club, I'd love to hear what your 2015 books are.  Once my club's schedule is finalized, I'll share it with you all!

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