Monday, April 16, 2012

Book Clubbed

Book Club was a little bit of a dud tonight. There were only five of us there, and only three people had finished the book, The Tiger's Wife. I was not one of those people, I'm about half through it. I'm finding it absorbing, though not as absorbing as I wish it were. I will have more to say when I'm finished because I do want to stick with it longer.

But I guess I am a lazy reader, or one kind of lazy reader, because when I'm reading a book that doesn't totally grab me, my mind wanders to a similar book that I would rather be reading, usually one that treats the same material and that I've read in the past.

So when I was reading that execrable Hotel of Bitter and Sweet book for my first book club meeting, I thought fondly of Snow Falling on Cedars and wished we were learning about the Japanese-American experience during WWII through that lens instead.

And reading Tiger's Wife, so far, makes me nostalgic for The Historian, which also has the family romance, grief and loss, and the persistence of folkloric beliefs into contemporary life, but also a tight, intriguing plot.

Next month we're reading Unbroken, which I hear people are loving but I am suspicious of as I don't like to be bossed around by inspirational reading. (But it will probably be awesome.)

Then the NEXT month we're reading The Wedding Gift, which I am really looking forward to, but which I am afraid will make someone in that room start talking about how slavery wasn't always so bad as we've been told. I wish I were kidding you, but I am not. Maybe this is no longer a regional thing, maybe there are apologists for slavery everywhere, but...argle bargle, this isn't where I wanted this post to go.

So, please, leave a comment and tell me the number one book you've read lately that you would recommend, and tell us something about it. I am looking for things that are very plotted and fun, but not light, you know what I mean? Like, I read that book Violets of March last year, expecting to really like it because it involves an old diary and a mystery, and it was just too easy and shallow. Maybe that isn't my genre. I think of it as too Nights in Rodanthe-ish even though I have never seen the film of Nights in Rodanthe or read the book. I am unfair that way. But you know, a woman who is hurting over something goes to some beautiful house owned by a well-to-do relative who has the decency to not really be around much, and she wears baggy pants there and holds her coffee mug with both hands.

Which sounds like a wonderful way to spend some time, actually.

But all the loose pants and baggy sweaters and adirondack chairs and solitary walks cause the cold, cold stone of her heart to thaw just a little.

Okay I was going to go on but I'm boring even myself.

So speak up about the books.



Bonnie said...

I was captivated by Unbroken -- a truly amazing story. Tiger's Wife, not so much...

Keely said...

I haven't finished Tiger's Wife either. It's just not grabbing me. I enjoy the writing, but I wandered off.

My last really good standalone read (ie, not Game of Thrones or similar) was the Night Circus.

Steve said...

I really liked Unbroken, although it did drag a bit. Probably would have been better if it was 25% shorter.

Just finished reading Killing Lincoln by Bill O'Reilly. Once I got past my complete lack of respect for Mr. O'Reilly, I enjoyed the book immensely. I suspect Martin Dugard wrote it and Bill just slapped his name on the cover then patted himself on the back. Anyway, even knowing the eventual outcome, it was a gripping book. Not a fan of history, but I could not put this book down!

Christian said...

Living in a foreign country where I don't speak the language is fundamentally changing my relationship with books. Reading for pleasure is vital for survival in way it hasn't been since I was a dramatic, moody, isolated, and unhappy teenager, because all the language around me (and there's so much visual, textual and aural noise in Seoul) is totally inaccessible to me. Not being bothered by signs and advertisements and small talk and overhearing is liberating and isolating. But it's not like I'm reading "War & Peace." I plowed through the Millennium Trilogy and LOVED it in a way I suspect I wouldn't have back in the US.

AlGalMom said...

Whoa, I haven't met a slavery apologist yet. That will officially blow my mind, if & when it happens.

I have read some extremely entertaining books lately but they are all classified as juvenile fiction, and probably don't meet the requirement of "not light." A couple of years ago I read & enjoyed "Take this Bread" by Sara Miles. Very engaging read, extremely challenging subject matter.

Have you read any Jonathan Safran Foer? "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" is gripping and not light at all. It messed me up for a while, but he is an amazing writer.

I heard the author of "Escape from Camp 14" (Blaine Harden) interviewed on NPR and that book sounds pretty terribly interesting.

And, I know none of them are acceptable book club selections, but if I were queen and everyone had to come to my book club, I would include Lilith &/or Phantastes by George MacDonald and Manalive by GK Chesterton.

Lisa Lilienthal said...

I liked Unbroken, but just thought it was a little long/slow in parts. This is not a new one but the book that has stayed with me the longest over the last couple of years is Cutting for Stone -- I absolutely could not put it down, and couldn't stop thinking about it. In the memoir category, a new one called Rules of Inheritance by Claire Bidwell Smith was great -- raw and a little edgy, refined by graceful writing. (disclaimer: she's a writer friend of mine but I liked her writing before I knew her). And you might have already discussed the whole Hunger Games trilogy -- I was floored by how much I enjoyed them. I was afraid they were so much Twilight redux (which I haven't read) but I am pretty sure they weren't. And there's always Lee Child; I know you love him and I put T. Jefferson Parker in that same category and very much enjoy his books.

Elizabeth said...

That Rodanthe movie was easily one of the stupidest movies I've ever seen, and while I'm an unabashed literary and film snob, I'm not afraid to say it. It was that bad.

"The Family Fang" was the last novel I read that I really, really liked. It's sort of a like a Wes Anderson movie on the page -- great plot, albeit weird, with terrific characters and really, really good writing. Other than that, the best book I've read this year, so far, is a nonfiction story called "The Hare with Amber Eyes."

Nina said...

Like AlGalMom, I've yet to encounter a slavery apologist. But I don't know how much of that is down to many Brits feeling like slavery was something you horrible Americans did. We've certainly got plenty of people openly expressing nostalgia for the days of Empire. Some of them are even given their own BBC TV programmes.

I make no attempt to keep up with new books so I read Iris Murdoch's first novel, 'Under The Net', not long ago. To begin with I wasn't totally gripped but I really got into it and now I find myself thinking back to it a lot. I wouldn't call it 'light', even though it did involve martial arts and a canine movie star.

Amy said...

Ooh, yes, Cutting For Stone, ditto.

This year, The Way The Crow Flies (Ann-Marie McDonald). As for Unbroken, well, not so much as everyone else; same for The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

We are in a long string of real downer books in my club, so will keep an eye on this comment thread for engaging and uplifting. xoxo

Jess said...

My absolute favorite book is The Other Boleyn Girl, though it doesn't sound like the type of book your club reads. Another one I loved (and I totally judged this one by it's cover, it was beautiful) was Those who Save us, by Jenna Blum.

Sierra said...

I just finished reading Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood for my book club meeting this month. Definitely not light, but a pretty interesting dystopian/speculative fiction look at a genetic engineering apocalypse. I also read Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey somebody, the same woman who wrote The Time Travel's Wife (Niffenberg maybe?). It was unusual, but somehow incredibly entertaining.

Rick Dakan said...

Clearly the next book you need to read is March Violets by Philip Kerr, the first in his Berlin Noire series...

Juliet Grossman said...

The last really great book I read was Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart (love him!) It might be a little long for a book club choice, though.

Beth said...

Ooooh, I love these posts where I get lots of reading suggestions for myself.

i'm afraid I don't have any good ones for you, though. I just finished reading another YA series, The Maze Runner, and while the first one was pretty good I wouldn't really recommend it. I did read all three, so I suppose that says something, but it certainly was no Hunger Games. I've also read some great non-fiction lately, like The Power of Habit, which I highly recommend but I'm not sure it's a book club book.

I also just started Drop Dead Healthy by AJ Jacobs; I loved The Know It All and I find him hilarious so I can't wait to read this one. I think, Becky, that you'd also enjoy it. Have you read any of his stuff?

Did you ever get to Discovery of Witches?

Aimee said...

Ooh, fun, books!

My recent loves:

Fall of Giants by Ken Follett. Love him. Love the sweeping saga of it all. WWI historical fiction. First in a trilogy.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. Worthy of the praise it's been receiving, in my mind.

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown. Enjoyable, but also made me thankful for the fabu relationship I have with my own sister.

And of course, Game of Thrones et al.

Adding everything you mentioned to my Goodreads list...thanks!

StephB said...

Felt the exact same - Tiger's Wife didn't draw me in. Our Book Club loved Unbroken. It's one of the we all had finished and were dying to discuss. Have you read The Alchemist? Oh, my, fantastic!
BTW - I think we are "nearby neighbors". Not a creepy stalker. Just realized that your blogs were very familiar. :)

Cassi Renee said...

I'll give another shout-out for Her Fearful Symmetry. That was a good book. Another one I really liked was The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. It is really well written and is a gripping story. Especially for people who love books in a general way.

Another book I read a long time ago that I remember really enjoying was Smilla's Sense of Snow.

Lately I've had a run of not-so-great books, until just recently reading A Game of Thrones.

Veronica said...

Love all these suggestions -- putting some on my library request list! In my daze of graduate school reading, I somehow missed Middlesex, and so am reading that now. Love it, but I'm sure everyone and their mother has already loved & talked about that one.

etheljr said...

I really liked The Marriage Plot. You will get all the literary references without looking them up, no doubt. Unbroken was a hit with my book club too. I love all the suggestions in your comments for books, and will check out The Wedding Gift. Loved In the Garden of Beasts. Oh, and I read 50 Shades. Ouch.

Dancer said...

I recently read Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen, which I liked and which definitly made me curious about Allens work.

Leigh said...

I'm seconding The Family Fang, it was intriguing. And I finished The Marriage Plot recently and am still thinking about how I feel about it, which I suppose is a good thing for a book to do.

Last year I read The Art of Fielding due to all the buzz about it, and I LOVED it. It's not the type of book I usually read but it was incredibly well-written. The last two books I finished were Wild by Cheryl Strayed (a memoir, very compelling) and Defending Jacob which is a legal/murder mystery and which had me thoroughly absorbed until the very end. I'd recommend them both, although I don't know if book clubs do mysteries?

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure you're describing a Danielle Steele book there. One with horses & a divorce? Yes.

I think the last book of fiction I read was Super Sad True Love Story, although I am pretty sure I did not finish it. It is hard for me to really engage with fiction, because the fact is: it's just made-up, and when I get to the end, I won't have learned a single fact about anything. It's hard for me to keep going, bc in the quest of what, yk?

Fergus Bordewich wrote an excellent, excellent book about the Underground Railroad that should arm you plenty against any slavery apologists you could encounter.

Anonymous said...

It's the first thing I thought of when I read what you wrote, this memory of plane-reading this book as a teen. xo

Mary B. said...

Oooh, "Under the Net." Bravely done. Murdoch's first. Lovely.

Since so many have mentioned it, I have to warn you that the Game of Thrones series is addicting. Beautifully written and dark, with just enough light and hope to keep you reading.

And I liked both "The Marriage Plot" and "Love and Shame and Love" by Peter Orner.

Jane said...

I'm not sure if you read fantasy, but I recently enjoyed Darkborn by Allison Sinclair. The cover looks like a YA, but it's pretty deep and adult. I'm not 100% sure it's your thing, but I think it might work for you.

I'll also offer an unqualified recommendation for The Eight, by Katherine Neville. I never actually finished it (because I am truly an appallingly lazy reader), but while I was reading it, I kept thinking, "This is a book for Becky."