A note from Flashlight Worthy:
Choosing the right book for a book club is no easy task. Not only does it have to be a very good book — and a very discussable book — but it has to be a book that no one else in the club has read. To find a book no one's read you can go one of two directions. Old and obscure... or brand spanking new. This list, obviously, focuses on the new. In fact, with only one exception, these books were published in 2009.
Next, how did we find these new books... that are very good... that are also very discussable? Easy. I consulted the experts. I asked a dozen excellent book bloggers (most of whom focus on books for book clubs). Below are the titles they recommend for your book club. Enjoy.
by Cathy Marie Buchanan
The Day the Falls Stood Still is historical fiction at its best. Ms. Buchanan did an amazing job incorporating so much of the history of Niagara Falls into this story, and she really did bring the Falls to life for me — they actually became another character. I also thought Ms. Buchanan did an excellent job of developing the main characters and their relationship. I can totally see book clubs loving this book. There are just so many thought-provoking issues in this novel — from the characters and their actions to the environmental impact of man on the Falls. There are discussion questions available which are very good; however, I know I could talk about this novel for hours without any specific topics. Some issues that I'd like to explore in more detail are faith, God, nature, death and loss, marriage, depression, war, friendships, redemption, and parent/child relationships to name a few.
by Roxana Robinson
Cost, the story of a family whose son is addicted to heroin, is an excellent book club read for a few reasons. First, Robinson's writing style — intensely detailed — can be controversial at times. Some might find it suffocating, while others will be totally drawn in. Second, readers may take issue with some of the choices the parents make in the novel. Were they too lax? Did they do enough for their son? There's no question that Robinson's plot is extremely compelling, and that the book is eye-opening for those who aren't familiar with the world of addiction and rehab.
by Rupert Isaacson
This book is the true story of one father's unorthodox search through the Mongolian wilderness for a better life for his autistic son. The writing is beautiful and the story is gripping. The book raises many, many questions that book clubs will find worth discussing. Do you think this father went overboard in his quest or did he do the right thing? What's the connection between autistic people and animals? Does the supernatural play a part in our lives? Does autism necessarily need to be "cured"? What would you do if you were in this situation? This book is certain to generate intense discussion at any book club meeting. Video from the family's journey was turned into a documentary film; book clubs may want to check into this as well.
by Dave Eggers
Zeitoun is Dave Eggers' latest foray into narrative non-fiction and this time he tackles one family's experience with Hurricane Katrina. The point of view alternates between the literal eye of the storm, from the husband's perspective, and that of the wife and children who escape to safety before the storm hits. Zeitoun is incredibly fast-paced and accessible, yet thought-provoking and troubling. A fabulous discussion starter that's impossible to put down!
by Justina Chen Headley
Terra Cooper can't wait to graduate high school and escape her small-town life in Washington state's Methow Valley. She feels her true self is carefully concealed there, just as the port-wine stain birthmark on her face is concealed under heavy make-up. Then she meets Jacob, an adopted Goth, Asian boy who challenges her tightly controlled environment and emotions. A powerful book for mothers and daughters to read together, North of Beautiful is about self-discovery, finding the true meaning of beauty, and learning to trust in yourself.
by Kathryn Stockett
Set in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960s, this debut novel presents the journeys of a young white woman — a member of the Southern aristocracy — and two black women who work as "help" in the homes of her wealthy white friends. Feeding on the growing civil rights battle that surrounds them, Skeeter, Minnie, and Aibileen explore issues of race, class, and culture in their wonderfully distinct, authentic Southern voices (the author utilizes multiple narrators quite skillfully) and make an unexpected impact on their community. Chock full of topics for discussion — civil rights, the complexities of family, women's relationships, and more — The Help is bound to get your group fired up and feeling chatty.
by Dan Chaon
Three disparate story lines weave through this novel from National Book Award finalist Dan Chaon: Ryan gets to know his true father who pulls him into a life of con-artistry; Lucy leaves town with her high school history teacher; Miles searches for his mentally unbalanced twin brother near the Arctic Circle. Then, with a snap of his fingers, Chaon brings the stories together in a way that will make you want to start the book over again, just to see the masterful way he did it. Book groups will be able to dive into the book's theme of identity in our modern world, and of course who in their group figured out the twist first!
by Cathy Holton
This book is about four college roommates who lose touch with each other, then 20 years later get together for a beach trip. It flashes back and forth between the current day (at the beach) and the past day (in college.) We see all the events from each character's point of view. I think it's great for book clubs because there's something or someone in this book that everyone will relate to. The characters are very well defined and you get so wrapped up in the "soap opera-ish-ness" of the story that it's hard to put down. Then of course there's that twisty ending that always spawns lots of discussion. Perfect for book clubs!
by Ninni Holmqvist, translated by Marlaine Delargy
The Unit takes place in a modern society where, if you make it to the age of fifty (if you're a woman — it's sixty for men) without becoming a parent and/or pursuing a socially-beneficial profession, you're considered "dispensable." You're not "needed" — relationships with spouses, siblings, and even pets don't count, nor do many jobs. However, there are still a few things you can do for "the community;" the Unit will make all the arrangements for them, and they'll make your life quite comfortable in the bargain. New to the U.S., The Unit was originally published in Sweden in 2006. In translation, the language is uncomplicated and direct, and the story it tells is compelling, chilling in spots, and at times heartbreaking. I thought Dorrit was a fully-realized, all-too-human character. While she's taking on some big themes, Holmqvist is as interested in exploring Dorrit's inner life as she is in her outer circumstances; the story grabbed me, and I found The Unit to be unsettling and thought-provoking.
by Margaret Atwood
While the science fiction themes may be daunting for some book clubs, The Year of the Flood is sure to spark lively discussions. Set in a bleak, overly-corporate near future, the novel follows two women, Toby and Ren, who are members of the survivalist, environmental cult God's Gardeners. Atwood's strength always lies in her characters, and her characters' transformations from victims to self sufficiency provides a spark of hope against the dystopian backdrop. The companion website provides interesting supplementary materials, including music based on the hymns in the book.
by Joyce Maynard
In Labor Day, Maynard gives us three characters so compelling that your book group will find itself arguing about them throughout the evening and beyond. There's 13-year old Henry, who is friendless and lonely and spends much of his time indoors and his single mother Adele, who, for different reasons can barely leave the house herself. When they encounter a strange man while out shopping one day, — who is bleeding no less — and (unaccountably?) bring him home, they find their lives forever changed. I love novels like this where the narrative is contained by such a tight time frame. There's so much to discuss about what happens and why, between these three people during their one life-altering weekend.
by Masha Hamilton
Masha Hamiltonís 31 Hours follows an educated 21-year-old, Jonas, as the clock counts down to the time he has been instructed to perform a devastating and violent act. We meet Jonas' mother and father, his girlfriend and her younger sister, as well as people whose path Jonas crosses in what might be the last 31 hours of his life; none of these friends, family, and strangers suspect what he's planning. Hamilton's writing is taut, the tension builds — even those who pick up the book group selection at the last minute will be turning pages quickly to finish this 200-page novel in time for your discussion. 31 Hours will get your book club talking — when does a parentís responsibility/accountability for her childís actions end? What drives a person to commit a terrorist act? What are some ways people look for guidance (self? friends and family? a higher power?)? Can we help someone who doesnít want to help himself? Can one small act of kindness really make a large impact? Guaranteed that the discussion wonít end over cheese and crackers; youíll find yourself calling a friend later to say ďIíve been thinking about that book...Ē or writing an email with the subject line ďone more thought about 31 HoursĒ
Recommending books so good, they'll keep you up past your bedtime. more...
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