What books generated your best discussion in 2011? Plus suggestions for great discussions in 2012, new ideas for activities in the coming year. All this and more in this month's issue.
|New Year's Resolutions for Book Groups|
Want to energize your reading group in 2012? Here are a few New Year's Resolutions that may work.
Invite a new member! New members can bring fresh perspectives. You may also forge a new friendship.
Introduce a themed culinary experience! Prepare Udon noodles while discussing The Lake or have a Stolichnaya toast to Russian Winter. Refer to Wildly Affordable Organic by Linda Watson for a discussion guide and ready-made projects to help spice up the conversation. And for the New Year, take the Fresh Start Challenge.
Add an online component! Get a head start on your discussion through an on-line forum. You can start simple with an e-mail chain or think big and begin a blog.
Expand your perspectives! Choose a book that you wouldn't normally read. Or pick a classic. Or a book of poetry, short stories, or essays. Take a field trip! Visit a local historical or literary site. Touring a 19th century home enhances our imagination while discussing period titles such as The Doctor and the Diva.
Visit or Skype with another book group! Read about two groups who tried this with great results!
Encourage a quieter/shy member! You might be surprised by their insight. Choose a young-adult book! Books like The Book Thief contain many grown-up themes of love, loss, and transformation. By re-reading books from your childhood you can experience YA classics in a whole new way.Host a book exchange! And share your favorites!
Introduce a new creative twist! Use your imagination to add zip to your sessions.
|New Year Discussibles! |
The Gilder by Kathryn Kay
Even in Marina Nesmith's skilled hands, the most tarnished picture frame or objet d'art can be made perfect once again. But Marina is conscious of what she lacks--someone with whom to share her joys and sorrows, confidence in the decisions she's made, and the courage to tell her teenage daughter, Zoe, the truth about her father. Then Marina is invited to return to Florence, where she lived years before while learning her trade as a gilder. Now, as her past and present collide, Marina will finally have to move beyond the intricate veneer she's crafted around herself, and find the life that she--and Zoe--have been looking for. Holly Chamberlin, author of The Summer of Us and One Week in December, says "Kathryn Kay tells a compelling story of seduction and betrayal which ultimately transforms into a story of love and redemption."
All the Flowers in Shanghai by Duncan Jepson
For every young Chinese woman in 1930s Shanghai, following the path of duty takes precedence over personal desires. For Feng, that means becoming the bride of a wealthy businessman in a marriage arranged by her parents and bearing a male heir. Bitter and resentful of the life that has been forced upon her, she plots a terrible revenge. But with the passing years comes a reckoning. Feng must reconcile herself with the sacrifices and terrible choices she has made in order to assure her place in the family and society--even as the violent, relentless tide of revolution engulfs her country. Booklist says "Jepson...evokes time and place well as he describes the life of privilege that Feng comes to take for granted only to have her life veer dramatically and be overtaken by the Great Leap Forward."
The Anatomist's Apprentice by Tessa Harris
The death of Sir Edward Crick has unleashed a torrent of gossip through the seedy taverns and elegant ballrooms of Oxfordshire. Few mourn the dissolute young man--except his sister, the beautiful Lady Lydia Farrell. When her husband comes under suspicion of murder, she seeks expert help from Dr. Thomas Silkstone, a young anatomist from Philadelphia. Against his better judgment, Dr. Thomas Silkstone agrees to examine Sir Edward's corpse. The deeper the doctor's investigations go, the greater the risk that he will be consigned to the ranks of the corpses he studies. Carol Carr, author of the India Black, says Harris "leaves you marveling at her ingenuity."
|From Your Favorite Authors|
The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen
It's the dubious distinction of thirty-year-old Willa Jackson to hail from a fine old Southern family of means that met with financial ruin generations ago. The Blue Ridge Madam--built by Willa's great-great-grandfather and once the finest home in Walls of Water, North Carolina--has stood for years as a monument to misfortune and scandal. Willa has lately learned that an old classmate--socialite Paxton Osgood--has restored the house to its former glory, with plans to turn it into a top-flight inn. But when a skeleton is found buried beneath the property's lone peach tree, long-kept secrets come to light. Publishers Weekly says "[Sarah Addison Allen] juggles small-town history and mystical thriller, character development and eerie magical realism in a fine Southern gothic drama."
The Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon
Twenty years ago, Diana Gabaldon swept readers into her mesmerizing world brimming with history, romance, and adventure. In celebration of the series that has captured the heart of millions, here is a special 20th anniversary edition of the novel that started it all--including a new essay, a new map, a CD with Outlander the musical, and more.
The year is 1945. Claire Randall is traveling with her husband when she touches a boulder in one of the ancient stone circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is hurled back in time to a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of our Lord 1743. Catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life, she soon realizes that an alliance with James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, might be the only way to survive. Thus begins a series of unrivaled storytelling--brimming with history, romance, and adventure--that has captured the heart of millions.
See the right-hand column for links to summaries of each book in the Outlander series.
|New Author Posts in On the Bookcase|
Author On the Bookcase: Kate Alcott tells us about her personal attachment to Pinky-a character in her novel (The Dressmaker)-as well as some undercover work she has done as a journalist.
Author Squared: Kelly O'Connor McNees , author of The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott, and Wendy McClure, author of The Wilder Life, discuss writing and weddings!
Author Squared: Samuel Park, author of This Burns My Heart, and Duncan Jepson, author of All the Flowers in Shanghai discuss documentary films, Asian cultures, and storytelling!
RGC's New Literary Director's guest blog post gives book clubs advice on discussing The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen in Ladies' Home Journal.
|Neely's New Year Nuggets|
With each New Year, we ask our subscribers to tell us what book(s) generated the liveliest discussions in the year just completed. Many groups also tell us about some of the fun things they did. The results are always interesting, and they help us all to make the book group experience so enjoyable.
This year, we also asked our own Literary Director, Neely Kennedy
, to reflect on five of her own favorite discussibles of 2011. Maybe they'll be your book club's favorites too! The Tiger's Wife
by Téa Obreht
In a Balkan country mending from war, Natalia, a young doctor, is compelled to unravel the mysterious circumstances surrounding her beloved grandfather's recent death. Searching for clues, she turns to his worn copy of The Jungle Book
and the stories he told her of his encounters over the years with "the deathless man." But most extraordinary of all is the story her grandfather never told her--the legend of the tiger's wife. The Night Circus
by Erin Morgenstern
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night. But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway--a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors... The Sense of an Ending
by Julian Barnes
This intense new novel follows a middle-aged man as he contends with a past he has never much thought about--until his closest childhood friends return with a vengeance, one of them from the grave, another maddeningly present. Tony Webster thought he'd left all this behind as he built a life for himself, and by now his marriage and family and career have fallen into an amicable divorce and retirement. But he is then presented with a mysterious legacy that obliges him to reconsider a variety of things he thought he'd understood all along, and to revise his estimation of his own nature and place in the world. The Marriage Plot
by Jeffrey Eugenides
Are the great love stories of the nineteenth century dead? Or can there be a new story, written for today and alive to the realities of feminism, sexual freedom, prenups, and divorce? With devastating wit and an abiding understanding of and affection for his characters, Jeffrey Eugenides revives the motivating energies of the Novel, while creating a story so contemporary and fresh that it reads like the intimate journal of our own lives. IQ84
A young woman named Aomame follows a taxi driver's enigmatic suggestion and begins to notice puzzling discrepancies in the world around her. She has entered, she realizes, a parallel existence, which she calls 1Q84
--"Q is for 'question mark.' A world that bears a question." Meanwhile, an aspiring writer named Tengo takes on a suspect ghostwriting project. He becomes so wrapped up with the work and its unusual author that, soon, his previously placid life begins to come unraveled.
|Eugene O'Neill Festival Invites Book Groups|
This spring, why not celebrate your next book club meeting with
the work of one of America's most influential dramatists? From now until February 15, your book club can save 40% when you reserve ten or more tickets to the Eugene O'Neill Festiva
l at Arena Stage in Washington D.C. They'll stage productions of Ah, Wilderness!
, O'Neill's only family comedy, and Long Day's Journey Into Night
, his Pulitzer Prize-winning masterwork. Take advantage of free discussion guides, free conversations with artistic staff following some performances, and two unforgettable works of literature brought to vivid life onstage. Ah, Wilderness!
Return to an idyllic age of Americana in Eugene O'Neill's unabashedly romantic and sweetly funny Ah, Wilderness!
As the Connecticut-based Miller clan plans their traditional Fourth of July festivities, their dreamy-eyed middle child Richard is wrestling with cultural conventions, political uncertainty, the power of literature, and the exquisite pain of love. The memories of family life were never so delicately portrayed as in O'Neill's only comedy, his coming-of-age love letter to a simpler time, which finds the master playwright "at his most wistful and serene." (New York Times
).Long Day's Journey Into Night
Delusion and disenchantment have pitted the Tyrone family members against one another for decades. One fateful day, as their increasingly drunken hours slip by, they must either confront their defeated dreams or else be forever doomed to a cycle of guilt and resentment. Eugene O'Neill's autobiographical masterwork exposes the lies we tell, the deceptions we craft, and the undercurrent of compassion that, if uncovered, can redeem us in the end. This Pulitzer Prize-winning American treasure "restores the drama to literature and the theater to art" (New York Times
|Book Club of the Month|
Both Reading Group Choices
and your colleagues are interested in your book club. Tell us
about yours, send us a picture, and we'll share your comments with your colleagues on our website. We'll also choose one group each month to be featured in the e-Newsletter. Can't wait to get to know you better!
|Your Own Discussible Choices |
Congratulations to Rebecca and The Social Women Book Club and to Mary and St. Olaf's Book Group for winning the random drawing for this month's Discussible Book Choice!
"We are currently reading Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. We've all found that we were reading or getting ready to read it, so we decided to add it as our first book for 2012! Those who've already finished said they can't wait to talk about it in January!"
Rebecca, The Social Women Book Club, Bath, ME
"We read The Big Burn by Timothy Egan. It was being promoted by our local library system as a Kitsap Reads "One Community, One Book". For historical fiction it was very interesting reading. We also had the advantage of many special events offered by our public library, author event, dramatic presentations, expert panel discussions etc. that really enhanced our discussion of this book. It was also geographically interesting to us, having taken place in Northern Idaho, right next door to us."
Mary, St. Olaf's Book Group, Poulsbo, WA
We enjoy hearing from book club members and sharing their choices with everyone. Please let us know about your group's discussible choices - you may win a book-related prize for every member of your reading group!
More Discussible Choices
|Your Own Tips|
Thanks to Ann and The Deep River Library Book Group and to Millie and The Diner Book Club for their reading group tips! Box 'O Books on their way to both of you!
"Every year, we read a play aloud, and everyone takes a role - it is great fun from Agatha Christie to George Bernard Shaw."
Ann, The Deep River Library Book Group, Chester, CT
"Only drinks are allowed during book club; we share lunch after the discussion. Book selections are made in November. We take turns leading discussion - it makes for diverse and interesting discussions."
Millie, The Diner Book Club, Palmetto Bay, FL
|Libraries Bag Book Clubs|
Many libraries have adopted a new program to support reading groups. Sometimes called "Book Club in a Bag," the program loans a dozen copies at a time of a discussible title for a six-week period. Why not ask your librarian if they will do it for your group?
|Huffington Post's Online Book Club|
The Huffington Post
launches an experimental online book club this month. Dubbed the HP Book Club
, readers can join through their existing Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Flickr accounts to share their thoughts and experiences. The first book to be discussed is The Tiger's Wife
by Téa Obreht. Released in paperback in November, 2011, the book is one of the 72 selections featured in Reading Group Choices 2012
Thanks for keeping the joy of reading alive,
|Your Favorite Discussibles of 2011 |
It's one-of-a-kind: a list of favorite DISCUSSIBLE books for book groups! Though there are many lists of books and many book awards, not all of the books on them make for the kind of lively, fun, interesting, thought-provoking, unforgettable discussions that reading groups crave. Well, here's your chance - join with thousands of other book group members to tell us which books did all that for your group in 2011. We'll compile and publish the list for you, and let you know how it compares to those chosen in previous surveys.
What worked for your book group this year? Your colleagues want to know! How do you connect with authors, if at all? What do you and your group think of e-books and audiobooks? The survey is up and waiting for these answers too, but it won't take long to complete - we know how busy you are!
And when you complete the short survey, Reading Group Choices will enter your name into a random drawing for $100 to jazz up your next get-together! Five lucky groups will win a $100 prize!
Complete the Survey
You and your group can use the survey results to select some great discussibles that you may not have otherwise chosen. To see what we mean, take a look at past years' lists.
See Past Years' Favorites