This week I've listed 13 books my book club has read in recent years. There have actually been many more than 13, but these are a sampling of the ones that generated the best discussions, for those of you looking for ideas. We almost never all agree on how we feel about a given book, but these are some that actually kept us on topic - talking about the book itself rather than about our kids, jobs, vacations, daily travails and other assorted topics that usually fill up the evening. Links lead to online reviews and/or discussion guides.
1. The History of Love - Nicole Krauss - touching, creative, poignant, a wonderful book club book
2. Atonement - Ian MacEwan - I hated the first third, tolerated the second, and loved the last. Even now I can't decide how I'd sum up my feelings about this book. Read it and decide for yourself.
3. Reading Lolita In Tehran - Azar Nafisi - a fascinating insight into the life of a woman, and an intellectual university professor at that, under the Ayatollah's regime
4. The Emporer of Scent - Chandler Burr. I'm including this one in the interests of fairness. I can honestly say that I hated, truly hated, every single word on every page of this miserable non-fiction account of biophysicist Luca Turin's claims of a revolutionary new understanding of the science of scent. Turin was such an ass that I found no justifiable reason for slogging through pages and pages of indecipherable science to find out whether he ever gained the recognition he claimed that the establishment was keeping from him. I was so put off by the book itself that I couldn't have cared less, not about the individuals involved, the process, nor the scientific discoveries. That said, many others in the book club found it absolutely fascinating. Perhaps I'm just more of a boor than they are, but I did not find it to have any redeeming qualities whatsoever, let alone to be "fascinating". Still, it garnered several hours of intense discussion as we vociferously argued it's pros and cons, so I suppose as a book club choice it was a success. I still hated it though.
5. Anil’s Ghost - Michael Ondaatje - a gripping tale set amidst the horrors of civil war in Sri Lanka
6. The Book of Illusions - Paul Auster - personally, I found this horribly depressing, but an excellent read
7. The Secret Life Of Bees - Sue Monk Kidd. This one was lovely. I don't think anyone actually disliked it, a rarity in our group.
8. Eleven Minutes - Paulo Coelho - I have to say, I've disliked everything I've ever read by Coelho, but I was in the minority on this one
9. Oryx and Crake - Margaret Atwood. I was in the minority again on this one. I considered it one of the best books I'd read that year, but several others hated it.
10. Interpreter of Maladies - Jhumpa Lahiri - truly excellent, and since it's a collection of short stories there was plenty of fodder for the discussion
11. The Namesake - another one by Jhumpa Lahiri, a full-length novel this time, and equally good
12. She's Come Undone - Wally Lamb. Very disturbing, and very thought-provoking.
13. Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides. Wonderful. Really wonderful.