Book Club Picks for 2017

I really miss my dog.  He was my conduit for meeting new friends, for catch-up conversations with old friends who walked the same path, for calmly listening to my worries and always offering consolation.  Yesterday, at the annual luncheon for one of my book clubs, I realized I’ve replaced him with books.

When someone seated next to me at an event happened to mention her admiration of Plenty, I found a new friend in Yotam Ottolenghi.  Often now as I reconnect with old friends across an ocean, we share what we are reading.  Finally, just like my old dog, a book can offer me comfort and sometimes a sense of adventure.

Next year’s reading list offers all that and more. Books with my reviews are in red.

Book Club List for 2017

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  • JanuaryThe Wright Brothers by David McCullough

The Pulitzer Prize winning author tells the behind the scenes story of the famous brothers who began the age of flight.

  • FebruaryWomen of the Silk by Gail Tsukiyama

The life of Pei, a Chinese girl sent to work in a silk factory during the first decades of the 20th century.

  • March Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff

Lynn Neary reviews the book in NPR’s “All Things Considered” – A World War II Survival Epic Unfolds Deep in Shangri-La

  • MayWhen Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

A young neurosurgeon describes how, after receiving a terminal diagnosis of lung cancer, he examined his roles as a patient and as a doctor, and how he wanted to spend his final days.

  • JuneMy Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

Soon to be a London play, this first in the series of four books by the anonymous Italian author begins the story of two friends in Naples.

  • JulyEvening by Susan Minot

Michiko Kakutani reviewed the book for the New York Times in Reviewing a Fading Life Defined by Doomed Love

  • SeptemberAbout Alice by Calvin Trillin

Peter Stevenson reviews Trillin’s love letter to his wife in his New York Times article – Scenes from a Marriage


Planning for Next Year’s Book Club Discussions


In Lynn Neary’s article for NPR – Now You’re Talking! The Year’s Best Book Club 154184690Reads – five books made the cut.  Two I’ve read and reviewed:

The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan

Arcadia by Lauren Groff

Two are on my library wait list: The Round House by Louise Erdich and NW by Zadie Smith; The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin is the last on Neary’s list – one I might skip over.

The local book club has two of my favorites on line for next year:

Caleb’s Crossing
Rules of Civility

What will you be talking about next year?

Looking For a Book to Discuss?

When book clubs decide to create a slate for the whole year, the order can be soothing to those who like to plan ahead.  Each year around this time, one of my book clubs starts gearing up for the next calendar year and some cannot wait to add to the list.  But for those who cringe at the thought of trying to find a book that everyone will like (will never happen), and a way to start the discussion (website questions being the norm),  the following list has books –  with assorted possibilities for stirring the pot – questions  the readers could have before starting to read.

I’ve read and reviewed them all (click on the title).

Gone Girl  – mystery/thriller – Did anyone like the ending?  When did you figure it out? How would you write the sequel?  change the ending?

That Woman  – nonfiction – How does Wallis Simpson compare to Princess Diana?  Did the Duke of Windsor really give it all up for her – or was he ready to live outside the responsibility of being King anyway?  How would World War II been different with the Duke in charge?

The Buddha in the Attic  – very short book (144 pages) – How does this story of Japanese Picture Brides differ from any other similar tales you’ve read of brides who were “bought”?  If the brides had switched photographs of their prospective husbands, would it have made a difference?  How are their experiences as wives similar? different?

The Glass Room  – historical fiction – How did the house change with the owners’ lives, with changes in history – World War II?  Imagine yourself in one of the rooms; what would you be doing?  Although the house still actually exists as a World Heritage Site, would the fictional owners have approved?

Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It – 11 short stories – Pick one to retell.  Do you prefer reading novels rather than short stories – why? Do you have a favorite short story from another author? (bring it along so someone can read it aloud to the group)

Last year I listed More Ideas for Books to Discuss – no one picked any of the books on the list.

What book would you add to the list?