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?

Both Ways Is The Only Way I Want It

Short stories appeal to me – a quick fix when a quiet moment needs acceleration.  Maile Meloy’s collection of 11 short stories in Both Ways Is The Only Way I Want It includes simple, striking plots with flawed characters at the crossroads of deciding which way to have it – when they can’t have it both ways.

Each vignette connects to a dilemma confronting the key character – some funny, others tragic, and the settings range from Montana to the East Coast – one in Argentina. Meloy sometimes makes the decision obvious; other times she will leave you wondering what will happen next – or hoping that you know.  My favorites were the first and last stories. In  “Travis, B.”  a young Montana ranch hand falls in love with a beautiful young lawyer who commutes nine hours one-way twice a week to teach a part-time adult education class.  The situation is set for failure – her commute, her teaching job, their differences.  Although Meloy plays on the romantic possibilities, the impossibility wins out.  In “O Tannenbaum” a stranded couple named Bonnie and Clyde hitch a ride with a family out to cut down their Christmas tree.  The danger is not in picking up the strangers but in the yearnings they bring out.

In between are assorted tales – most with some humor and with O’Henry like shifts in the possibilities – unexpected twists, but not necessarily with O’Henry’s trademark happy endings.  Meloy cleanly creates scenes with duality, and it’s possible to see the resolution going either way – but probably not both ways.

After reading Meloy’s The Apothecary, targeted for a young adult audience, I looked for more.  This author knows how to tell a story – long and short.