Nominate selections for April : LUSENET : The Book Club : One Thread

For March, we're going to read Midwives by Chris Bohjalian and A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers. (I keep stressing this, but I'll say it again: you can also start a topic on any book you wish, if you can get a few other people interested. This is an open forum.)

For the benefit of our members in Australia, who need some advance notice for purchasing books from the U.S., we should start thinking now about what we want to read next month. The idea is two books per month, one classic and one newer book, trying to stick with books that are available in paperback. (I know we didn't do that this month, but we're just getting started.)

We've had lots of support for A Patchwork Planet by Anne Tyler for the new book. Any other thoughts? And does anyone have a classic in mind?

-- Beth (, March 02, 2000


It's not out in paperback yet, but I'm interested in Jon Katz's Geeks: How Two Lost Boys Rode the Internet Out of Idaho. It's around $15 at online bookstores.

Classics: Anything by Joan Didion, especially Run River. And it probably sounds like some huge cliche, but I'm rereading The Fountainhead, because I think I was too young to understand or appreciate anything about it when I read it before.


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-- Gael Cooper (, March 02, 2000.

A new book that looks really interesting is The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

For paperbacks I highly recommend The Chimney Sweep's Boy by Barbara Vine. Chilling and sad at the same time.

And finally, I need an incentive to read Moby Dick. I've always meant to and never have!

-- Cara (, March 03, 2000.

One of my favorite college Lit class chores was always the book/movie comparison. It can be dry, especially if the movie is kept true to the book, but it can also be really interesting. What gets cut, what gets added...did you ever imagine that he looked like THAT??

An advantage of this is that most of these books are older (hence, cheap and available internationally), and movies available on video for those who didn't see them or want to see them again.

One fairly recent example is Simon Burch, the movie remake of < i>A Prayer for Owen Meany, but there are other both more recent and more "classic", if there's any interest. This might be a side thread if there's interest in using a book from which a movie was made...

Just rambling, here, I suspect...

In line with other suggestions, I'd really like to re-read some of the classics I gave short shrift to in school and/or have just plain forgotten. For Whom the Bell Tolls is one I recently re-read, and I've also been on a Tennessee Williams kick over the last few months. Once I finish moving my office upstairs, I'll have all of those "Read Me" books in one place and may have more suggestions.

'Til then, waiting for Amazon's studly brown-clad delivery man to appear!

-- Liss (, March 03, 2000.

Two books I'd love to discuss, preferably together, by Mary Doria Russell, The Sparrow and Children of God.

Everyone I know has either loved or loathed these books, but no one has denied that they're thought-provoking.

-- Liss (, March 03, 2000.

I'm with Liss -- revisiting some classics would be excellent.

-- Mary Ellen (, March 03, 2000.

For the classic I'm nominating On The Road by Jack Kerouac because I have to read it for my Novels class anyway (not to mention it's among my favorite books.)

-- Jackie (, March 03, 2000.

I have the audiobook of A Patchwork Planet (read by Davis Morse) and am certainly into reading that one. For non-fiction, I'd like to read either of the two new William Goldmans, The Big Picture or Which Lie Did I Tell (to be published this month); a nice comparison would be John Irving's Cider House Rules and his book on the making of the movie My Movie Business; I'd love to read The Woman Who Cut Off Her Leg at the Maidstone Club and Other Stories by Julia Slavin; Steven King's Blood and Smoke, only available on audiobook looks like great fun; the Bridget Jones sequel hasn't gotten great reviews, but I want to read it anyway; I want to read Anne Lamott's Hard Laughter; Ian Frazier's On the Rez looks really good; Rachel's Holiday by Marian Keyes and the new Harry Potter (of course) when they are published; and that's all I can think of right now. And it doesn't even BEGIN to address the giant fucking pile of books that I already OWN and have yet to read.

-- Kymm (, March 04, 2000.

I want to suggest Esperanza's Box of Saints by Maria Amparo Escandsn. It is the best book I've ever read -- honestly! -- and I would relish the chance to discuss it with others. When I finished it I wanted to dance and sing. Here's the description from the back of the book:

Esperanza's Box of Saints is a magical, humorous, and passion-filled odyssey about a beautiful young widow's search for her missing child -- a mission that takes her from a humble Mexican village to the rowdy brothels of Tijuana and a rarely seen side of Los Angeles. Rescued from turmoil by her favorite saint, Esperanza embarks on a journey that tests her faith, teaches her the ways of the world, and transforms her from a fervently religious innocent to an independent, sexual, and passionately devout woman.

-- Kris Taylor (, March 07, 2000.

Someone mentioned "A Prayer For Owen Meany". I don't know about the movie "Simon Birch" (I don't really want to watch it because I hear it was terrible), but I do know that "Prayer" is one of the best books I have ever read. I am not a John Irving "fan"; I read it based on my big bro's recommendation. It is symbolic, engaging, and slides past your eyes like silk... when it's not wrapping around your throat. What a read!

The movie/novel idea is intriguing (although it might mean ruining the memory of a perfectly good book...yipe!). Perhaps this would be a good side forum?


-- --twq (, March 08, 2000.

Yeah, that could be a great side forum. Sort of in addition to the two books we read every month.

Another thought I had: there are at least two books out now that have evolved from online journals. In addition to the one that Kim mentioned (I can't remember his name; where's Kim?) we also have All the Wrong Men (and One Perfect Boy), by Spike Gillespie. ( Spike was one of the first online "journalers" I read -- I put that in quotes because at the time she was actually getting paid for writing a column for Prodigy, which was available via e-mail to non-Prodigy subscribers. It was technically a column, but it sure read like an online journal, and my understanding is that she essentially turned those stories into a memoir.

It might be interesting to read these two books, especially after the Eggers book. Three memoirs, written by people whom you would think were too young to write memoirs.

Maybe another side project? A late March addition for those of us who will finish the Eggers book long before the month is over?

-- Beth (, March 09, 2000.

Miss Wyoming! Since we're discussing Douglas Coupland anyway...

-- Mary Ellen (, March 10, 2000.

Because I will shove A.S. Byatt down the throat of anyone foolish enough to approach me, Possession. It won the Booker Prize [thumbs nose].

Because it's about something no one (i.e. me) ever thought about before, because it's got stylistic weirdnesses we can dig into, and because people feel passionately about it pro or con, Geek Love.

Because Ly/i?nda of stranger.than.fiction is the only other journaler on whose read-list I've ever seen this, The Secret History.

Weren't we going to read something older? Their Eyes Were Watching God, because, Beth, if it didn't blow you away you need to read it again and again until you allow it to do so, because it's wonderful lyrical ethereal and I don't know how you could miss that the first time round. "Put me down easy, Janie. I'm a cracked plate." What else could you want? Her metaphors ring. (That's what I like about Douglas Coupland, too, his manipulation of language--him and Margaret Atwood; must be a Canadian thing.)

(Have we all noticed I've avoided suggesting Jane Austen? Are we all proud of me? Good. Now then.)

For the book/movie thingie, Girl, Interrupted.

Dodie Smith, I Capture the Castle, which I haven't read yet.

How about a new burb, except we'd have to call it an intra-urb, for lovers of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn?

-- Lisa Houlihan (, March 12, 2000.

I can't bite my tongue any longer - I must nominate my favorite book of all time: "Fall on Your Knees" by Anne Marie MacDonald. She's Canadian. This book is epic - soooo beautifully written, so unpredictable. Every person I turn on to reading this book agrees with me that it is amazing. Don't let the 600 pages deter you - I read it in 3 days. You won't be able to put this one down.

For more info, I suggest checking it out on :) Enjoy!

-- Shelagh (, March 13, 2000.

I again nominate "Tomcat in Love" by Tim O'Brien. It rocks and is hilarious, sad and fascinating from first to last.

For all of you book lovers, I highly, HIGHLY recommend "Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader" by Anne Fadiman. I don't suppose it would be appropriate for the book club - it is a BRILLIANT, funny, tender collection of essays on books and reading and writing - but anyone who considers themselves a book lover should view it as required reading. I thought I was "literary" until I read that book and realized I still have so much to explore. I have several copies and, whenever I meet someone who I think "gets it" as far as books go, I just give them a copy - making sure to inscribe it on the flyleaf, NOT the title page.

-- Allison (, March 18, 2000.

Okay, I am broke, broke, broke, broke, broke, so I would really love it if we could do A Patchwork Planet in April, since I already have it and several other people suggested it, as well. (It's out in paperback.) We have lots of great selections here, but we can't do them all in one month.

We need a classic, though. A few people suggested On The Road. I really hate that book. I'm sorry. I'll try if there's overwhelming support for it, but I'd rather re-read Their Eyes Were Watching God, since Lisa said I need to. Or chime in with other suggested classics. (Gabby? Where are you? You always have good suggestions for classics.)

Another thought I had for a future reading, because another book club (Medley's?) did this -- A Thousand Acres read in conjunction with King Lear. I've read Lear, and my copy of A Thousand Acres tragically has Michelle Pfeiffer on the cover, but I think I can stand it.

I also need to read Moby Dick, because I'm afraid I'll get hit by a bus and they'll put that on my tombstone: Beloved Daughter, but borrowed her father's copy of Moby Dick and never even read the damn thing.

-- Beth (, March 20, 2000.

Patchwork Planet is good for me, 'cause I have it on audiobook and I haven't listened to it yet!

O God, not fucking Moby Dick, please, I'll drown myself. How about Watership Down or Dune? That's me, lowclass.


-- Kymm Zuckert (, March 20, 2000.

Okay, here I am.

Classics, eh? Well the ones I like also tend to be really long. _Middlemarch_ by George Eliot, and _The Magic Mountain_ by Thomas Mann are awesome for discussion. _Persuasion_ by Jane Austin is the only thing by her I've ever read and one of my favorites. Kafka is always good for a chat. Modern classics - _The Handmaid's Tale_ by Margaret Atwood is increasingly relevent. We could be wacky and read _The Illiad_! Because god knows I can't seem to get through it on my own. Um, what else:

* The Secret History, by Donna Tartt * Posession, by A.S. Byatt * Love In the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez * Mrs. Dalloway or To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf * The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy * The English Patient, by Michael Ondaatje (VERY different from the film - could be an interesting contrast, especially re: the ending) * The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald * Beloved, Toni Morrison (no, I'm serious - I'd LOVE to discuss this one) * Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys something or other * The Crying of Lot 49, Thomas Pynchon

And with that, I retire.

cheers, gabby

-- gabby (, March 20, 2000.

I don't have my bookshelves ordered enough to make considered suggestions on this topic rather than ones off the top of my head; well, actually I don't even possess bookshelves, just a lot of extremely heavy cardboard boxes.

First off, I think that a book of short stories might be better fare than a novel, because I don't think it's worthwhile to discuss any literary work piecemeal, only as a whole. Imagine trying to analyze the movie _The Sixth Sense_ after only watching the first three-quarters of it. If you do upper-level coursework in literature you'll find that class discussion on a novel doesn't commence until the book's been read in its entirety. (So what do you do the first week of class? In my experience, you have metadiscussions about being a student of literature. Hoo boy.)

On that note, I'd like to suggest _Nine Stories_ by JD Salinger, or any of W. Somerset Maugham's collections, or _Dubliners_ by James Joyce ("Evangeline" being one of my favorite short stories). Henry James also has some excellent short fiction but I've never found a collection that had all the good pieces and none of the clunkers.

I'd like to second Lisa's suggestion of _Geek Love_. My friend Julie interviewed Katherine Dunn once and asked her everything I would have if I had Dunn's ear to bend; that article will make good extracurricular reading if Julie has it online somewhere or if she'll let me transcribe a copy and post it. I'll look into it, if the group picks it. GL makes excellent book club fodder because it's a fascinating read on its own merits, but there's all this subterranean stuff going on that you're not fully aware of until you start talking about it.

Whenever people start talking about classics, they suggest dull, stodgy pieces like _Moby Dick_. Melville is a yawner, as if the length of the tome wasn't itself enough to put the average book club off its feed. When I had to read it at university I put a sticker on the cover that I'd peeled off some powerful narcotics: TAKE WITH FOOD. [Because slogging through it takes forever and you're likely to get peckish.] MAY CAUSE DROWSINESS. [And how. There's not enough coffee in all the Starbuckses in Seattle.]

_Gulliver's Travels_ is a really entertaining yet eminently analyzable classic. Although Swift's comedic situations are designed as send-ups of contemporary problems, the Yahoos and Hounhymmns still ring bells with readers today. It's divided into four sections, and the third can be skipped because it's somewhat nonsensical from a modern standpoint. (It's a direct allegory of some trade-route problem or something that was a big issue in Swift's England but meaningless to us today. Wow, there's that liberal education of mine kicking in.)

Jane Austen is also great fun, and _Pride and Prejudice_ is her masterpiece. (The BBC production is very good but also the most direct, faithful adaptation I've ever seen, so drawing comparisons between the two might not be very enriching.)

Oh, here's a hilarious story: I was reading P&P for educated laughs during the week before I took my GREs (Graduate Record Exam -- I don't know if there are non-Americans reading this or if they have such a thing overseas -- basically an aptitude test for those hoping to go on to postgraduate work.) I was about three chapters from the end on the day that I went into the tests, both general and subject (literature in English). One of the subject test questions was "Who wrote the novel in which this is the last line?" And the line in question was, of course, the ultimate one in _Pride and Prejudice_, in which Mrs. Bennet is exclaiming over each of her daughter's betrothed husbands. I expected the exam to be nerve-wracking but I didn't expect it to RUIN the novel that had been my only pleasure for the last few hellish days. (I went home afterwards, threw up, and finished the book anyway. I scored in the 95th percentile in that subject test, by the way. This is one of the three or four things I've done in this life that I'm really proud of [Pride! see, it all ties together] and I just had to mention that.)


-- Kim Rollins (, March 20, 2000.

I read Melville's Typee in college. (Is that the name of that thing? I can't remember. The cannibalism book.) It wasn't too gruesome, but then, I think it was only 150 pages or so.

Oh, oh, oh! I'm brilliant! I have our two books for May -- Gulliver's Travels, and Wicked. Several of us have already read Wicked, but we can read Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister instead, if we like. I thought Wicked owed almost as much to Jonathan Swift as it did to the Oz books, although it's much more playful and less biting. I think that would be a really fun comparison. (And I have copies of all of the above -- thank you to the wonderful person who sent me Stepsister from my wish list -- so it works for that whole "broke" thing.)

I like Nine Stories. I have it around here somewhere, packed, of course.

Geek Love would be a good future choice. When we were on vacation last year, one of our co-campers read some of it aloud to us over the campfire. I've been meaning to read it.

Love In the Time of Cholera has been sitting in my "books I need to read" box for ages. I don't know why I haven't read it yet. I would also be interested in The English Patient at some point; I've read other books by Michael Ondaatje and enjoyed them.

Of course, at the rate I'm going I'm never going to finish Dave Eggers. I think I'll go work on that right now.

-- Beth (, March 21, 2000.

If Mrs. Dalloway is ever chosen, we could read it together with The Hours (I think that's what it's called - the new one).

If The Secret History is ever chosen, we could read it together with Brideshead Revisited ("languid, tortured, erotic, decadent, ravishingly beautiful - and that was just Jeremy Irons" - a New Zealand TV critic, quoted on the copy editing listserv).

If a Toni Morrison book is ever chosen, we could read it together with a Harlem Renaissance classic.

If Bridget Jones Part 2 is ever chosen, we could read it together with Villette.

If Nine Stories is ever chosen, we could read it together with Joyce Maynard's autobiography. Not.

-- Diana (, March 21, 2000.

I thought Bridget Jones 2 was a retread of Persuasion?

there have been soem suggestions by these authors, but I thought I'd offer up some different titles: Alias Grace -- Margaret Atwood In the Lake of the Forest --Tim O'Brien The Last Thing He Wanted-- Joan Didion

please no Moby Dick!

-- kate (, March 23, 2000.

I'm not going to shove Moby-Dick down anyone's throat, since even Kim hates it and she's read "Bartleby the Scrivener." I should point out that I have not read it myself but "only" listened to it. This is a great way to get through stuff you'd otherwise never be able to bear. Listen to books walking or driving or ironing or washing the dishes or wherever, as another way of packing books into every least crevice of your life. I listened to the Recorded Books Incorporated production of MD, and the reader was Frank Somebody who also read William Least Heat-Moon's Blue Highways and his voice was the aural equivalent of Aidan Quinn [substitute your fave here]. Compelling and rich and mellifluous and not really what I'd ever pictured Ishmael sounding like, but so yummy I could forgive it anything. I listened to MD--my goodness--three years ago, mostly commuting to work but also while putting together my 3D castle of Camelot on rainy evenings. Yummy.

For the record, it was Kymm, not I, who recommended Watership Down first. I restrained myself about it, if not Pride and Prejudice.

-- Lisa Houlihan (, March 24, 2000.

Okay, so I can only rehash what I've recently written about, but honestly, Cold Comfort Farm and I Capture the Castle are wonderful, enjoyable, well-written, good stories. Both have the I Spy Jane Austen thang going on too,

Because I love each and every one of you, I would give Anne Tyler another try. If my sister and my best friend and Beth all like her, I will once again try to believe the fault lies in me and not in Breathing Lessons and Searching for Caleb, both of which left me searching for sharp pokey objects.

-- Lisa Houlihan (, March 28, 2000.

My favorite book, ever, bar none, is Moby-Dick. I feel sorry for anyone who was given this book to read without proper guidance, because it is possible to be bored by it. But it is the best book ever written. So, if you're going to read it, do it justice. Not a day goes by that I do not think about it. NOT A DAY. Better than Pynchon, better than Jane Austen. Better than Pat the Bunny, The Lord of the Rings and Valley of the Dolls, all cut up and combined together as one big book (though I'd be really interested in reading that).

On the typo front, "Corelli's Mandolin" is by Louis de Bernihres. "Hoopi Shoopi Donna" is by Suzanne Strempek Shea (and even though it is extremely rare, so far, to write contemporary fiction about accordions and polka, unfortunately it's not the greatest book I ever read if you know what I mean).

-- Ian (, April 03, 2000.

Just thought I'd mention that I'm still waiting for my March books from Amazon to arrive (sniffle)


-- anna (, April 26, 2000.

This probably doesn't belong in this topic, but I didn't want to start a new question just for one measly book recommendation.

Beth, I think you should read Sick Puppy by Carl Hiaasen. I doubt that it's substantial enough for a reading group discussion or anything, but it does feature an adorable black Lab and a cranky environmentalist who actually does the things us law-abiding citizens can't do to idiots that piss us off.

-- Heather Drake (, April 28, 2000.

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