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October 2011 is Book Suggestion Month! Send me your book suggestions for 2012!

From: Anthony
Sent on: Friday, September 30, 2011 10:22 PM

Ladies and gentlemen,

It's now the beginning of October. You know what that means: book suggestions! :-D

Basically, from October 1 to 31, all of you have the opportunity to supply me with titles of books that you would be interested in reading in next year’s club meetings. I’m sure you have so many books you want to suggest. At the same time, we need to keep the list of books manageable, which is why I’m also providing you with guidelines for suggesting books. They are as follows:

  1. You may suggest up to two books: one contemporary book (any book published after 1950) and one classic book (any book published before 1950 that is widely known among classic literature circles). This means you cannot suggest two contemporary books or two classic books.
  2. For each book you suggest, you must provide me with the following information: title, author, genre (whether it's fiction or nonfiction, and a subcategory), approximate page count, and paragraph summary (written yourself or copied from any online source). If any of these things are missing, I will e-mail you back requesting that you provide me with the remaining info.
  3. If you change your mind on any book suggestion you submit, you are free to replace it with another and may do so as many times as you like until the end of October.
  4. If you suggest a book that someone else already suggested or that the East Bay Book Club already read, I will let you know so that you may make another suggestion.
  5. If you wish, you may suggest a book that was suggested last year but was not selected for reading. The list of these books is below.

If there are any questions with book suggestion, I'll be more than happy to help. With that, you may now e-mail me your book suggestions. I eager await your ideas for the East Bay Book Club's 2012 reading schedule. :-D

Anthony Lee
Organizer, East Bay Book Club

Contemporary Books Suggested Last Year But Not Selected for Reading

Title: Check Raising the Devil by Mike Matusow, Amy Calistri, and Tim Lavalli
Genre: Nonfiction – Biography
Summary: Mike Matusow is a famous and very successful professional poker player. This is the story of his "poker life," including his struggles with bipolar disorder and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. It narrates his use of street drugs in an attempt to self-medicate his psychological issues, followed by his fall, incarceration, and recovery. The book provides an insider's look at both the world of high-stakes poker and the insular world of bipolar depression.
Suggested by: Tim L. (one of the authors of this book)

Title: A Death in the Family by James Agee
Genre: Fiction – General
Summary: A Death in the Family is an autobiographical novel based on events that occurred in 1915 when the author’s father went out of town to visit his own father who had a heart attack. On the return trip, the author’s father was killed in a car accident. The novel provides a portrait of life in Knoxville, Tennessee, showing how such a loss affects a young widow, her two children, her atheistic father, and the dead man’s alcoholic brother. The book won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1958.
Suggested by: Pam N.

Title: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jeremy Leggatt
Genre: Nonfiction – Memoir
Summary: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is a translation of the French memoir Le scaphandre et le papillon by journalist Jean-Dominique Bauby. On December 8, 1995, Bauby, the editor-in-chief of Elle magazine, suffered a stroke and lapsed into a coma. He awoke 20 days later, mentally aware of his surroundings but physically paralyzed except for some movement in his head and eyes (locked-in syndrome). The entire book was written by Bauby blinking his left eyelid, four hours a day for ten months. Each word required an average of two minutes to blink, and it took approximately 200,000 total blinks to write the entire book, which chronicles various everyday events from the point of view of someone with locked-in syndrome.
Suggested by: Whitney H.

Title: The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
Genre: Fiction – General
Summary: This book takes place in Paris, France and features three very different, yet very alike characters. Renée conforms to every stereotype of the concierge - fat, cantankerous, addicted to television - yet, unbeknownst to her employers, she adores art, philosophy, music, and Japanese culture. There's also Paloma, a twelve-year-old genius who has decided to end her life on her 13th birthday on June 16th. They discover their kindred souls when a wealthy Japanese man named Ozu arrives in the building. Only he is able to gain Paloma's trust and to see through Renée's timeworn disguise to the secret that haunts her. This is a moving, funny, triumphant novel that exalts the quiet victories of the inconspicuous among us.
Suggested by: Deborah D.

Title: Gilead by Marilyn Robinson
Genre: Fiction – General
Summary: The narrator, John Ames, is 76, a preacher who has lived almost all of his life in Gilead, Iowa. He is writing a letter to his almost seven-year-old son, the blessing of his second marriage. It is a summing-up, an apologia, a consideration of his life. Author Marilyn Robinson takes the story away from being simply the reminiscences of one man and moves it into the realm of a meditation on fathers and children, particularly sons, on faith, and on the imperfectability of man.
Suggested by: Ken

Title: The Greek Passion by Nikos Kazantzakis
Genre: Fiction – Cultural
Summary: The Greek Passion, published in 1948, is set in Greece during the last days of the Turkish occupation, probably in the early 1920s. On Easter Sunday morning, the "notables" of the small and remote village of Lycovrissi gather and plan to hold a live passion play on the next Easter, selecting villagers for the key roles of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and the apostles. The villagers are to prepare for this honor by living lives which will bring them close to their characters during the coming year. In clever twists on the theme, the selected villagers do more than prepare. They fully become their characters, and the passion is played out in bloody existential detail.
Suggested by: Charlie K.

Title: Lake Overturn by Vestal McIntyre
Genre: Fiction – General
Summary: Lake Overturn is a multifaceted tale of small town America. Set in Eula, Idaho, the story's title refers to a real scientific phenomenon that occurred in a lake in Africa in the 1980s killing thousands of people. Two of the novel's characters, Gene and Enrique, tackle the Lake Nyos disaster for a science project, trying to figure out exactly what happened. As the story explores the lives of other Eula residents, things are not always as they seem. McIntyre manages to weave a classic tale that touches on larger issues – racism, homosexuality, death of a loved one, religion, extramarital affairs, addiction, isolation – and yet still works as one coherent whole.
Suggested by: Fabio B.

Title: The Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer
Genre: Fiction – Cultural
Summary: In Sofer's debut novel, Isaac Amin, a Jewish businessman in Tehran, is imprisoned following the Iranian Revolution. As Amin attempts to survive his brutal treatment and convince his captors that he is not a Zionist spy, his wife, young daughter, and son (a college student in New York City) find various ways to cope with the radical change in their way of life and the knowledge that they may never see Amin again. This is a story that reminds us of how political and religious ideologies can destroy individuals, families, and societies. Yet, the Amins are not portrayed as innocent victims but flawed human beings who closed their eyes to the injustices of the monarchy under which they benefited.
Suggested by: Deborah M.

Classic Books Suggested Last Year But Not Selected for Reading

Title: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Genre: Fiction - Southern
Summary: This book, set in the early 19th century, tells of two runaways---a white boy and a black man---and their journey down the mighty Mississippi River. These two characters struggle with their own issues: a loss of innocence for the boy and a struggle for freedom for the man, who is a slave. The strong point of view, skillful depiction of dialects, and confrontation of issues of race and prejudice have inspired critics to dub Twain's novel "THE great American novel."
Suggested by: Deborah M.

Title: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Genre: Fiction – Science-Fiction
Summary: Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein when she was just 18 years old and published the novel a year later at the age of 19. The story, centering on a scientist whose experiment successfully reanimates a corpse, infuses elements of the Gothic novel and the Romantic movement and also provides an opening to the genre of science-fiction. Frankenstein served as a warning to modern man and the Industrial Revolution before becoming a widely known pop culture icon in many Hollywood movies.
Suggested by: Jeri M.

Title: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Genre: Fiction – Historical
Summary: The Grapes of Wrath tells the story of the Joad family to illustrate the hardship and oppression suffered by migrant laborers during the Great Depression. It is an explicitly political tract that champions collectivist action by the lower classes over expressions of individualist self-interest. It also chastises corporate and banking elites for shortsighted policies meant to maximize profit, even while forcing farmers into destitution and starvation.
Suggested by: Kristin

Title: Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
Genre: Fiction - General
Summary: This is a novella that is known to be very symbolic. Told as a story within a story, Heart of Darkness details an incident when Marlow, an Englishman, takes a foreign assignment from a Belgian trading company as a ferry-boat captain in Africa. Marlow is employed to transport ivory downriver, but his more pressing assignment is to return Kurtz, another ivory trader, to civilization in a cover up.
Suggested by: Tim L.

Title: I, Claudius by Robert Graves
Genre: Fiction – Historical
Summary: I, Claudius is a 1934 novel by English writer Robert Graves, written in the form of an autobiography of Claudius, the fourth Emperor of Rome. Historically, Claudius's family kept him out of public life until his sudden coronation at the age of 49. This was due to his disabilities, which included a stammer, a limp, and various nervous tics which made him appear mentally deficient to his relatives. Scholars defined Claudius this way for most of history, and Graves uses these peculiarities to develop a sympathetic character whose survival in a murderous dynasty depends upon his family's incorrect assumption that he is a harmless idiot.
Suggested by: Curtis

Title: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Genre: Fiction – Historical
Summary: Little Women is a coming-of-age story that takes place in New England during the Civil War. Four daughters - Meg, Jo, Amy, and Beth - and their next-door neighbor Lawrence grow up and mature while the war is being fought. The book, loosely based on the author's childhood experiences with her three sisters, provides a wonderful sense of time and place and lets us realize that the angst of becoming an adult has always been present throughout time.
Suggested by: Deborah D.

Title: The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
Genre: Fiction – Crime
Summary: The best known of Hammett's novels, The Maltese Falcon centers on San Francisco detective Sam Spade, who is tough enough to bluff the toughest thugs and hold off the police. He risks his reputation when a beautiful woman begs for his help. In addition, Spade's partner is murdered on a stakeout; the cops blame him for the killing, a beautiful redhead with a heartbreaking story appears and disappears, grotesque villains demand a payoff he can't provide, and everyone wants a fabulously valuable gold statuette of a falcon. Who has it, and what will it take to get it back? Spade's solution is as complicated as the motives of the seekers assembled in his hotel room, but the truth can be a cold comfort indeed.
Suggested by: Jen G.

Title: Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
Genre: Fiction – General
Summary: Moby-Dick is a white whale, an emblem of nature yet unnaturally pale, tender and violent, god and demon, an enigma to which Captain Ahab is bound by ropes of vengeful obsession. The Pequod is a whaler out of Nantucket, with its polyglot world crew bound upon a voyage for the sperm whale, a ship of the damned driven by its ungodly captain to the edge of the void. Ismael, named for a Biblical outcast, is the narrator as well as a masthead philosopher and sole survivor. These characters are featured in a story that employs stylized language, symbolism, and metaphor to explore numerous complex themes, including religion, idealism versus pragmatism, revenge, sanity, and hierarchical relationships.
Suggested by: Julianne C.

Title: The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope
Genre: Fiction – Satire
Summary: Originally published in 1875 as monthly serial fiction, The Way We Live Now is a scathing 1,000-page novel that was inspired by the immorality and dishonesty the author witnessed after returning to England from the colonies. Many topics are covered in this story, including politics, finance, the aristocracy, the literary world, gambling, sex, and much more. The characters embody all the vices in this world of bribes, vendettas, swindling, and suicide in which heiresses are won like gambling stakes.
Suggested by: Charlie K.

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