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Polls for 2014 Book Selection

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Anthony
anthonylee06
Group Organizer
Union City, CA
Post #: 45
The following are the two book polls to review as part of Book Selection Month in November 2013. Per the instructions, you have until November 30, 2013 to e-mail me the 9 Contemporary books and 4 Classic books that you are most interested in reading for 2014.

Book Poll #1: Contemporary Selections

Title: American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Genre: Fiction – Science-Fiction/Fantasy
Year of Publication: 2001
Approximate Page Count: 560 pages
Summary: American Gods is a Hugo- and Nebula Award-winning novel that blends Americana, fantasy, and various strands of ancient and modern mythology. Shadow, an ex-convict, gets out of prison and finds out his wife has been killed in a car accident. He meets Wednesday, the god Odin in disguise. Odin is gathering up the old gods to start a war with the new gods: consumerism, me-ism, and individuality in America. The story is a discussion on what happens to the old gods when their believers come to America, and what or who are the new gods that replace them.
Suggested by: Regina

Title: And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
Genre: Fiction – Historical
Year of Publication: 2013
Approximate Page Count: 417 pages
Summary: This is a novel about how we love, how we take care of one another, and how the choices we make resonate through generations. In this tale revolving around not just parents and children but brothers and sisters, cousins and caretakers, Hosseini explores the many ways in which families nurture, wound, betray, honor, and sacrifice for one another; and how often we are surprised by the actions of those closest to us, at the times that matter most. Following its characters and the ramifications of their lives and choices and loves around the globe—from Kabul to Paris to San Francisco to the Greek island of Tinos—the story expands gradually outward, becoming more emotionally complex and powerful with each turning page.
Suggested by: Deb M.

Title: A Burnt-Out Case by Graham Greene
Genre: Fiction – Literary
Year of Publication: 1960
Approximate Page Count: 248 pages
Summary: This is the fascinating story of a star architect who has come to the end of his passion for architecture and seeks the simplest and most useful life possible. Querry, a famous architect who is fed up with his celebrity, no longer finds meaning in art or pleasure in life. Arriving anonymously at a Congo leper colony overseen by Catholic missionaries, he is diagnosed—by Dr. Colin, the resident doctor—as the mental equivalent of a 'burnt-out case': a leper who has gone through a stage of mutilation. However, as Querry loses himself in working for the lepers, his disease of mind slowly approaches a cure.
Suggested by: Ned

Title: Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody
Genre: Nonfiction – Memoir
Year of Publication: 1968
Approximate Page Count: 384 pages
Summary: Written without a trace of sentimentality or apology, this is an unforgettable personal story, the truth as a remarkable young woman named Anne Moody lived it. To read her book is to know what it is to have grown up black in Mississippi in the forties an fifties and to have survived with pride and courage intact. In this now classic autobiography, she details the sights, smells, and suffering of growing up in a racist society and candidly reveals the soul of a black girl who had the courage to challenge it. The result is a touchstone work: an accurate, authoritative portrait of black family life in the rural South, and a moving account of a woman's indomitable heart.
Suggested by: Ann

Title: Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller
Genre: Nonfiction – Autobiography
Year of Publication: 2003
Approximate Page Count: 311 pages
Summary: The author presents her English family's life as white Rhodesian settlers in the midst of a seven-year civil war. Fuller shares her experiences of having her dad off in the countryside for weeks on end, helping a local militia group. She recalls hilarious stories about her mother getting drunk at dinner and staying up all night, but also does not hide the effect her mother's alcoholism had on her childhood. Fuller writes about living through a war, being white growing up in an almost all-black country, and the death of siblings and beloved animals. The raw beauty of the land and racial dynamics between the black and white Rhodesian Africanas presents a vivid look at life and beliefs in Africa.
Suggested by: Julianne

Title: I Lost My Love in Baghdad: A Modern War Story by Michael Hastings
Genre: Nonfiction – Autobiography
Year of Publication: 2010
Approximate Page Count: 304 pages
Summary: In 2005, at the age of 25, Hastings was sent by Newsweek to cover the war in Iraq. This book details his two tumultuous years covering the war while falling in love with his long-distance girlfriend Andi, who would join him in Iraq only to be killed in a botched kidnapping. Hastings describes how two young, almost hopelessly idealistic people try to nurture and maintain a relationship amid the daily carnage in Baghdad. There is, of course, affection, but there is also conflict as both show the stress of constant fear for their personal safety. This is a tragic love story with broad appeal married to an unflinching account of wartime violence and brutality.
Suggested by: Kristin

Title: Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquival
Genre: Fiction – Romance
Year of Publication: 1989
Approximate Page Count: 256 pages
Summary: In a style that is epic in scope yet intensely personal in focus, Laura Esquivel's Like Water for Chocolate tells the story of Tita de la Garza, the youngest daughter in a family living in Mexico at the turn of the twentieth century. Through twelve chapters, each marked as a "monthly installment" and thus labeled with the months of the year, we learn of Tita's struggle to pursue true love and claim her independence. Each installment also features a recipe to begin the chapter. The structure of Like Water for Chocolate is wholly dependent on these recipes, as the main episodes of each chapter generally involve the preparation or consumption of the dishes that these recipes yield.
Suggested by: Mary Jane

Title: The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint by Brady Udall
Genre: Fiction – General
Year of Publication: 2001
Approximate Page Count: 432 pages
Summary: This powerful first novel by short story writer Udall is constructed around grotesque set pieces. Set in the late '60s, Udall's story begins when seven-year-old Edgar Mint, the half-Apache, half-white narrator, is run over by the mailman's car. Abandoned by his grandmother and alcoholic mother after his remarkable recovery, the boy begins an odyssey through various institutions and homes, starting with St. Divine's hospital in Globe, Arizona (where he recuperates), through Willie Sherman's (a horrific school for Indian children), and ending up with a dysfunctional Mormon family in Richland, Utah. The novel's long middle section, describing Edgar's brutalization at the Indian school by the other kids, captures the effect of what seems like endless bullying on a child's consciousness. Against this hostility, Edgar concocts a homemade magic, which consists mainly of typing on a clunky Hermes typewriter given to him by a fellow St. Divine's patient.
Suggested by: Daryl
Anthony
anthonylee06
Group Organizer
Union City, CA
Post #: 46
Title: The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin
Genre: Fiction – Historical
Year of Publication: 2012
Approximate Page Count: 426 pages
Summary: At once intimate and epic, The Orchardist is historical fiction at its best, in the grand literary tradition of William Faulkner, Marilynne Robinson, Annie Prouix and Toni Morrision.
In her stunningly original and haunting debut novel, Amanda Coplin evokes a powerful sense of place, mixing tenderness and violence as she spins an engrossing tale of William Talmadge, a solitary orchardist, who provides shelter to two runaway teenage girls in the untamed American West. Feral, scared, and very pregnant, the girls take up on Talmadge's land and indulge in his deep reservoir of compassion. Just as the girls begin to trust him, men arrive in the orchard with guns, and the shattering tragedy that follows will set Talmadge on an irrevocable course not only to save and protect but also to reconcile the ghosts of his own troubled past.
Suggested by: Jeri

Title: A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
Genre: Fiction – Literary
Year of Publication: 1989
Approximate Page Count: 543 pages
Summary: John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany is the inspiring modern classic that introduced two of the author’s most unforgettable characters, boys bonded forever in childhood: the stunted Owen Meany, whose life is touched by God, and the orphaned Johnny Wheelwright, whose life is touched by Owen. From the accident that links them to the mystery that follows them–and the martyrdom that parts them–the events of their lives form a tapestry of fate and faith in a novel that is Irving at his irresistible best.The novel deals with serious spiritual issues, such as the importance of faith, matters of social justice, and the concept of fate, in the context of an outlandish narrative.
Suggested by: Deb D.

Title: A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
Genre: Nonfiction – Science/History
Year of Publication: 2003
Approximate Page Count: 544 pages
Summary: From primordial nothingness to this very moment, A Short History of Nearly Everything reports what happened and how humans figured it out. To accomplish this daunting literary task, Bill Bryson uses hundreds of sources, from popular science books to interviews with luminaries in various fields. His aim is to help people like him, who rejected stale school textbooks and dry explanations, to appreciate how we have used science to understand the smallest particles and the unimaginably vast expanses of space. With his distinctive prose style and wit, Bryson succeeds admirably.
Suggested by: Charlie

Title: Subtle Bodies by Norman Rush
Genre: Fiction – General
Year of Publication: 2013
Approximate Page Count: 256 pages
Summary: In his long-awaited new novel, Norman Rush gives us a sophisticated, often comical romp through the particular joys and tribulations of marriage and the dilemmas of friendship, as a group of college friends reunites in upstate New York twenty-some years after graduation. When Douglas, the ringleader of a clique of self-styled wits of “superior sensibility,” dies suddenly, his four remaining friends are summoned to his luxe estate high in the Catskills to memorialize his life and mourn his passing. Responding to an obscure sense of emergency in the call, our hero Ned flies in from San Francisco, pursued instantly by his furious wife Nina. It is Nina who gives us a pointed, irreverent commentary as the friends begin to catch up with one another.
Suggested by: Wendy

Title: Summertime by J. M. Coetzee
Genre: Fiction – Fictionalized Memoir
Year of Publication: 2009
Approximate Page Count: 266 pages
Summary: Summertime is a 2009 novel by South African-born Nobel laureate J. M. Coetzee. The third in a series of fictionalized memoirs by Coetzee, Summertime details the life of one John Coetzee from the perspective of five people who have known him. The novel largely takes place in the mid to late 1970s, largely in Cape Town, although there are also important scenes in more remote South African settings. While there are obvious similarities between the actual writer of the novel, J. M. Coetzee, and the subject of the novel, John Coetzee, there are some differences - most notably that the John Coetzee of the novel is reported as having died. Within the novel, the opinions and thoughts of the five people are compiled and interpreted by a fictitious biographer, who also adds fragments from John Coetzee's notebooks.
Suggested by: Jeff

Title: TransAtlantic by Colum McCann
Genre: Fiction – Historical
Year of Publication: 2013
Approximate Page Count: 320 pages
Summary: McCann’s stunning sixth novel is a brilliant tribute to his loamy, lyrical and complicated Irish homeland, and an ode to the ties that, across time and space, bind Ireland and America. The book begins with three transatlantic crossings, each a novella within a novel: Frederick Douglas’s 1845 visit to Ireland, the 1919 flight of British aviators Alcock and Brown, and former US senator George Mitchell’s 1998 attempt to mediate peace in Northern Ireland. McCann then loops back to 1863 to launch the saga of the women we briefly meet throughout Book One, beginning with Irish housemaid Lily Duggan, whose bold escape from her troubled homeland cracks open the world for her daughter and granddaughter. The finale is a melancholy set piece that ties it all together. McCann reminds us that life is hard, and it is a wonder, and there is hope.
Suggested by: Marty

Title: The View from the Rock by Alice Munro
Genre: Fiction – Historical
Year of Publication: 2006
Approximate Page Count: 349 pages
Summary: In a collection of stories that are more personal than any that she’s written before, Alice Munro pieces her family’s history into gloriously imagined fiction. A young boy is taken to Edinburgh’s Castle Rock, where his father assures him that on a clear day he can see America, and he catches a glimpse of his father’s dream. In stories that follow, as the dream becomes a reality, two sisters-in-law experience very different kinds of passion on the long voyage to the New World, and a baby is lost and magically reappears on a journey from an Illinois homestead to the Canadian border. Other stories take place in more familiar Munro territory, the towns and countryside around Lake Huron, where the past shows through the present like the traces of a glacier on the landscape. Evocative, gripping, and unexpected, The View from Castle Rock is a brilliant achievement from one of the finest writers of our time.
Suggested by: Sue

Title: Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster by Svetlana Alexievich
Genre: Nonfiction – Modern History
Year of Publication: 2005
Approximate Page Count: 233 pages
Summary: On April 26, 1986, the worst nuclear reactor accident in history occurred in Chernobyl and contaminated as much as three quarters of Europe. Voices from Chernobyl is the first book to present personal accounts of the tragedy. Journalist Svetlana Alexievich interviewed hundreds of people affected by the meltdown—from innocent citizens to firefighters to those called in to clean up the disaster—and their stories reveal the fear, anger, and uncertainty with which they still live. Comprised of interviews in monologue form, Voices from Chernobyl is a crucially important work, unforgettable in its emotional power and honesty and was awarded the 2005 National Book Critics Circle Award for general non-fiction.
Suggested by: Lina
Anthony
anthonylee06
Group Organizer
Union City, CA
Post #: 47
Title: William Shakespeare’s Star Wars by Ian Doescher
Genre: Fiction – Science-Fiction/Parody
Year of Publication: 2013
Approximate Page Count: 174 pages
Summary: Return once more to a galaxy far, far away with this sublime retelling of George Lucas’s epic Star Wars in the style of the immortal Bard of Avon. The saga of a wise (Jedi) knight and an evil (Sith) lord, of a beautiful princess held captive and a young hero coming of age, Star Wars abounds with all the valor and villainy of Shakespeare’s greatest plays. ’Tis a tale told by fretful droids, full of faithful Wookiees and fearstome Stormtroopers, signifying... pretty much everything. Reimagined in glorious iambic pentameter—and complete with twenty gorgeous Elizabethan illustrations--William Shakespeare’s Star Wars will astound and edify Rebels and Imperials alike. Zounds! This is the book you’re looking for.
Suggested by: Evelyn


Book Poll #2: Classic Selections

Title: The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
Genre: Fiction – Literary
Year of Publication: 1920
Approximate Page Count: 296 pages
Summary: The Age of Innocence centers on an upper-class couple's impending marriage, and the introduction of a woman plagued by scandal whose presence threatens their happiness. Though the novel questions the assumptions and morals of 1870s New York society, it never devolves into an outright condemnation of the institution. In fact, Wharton considered this novel an
"apology" for her earlier novel, The House of Mirth, which was more brutal and critical. The Age of Innocence is lauded for its accurate portrayal of how the 19th-century East Coast American upper class lived, and this, combined with the social tragedy, earned Wharton a Pulitzer Prize, the first Pulitzer awarded to a woman.
Suggested by: Sue

Title: Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
Genre: Fiction – Historical/Mystery
Year of Publication: 1951
Approximate Page Count: 206 pages
Summary: Josephine Tey recreates one of history's most famous–-and vicious—crimes in her classic bestselling novel about Richard III. Prompted by a reproduction of a famous portrait of Richard, Tey's laid-up sleuth, with the help of an American researcher, marshals from his bed an archival assault on the estimable Sir Thomas More, Henry (the VII) Tudor, and the entire phalanx of worthies who have reported, for the last half a millennium, that Richard was the demonic crookback murderer of Shakespeare's characterization. Those not already sucked into the revisionist Ricardian argument may very well be converted. The Daughter of Time is an ingeniously plotted, beautifully written, and suspenseful tale, full of witty dialogue and engaging characters.
Suggested by: Kristin

Title: Earth Abides by George Stewart
Genre: Fiction – Post-Apocalyptic Science-Fiction
Year of Publication: 1949
Approximate Page Count: 373 pages
Summary: Earth Abides tells the story of the fall of civilization from deadly disease and its rebirth, set in the 1940s in Berkeley, California. Isherwood Williams emerges from isolation in the mountains to find almost everyone dead. Settling with a few other survivors, and now nicknamed Ish, he seeks to re-establish American civilization through a small community living in the Berkeley Hills overlooking the San Francisco Bay. While most of the survivors seek only to survive on a day-to-day basis, Ish tries to preserve the knowledge of the past, saving libraries and teaching his gifted but physically weak son all the knowledge and achievements of his civilization. As time passes, Ish becomes an almost God-like figure, the "Last American" to the new generation of young men and women. But Ish is very uncomfortable with his virtual deification and his near absolute power over the community, realizing that the survivors have become much too complacent and dependent upon him.
Suggested by: Marty

Title: Elmer Gantry by Sinclair Lewis
Genre: Fiction – General
Year of Publication: 1927
Approximate Page Count: 465 pages
Summary: This story is a humorous look at evangelism in the early 20th century. Elmer Gantry Is a young, narcissistic, womanizing college athlete who abandons his early ambition to become a lawyer. The legal profession does not suit the unethical Gantry, who then becomes a notorious and cynical alcoholic. He is accidentally ordained as a Baptist minister and eventually becomes a Methodist. Then he becomes the friend, lover, and manager of the evangelist Sharon Falconer, whose character is based on the real life evangelist Amy Temple McPherson. Eventually, Gantry destroys most people of the people around him, then marries wealth and gets his own church.
Suggested by: Regina

Title: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Genre: Fiction – Literary
Year of Publication: 1847
Approximate Page Count: 328 pages
Summary: Jane Eyre is the story of a small, plain-faced, intelligent, and passionate English orphan. Jane is abused by her aunt and cousin and then attends a harsh charity school. Through it all, she remains strong and determinedly refuses to allow a cruel world to crush her independence or her strength of will. A masterful story of a woman's quest for freedom and love. Jane Eyre is partly autobiographical, and Charlotte Brontë filled it with social criticism and sinister Gothic elements. This is a must-read for anyone wishing to celebrate the indomitable strength of will or encourage it in their growing children.
Suggested by: Ann

Title: The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
Genre: Fiction – Naturalism
Year of Publication: 1906
Approximate Page Count: 475 pages
Summary: The Jungle is a 1906 novel written by the American journalist and novelist Upton Sinclair, who wrote the novel to portray the lives of immigrants in the United States . Many readers were most concerned with his exposure of practices in the American meatpacking industry during the early 20th century, based on an investigation he did for a socialist newspaper. The book depicts poverty, the absence of social programs, unpleasant living and working conditions, and the hopelessness prevalent among the working class, which is contrasted with the deeply rooted corruption of people in power. A review by the writer Jack London called it "the Uncle Tom's Cabin of wage slavery."
Suggested by: Charlie
Anthony
anthonylee06
Group Organizer
Union City, CA
Post #: 48
Title: La Nausee by Jean-Paul Sartre
Genre: Fiction – Philosophical
Year of Publication: 1938
Approximate Page Count: 249 pages
Summary: Jean-Paul Sartre was a French existentialist, philosopher, playwright, novelist, political activist, and literary critic. One of the leading figures in the 20th century, he wrote La Nausee (Nausea) in 1938, which serves in some ways as a manifesto of existentialism and remains one of his most famous books. The book concerns a dejected historian who becomes convinced that inanimate objects and situations encroach on his ability to define himself, on his intellectual and spiritual freedom, evoking in the protagonist a sense of nausea. This is a short novel viewing the world in a dark altered manner, challenging one’s interpretation of life and their personal experience of being.
Suggested by: Jeri

Title: Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad
Genre: Fiction – Literary
Year of Publication: 1900
Approximate Page Count: 320 pages
Summary: Jim (his surname is never disclosed), a young British seaman, becomes first mate on the Patna, a ship full of pilgrims travelling to Mecca for the hajj. When the ship starts rapidly taking on water and disaster seems imminent, Jim joins his captain and other crew members in abandoning the ship and its passengers. A few days later, they are picked up by a British ship. However, the Patna and its passengers are later also saved, and the reprehensible actions of the crew are exposed. The other participants evade the judicial court of inquiry, leaving Jim to the court alone. He is publicly censured for his actions, and the novel follows his later attempts at coming to terms with his past.
Suggested by: Ned

Title: Roughing It by Mark Twain
Genre: Nonfiction – Travel/Semiautobiographical
Year of Publication: 1872
Approximate Page Count: 560 pages
Summary: Roughing It follows the travels of young Mark Twain through the Wild West during the years 1861 to 1867. After a brief stint as a Confederate cavalry militiaman (not included in the account), he joined his brother Orion Clemens, who had been appointed Secretary of the Nevada Territory, on a stagecoach journey west. Twain consulted his brother's diary to refresh his memory and borrowed heavily from his active imagination for many stories. Roughing It illustrates many of Twain's early adventures, including a visit to Salt Lake City, gold and silver prospecting, real-estate speculation, a journey to the Kingdom of Hawaii, and his beginnings as a writer. In this memoir, readers can see examples of Twain's rough-hewn humor, which would become a staple of his writing in his later books.
Suggested by: Evelyn

Title: To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
Genre: Fiction – Psychological
Year of Publication: 1927
Approximate Page Count: 210 pages
Summary: This landmark novel from the interwar period centers on two one-day periods-- ten years apart--in the life of the extended Ramsay family. The stream-of-consciousness style, challenging at first, pays off handsomely in the pivotal dinner scene and other "silent conversations.” The most autobiographical of Woolf's novels, it deals with her relationships with her philosopher father and her mother, who died early, and with coming into her own as an artist. Prominent themes include the nature of perception, intersubjectivity, loss, and modernity (particularly as it affects the relationship between the sexes). Modern Library named it #15 on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.
Suggested by: Jeff

Title: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
Genre: Fiction – Children’s Fantasy
Year of Publication: 1900
Approximate Page Count: 224 pages
Summary: L. Frank Baum's timeless classic The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was the first uniquely American fairy tale. A combination of enchanting fantasy and piercing social commentary, this remarkable story—featuring the adventures of Dorothy, Toto, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion—has entertained and beguiled readers of all ages since it was first published in 1900. Ray Bradbury writes in his Introduction, "Both [Baum and Shakespeare] lived inside their heads with a mind gone wild with wanting, wishing, hoping, shaping, dreaming," and it is this same hunger that makes all of us continue to seek out the story of Oz—and be nourished by it.
Suggested by: Deb D.
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