Past Book Suggestions

We always get some good book suggestions every month. I'm always interested in new book ideas and I think most of our members probably are too, so, I'm going to try to post the books that have been suggested. I only have the suggestions going back a couple months, so if anyone can recall previous ones, let me know!


Titles in blue are fiction; titles in red are non-fiction



The Gold Coast by Nelson DeMille

From Publishers Weekly
What happens to a priggish, WASPy, disillusioned Wall Street lawyer when a Mafia crime boss moves into the mansion next door in his posh Long Island neighborhood? He ends up representing the gangster on a murder rap and even perjures himself so the mafiosostet lc can be released on $5 million bail. That's the premise of DeMille's ( The Charm School ) bloated, unpersuasive thriller. Attorney John Sutter has problems that would daunt even Fitzgerald's Jay Gatsby. His marriage is crumbling, despite kinky sex games with his self-centered wife, Susan, who's the mistress of his underworld client Frank Bellarosa. The IRS is after Sutter, and his law firm wants to dump him. As a sardonic morality tale of one man's self-willed disintegration, the impact is flattened by its elitist narrator's patrician tones. A comic courtroom scene and some punches at the end, however, redeem the novel somewhat. - Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction by David Sheff

From Publishers Weekly
Expanding on his New York Times Magazine article, Sheff chronicles his son's downward spiral into addiction and the impact on him and his family. A bright, capable teenager, Nic began trying mind- and mood-altering substances when he was 17. In months, use became abuse, then abuse became addiction. By the time Sheff knew of his son's condition, Nic was strung out on meth, the highly potent stimulant. While his son struggles to get clean, his second wife and two younger children are pulled helplessly into the drama. Sheff, as the parent of an addict, cycles through denial and acceptance and resistance. The author was already a journalist of considerable standing when this painful story began to unfold, and his impulse for detail serves him personally as well as professionally: there are hard, solid facts about meth and the kinds of havoc it wreaks on individuals, families and communities both urban and rural. His journey is long and harrowing, but Sheff does not spare himself or anyone else from keen professional scrutiny any more than he was himself spared the pains—and joys—of watching a loved one struggling with addiction and recovery. Real recovery creates—and can itself be—its own reward; this is an honest, hopeful book, coming at a propitious moment in the meth epidemic.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

The Devil's Advocate by Morris West

It is a fascinating tale of suffering, human failings, redemption and above all faith, set in Southern Italy during World War II. Monsignor Blaise Meredith, who is dying of cancer, has been assigned the most important task of his life to be a Devil's Advocate for beautification of Giacomo Nerone. He is sent to a small town in Calabria to investigate the life and death of this martyr. The story unfolds as the Monsignor interviews Nerone's widow, Nina Sanduzzi, Nerone's friend, Dr. Aldo Myers, a Jew among the Catholics, a wealthy Contessa, who was in love with Nerone and Contessa's guest, Nicholas Black, an English painter. Nerone's character comes alive through Dr. Myers and his widow's narration of events leading to his death by firing squad by the partisan mob. Nerone's life in the small town is revealed gradually like clouds parting to reveal the sun. He is a British officer who disserts his post after a horrifying accident where he kills an infant and the parents. With a bullet in his shoulder he runs away to find love, peace and God. He eventually finds all three.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. See's engrossing novel set in remote 19th-century China details the deeply affecting story of lifelong, intimate friends (laotong, or "old sames") Lily and Snow Flower, their imprisonment by rigid codes of conduct for women and their betrayal by pride and love. While granting immediacy to Lily's voice, See (Flower Net) adroitly transmits historical background in graceful prose. Her in-depth research into women's ceremonies and duties in China's rural interior brings fascinating revelations about arranged marriages, women's inferior status in both their natal and married homes, and the Confucian proverbs and myriad superstitions that informed daily life. Beginning with a detailed and heartbreaking description of Lily and her sisters' foot binding ("Only through pain will you have beauty. Only through suffering will you have peace"), the story widens to a vivid portrait of family and village life. Most impressive is See's incorporation of nu shu, a secret written phonetic code among women—here between Lily and Snow Flower—that dates back 1,000 years in the southwestern Hunan province ("My writing is soaked with the tears of my heart,/ An invisible rebellion that no man can see"). As both a suspenseful and poignant story and an absorbing historical chronicle, this novel has bestseller potential and should become a reading group favorite as well.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

A searing, postapocalyptic novel destined to become Cormac McCarthy s masterpiece. A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don t know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food and each other. The Road is the profoundly moving story of a journey. It boldly imagines a future in which no hope remains, but in which the father and his son, each the other s world entire, are sustained by love. Awesome in the totality of its vision, it is an unflinching meditation on the worst and the best that we are capable of: ultimate destructiveness, desperate tenacity, and the tenderness that keeps two people alive in the face of total devastation.

Angelica by Arthur Phillips

From Publishers Weekly
Set in Victorian England, Phillips's impressive third novel uses four linked viewpoints to explore class, gender, family dynamics, sexuality and sciences both real and fraudulent, ancient and newly minted. Joseph Barton, a London biological researcher, orders his four-year-old daughter, Angelica, who's been sleeping in her parents' bedroom, to her own room. Joseph's wife, Constance, resists this separation from her child and the resumption of a marital intimacy that, given her history of miscarriage, may threaten her life. Soon Constance notices foul odors, furniture cracks and a blue specter that appears to attack Angelica while she sleeps. When she reports these supernatural visitations to the unimaginative Joseph, the rift between them widens. Desperate, Constance turns to actress-turned-spiritualist Annie Montague for help. Phillips (Prague) captures period diction and detail brilliantly. At its strongest, the multiple-viewpoint narration yields psychological depth and a number of clever surprises; at its weakest, it can slow the book's momentum to an uncomfortably slow (if authentically Victorian) pace. Author tour. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. United in their obsession with a grisly Italian serial murder case almost three decades old, thriller writer Preston (coauthor, Brimstone) and Italian crime reporter Spezi seek to uncover the identity of the killer in this chilling true crime saga. From 1974 to 1985, seven pairs of lovers parked in their cars in secluded areas outside of Florence were gruesomely murdered. When Preston and his family moved into a farmhouse near the murder sites, he and Spezi began to snoop around, although witnesses had died and evidence was missing. With all of the chief suspects acquitted or released from prison on appeal, Preston and Spezi's sleuthing continued until ruthless prosecutors turned on the nosy pair, jailing Spezi and grilling Preston for obstructing justice. Only when Dateline NBC became involved in the maze of mutilated bodies and police miscues was the authors' hard work rewarded. This suspenseful procedural reveals much about the dogged writing team as well as the motives of the killers. Better than some overheated noir mysteries, this bit of real-life Florence bloodletting makes you sweat and think, and presses relentlessly on the nerves. (June 11)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Capitol Men: The Epic Story of Reconstruction Through the Lives of the First Black Congressmen by Philip Dray

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. With this densely textured history of Reconstruction, Pulitzer Prize–finalist Dray (At the Hands of Persons Unknown) moves the first black congressmen—including Robert Brown Elliott, P.B.S. Pinchback and Hiram Revels—from the margins of American history and places their careers in an integrated context that includes not only the challenging world in which they lived [but] the stories of the men and women of both races whose actions affected their role. Particularly illuminating on local political history, Dray is equally attentive to broader issues (e.g., the rift between women's rights advocates and civil rights activists). Events frequently treated as separate African-American issues (e.g., the collapse of the Freedman's Bank, the legal entrenchment of separate but equal) are examined in the fuller milieu of contemporary history. The author asserts, [I]t is difficult to imagine another period in America's past as complex as Reconstruction, or one that has been more controversial in the telling. Dray's triumph is to have crafted a lucid and balanced narrative, thoroughly researched and well-documented to satisfy the scholarly, while consistently fascinating and fully accessible for the casual reader.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. This autobiography by the author of the long-running strip, Dykes to Watch Out For, deals with her childhood with a closeted gay father, who was an English teacher and proprietor of the local funeral parlor (the former allowed him access to teen boys). Fun Home refers both to the funeral parlor, where he put makeup on the corpses and arranged the flowers, and the family's meticulously restored gothic revival house, filled with gilt and lace, where he liked to imagine himself a 19th-century aristocrat. The art has greater depth and sophistication that Dykes; Bechdel's talent for intimacy and banter gains gravitas when used to describe a family in which a man's secrets make his wife a tired husk and overshadow his daughter's burgeoning womanhood and homosexuality. His court trial over his dealings with a young boy pushes aside the importance of her early teen years. Her coming out is pushed aside by his death, probably a suicide. The recursively told story, which revisits the sites of tragic desperation again and again, hits notes that resemble Jeanette Winterson at her best. Bechdel presents her childhood as a "still life with children" that her father created, and meditates on how prolonged untruth can become its own reality. She's made a story that's quiet, dignified and not easy to put down.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Renaissance Florence's artistic zenith and Mughal India's cultural summit—reached the following century, at Emperor Akbar's court in Sikri—are the twin beacons of Rushdie's ingenious latest, a dense but sparkling return to form. The connecting link between the two cities and epochs is the magically beautiful hidden princess, Qara Köz, so gorgeous that her uncovered face makes battle-hardened warriors drop to their knees. Her story underlies the book's circuitous journey.A mysterious yellow-haired man in a multicolored coat steps off a rented bullock cart and walks into 16th-century Sikri: he speaks excellent Persian, has a stock of conjurer's tricks and claims to be Akbar's uncle. He carries with him a letter from Queen Elizabeth I, which he translates for Akbar with vast incorrectness. But it is the story of Akbar's great-aunt, Qara Köz, that the man (her putative son) has come to the court to tell. The tale dates to the time of Akbar's grandfather, Babar (Qara Köz's brother), and it involves her relationship with the Persian Shah. In the Shah's employ is Janissary general Nino Argalia, an Italian convert to Islam, whose own story takes the narrative to Renaissance Florence. Rushdie eventually presents an extended portrait of Florence through the eyes of Niccolò Machiavelli and Ago Vespucci, cousin of the more famous Amerigo. Rushdie's portrayal of Florence pales in comparison with his depiction of Mughal court society, but it brings Rushdie to his real fascination here: the multitudinous, capillary connections between East and West, a secret history of interchanges that's disguised by standard histories in which West discovers East.Along the novel's roundabout way, Qara Köz does seem more alive as a sexual obsession in the tales swapped by various men than as her own person. Genial Akbar, however, emerges as the most fascinating character in the book. Chuang Tzu tells of a man who dreams of being a butterfly and, on waking up, wonders whether he is now a butterfly dreaming he is a man. In Rushdie's version of the West and East, the two cultures take on a similar blended polarity in Akbar as he listens to the tales. Each culture becomes the dream of the other.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Girls of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsanea

From Publishers Weekly
Four upper-class Saudi Arabian women negotiate the clash between tradition and the encroaching West in this debut novel by 25-year-old Saudi Alsanea. Though timid by American chick lit standards, it was banned in Saudi Arabia for its scandalous portrayal of secular life. Framed as a series of e-mails sent to the e-subscribers of an Internet group, the story follows an unnamed narrator who recounts the misadventures of her best friends, Gamrah, Lamees, Michelle and Sadeem—all fashionable, educated, wealthy 20-somethings looking for true love. Their world is dominated by prayer, family loyalty and physical modesty, but the voracious consumption of luxury goods (designer name dropping is muted but present) and yearnings for female empowerment are also part of the package. Lines like the talk was as soft as the granules in my daily facial soap or Sadeem was feeling so sad that her chest was constricted in sorrow appear with woeful frequency, and the details about the roles of technology, beauty and Western pop culture in the lives of contemporary Saudi women aren't revelatory. Readers looking for quality Arabic fiction have much better options.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Lilith's Brood by Octavia Butler

Product Description
Dawn: After nuclear war destroys the world, Earths survivors are rescued by the miraculously powerful Oankali aliens- who survive by merging genetically with primitive peoples without their permission. Adulthood Rites: Desperate to regain their world, childless humans seek to cleanse the alien taint by kidnapping hybrid children. But the raiders are blind to the truth of Earths new children. Imago: The futures of both humans and aliens rest in one young beings successful metamorphosis into adulthood.

About the Author
Octavia E. Butler was the first black woman to come to international prominence as a science fiction writer. Incorporating powerful, spare language and rich, well-developed characters, her work tackled race, gender, religion, poverty, power, politics, and science in a way that touched readers of all backgrounds. Butler was a towering figure in life and in her art and the world noticed; highly acclaimed by reviewers, she received numerous awards, including a MacArthur "genius" grant, both the Hugo and Nebula awards, the Langston Hughes Medal, as well as a PEN Lifetime Achievement award.

Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon--and the Journey of a Generation by Sheila Weller

From Publishers Weekly
Weller's cultural history of the titans of women in rock in the 1970s details the artistic, sexual and symbolic twists and turns of Carole King, Joni Mitchell and Carly Simon in careful, loving detail. Susan Ericksen reads like one of the girls, picking up from Weller's tone and sounding like a woman of the era, besotted with the music and with the sense of boundaries being broken and glass ceilings smashed. While Ericksen occasionally slips, pronouncing words incorrectly and stumbling over unwieldy sentences, her performance is, for the most part, very solid. Weller's book is ambitious and wide-ranging, but Ericksen keeps its story tight and engaging. An Atria hardcover
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

The Symposium by Plato

The Symposium is a philosophical account written by Plato sometime after 385 BC. It is a discussion on the nature of love, taking the form of a group of speeches, both satirical and serious, given by a group of men at a symposium or a wine drinking gathering at the house of the tragedian Agathon at Athens. The Symposium was presumably written around the same time as Plato's Republic and Phaedrus; with those two texts, it is often considered one of Plato's literary high points. Plato takes great care to make the setting realistic and the historical context credible. Although this may be far from its original purpose, the dialogue has been used as a source by historians exploring Athenian social history (particularly the symposium as an institution) and sexual behaviour.

The Trial and Death of Socrates by Plato

Most of us remember THE APOLOGY as one of those dry Philosophy 101 texts we struggled to finish, but Tom Griffith's new translation in this Naxos production is far from dry. Socrates's defense of his life and, ironically, of his death, possesses a stunning immediacy: It is colloquial yet faithful, contemporary yet ancient, poignant yet timeless. The performance of Bruce Alexander, Jamie Glover, and company brings all the graceful resignation and patient humor of the 72-year-old man to new life, as only seasoned actors can. They give us the feel of what it must have been like in the jail that strange day 2,500 years ago when Athens put their most thoughtful citizen to death because he troubled their sleep. Naxos even provides an original soundtrack, haunting and meditative, to bridge the awkward transitions in the action. Everything is done, in short, to take Socrates from that dry 101 text to our own neighborhood. P.E.F.

The Prince by Machiavelli

When Lorenzo de' Medici seized control of the Florentine Republic in 1512, he summarily fired the Secretary to the Second Chancery of the Signoria and set in motion a fundamental change in the way we think about politics. The person who held the aforementioned office with the tongue-twisting title was none other than Niccolò Machiavelli, who, suddenly finding himself out of a job after 14 years of patriotic service, followed the career trajectory of many modern politicians into punditry. Unable to become an on-air political analyst for a television network, he only wrote a book. But what a book The Prince is. Its essential contribution to modern political thought lies in Machiavelli's assertion of the then revolutionary idea that theological and moral imperatives have no place in the political arena. "It must be understood," Machiavelli avers, "that a prince ... cannot observe all of those virtues for which men are reputed good, because it is often necessary to act against mercy, against faith, against humanity, against frankness, against religion, in order to preserve the state." With just a little imagination, readers can discern parallels between a 16th-century principality and a 20th-century presidency.

Three Sisters by Anton Chekov

Three Sisters is a naturalistic play about the decay of the privileged class in Russia and the search for meaning in the modern world. It describes the lives and aspirations of the Prozorov family, the three sisters (Olga, Masha, and Irina) and their brother Andrei. They are a family dissatisfied and frustrated with their present existence. The sisters are refined and cultured young women who grew up in urban Moscow; however for the past eleven years they have been living in a small provincial town. Moscow is a major symbolic element: the sisters are always dreaming of it and constantly express their desire to return. They identify Moscow with their happiness, and thus to them it represents the perfect life. However as the play develops Moscow never materializes and they all see their dreams recede further and further. Meaning never presents itself and they are forced to seek it out for themselves.

Nostromo by Joseph Conrad

Writing in 1904, Conrad invented a complex South American country with a turbulent history and a potentially explosive population, ranging from the wealthy gringo running the Sulaco silver mine to the poorest worker loading cargo on the docks. Although the story teems with lively characters, the dazzling figure of Nostromo eclipses them all. A natural leader?brave, handsome, and incorruptible?he naturally becomes the epicenter of the revolution that soon devastates Sulaco. With characteristic eloquence, Conrad has focused on the dramatic action of the revolution to explore challenging themes: capitalism, imperialism, revolution, and social justice.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce

Perhaps Joyce's most personal work, A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man depicts the intellectual awakening of one of literature's most memorable young heroes, Stephen Dedalus. Through a series of brilliant epiphanies that parallel the development of his own aesthetic consciousness, Joyce evokes Stephen's youth, from his impressionable years as the youngest student at the Clongowed Wood school to the deep religious conflict he experiences at a day school in Dublin, and finally to his college studies where he challenges the conventions of his upbringing and his understanding of faith and intellectual freedom. James Joyce's highly autobiographical novel was first published in the United States in 1916 to immediate acclaim. Ezra Pound accurately predicted that Joyce's book would "remain a permanent part of English literature," while H.G. Wells dubbed it "by far the most important living and convincing picture that exists of an Irish Catholic upbringing." A remarkably rich study of a developing young mind, A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man made an indelible mark on literature and confirmed Joyce's reputation as one of the world's greatest and lasting writers.

Table of Contents

Page title Most recent update Last edited by
Established and Aspiring Authors August 9, 2012 8:05 PM former member
Past Book Suggestions part 2 February 11, 2009 9:52 AM Terri
Past Book Suggestions February 11, 2009 9:17 AM Terri
Membership Fee info December 22, 2013 8:05 PM CherylAnn P.
About The Saint Petersburg Book Club Meetup Group December 22, 2013 8:04 PM CherylAnn P.

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