Awesome discussion last night--thanks for all of your contributions and engagement with the book and each other!
We had some intriguing ideas for future fiction and non-fiction picks--especially non-fiction (including some not listed here)...I am tempted to schedule all of the suggestions for coming months. We will start with a vote and we may return to the runner-ups later.
Please take a moment to read the blurbs/reviews and cast your vote. Send me an email ranking your preference of books. First listed are 3 fiction titles for October and then 3 for November.
As for our meeting time and date, I always work with Flyleaf's busy event schedule along with my own work schedule that allows for less flexibility for meeting days since a recent change. Mondays are now the best option for me, though Tuesdays might work from time to time...whether it falls on the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th depends on Flyleaf's events and my commitments. Thanks for being flexible and understanding. If someone else would like to lead a discussion on a different evening, you are welcome to do so! Let me know and we can schedule something.
1) A Visit from the Good Squad
by Jennifer Egan
2011 Pulitzer Prize Winner
2011 Morning News Tournament of Books
Winner 2010 National Book Critic's Circle
Award for Fiction 2010 New York Times
Ten Best Books Jennifer Egan's spellbinding new work circles Bennie Salazar, an aging former punk rocker and record executive, and Sasha, the passionate, troubled young woman he employs.
Bennie and Sasha never discover each others pasts, but the reader does, in intimate detail, along with the secret lives of a host of other people whose paths intersect with theirs in the San Francisco 1970s music scene, the demimonde of Naples, New York at many points along the way from the pre-Internet nineties to a postwar future, and on a catastrophic safari into the heart of Africa. We meet Lou, Bennie's charismatic, careless mentor; Scotty, the young musician who slipped off the grid; the uncle facing a failed marriage who goes in search of seventeen-year-old Sasha when she disappears into Italy; and the therapist on whose couch she dissects darker compulsions.
A Visit from the Goon Squad
is a book about time, survival, and the electrifying sparks ignited at the seams of our lives by colliding destinies. Sly, surprising, exhilarating work from one of our boldest writers. "Jennifer Egan is a rare bird: an experimental writer with a deep commitment to character, whose fiction is at once intellectually stimulating and moving....It?s a tricky book, but in the best way. When I got to the end, I wanted to start from the top again immediately, both to revisit the characters and to understand better how the pieces fit together. Like a masterful album, this one demands a replay." San Francisco Chronicle
2) Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart
334 pagesNon-Fiction (November) 1) The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson 447 pages Author Erik Larson imbues the incredible events surrounding the 1893 Chicago World's Fair with such drama that readers may find themselves checking the book's categorization to be sure that The Devil in the White City is not, in fact, a highly imaginative novel. Larson tells the stories of two men: Daniel H. Burnham, the architect responsible for the fair's construction, and H.H. Holmes, a serial killer masquerading as a charming doctor. Burnham's challenge was immense. In a short period of time, he was forced to overcome the death of his partner and numerous other obstacles to construct the famous "White City" around which the fair was built. His efforts to complete the project, and the fair's incredible success, are skillfully related along with entertaining appearances by such notables as Buffalo Bill Cody, Susan B. Anthony, and Thomas Edison. The activities of the sinister Dr. Holmes, who is believed to be responsible for scores of murders around the time of the fair, are equally remarkable. He devised and erected the World's Fair Hotel, complete with crematorium and gas chamber, near the fairgrounds and used the event as well as his own charismatic personality to lure victims. Combining the stories of an architect and a killer in one book, mostly in alternating chapters, seems like an odd choice but it works. The magical appeal and horrifying dark side of 19th-century Chicago are both revealed through Larson's skillful writing. "A wonderfully unexpected book....Larson is a historian...with a novelist's soul." Chicago Sun-Times 2) Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History by S.C. Gwynne 384 pages
S. C. Gwynne?s Empire of the Summer Moon spans two astonishing stories. The first traces the rise and fall of the Comanches, the most powerful Indian tribe in American history. The second entails one of the most remarkable narratives ever to come out of the Old West: the epic saga of the pioneer woman Cynthia Ann Parker and her mixed-blood son Quanah, who became the last and greatest chief of the Comanches.
Super Sad True Love Story is the third novel by American writer Gary Shteyngart. The novel takes place in a near-future dystopian New York where life is dominated by media and retail.
"This is one of the funniest and most frightening books I've ever read. It pictures a New York dystopia that is scary because it's already happening. I never really believed in the horrors of 1984, but the details of Super Sad True Love Story are all too convincing. Gary Shteyngart is our greatest satirist, but he also knows how to write about love and vulnerability in a way to make the angels (and ordinary mortals) weep." Edmund White 3) Snow Flower and Secret Fan by Lisa See 288 pages Lily is haunted by memories?of who she once was, and of a person, long gone, who defined her existence. She has nothing but time now, as she recounts the tale of Snow Flower, and asks the gods for forgiveness.
In nineteenth-century China, when wives and daughters were foot-bound and lived in almost total seclusion, the women in one remote Hunan county developed their own secret code for communication: nu shu (?women?s writing?). Some girls were paired with laotongs, ?old sames,? in emotional matches that lasted throughout their lives. They painted letters on fans, embroidered messages on handkerchiefs, and composed stories, thereby reaching out of their isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments.
With the arrival of a silk fan on which Snow Flower has composed for Lily a poem of introduction in nu shu, their friendship is sealed and they become ?old sames? at the tender age of seven. As the years pass, through famine and rebellion, they reflect upon their arranged marriages, loneliness, and the joys and tragedies of motherhood. The two find solace, developing a bond that keeps their spirits alive. But when a misunderstanding arises, their lifelong friendship suddenly threatens to tear apart.
?Transcendent . . . Empire of the Summer Moon is nothing short of a revelation . . . will leave dust and blood on your jeans.?--New York Times Book Review
3) Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
The inspiring true story of a man who lived through a series of catastrophes almost too incredible to be believed. In evocative, immediate descriptions, Hillenbrand unfurls the story of Louie Zamperini--a juvenile delinquent-turned-Olympic runner-turned-Army hero. During a routine search mission over the Pacific, Louie?s plane crashed into the ocean, and what happened to him over the next three years of his life is a story that will keep you glued to the pages, eagerly awaiting the next turn in the story and fearing it at the same time. You?ll cheer for the man who somehow maintained his selfhood and humanity despite the monumental degradations he suffered, and you?ll want to share this book with everyone you know.
"It is hugely refreshing when [a book] as fine as this one comes along. The research is meticulous, the writing elegant and concise, so that every page transports you back to the period. . . . This is a remarkable tale well told." The Economist
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