A Christmas Carol, All the Light We Cannot See, book club, books, English Creek, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Outlander, Persuasion, recommendations, The Beautiful and Damned, The Fault in Our Stars, The Girl on the Train, The Handmaid's Tale, The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint, The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency, The Paris Wife
Since moving back to my college town, it’s been wonderful to get back in touch with friends from the good ‘ole university days. Lauren, Alisha and I all lived together in a Christian fellowship house (along with all three of our husbands) and shared a common love of reading. It’s been a decade since we lived together, but now we meet once a week to discuss literature over a pot of tea and plate of cookies. Lauren and I started by meeting in the Starving Artist cafe, but now it rotates between our three homes. The only criteria for selecting our novels is that it must be a book that none of us has read before.
A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens
Our 13th novel, chosen as an easy and festive read for the Christmas season. It was with some surprise that we realized it qualified as a Book Artist novel, as not one of us had ever read it. Unfortunately, we didn’t realize at the time we picked it that it was so short, so we’ll have finished it before we even hit December. Bah, humbug. Growing up, it was a family tradition to watch The Muppet Christmas Carol every year. I called up my parents to tell them that I couldn’t read this book without picturing the characters as their Muppet equivalents. Our discussion drew comparisons from the many film versions, and we giggled as we admitted that all of us had pictured the ghost of Jacob Marley as Goofy falling down the stairs.
The Beautiful and Damned, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Our 12th novel, chosen because the Fitzgeralds were important figures in our previous book, The Paris Wife. It’s been a while since I’ve been so aggravated and so impatient with a character in a book. We continually wanted to shake them and snap them out of their selfishness, arrogance and superficial lifestyle. Mr. Fitzgerald has a true gift for creating a believable, flawed character.
The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain
Our 11th novel, both recommended by Lauren’s sister and the first available title on our top picks under the public library’s Book Chat Bags service. I was alerted to this service by another friend: the library has a list of book options for clubs with 10 copies of the book and discussion guides. The options are more limited, but there were still plenty of books that we wanted to read, and now we won’t have to scurry all over the city to borrow or pay for a copy. The Paris Wife is about Ernest Hemingway’s first of four wives. It was interesting to get a little deeper into the lives of famous authors and their own exclusive clubs overseas. Name after familiar name popped up in their inner circle: Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald… Our original idea upon completing the novel was to choose one of Hemingway’s books for our next titles. Our thoughts leaned towards The Sun Also Rises, which was written during the time span of the The Paris Wife. However, when we finished, none of us were feeling inclined to read any of his works. “Hemingway was a jerk!”
The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
Our tenth novel, selected from several lists of books voted to be the most influential in readers’ lives. We wanted to step away from a book that was currently popular and go back to a classic. Unbeknownst to us, it was currently VERY popular, and every used book store and library in two cities was out of copies. All three of us enjoyed the novel, and we could see why it was listed as influential. I’ve always loved dystopias, but this was the first one I’ve read with a female as the protagonist. A caste system with a heavily enforced patriarchy is a terrifying thought, but we pointed out soberly that it still exists. The ending took me completely by surprise, and I even looked it up online to make sure that it was correct.
The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hopkins
Our ninth novel, chosen from the same list as our previous book. I’ve misplaced my book list, and Lauren forgot hers, so we jumped back to a list that had given us a successful good novel. I gather it’s currently a Big Deal with a movie, so we may have to watch that when we’re done. Book Club has been keeping me more in touch with current best-sellers than I’m used to. It was so much fun to read a mystery as a group. Many theories were tossed around, and each character’s activities and personalities were scrutinized. I read the remaining section in an evening after returning from Book Club, as I couldn’t wait to find out what happened. Our last meeting was filled with exuberance and self-congratulation when our final theory was proven correct.
All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
Our eighth novel, chosen from a list of “Books You Can’t Set Down” discovered by Alisha. This book jumped out at all three of us, and is a Pulitzer Prize winner. It’s been our quickest decision for a new book to date. The book moved back and forth from an event in 1945 to earlier years, so we read with bated breath as those dates moved closer together, keeping us in suspense. We became very attached to the two main characters.
Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon
Our seventh novel, chosen because the wife of one of Lauren’s patients recommended it. The book was fast-paced and exciting, and we enjoyed speculating about the nuances of time travel and wondering how we’d fare if we were dropped into 18th century Scotland. We exchanged many theories and predictions, but we’ll have to wait and see if we’re right. Alisha’s already started the second book in the series, and Lauren and I have both purchased it. We’re all anxious to find out what happens next. All of us agreed that the situational knowledge was just a little too convenient: every time a crisis erupted, someone was on hand with the exact knowledge or skill needed to get out of it. One scene in particular was quite graphic and disturbing, and we thought the book could have done without the detailed descriptions.
English Creek, by Ivan Doig
Our sixth novel, chosen because Montana native Ivan Doig recently died, and we wanted to experience his works as well as read some fiction about our home state. All of us struggled to get into the flow of his writing in the beginning, but once we got used to his cadence we found his descriptions and expressions both insightful, colorful and witty.
The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint, by Brady Udall
Our fifth novel, chosen because we needed something more humorous and light in the wake of One Hundred Years of Solitude. I recommended this book as I had very much enjoyed another book by the same author, The Lonely Polygamist. The book was a welcome reprieve, although the material was heavier than we would have picked at the time. All of us liked the writing, but we had a problem with the ending.
One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Our fourth novel, chosen because it gave us another new continent and is a Nobel Prize winner. Marquez has a beautiful knack for circular histories coming back to the present story-line, but he needs to learn new names for his characters. Many discussions started with, “Now which Aureliano was that?”
The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith
Our third novel, and the first with Alisha joining the group. We all have book lists that get passed around when a new book is being chosen, and we wanted to choose a book from another continent. It was an enjoyable, quick read, but we would have liked more of an ongoing plot rather than the chapter-long episodes that were (efficiently and neatly) resolved by the unforgettable Mma Precious Ramotswe. It was fun to see how an African lady responded to situations in ways that we American ladies never would have considered. But then again, crocodiles aren’t a part of our daily lives.
The Fault in our Stars, by John Green
Our second novel, chosen during the Christmas season because it was short, easy (the reading, not the subject matter) and currently very popular. It was an informative glimpse in the life of a child living with terminal cancer and the effect it had on her family and friends. Lauren and I remarked that it was the first time we’d ever read a novel in which the main characters communicate via text message.
Persuasion, by Jane Austen
Our first novel, chosen because a.) it was free on Kindle, b.) I was trying to overcome my Austen aversion (I didn’t care for Pride and Prejudice) and c.) because Lauren also had a copy. We enjoyed the story, characters and the lively discussions that ensued.