Every year, Bookclub-in-a-Box puts together a lively ready list for book clubs around the world. Here are some suggestions to get you rolling for the 2010/2011 season! All the links go to Amazon, where you can purchase the book (doing so supports Bookclub-in-a-Box!).
We've archived our previous discussion list, and feel free to peruse them for reading inspiration! These lists can be found at the bottom.
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Abraham Verghese has written a sweeping saga of love, family, medicine, and politics, spanning from Ethiopia to America. Twin boys are born in the Christian Mission hospital in Addis Ababa, to an Indian nun and a British surgeon. Orphaned by their mother’s death and their father’s disappearance, the boys are taken in by a pair of Indian doctors who work there. With themes of loss, identity, and medical progress, the novel is a gripping look at the different ways we view and treat life.
All Other Nights by Dara Horn
When well-to-do Jacob Rappaport joins the army as a ploy to escape marriage, he never expected what was going to happen next. When he’s ordered to kill his uncle and marry a Confederate spy, everything he ever knew is turned upside down. Dara Horn offers a unique look at the American Civil War and shares a compelling story that is sure to get readers questioning religious traditions, family values, love, integrity and loyalty.
Ilustrado by Miguel Syjuco
Miguel Syjuco is a new writer on the literary scene. Originally from the Philippines, Syjuco currently lives in Montreal. His debut novel has been compared to work by Junot Diaz, O Henry, Roberto Bolana, Jonathan Safran Foer and even Charles Dickens. Ilustrado won the 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize. This murder mystery begins with the death of a young writer and the disappearance of his manuscript. A young student sets off to Manila to investigate the crime and in the process becomes embroiled in the hunt for family secrets.
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson
This charming debut novel tells the tale of Major Ernest Pettigrew, a stuffy and traditional English widower. When he meets his colorful Pakistani neighbors, two cultures come together and understand they have more in common than they realize. By tackling traditional values of friendship, culture, and tolerance, Helen Simonson sheds light on cultural diversity and unexpected companionship.
Not Me by Michael Lavigne
Michael Lavigne’s stunning debut tells the dramatic and surprising story of a son who suddenly discovers that his father is not who he had claimed to be. Set against the backdrop of the Holocaust, this novel explores the concepts of identity, love, loyalty and loss in the face of personal rediscovery.
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
In the 1980s, Henry Lee, a Chinese American, looks back to the 1940s when he met 12-year old Keiko, a Japanese American, who became the love of his life. In this moving story, Henry reflects on the devastating loss of their friendship and love in the context of a shameful time in American history when Japanese Americans were treated harshly in response to the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Dictation by Cynthia Ozick
This is a collection of four stories told by one of America’s most formidable and engaging storytellers. Cynthia Ozick's vivid prose brings to life two secretaries who work for famous authors Henry James and Joseph Conrad; an aging television actor whose final role will either complete a long career or defeat it; an American Catholic literary critic in Mussolini’s Italy; and a young college student who accompanies her eccentric Esperanto-spouting uncle to his mid-20th-century meetings of the League for a Unified Humanity. All the stories are fictional, but they are very real in their perspective of literature, religion, and human interaction.
Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada
Hans Fallada was a prolific and famous writer in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. At times, he was celebrated by the Nazis; other times he was jailed or put in to an insane asylum. Despite all of this, he continued to write. Every Man Dies Alone is based on the true story of a hapless couple who tried to take on the Nazis with a doomed postcard campaign. Fallada tells their story while, at the same time, he skewers Nazi Germany. This extraordinary book was written in 1947, when the smoke over Europe was still visible.
PDF Novel Notes guide available.
The Winter Vault by Anne Michaels
Anne Michaels second novel is a sweeping poetic love story set against the backdrop of real historical events. Moving geographically between Egypt and Canada, and historically through England and Poland, the story begins in 1964 when a young couple travels to Egypt so the engineer husband can work on the construction of the Aswan Dam. Tragedy intervenes and sends the couple scattering in different directions.
The Vagrants by Yiyun Li
Yiyun Li’s first novel is set during China’s Cultural Revolution and describes how people tried to survive against the backdrop of suspicion, denouncements, and corruption. The story follows Gu Shan, a young female Red Guard who has given up her belief in Communism and is facing execution. Her death has profound ripple effects beyond her time and immediate family.
Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel
Beatrice and Virgil is the long awaited novel from the author of Life of Pi. In this new book, Martel uses Danté’s classic characters from The Divine Comedy, an allegorical look at heaven through Beatrice’s eyes and hell as guided by Virgil. Martel’s characters, Beatrice and Virgil, are animals that are looking to explore the 20th century’s Holocaust. The twist to this story is that instead of presenting a statistical and emotional perspective on Holocaust events, the book focuses on how to tell that story, how to present the truth of the story and the storytellers. What do people want to know and hear?
Travels with Herodotus by Ryszard Kapuscinski
Kapuscinski was the most rare of journalists. He wrote with a gift for the detail and the rhythm of a story. On his very first assignment his editor gave him the book by Herodotus, a 5th century historian. Thereafter, Kapuscinski took this book with him everywhere he went. In his very last book, Travels with Herodotus, Kapuscinski looks at his current world through the eyes of his fifth century BC companion. He wonders how Herodotus had so much insightful perception of the world in which he lived. Like Herodotus, Kapuscinski centers his observations not only on historical events, but on the people involved in them. This book was published after Kapuscinski’s death in 2007.
Songs for the Butcher’s Daughter by Peter Manseau
In this fictional story, Itzik Malpesh is a Jewish writer who travels from Russia to America to escape anti-Semitism. In his memoirs, he calls himself the last great Yiddish writer, but because he is now in the United States, he needs to translate his remembrances into English. He works with a young American Catholic who happens to know both Yiddish language and culture. This is the point at which fiction and fact meet. Peter Manseau, who is both Catholic and a former Yiddish archivist, pays tribute to Yiddish storytelling, in all its humor and its melancholy in this lively and touching novel.
The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar
Thrity Umrigar's beautiful story follows two Indian women: Bhima the servant and Sera her employer. As the story progresses, we watch the space between them move like the waves on the sea. This is a lovely story about the strengths and weaknesses of the relationships between women.
The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman
Canadian born Rachman always wanted to be a writer in the tradition of Leo Tolstoy, George Orwell, and Isaac Bashevis Singer. However, he bemoaned the fact that he didn’t have the extraordinary life experiences to accomplish the task. So he became a journalist instead, hoping to absorb other people’s experiences along the way. The novel’s backdrop is a fictional English language newsroom in Rome. As we walk through the busy office, we pass by the desks of some of the individual newspeople at work. The novel is a book of linked stories highlighting a foreign correspondent, an obituary writer, a copyeditor, publisher, financial officer and a dedicated reader. Rachman’s book is a fun way to get to know the non-digital side of newspaper publishing.
Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
Thomas Hardy, novelist and poet, needs little introduction. There are few who have not become acquainted with The Mayor of Casterbridge, Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Far From the Madding Crowd. Hardy's main literary concern was how social and religious constraints impacted on people’s lives. Jude is a hardworking stonemason with ambitions to become a scholar. He teaches himself the classic languages of Greek and Latin and hopes that knowledge will propel him into university life. But he is suddenly and foolishly trapped into marriage to Arabella, a superficial uneducated milkmaid. She is one obstacle on the road to his future. A second is Sue, Jude’s cousin who marries Jude’s teacher Mr. Phillotson. The story twists and turns among the complex issues of love, lust, loyalty and longing.
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Alice in Wonderland is one of childhood’s most beloved stories. Many of western culture’s favorite images, symbols, phrases and expressions originate from Lewis Carroll’s imaginative work. They come out of a time (the Victorian era) not usually considered to have been open, free, and creative. But this is not necessarily true, as shown by Carroll’s contemporaries, for example Charles Dickens, Anna Sewell, Beatrix Potter, and others. In his day, Lewis Carroll was celebrated as an ingenious storyteller, poet and journalist. In present day, his reputation is surrounded by controversy and innuendo. And still, Alice endures and lives on in the hearts of adults and children everywhere.