Pick a book


It’s that most wonderful night of the year where book club gets together to:

Exchange a (this year it’s candle)
Pick next year’s book list

Last year we chose books that no one in the group had read. Bad idea! We ended up switching books all over the place. I’ll even confess our last book, The Calligrapher’s Daughter, was a substitute for One Who Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, ended up being cancelled! We’re supposed to discuss it tonight, but, uhem, I doubt much of that will happen. I’ll also confess they were both my picks.

We panned Cuckoo’s Nest when we realized we’d read about three downers in a row. Fine I thought, I’d seen a review in the MJS on this other one, let’s give it a try. Oh, I tried. And tried. And tried! But I couldn’t get through it. Though the time period was interesting, the writing was simple and the story very slow. It was one of those books that ended up across your face as you fell asleep.

So, I need a good book. I’m thinking of submitting Pride and Prejudice and requesting a June date. I always read Jane Austen in the summer. I also really, really enjoyed the Elegance of the Hedgehog. We didn’t read it as a group, but several of us passed it around, so I think that one’s off the list.

Have you picked up anything good lately? Let me know!


  1. Books I read this year and thoroughly enjoyed:
    1. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
    2. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
    3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
    4. The Portrait of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde
    5. The Black Sheep by Honore de Balzac
    6. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
    7. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

    Numbers 1 and 2 are my favorites, hands down.

  2. Thanks for the list. I am always on the lookout for some good books of substance. I can’t say I’m really fond of some of the current literature, since it seems many current authors tend to be terribly self-involved and depressing.

    A couple books I’ve read recently that I really liked: “Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay,” by Michael Chabon, “The Last Place on Earth” by Roland Huntford, and “Cryptonomicon” by Neal Stephenson. I like reading adventure literature and the Modern Library has a series of adventure/exploration books, with Jon Krakauer as editor picking the best of the best.

    I will definitely pick up “Love in the Time of Cholera” since I loved “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by the same author.

    When in college, I took a comparative literature course, reading many books by the Nobel Prize winning authors. Just amazing books! Thomas Mann “Buddenbrooks,” and Sigrid Undset, “Kristin Lavransdatter” were two notable favorites.

  3. “One Hundred Years of Solitude” is considered the more important work, but I enjoyed “Love in the Time of the Cholera” more. I have enjoyed Isabel Allende, too; she used ‘magic realism’ in “House of the Spirits.” It’s a peculiar genre–all presuppositions must be set aside.

  4. I am definitely a fan of modern literature, though I’m probably a good 20 years younger than y’all. Extremely Loud and Incredibly close is a little experimental, but it’s my downright favorite book.

    Winegirl, I *just* started reading the Chabon book. And to your point on modern lit being “depressing and self-involved,” I find that true of most literature, not that it’s a bad thing.

    I mean, I find all of Charlotte Bronte’s and Edith Wharton’s stuff to be insufferably depressing and self-involved. But I also haven’t read a whole lot of 20th century literature.

    Kathryn, i’ll agree on that.

  5. Edith Wharton is such a downer it takes weeks to recover! I guess every generation has one or two. Carson McCullers wasn’t exactly uplifting, either.

  6. I really liked Ethan Frome though, we read it in AP lit. In fact, all the books we’ve read in AP lit are worthy of a read (besides Heart of Darkness and Jane Eyre, both of which I hated).

    Native Son by Richard Wright, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, Ethan Frome by Edith Warton, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini are all goodies!

  7. I love Jane Eyre! It’s a little far-fetched, but I still love it. Ethan Frome was always one of my mother’s favorite stories.

    They’re still reading the Kite Runner. The story was smashing, but I didn’t think there was enough character development. (Listen to me! The three-word blogger as literary critic.)

  8. They now read Native Son in AP Composition, as I understand it. That course, sadly, didn’t exist when I was in high school, otherwise i’d be 6 more credits closer to my degree!

    I’d love to hear your take on that book in particular, Cindy, and anyone in general since it is indeed not even close to being fairly conservative.

  9. P.S. I’m thinking on a whim, but the one thing that would convince me to start blogging again would be a book discussion blog. If anyone’s particularly interested, e-mail me at shawn.matson@gmail.com

  10. Intriguing comment, Cindy. I finished “A Thousand Splendid Suns” and thought that “The Kite Runner” was superior because of the character development. (I guess that means you won’t want to read “Suns!”) Maybe familiarity with the culture made it a richer experience for me.

    That might have been the difference between the two Gabriel Garcia Marquez books for me. I was young when I read “Solitude” and I didn’t pick up the details that didn’t register with my own experience.

  11. We have “Suns” on the shelf, but no one has cracked it. Rumor says it’s wasn’t as good, but no one can verify around here.

    The Kite Runner’s narrator was the disappointment for me. It didn’t feel like he was giving enough. Granted, it was a rough story.

  12. Well Lorax (neighbor,) you are right about a lot of literature being “depressing.” The Russians are certainly experts at the “life is hopeless and then you die” themes. Yet they are still important and worth slogging through. Charles Dickens can be a depressing read, try “Bleak House.” Thomas Hardy is a specialist in depressing plot lines, i.e. Tess of D’Urbervilles.”

    But what I meant about modern authors is some of the story lines involving mental health, finding oneself, finding true love, etc. People in the USA nowdays don’t generally have to struggle for the basics of life, so they are free to ruminate about a host of other “issues.” I think that’s why I like adventure literature, since it’s man versus nature, simple, dramatic, life and death struggle.

    My all time favorite foreign novel is “Les Miserables,” by Victor Hugo. That is an amazing accomplishment. I did enjoy the long description of the Battle of Waterloo.

    Two of my favorite American novels are “An American Tragedy” by Theodore Dreiser and “East of Eden” by John Steinbeck. Steinbeck’s phrase “thou mayest,” is so profound, and drives the human experience. It certainly would form the foundation for the plot in “American Tragedy.” I am also very fond of anything by Mark Twain, since his cynicism and wit are rarely matched.

    So if one is looking for some really great, “important” books, I’d recommend any of those.