Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I love my book group

My book group has been meeting for five and a half years. I know this because we conceived of the idea of the group at the bris of the youngest son of one of the members, and he's now five and a half years old. If you know what a bris is, you'll be amazed, like I was, that the woman had the presence of mind to know she wanted to join a book group that day. I've only gotten through every bris I've ever attended by drinking plenty of sweet ceremonial red wine.

At our last meeting, one of the members brought a list she's been keeping of the books we've read so far. It made for a half a meeting full of reminiscing, and I must admit it was such fun to go back over the list of books. It's amazing how much more fondly I remember some of the books now, as opposed to when I read them, when I might have been a tad more critical...

Here's the list. I think it's a darn good one. I'm sort of proud of us for getting through so many books. If you've read any of the books, let me know what you think. If you have suggestions for good book group reads, I'd like to hear those too!

Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides
The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson
Under the Banner of Heaven, by Jon Krakauer
Everything is Illuminated, by Jonathan Safran Foer
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, by Mark Haddon
Team of Rivals, by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Saturday, by Ian McEwan
The Jane Austen Book Club, by Karen Joy Fowler
Persuasion, by Jane Austen
On Beauty, by Zadie Smith
13 Steps Down, by Ruth Rendell
Heat, by Bill Buford
The Post-Birthday World, by Lionel Shriver
Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert
The Gathering, by Anne Enright
Anagrams, by Lorrie Moore
The Dud Avocado, by Elaine Dundy
Suite Francaise, by Irene Nemirovsky
The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion
On Chesil Beach, by Ian McEwan
Dirt Music, by Tim Winton
Theft, by Peter Carey
Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro
The History of Love, by Nicole Krauss
A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway
Silk, by Alessandro Baricco
The Other Boleyn Girl, by Philippa Gregory
The Emperor's Children, by Claire Messud
The Starter Wife, by Gigi Levangie Grazer
The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery
The Believers, by Zoe Heller
Portnoy’s Complaint, by Philip Roth
Niagara, by Richard Watson
Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name, by Vendela Vida
The Plague of Doves, by Louise Erdrich
Unaccustomed Earth, by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Foreskin’s Lament, by Shalom Auslander
Platform, by Michel Houellebecq
Loving Frank, by Nancy Horan
Slouching Toward Bethlehem, by Joan Didion
Everyman, by Philip Roth
The Inheritance of Loss, by Kiran Desai
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, by David Wroblewski
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Dias

Oh, and the books we're reading over the summer are:
Darling Jim, by Christian Moerk
Lush Life, by Richard Price,
The People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks
Engleby, by Sebastian Faulks

I have started Darling Jim, and it's a page-turner...


Aimee said...

A lot of these books are great - and its become an extensive list over the 5 and a half years! But i'm left wondering...where is The Book Thief?!

Hannah Furst said...

I recently saw your post about your book group reading Irène Némirovsky's Suite Française. I wanted to pass along some information about an exciting exhibition closing August 30 about Némirovsky's life, work, and legacy. I urge you to see Woman of Letters: Irène Némirovsky and Suite Française, at the Museum of Jewish Heritage —A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in New York City. The exhibition includes powerful rare artifacts —including the valise in which the original manuscript for Suite Française was found, as well as many personal papers and family photos. The majority of these documents and artifacts have never been outside of France. For fans of her work, this exhibition is an opportunity to really “get to know” Irene. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn more about this beloved writer! And for those who can’t visit, there is a special website devoted to her story www.mjhnyc.org/irene.

Although we are in the lazy days of summer, book clubs and groups are invited to the Museum for tours and discussions in the exhibition’s adjacent Salon (by appointment). It is the Museum’s hope that the exhibit will engage visitors and promote dialogue about this extraordinary writer and the complex time in which she lived and died. To book a group tour, please contact Chris Lopez at 646.437.4304 or clopez@mjhnyc.org. Please visit our website at www.mjhnyc.org for up-to-date information about upcoming public programs or to join our e-bulletin list.

Thanks for sharing this info with your readers. If you need any more, please do not hesitate to contact me at hfurst@mjhnyc.org

Nadia said...

Hiya! What a great assortment of books! I've read several of the books from your list and there are a few that I found to be really great books. I loved On Beauty - at first I felt as if it started out slow, but the next thing I knew I was so caught up in the story. Definitely one of Zadie Smith's best works! Everything is Illuminated had me laughing and crying and just really opened my eyes to this young, fresh writer, whose work was so engaging and different. Loved that book! The Elegance of the Hedgehog was one of my favorite books of this year - it is just sublime!! And I also loved Unaccustomed Earth by Lahiri - she is just a brilliant short story writer. I could go on and on, but I won't. What wonderful reads and it sounds like such a lovely meeting you all had - reflecting on these past reads. And I know what you mean, when I first read Never Let Me Go, I just did not like it at all. I didn't understand why everyone was raving about this book. Now, looking back and remembering the book, I can see what a great book it really is. Thanks for the great post! Cheers!!

Gentle Reader said...

Aimee--The Book Thief is a great idea--several of the members have already read it, though, so I don't know if we'll read it as a group. But it's definitely on my TBR list!

Hannah--thanks for this information. I'll check out the site and pass on more info. Sounds fantastic!

Nadia--I really enjoyed On Beauty by the end, too. And The Elegance of the Hedgehog was one of my favorite books of the year. Also, I really liked Unaccustomed Earth, almost as much as I liked her earlier books. And Never Let Me Go was much better in retrospect, for me as well--I'm not a big fan of dystopian fiction usually, but Ishiguro is a great writer!

Leah said...

What a great list of books, I have read some of them but there are others on my TBR pile or wishlist. Fantastic to get together and talk about them.

Stefanie said...

Wow, you and your group have read a marvelous bunch of books! And how cool to have been going as long as you have.

Iliana said...

That is so great that your book group has been together for several years. I've read quite a few of these too and there's some I really like.

I would suggest adding Barbara Kingsolver.

Gentle Reader said...

Leah--it's so nice to have a face-to-face forum for discussing books, along with my lovely blogger friends in our huge virtual book group as book bloggers :)

stefanie--it's a really nice group of women, too, and I like spending time with them :)

iliana--Barbara Kingsolver is a great suggestion, I'll be sure to bring her up!

Jess said...

Wow -- that is quite the list! I love my book club too, I read such different kinds of books than I normally would. I have read The Curious Incident... and found it so moving. It gave me a much better understanding of what it means to be autistic. I love that you read Persuasion as well, it is my favorite Austen by far, I absolutely love Anne and think she is the most wonderful character. My suggestion? Have you ever read Virgin of Small Plains by Nancy Pickard? That has to be my all time favorite book that my club has read. It is a quick read, but has a fantastic mystery, and really great characters.

Dorothy W. said...

Very impressive! Both the 5 1/2 years and the list of books. That's a lot of great books to have worked your way through. I'm curious about the Shalom Auslander one -- that got my attention, and it sounds interesting!

Gentle Reader said...

Jess--Anne Elliot is definitely my favorite Austen heroine! And I will look into Virgin of Small Plains--thanks for the suggestion!

Dorothy--Thanks, I'm amazed we've made it this far :) Sadly, we didn't love the Shalom Auslander book. I'd heard him on "This American Life" on the radio, and was intrigued, but the book was so sad and depressing...it's a fascinating world, but I didn't love the book...

Unruly Reader said...

This is a wonderful list! Thank you for sharing it. I've confessed on my blog that it's quite likely I'll be thieving from your list for our book club. : )

And I was inspired to post our list of books read thus far:

Gentle Reader said...

Unruly reader--Ooh, I love your book group's list, too. My Antonia is a favorite of mine, and Anne of Green Gables, the Little House books, and The Painted Veil. If you don't mind, I'm going to steal from your list, too! Thanks so much for stopping by :)

Bybee said...

Wow, that's a great list. I'm impressed with your book group.

Jen said...

hi! how's your summer? just finished engleby, found it fascinating if a little draggy in parts. but amazing writing. think i'll tackle darling jim next....xoxo

Booklogged said...

Did your group like The History of Love? After reading it the first time I suggested that for my group and everyone hated it.

Your group has read a good variety of books. It's great that you enjoy it so much and enjoy the members.

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Anonymous said...

Wow, Tracy, that's an impressive list! Also impressive is your groups longevity. OUrs has been around 2 1/2 years so far. We've read a couple of the same titles. Which titles prompted the best discussions?

Lizzy said...

Love your list. Our book club will be starting its 12th year in September. Here is our list of books:


We rate them on a scale of 1-10 on likability of the book, discussion worthiness, and whether we'd recommend it to a friend.