Friday, July 5, 2019

New Book Club Picks - B.A. Shapiro and More

Our new book club table is up. I had trouble cutting down the number of books so I skipped the normal copy we include and added a few extra titles, plus included a page of upcoming book-club friendly events. I could have added another 50 books.

My only rule of thumb for the table is that at least one bookseller has to have read and liked all our selections. Some books were left off because I simply didn't have a rec. And then, like a writer, I had to finally stop writing.

Another stumbling block was that I started obsessing over themes running through the lists of books we were recommending. Do book clubs actually read in themes or do they discover them after they have finished. I used to have a book club I worked with that had very specific themes, which could make recommendations quite difficult, but now they just want great books. That makes it easier, except when they don't like I book I suggested. 

I will mention one unusual thread that runs through our list, and I should say up front that I often gauge whether to include books on our book club picks list after our In-Store Lit Group discusses them. First we read Asymmetry and then we read The Friend, and one attendee asked if I'd had us read two books about the mentor relationship together on purpose. I had not. And then I thought about it and realized I could add Meg Wolitzer's The Female Persuasion to that list as well. And Park Avenue Summer. And The Collector's Apprentice.

Once or twice a year we like to group an author appearance with a book club talk, and that's what we're doing with B.A. Shapiro and her new paperback reprint of The Collector's Apprentice. (If you read this in time, our program is Monday, July 8, 2 pm at Boswell and 6:30 pm at the Elm Grove Library. At Elm Grove, we'll also have selections from Noah, an Elm Grove librarian, and what do you know, two of his recommendations are also on the Boswell recommendations.

One of our big B.A. Shapiro fans on staff is Kay, who handles coordinating the the many book clubs in town that work with us, keeping us posted on their upcoming selections, which we display in our front-of-store display case. From her rec: "You’ll be swept into a quiet tale of intrigue starring a rather traumatized young lady from Europe, a savvy con artist from America, and a wealthy American amassing a huge collection of contemporary European art. The story will take you for a couple of unexpected spins before letting you go well satisfied. Shapiro brings this highly-charged era in art alive with dazzling prose and deftly drawn characters."

Like her previous art novels, Shapiro started from fact, in this case, the making of the Barnes Foundation, that spectacular art collection that was for many years displayed in a private home in Merion, Pennsylvania, but is now showcased in downtown Philadelphia. That is one of the questions she explores in the book - how did they remove this collection from the home? It's quite a different outcome from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is Boston, but perhaps that was not as much of an issue because it wasn't as difficult to get to as the Barnes was. Many of you know that Shapiro was inspired by the Gardner Musuem for her breakout novel, The Art Forger.

Shapiro has noted that while that Albert C. Barnes and his "fascinating" assistant, Violette de Mazia had an interesting story, it was "flat" in the telling and left the author dispirited. So, as happens in much historical fiction, she fictionalized the characters so she could make it a better novel. The paperback edition of The Collector's Apprentice explains what's true and what is not. Let's just say that as fascinating as it would be to have a Madoff-like character flim-flamming the art world, George Everard is a figment of the author's imagination.

Shapiro touches on themes that we've seen in fiction (most notably in Hannah Rothschild's The Improbability of Love) and nonfiction (not just frauds, but any number of investment bubbles) that we see what we want to see in value. I always enjoy Shapiro's writing on art as well. In this case, Dr. Edwin Bradley sees the value in the Post-Impressionists that many contemporaries did not, which was one thing that helped him build up such an impressionist collection.

If you're not able to make Monday's events, we'll be having a second evening of book recommendations from Jason, one of our Penguin Random House sales reps, on Tuesday, August 6, once again at Boswell. Jason has recommended many of my favorite books, not just the Rothschild novel above, but also encouraged reads on There There (which most of you know) and Amy Jones's We're All in This Together (which you likely do not). Another one of his picks is Claire Lombardo's The Most Fun We Ever Had, which just hit the New York Times bestseller list. And Lombardo will be a special guest at Boswell when he does his presentation, which he's also doing at Books & Company in Oconomowoc.

Here's a list of our book club recommendations

An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones
Asymmetry, by Lisa Halliday
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, by Kim Michele Robinson
The Collector's Apprentice, by BA Shapiro
Dear Mrs Bird, by AJ Pearce
The Female Persuasion, by Meg Wolitzer
Paris by the Book, by Liam Callanan
Friday Black, by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
The Friend, by Sigrid Nunez
The Gone World, Tom Sweterlitsch
The Great Believers, by Rebecca Makkai
The House of Broken Angels, by Luis Alberto Urrea
The Maze at Windermere, by Gregory Blake Smith
Milkman, by Anna Burns
My Ex Life, by Stephen McCauley
My Year of Rest and Relaxation, by Ottessa Moshfegh
Ohio, by Stephen Markley
The Overstory, by Richard Powers
Park Avenue Summer, by Renée Rosen
The Power, by Naomi Alderman
A Student of History, Nina Revoyr
There There, by Tommy Orange
Transcription, by Kate Atkinson
Vintage 1954, by Antoine Laurain
Warlight, by Michael Ondaatje
We're All in This Together, by Amy Jones
The Widows of Malabar Hill, by Sujata Massey

plus the Independent-Bookstore only supplemental title, What to Eat with What You Read Independent Bookstore Day. Available while supplies last.

No comments: