Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Secrets of the book club talks. Our new yellow book club flier is now available (plus if you're reading this before Saturday, we'll be giving at talk at Boswell with Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney on April 15, 2 pm.

It's a new season of book club picks. Jane and I spent hours hashing out what to add to our flier, which we use not just as a handout and display in the store, but as a guide for our presentations to area groups. We're launching the new list on Saturday, April 15, 2 pm, at Boswell for book club afternoon with Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney, author of The Nest.

We last switched over our titles in January, but this is more of a major shift, with fully half the titles changing from our last handout. In addition, we have an insert of six titles coming out in June and July to keep an eye on. And because an insert only printed on one side looked naked, the back half has six upcoming events that are great tie ins for book clubs.

Apples and Oranges

I generally use the previous newsletter to lay out the new one, but at least in some cases, that meant moving around the titles that were staying to create new themes. Two books I had to include together were Ann Patchett's Commonwealth and Jane Hamilton's The Excellent Lombards, for several reasons.
--Each novel draws on the authors' own stories
--The authors are close friends and each was an early reader of the other's book
--The obvious fruit connection. I love the idea of matching jackets--I'm a big fan of the Patchett jacket, and can you imagine how great Hamilton's would have looked with apples? And in a boxed set, right?

Love Jane Hamilton? She'll be in conversation with Sheryl Sandberg at the Pabst on Monday, June 5, 7 pm. Sandberg's new book is Option B. Ticket link!

What to Read After Ove

It seemed like our flier was becoming one big Ove ouvre. But nothing got added to this season's list that I would put in that category, so we'd probably recommend Helen Simonson's The Summer Before the War and Phaedra Patrick's The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper. Fortunately, we have a "What to read after A Man Called Ove" table to satisfy your cravings.

World War II Mania

While I think every book club has read or will read Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See and Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale, (alas, our event with Hannah is sold out, but we'll have signed copies after the event) one could probably spend the whole year reading World War II historicals. Currently on our checklists:

--Lilac Girls, by Martha Hall Kelly (also on the national bestseller lists)
--Everyone Brave is Forgiven, by Chris Cleave
--They Were Like Family to Me, by Helen Maryles Shankman
--The Improbability of Love, by Hannah Rothschild

If you, like many book clubs, include hardcovers (we don't think it's fair to your members who buy physical books in bookstores, and why are you surprised?), Jessica Shattuck's The Women in the Castle is a clear addition, the latest of HarperCollins's books in the Lead Read program to break out.

What Do These Books Have in Common?

I was taken by the similarities between The Improbability of Love and Elizabeth McKenzie's The Portable Veblen. Both touch on how children must overcome the legacy of their parents, both have semi-supernatural elements (talking paintings and squirrels) and both touch on the excesses of capitalism. I think they would be interesting to read in succession like we did for our In Store Lit Group.

STEM Reading

Jumping off of The Portable Veblen, there are a number of titles that touch on the sciences.

Added onto our Hidden Figures recommendation is one new nonfiction book, Lab Girl, recently awarded a National Book Critics Circle Award, and one novel, Vinegar Girl.

A book club could do a whole year of science reading. Why not consider Lauren Redniss's Radiocative, her graphic biography about Marie and Pierre Curie?

Award winners

 Adding to its award basket, Matthew Desmond's Evicted just won the Pulitzer Prize. How cool is that?

I wondered whether we would keep Paul Beatty's The Sellout on our list, but being that the In-Store Lit Group had a very positive reaction to the book, we decided to keep it going another season.

What's the In Store Lit Group Reading?

Our May 1 selection is The Little Red Chairs, by Edna O'Brien. I've never read her and being that this newest book has gotten some of the best reviews of her career (and she's 85!), I felt intellectually bereft.

One new novel that I'm very excited to suggest to book clubs is Homegoing, the first novel  from Yaa Gyasi that won the John Leonard Prize. I won't be at our program on June 5, as I'll be working our Sheryl Sandberg event at the Pabst Theater. So I used this opportunity to put in a title I'd already read. Plus Sharon, who likely will be working that evening, did read it and liked it as much as I did. Homegoing is on sale in paperback May 2.

New Staff Favorites

Two staff favorites had good hardcover sales and so we decided to aim for the stars with a book cluib pitch. I haven't read either, but they are certainly on my "hope to read soon" list.

--Spill Simmer Falter Wither, by Sara Baume. We had a great event for her in hardcover, and Anne turned out to be a huge fan. It works great as an Irish book and as a dog book, and a number of people have compared the book to a grown-up version of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

--Father's Day, by Simon Van Booy. Van Booy's newest is up to three reads in store, and it's a total embarrassment that I am not one of those reads. It's never too late, right? It's inspired by Van Booy's own life (of sorts), in that it is about a young girl who is taken in by her uncle, so in a way it plays upon Van Booy's life a young widower. He's now remarried, by the way, and her family story inspired The Illusion of Separateness. On sale April 25.

Also added is The Light of Paris, by Eleanor Brown because...we always have to have at least one recommendation set in Paris.

Our June/July picks. Think of them as late adds for spring or an early preview for our fall.
--Another Brooklyn, by Jacqueline Woodson (on sale May 30)
--As Good As Gone, by Larry Watson (pub date June 13)
--Hero of the Empire, by Candice Millard (on sale May 30)
--Miss Jane, by Brad Watson (pub date July 11)
--News of the World, by Paulette Jiles
--They May Not Mean To, But They Do, by Cathleen Schine

We also have a list of events that have reading group suggestions attached.

All, this, plus Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney, the author of The Nest. Pick up your pastel yellow book club flier at Boswell, and why not attend our presentation on Saturday, April 15, 2 pm? We have been told it's very entertaining.

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