I am in two book clubs. Of the 24 books read, here are my favorites based on these criteria:
- value to me---did I learn something new,
- discussion that the book generated.
(In alphabetical order. There was no clear favorite book this year.)
Day After Night by Anita Diamant---set in Palestine right after WWII, this is the story of several women who are imprisoned by the British for illegally entering Palestine. I knew nothing about the Jewish experience in Palestine prior to the formation of Israel as a country. We had a powerful discussion about this book and the topic.
Fragile Beasts by Tawni O'Dell--- set in both Pennsylvania's coal country and Spain's bullfighting region, this is the story of two families, and two time periods. With plenty of symbolism and mysteries to uncover this book had us all mesmerized.
Half-Broke Horses- a true life novel by Jeannette Walls--- Walls, the author of the excellent memoir Glass Castles, tells the story of her grandmother, Lily Casey Smith, and her unconventional life in the early 1900s. I wasn't a huge fan of this book in the beginning but came away from book club, after a lively discussion, decidedly more positive about it.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot---nonfiction; a fascinating look at the woman whose cells, known as HeLa, have been used for 60 years of scientific research. It also looks at the effects this research has had on Henrietta's family. In addition to the story at hand, we found lots to discuss related to medical ethics.
The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa...he was a brilliant math professor with a head injury that allows for only 80 minutes of memory. She is his housekeeper who has a ten-year-old son. They forge a friendship within the limitations. Many gals in the club mentioned that they were surprised at how much they liked this little book and how charmed they were by the story, a few even felt they learned a little math along the way.
Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean...Set in both modern times and in Leningrad during the seige during WWII, Marina has a hard time living in the present as her brain slips back to her past life in Russia and the art she loved. I read this book while I was in Europe looking at all the fabulous religious art, so this is a sentimental favorite.
Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay...another WWII story set in both modern times and during WWII, this story is set in France and exposes the deplorable events of the Vel' d'Hiv roundup of Jews. None of us had ever heard of this event before reading the book. I've recommended this book more than any other book on this list.
Shanghai Girls by Lisa See...two sisters in Shanghai are forced to marry brothers when their father loses his fortune. They then travel to the United States via Angel Island off San Francisco. This is an American immigrant story. Lisa See is a very readable writer. All club members seemed to enjoy this book and the discussing was illuminating.
State of Wonder by Ann Pratchett... When Dr. Swenson doesn't send any updates on the research she is doing in the Amazon rain forest, Dr. Singh is sent to look for her. This has so many unexpected adventures and is so full of moral complexities that it makes a perfect book to discuss.
Worst Hard Time: the Untold Stories of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan...this should be required reading for all American citizens. Either I slept through the Dust Bowl lessons in US History classes or my teachers skipped it. We had a lot to discuss. Egan, a New York Times writer, knows how to write history books that are readable for the common man.
What were your favorite book club selections this year?