. I am in two book clubs. It was a year of highs and lows: wonderful books and downright awful ones. Here is a list of my favorites. Keep in mind I select my favorites based not only on how much I liked the book but also on how well the book generated a discussion. I also factor in an educational aspect. Did I learn something new by reading the book? If so, bonus points.
1. The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver (2009, Harper Books)- Even though this book is a tome, weighing in at over 500 pages, everyone in the book club really liked it. And we had so much to talk about: the labor movement in the world, McCarthyism, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, WWII, The Depression, politics, Leon Trotsky, Roosevelt, friendship,and homosexuality. This book tops the list because of how much I learned about the time period and because of the spectacular writing.
2. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd (2014, Viking Press)- It is pretty likely that this book actually would be in the top slot except I missed book club when this marvelous book was being discussed, so it gets second billing. But the book is marvelous and I learned so much. The book is historical fiction about actual women who lived in the U.S. in the early 1830s. The Grimke sisters were probably the first feminists and, even though their family owned slaves, they were were also abolitionists. To balance out the story a female slave character was added so that the reader could experience life from both sides of history. It is very well done. I learned so much and felt the pain of "this peculiar institution" so deeply.
3. The Round House by Louise Erdrich (2012. HarperCollins)- The first three books on this list are also some of my favorite books ever. The Round House is set on a reservation in the Midwest. A young adolescent boy tries to solve the mystery of what happened to his mother one horrifying night and in the process is forced to grow up faster than expected. The reader is introduced to several Native American rituals and confronted with the unfairness of our laws. This book is clutch-your-chest-good.
4. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed (2012, Knopf)- I read this book with both book clubs and had fun discussions both times. The whole county read this book as part of a All-Pierce Reads effort by the public library in our area. Now the nation will become fascinated by the book also as the movie made from it is in the theaters right now.
5. The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown (2013, Viking Press)- The crew team from University of Washington races to make history along the way readers are treated to the back stories of many of the rowers and insights in to their lives. This book generated a fabulous discussion. Even though I live in Washington State I wasn't aware of their feat until I read this book.
6. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (2013, Viking Press)- I loved this book. The literary themes and symbolism abound. Several of the gals in the club didn't like the book as much as I did. I listened to the book on audio-books and wonder if this experience enhanced my opinion of the book.
7. Wonder by RJ Palacio (2012, Knopf)- The main character of this book, written for middle-grade readers, has a severe facial deformity yet he triumphs in life and friendship. You can't help but feel all warm inside as you close the book on the last page.
8. My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey by Jill Bolte Taylor (2006, Viking Press)- Jill Bolte Taylor, a brain scientist, had a stroke at the age of 36 and survived to share her insights and other information about the brain. The book itself isn't the best, though the information is vital. We, however, had a very good discussion on the topic of strokes. Many gals in my club have had personal experiences that made the discussion lively and pertinent.
9. The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg (2013, Random House)- Fannie Flagg is an easy writer to read and this book is no exception. Set during both the World War II period and during modern times we get a peek at what the war effort at home was like during the early 1940s when women were called to do jobs usually filled by men.
10. The Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje (2011, Jonathan Cape)- This book wasn't actually that memorable but it did generate a good discussion about events in our lives that altered the trajectory of our lives.
My 2013 Book Club Favorites are here. Click the link.
My 2012 Book Club favorites are here. Click the link.
My 2011 Book Club Favorites are here. Click the link.
My 2010 Book Club favorites are here, if you are looking for more suggestions click the link.