. I am in two book clubs. For this reason sometimes books will end up on my end-of-the-year list more than once. This year I didn't ask the gals in my clubs, SOTH and RHS, for feedback, therefore this list is all mine. 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 One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood. This was not only my favorite book club selection of the year, but it was also my favorite book of the year. The story about a boy, his estranged parents, a 104-year-old-woman, and a cast of quirky characters is both heart-warming and heart-breaking at the same time. Everyone in my club liked the book, too, and it generated a fun discussion. (My review)
2. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. When I started this book I wasn't sure it I could bear to read it, it was so bleak about the effects of slavery on two continents. The book is a series of interconnected short stories that are eventually drawn together as the stories set in America and in Africa come together. The writing is exquisite. Part of our discussion focused on the craft of writing. (My review)
3. Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf. This is a perfect book for clubs where the members have a hard time finishing long titles. This book is only 179 pages long. It is written in a very spare-style where there are no wasted words which we all came to appreciate. Part of the discussion centered on what wasn't said by the author. (My review, which includes some discussion questions I wrote)
4. Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger. Grace is an expected and undeserved gift. This book is full of grace. It starts with a death and a mystery. It is also full of family, community, love, and grief. The ending is so perfect, it should be bottled and sold!
5. Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War by Mary Roach. This was the All-Pierce Reads selection of the year which meant we not only had a book club discussion about the contents of Roach's book but we also attended a community event with the author. If you haven't read books by Roach, I recommend them. They are fascinating and funny at the same time. This book looks at aspects of military science---the cloth used in uniforms, the horrors of diarrhea, where men sleep on a submarine, etc.---aspects one might never have thought about before. She writes clearly but with a strong sense of humor. We had a fairly funny discussion as we attempted to discuss the touchy topics.
6. Commonwealth by Ann Pratchett. This book looks at an event, a baptism party, which changed the trajectory of two different families. We see how the lives of all of the characters are changed as they spin off in different directions. Chapters are written from the different points of views of the characters. We see the same events but from different perspectives. I love these types of stories, others in the club were frustrated by it. (My review)
7. LaRose by Louise Erdrich. Erdrich is a favorite author of mine. She is Native American and most of her stories are set on a reservation. This book asks and answers the question, "Can a person do the worst possible thing and still be loved?" The tale gave us a lot to chew on during our discussion. Some of the club members didn't like the book as much as I did but we all appreciate Erdrich and her strong writing. (My review)
8. The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe. Schwalbe and his mother form a two-person book club to discuss books during the time they spend together during her cancer treatments. It is a book about books and how these books influence our lives and in some cases can change our lives. We get to know Mary Anne and Will during their two years of reading together before her death. During that time she was able to share her dreams, goals, and thoughts with her son. (My review)
9. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. This book BEGS to be discussed which makes it a perfect book club selection. But I should warn you that everyone won't like it because it is confusing. The story begins at Ursula's birth. She dies immediately from lack of oxygen. She is reborn, but this time she is saved. She dies a few years and she is born again with the same circumstances. Every time she dies she starts over. But decisions she makes determine the changes that occur. One sees each story from several angles and the importance of the decisions. Encourage your book club members to read past their frustrations with the non-linear story-telling. It is a delightful read. (My review)
10. This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel. A family deals with the a secret. Their daughter was born a son. How the family deals with the secret ends up nearly destroying them all. It is a very current and important topic. The reason this is number 10 on my list was because I didn't attend the meeting where is was discussed. I wish I could have talked to others about my thoughts.
11. Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink. What happened in a hospital during and after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. It was horrifying. The book is also very long, 558 pages. No one liked the book at all but we had a tremendous book discussion.
Look for more suggestions? Click the links to check out my past lists