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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Books You May Have Missed

Lately there has been a discussion on a NH libraries' list going on about favorite book discussion titles. Not all of the titles are recently published, which leads me to a rant. Ready?... I think many book discussion groups do themselves (and the interlibrary loan librarian) a great disservice by insisting upon reading the "hottest" new titles. There are vast numbers of interesting and highly discussable books that have been overlooked by groups, and that would be easy to get from other libraries, thus alleviating the need to hunt down copies. It would also save book group members from having to purchase copies if none are available through ILL.

Here are a few of the suggestions that you may not have come across:

Armstrong, Karen. The Spiral Staircase: My Climb out of Darkness. [B ARM]
In 1962, at age seventeen, Karen Armstrong entered a convent, eager to meet God. After seven brutally unhappy years as a nun, she left her order to pursue English literature at Oxford. But convent life had profoundly altered her, and coping with the outside world and her expiring faith proved to be excruciating. Her deep solitude and a terrifying illness-diagnosed only years later as epilepsy-marked her forever as an outsider.

Coetzee, J.M. Disgrace. [F COE]
At fifty-two, Professor David Lurie is divorced, filled with desire, but lacking in passion. An affair with one of his students leaves him jobless, shunned by his friends, and ridiculed by his ex-wife. He retreats to his daughter Lucy's isolated smallholding, where a brief visit becomes an extended stay as he tries to find meaning from this one remaining relationship.

Doig, Ivan. Dancing at the Rascal Fair. [F DOI]
Chronicles the American experiences of Angus McCaskill and Rob Barclay, Scottish immigrants, who lived for three decades in Two Medicine Country at the base of the Rocky Mountains.

Kingsolver, Barbara. The Poisonwood Bible. [F KIN]
God's Kingdom in its pure, unenlightened glory. So fourteen-year-old Leah Price expects when, in the summer of 1959, she arrives in the Congo with her family....From 1959 through 1998, the Price sisters tell their stories, in alternating narratives that reflect their ages as the years pass and the understandings that they achieve.
Mason, Daniel. The Piano Tuner. [F MAS, also AB/CD MAS]
When Edgar Drake is summoned to the British War Office and asked to tune an eccentric major's 1840 Erard grand piano in the jungles of Burma, he is both confused and intrigued. The year is 1886, and the British Empire is attempting to tighten its control of its colonies in the Far East, to fend off French rivals in the Mekong Delta, and to quell the resistance of a confederacy of local Shan tribes in northern Burma.

Patchett, Ann. Bel Canto. [F PAT]
In the vice president's mansion in an unnamed South American country, a lavish party is taking place to celebrate the birthday of a visiting Japanese businessman. An American opera singer is entertaining the guests, dignitaries and high-ranking officials from around the world, when suddenly the room is plunged into darkness. Terrorists invade the mansion and set in motion a series of events that irrevocably alters the life of every person involved.

If your book group is looking for titles, a favorite site to explore is Reading Group Guides: The Online Community for Reading Groups. This site has recommended lists of titles and discussion questions for several thousand books. I highly recommend it!

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