Feb 26

This week: Gatherings of book lovers, choosing books for your reading groups, Peter Clines’ Ex-Heroes and Karen Russell’s Vampires in the Lemon Grove.

Create your own Booktopia!

A few weeks ago we received a voicemail from some friends who had met at Booktopia Oxford last year. They were calling from Jackson, Mississippi, home of their “Unofficial Booktopia” gathering. We were jealous, but thrilled that we helped to create new friendships, and thrilled that they had planned this get-together, complete with read-along (A Good Hard Look by Ann Napolitano, a novel about Flannery O’Connor). Thanks, ladies, for thinking of us during your weekend!

We want to encourage all of you to use our Goodreads group to connect with other BOTNS readers and listeners in your area. We currently have several local threads, including people from Boston, Seattle/Tacoma, Portland, Chicago, Lower Mainland BC, Atlanta, Dallas and Philadelphia. If your city is not there, feel free to start a post. We recommend a first meeting in conjunction with an author event at a local bookstore, or other literary gathering.

 

Choosing books for your book club (06:46)

A few weeks ago I spoke on a panel at The Big Book Club Getaway. My topic was “How to choose good books for your book club.” Since I had done a lot of prep and had pages of notes, I thought I’d share some of the ideas here.

1. Know your book club. What do you *really* discuss? Is it the book itself — the writing, structure, use of language, stye? Or do you discuss the material around the book? For instance, much of my book group’s discussion about Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone was about the food and history of Ethiopia beyond the details that the author included in the novel.

 2. Visit Bookstores and Libraries
Check the displays, but it’s better to have a conversation, if you ask the right questions.
What books had mixed reviews? These can often be the best ones to discuss.
What books most surprised readers? The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak and Wonder by RJ Palacio are good examples of this, as are “genre-crossers” like Outlander by Diana Gabaldon and The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell.
Which have ambiguous endings? Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is an excellent example of a book with an ambiguous ending.
Interesting settings? Cutting for Stone, Julie Orringer’s The Invisible Bridge, The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker, Gardens of Water by Alan Drew are some of our favorites in this vein.
Look for pairings: Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife with Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises or A Moveable FeastAlso try pairing Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones with Dickens’ Great Expectations. An upcoming pairing to look forward to: F. Scott Fitzgerald wtih Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler (coming March 26th),  and The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery with Studio Saint-Ex by Ania Szado (due April 2nd in Canada and June 4th in the US).
Look for books related to current affairs – Nick Kristoff and Cheryl Wu-Dunn’s Half the Sky or Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo.
3. Award winners
BookRiot’s “Book Discovery through Literary Awards”: http://bookriot.com/2013/02/11/book-discovery-through-literary-awards-part-one/
The Alex Awards — adult books that are also great for teens. These books usually contain great life lessons that make for great book club discussions.

Two books we can’t wait for you to read (25:03)

Ex-Heroes   Vampires in the Lemon Grove
Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines was acquired for Crown by the editor that brought us Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. It was originally published by a small press and has now been rereleased by Crown. The story is basically, as Michael describes, superheroes vs. zombies in Los Angeles. It’s a fun, very well-written read that crosses genres and will appeal to readers who aren’t normally drawn to zombies or superhero novels. Trust Michael: read this.
Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell is just out in hardcover, and I’m so excited. It’s a story collection, so perfect for Project Short Story, but it will appeal even to people who don’t normally love short stories.  These stories defy categorization: they touch on magical realism, fantasy, or surrealism, but the events in these stories seem completely plausible in Russell’s hands. There are eight stories in the collection, and the stories work together and separately.
  • Meg Waite Clayton

    >Know your book club. What do you *really* discuss?

    This is so important. I know for my book neighborhood club, we like to talk about relationships. We find books are a jumping off point to explore our own lives and our own choices. For a bookstore group I participate in, the discussion is less personal. But I never thought about taken that into consideration for our book choices … until now. Thanks!

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