What author should I suggest my new book club read?
October 9, 2009 11:10 AM   Subscribe

I just joined a book club and our first meeting is this weekend. The club has existed for over a year, so I'm the newbie. One of our "assignments" is to bring the name of an author that has published 4 or more books we'd like the group to read. Since I only marginally know one of these women, I'm going into this blindly. So what do you say, hive mind, any suggestions?

To give you some background: The group is comprised of 8 women, ages 25-45, some with kids, some without. So far, they have read the following books, with the following rating system:

++ = Very good
+ = Good
+/- = Mixed review
- = No one liked it

Fair Game, Valerie Plame Wilson +
After Long Silence, Helen Fremont ++
Destinies of Darcy Dancer, Gentleman, J.P. Donleavy +/-
The Golden Compass, Philip Pullman ++
Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen +
The Savage Garden, Mark Mills -
Reading Lolita in Tehran, Azar Nafisi +
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Lisa See +
Life of Pi, Yann Martel ++
The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz ++
The Red Tent, Anita Diamant +/-
In the Woods, Tana French +
Cry, the Beloved Country, Alan Paton ++
Home: A Memoir of My Early Years, Julie Andrews +
Double Bind, Chris Bohjalian +
Memory Keeper’s Daughter, Kim Edwards +/-
The Year of Living Biblically, A.J. Jacobs +/-
The Likeness, Tana French +
Bittersweet, Nevada Barr +
The Secret Scripture, Sebastian Barry didn’t finish
Gods Behaving Badly, Marie Phillips +
The Memoirs of a Beautiful Boy, Robert Leleux ++

We are currently reading The Glass Castle.

Thanks so much for any suggestions!
posted by fyrebelley to Society & Culture (43 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
How about Margaret Atwood? I just finished [and loved] The Year of the Flood.
posted by alynnk at 11:15 AM on October 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Because a lot of folks on that list don't seem to be in that set.
posted by klangklangston at 11:15 AM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

There was a recent thread looking for recommendations based on liking Life of Pi so you might check that out.
posted by sanko at 11:17 AM on October 9, 2009

I would suggest that you look at book club lists from other book clubs, for example (these two I have attended):
posted by matildaben at 11:19 AM on October 9, 2009

I don't have specific author recommendations but goodreads.com is an excellent website. You can look up the ++ books and then see who else gave them ++ (or 5/5) and explore to your heart's content.
posted by cranberrymonger at 11:20 AM on October 9, 2009

Barbara Kingsolver would be a good bet.
posted by smilingtiger at 11:20 AM on October 9, 2009

Sounds to me like a crowd that might enjoy Isabel Allende and Ann Patchett.
posted by EvaDestruction at 11:21 AM on October 9, 2009

Don't sweat trying to fit in with the group. The whole point of doing something like this is to read books that you wouldn't otherwise pick up. Diverse opinions or books that not everyone likes are okay. So pick a few books that *you* will like and have fun.
posted by chrisamiller at 11:21 AM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: klangklangston:

This is a new thing the bookclub is trying. I think the idea is that people may pick from 2 books from the same author, so as to vary the discussion and to give people more to read.
posted by fyrebelley at 11:27 AM on October 9, 2009

Alice Munro.
Carol Shields.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 11:28 AM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

David Mitchell. Comparing Cloud Atlas and Black Swan Green would be really fun.
posted by oinopaponton at 11:32 AM on October 9, 2009

Seconding Ann Patchett. I loved Bel Canto.
posted by amarynth at 11:38 AM on October 9, 2009

Jodi Picoult perhaps? All the women at my office are gaga over her books.
posted by reenum at 11:39 AM on October 9, 2009

Hilary Mantel. She just won the Booker Prize.
posted by OmieWise at 11:44 AM on October 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

Ian McEwan, Michael Chabon, Mary Doria Russell, Salman Rushdie, Philip Roth.
posted by palomar at 11:44 AM on October 9, 2009

Barbara Comyns
posted by OmieWise at 11:47 AM on October 9, 2009

Popped back in because Geraldine Brooks just occurred to me as another possibility, and I would also like to second Michael Chabon.
posted by EvaDestruction at 11:48 AM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding Geraldine Brooks; my book club has done two of her books (and many of the others on the OP's list) and they've lent themselves to great discussion.

I'd also recommend Margaret Atwood, Barbara Kingsolver, Carol Shields and Ann Patchett, based on our experiences with them.

For a change of pace, seriously: Alison Bechdel's Fun Home. Our club read that on my recommendation; the graphic novel format really stretched some ladies' comfort zones but we had a great discussion. Ditto with Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens.

For nonfiction, maybe Ruth Reichl's memoirs?
posted by dlugoczaj at 11:55 AM on October 9, 2009

Seconding Margaret Atwood.

My favorite of her books is Cat's Eye.

I also really liked The Handmaid's Tale, The Blind Assassin, The Robber Bride, and Alias Grace.
posted by marsha56 at 11:56 AM on October 9, 2009

Shelby Hearon.
posted by Carol Anne at 12:00 PM on October 9, 2009

Jeanette Winterson. I also vote for Geraldine Brooks, Margarel Atwood and Mary Doria Russell (but not her book Children of God, which was horrible).
posted by jeather at 12:03 PM on October 9, 2009

"This is a new thing the bookclub is trying. I think the idea is that people may pick from 2 books from the same author, so as to vary the discussion and to give people more to read."

Ah, cool.

Alice Munro, Patricia Highsmith, Kobo Abe, Philip K. Dick, Evelyn Waugh, Thomas Mann, John Barth…
posted by klangklangston at 12:08 PM on October 9, 2009

Yes, if this is a Life of Pi and Oscar Wao-loving crowd, the Jodi Picoult books will probably be too mass-market mainstream for them.

So I'm seconding Brooks, Atwood, Kingsolver, Munro, Shields, and Patchett.

Some other thoughts:

Julia Alvarez
Louise Erdrich
Russell Banks
Richard Russo
Jon Hassler
Walter Mosley
J. California Cooper
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:10 PM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Lorrie Moore, Amy Bloom, David Foster Wallace, E.L. Doctorow, Jane Smiley, Joan Didion, Ian McEwan
posted by zoomorphic at 12:15 PM on October 9, 2009

Although the books they read lean a little more heavily toward female authors, I'd like to submit John Irving's "A Prayer for Owen Meany." If you need three others I'd suggest "Cider House Rules," "The World According to Garp" and "A Widow for One Year" in that order.
posted by Spyder's Game at 12:17 PM on October 9, 2009

Seeing as you're all women, I'll go with my favorite female author - Barbara Trapido
posted by Nick Verstayne at 12:17 PM on October 9, 2009

Haruki Murakami
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:20 PM on October 9, 2009

Karen Joy Fowler (The Jane Austen Book Club, Sarah Canary, Sister Noon, The Sweetheart Season, Wit's End)
posted by Zed at 12:34 PM on October 9, 2009

Another recommendation for Michael Chabon (Yiddish Policeman's Union, Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay). His work would fit in well with most of the books that got a ++ from the group.
posted by mbrubeck at 12:36 PM on October 9, 2009

I highly recommend Pat Barker. Excellent writer, British, Man Booker Prize winner. I especially recommend the Regeneration Trilogy. Her books cover some interesting political and historic ground, so they're great for a book group; lots to discuss.
posted by Mom at 12:46 PM on October 9, 2009

Iain Banks
Richard Powers
and nthing Michael Chabon
posted by 256 at 12:46 PM on October 9, 2009

John Irving - A widow for one year, The hotel New Hampshire, The Ciderhouse rules, A Prayer for Owen Meany
posted by pintapicasso at 12:59 PM on October 9, 2009

Nthing Michael Chabon

Also for some classics I'd recommend Somerset Maugham, and Edith Wharton.
posted by Sophie1 at 1:49 PM on October 9, 2009

2nding Lorrie Moore.
posted by Obscure Reference at 2:30 PM on October 9, 2009

I've recently been reading Octavia Butler's stuff, particularly "Parable of the Sower" and "Parable of the Talents". They are a bit dystopian, which can turn off some readers, but excellently-written nonetheless, with strong female lead characters and interesting plots. My copies include reading guides and questions at the end, which could assist you in your discussions.
posted by mrbarrett.com at 2:52 PM on October 9, 2009

Jonathan Letham, Leslie Marmon Silko, Sherman Alexie
posted by rikschell at 3:37 PM on October 9, 2009

Response by poster: Wow! Thanks for all the great responses. I can't wait to go through them all and see which ones appeal to me. I have a feeling my difficult task will be whittling it down to one! I tend to read a lot of classics so modern authors are very helpful. I'll report back the other authors the group brings for your viewing/reading pleasure.
posted by fyrebelley at 5:06 PM on October 9, 2009

Nthing Michael Chabon.

Neil Gaiman
Bill Bryson
Sarah Vowell
Jon Berendt
posted by cooker girl at 5:48 PM on October 9, 2009

Barbara Kingsolver & Chris Bohjalian are two favorites that fit the bill.
posted by kayzie at 8:16 PM on October 9, 2009

Nthing Neil Gaiman. The Graveyard Book is a good read, as is Stardust. Good Omens was already recommended, and I'd also throw American Gods into the mix. :)
posted by KoPi_42 at 1:44 AM on October 10, 2009

I can't recommend Charlaine Harris highly enough. All of her main characters are strong women that are very believable. The Shakespeare series is my favorite. I will never forget the moment when I realized that the main character's actions and emotions seemed too real and that she was based on Harris's real life experiences.

Christopher Moore is fantastic. His book Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal is the only book that has been universally loved by every single person I've ever discussed it with. And that is anextremely diverse group.
posted by thekiltedwonder at 11:48 AM on October 10, 2009

Joyce Carol Oates for your high-brow modern lit. Jane Ann Phillips would probably fit that description too.

If your group does non-fic and has a few foodies people who like food, Michael Ruhlman's "Making of a Chef" is a fun read.
posted by slogger at 12:02 PM on October 13, 2009

Response by poster: So, I survived the first book club meeting without embarassing myself too much. I did promise to report back on the other authors brought to the group. Unfortunately, we were missing 3 of the girls, so this is all we had:

Milan Kundera (which made me very happy because I read Unbearable Lightness of Being about once a year)
Paulo Coelho
Sweet Potato Queens
Clyde Edgerton
Michael Chabon--this is the one that I picked amongst all the great suggestions
And a detective/mystery novelist who's name I've forgotten.

We drew a name out of a hat and ended up with Clyde Edgerton--who was described as an author from the deep south, comical, but a bit endearing. I'm hoping a bit like David Sedaris, but only time will tell.

Again, thanks for all the suggestions--much appreciated!
posted by fyrebelley at 12:34 PM on October 13, 2009

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