Need book suggestions for a "read aloud" book club
February 23, 2010 9:09 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for suggestions for books for a book club that I recently began with a few friends. The books will have to be read aloud to the group.

One of my friends was recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder. In her case this means that she has a hard time holding her concentration on some activity which requires it. While this accounts for her being unable to read for any length of time, we have noticed that whilst movie watching is also out she seems to enjoy listening to radio plays at the moment.

So, we are in the process of experimenting with The Handmaid's Tale and it seems to be going well. We are half way through, have acquired a few extra listeners and we are having a great time.

Whilst I can do it I am not normally comfortable speaking in public, so went with a book I'm familiar with so I could quickly get a sense of the rhythm of the language. For similar reasons, next up is The Stranger by Camus.

I would like to hear your suggestions for other books that are suitable to be read aloud to a group of intelligent adults. I think what I mean by "suitable to be read aloud" is that you shouldn't need to see the text to understand it (as with The Sound and the Fury for example) and, ideally, shouldn't be too taxing on my complete lack of skill as an actor.

Thanks in advance.
posted by vbfg to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I've read aloud with others Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory. It's beautiful. And can be finished in one or two sittings. I've recently read Gilead and Home by Marilynne Robinson. I think Gilead would be beautiful read out loud. It might be a little harder to read -- there are a lot of long sentences and complicated thoughts.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:15 AM on February 23, 2010

Kallocain by Karin Boye.

It should be a good read aloud. Plus, it's not very long (under 200 pages).
posted by seppyk at 9:23 AM on February 23, 2010

Best answer: Interesting question. I'd imagine a book that I'd want to read out loud would have: 1) fluid prose (something easily readable); 2) length (not too long), and 3) a 1st person narrative, so it seems like I'm telling the story.

My first thought was Jesus' Son: Stories by Denis Johnson. While it coheres, it's episodic structure should let you stop, if you need to at any break point. Plus, Johnson's voice is one that I'd like to hear out loud.

But then it occurred to me: Charles Portis's True Grit, which otio recommended to me in this thread, fits the bill perfectly. Moreover, I devoured it in one sitting. It was, as promised, tremendous.
posted by .kobayashi. at 9:31 AM on February 23, 2010

Another thought -- Jane Austen is very funny read out loud, and familiar so easy to read.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:38 AM on February 23, 2010

Best answer: Ohhh how fun. I used to do this with my mom in middle school on long car trips, and we tended towards the long and dirty - Needful Things, The Stand, even! Ones that would more fit your reqs:

Curious case of Benjamin Button is MUCH better than the movie, a bit more cynical with more social issues poking up, and not too long. It's also an F. Scott Fitzgerald story, so you could pair it or replace it with The Great Gatsby.

Any of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency books would be nice lighter fare. They are written in a story-telling, slightly rambling voice anyway, which makes them wonderful fodder for out-loud reading. (Anyone into audiobooks needs to check out the audiobooks; the reader has a lovely South African accent that perfectly complements the Batswana characters.)

Maybe you'd want to start off the night with a quick warm-up read from something like Joyful Noise: Poems for two Voices. These aren't hard, or deep, but they are specifically for reading with other people.
posted by whatzit at 9:44 AM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
posted by haveanicesummer at 9:50 AM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding Rebecca -- it is also a nearly perfect movie, so reading the book could be followed up by watching the movie.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:05 AM on February 23, 2010

Argh, if you're still taking decisions, what I really wanted to add in that comment above was anything by Jose Saramago! How could I forget?

He has this style of writing, where sentences never end, even as the dialogue continues, and some other character does something, and they just go on and on, and on. I found it a little infuriating to read to myself until I realized that the best way to read it was slowly and out-loud-to-myself. To read his stories truly out loud would be a pleasure, I am sure.

Of the things of his I have read, my favorite is Death with Interruptions.
posted by whatzit at 10:52 AM on February 23, 2010

You know, oral histories – both real and fake – would be perfect for this purpose. For real oral histories, check out Studs Terkel's works – Giants of Jazz, Division Street, Hard Times, Working, Talking to Myself, American Dreams, The Good War, Chicago, The Great Divide, Race, Coming of Age, My American Century, The Spectator, Will the Circle Be Unbroken, Hope Dies Last, And They All Sang, Touch and Go and P.S. &ndash and for a fake one, World War Z is a great read.
posted by WCityMike at 1:22 PM on February 23, 2010

Response by poster: Some great answers here. Thanks very much!
posted by vbfg at 3:57 AM on February 24, 2010

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