Help us continue our mom & daughter bonding over great books.
November 15, 2014 9:59 AM   Subscribe

Next year she's off to college, but until then, help me fill the time with great books we can share.

My 17 year old daughter and I just finished reading Station Eleven, jointly. We kept pace with each other, taking turns reading silently and aloud, so we could talk about what was happening in the story without any spoilers. We recently did the same with Beautiful Ruins. While the two books are completely different genres, they're similar in that they follow multiple lead characters over an extended period of time and the storylines allow us to continually speculate on what's going to happen next.

Today she excitedly asked me what's next on our list, and I'm so moved that she wants to continue our mini book club that I really really want to find a great book for us to share. We've agreed to find something neither of us has already read (ruling out any Jane Austen) and to avoid mysteries or anything with detailed sexual content. A strong female protagonist is a plus.
posted by kbar1 to Media & Arts (16 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping.
posted by correcaminos at 10:07 AM on November 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I really liked Where'd You Go, Bernadette?. It's funny and light while still being touching and smart. It was a good, quick read.
posted by gursky at 10:25 AM on November 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

All Kate Morton's work is ike that. My mom and I definitely enjoyed comparing notes from those books.
posted by parkerjackson at 10:28 AM on November 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Poisonwood Bible takes place over several decades and moves between several narrators, all women. You get child, teen and adult perspectives. It took a while to get going, but the story really goes places I never would have imagined.

The Joy Luck Club shifts between the perspective of mother and daughter, past and present. I think Amy Tan's prose is wonderfully eloquent and subtle.
posted by skewed at 10:28 AM on November 15, 2014 [8 favorites]

Life of Pi, especially if you haven't seen the movie. The book is much better. Thoroughly enjoyed sharing it with my daugter.
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, ditto. With strong women as protagonists.
posted by SLC Mom at 10:54 AM on November 15, 2014

Best answer: Great question.
Here's a second for the Poisonwood Bible. It is one of my favorite books.
I would also recommend Never Let Me Go.
I also recently read Invisible Cities and loved it.
posted by bluesky43 at 12:23 PM on November 15, 2014

Best answer: One of David Mitchell's novels.

Both Ghostwritten and Cloud Atlas are built up from interconnected first-person stories from people across a wide range of geographical locations, socioeconomic classes, etc. The narrators of each story reappear as minor or background or disguised figures in other stories. In each case the whole book winds up composing a single bizarre plot about whether and how human civilization can survive itself.

Cloud Atlas offers the additional benefits that its stories take place across a variety of historical settings, and are each written in a different genre -- e.g. a 19th century travel journal, or letters from an interwar pianist, often connected as texts, e.g. other stories turning up within other stories as screenplays or other kinds of document.

Cloud Atlas warning: each story's genre and characters and setting are insanely gripping -- each appears in two chapters at different points in the book, separated by a cliffhanger and by the other chapters from other settings -- so the only way to not feel insanely frustrated while reading it in order is to start radically expanding your brain's notion of coherence. Ghostwritten isn't quite so challenging; it's the one he wrote first, and also the one I'd recommend reading first, if you're going to read both.

I'd love to have read either Ghostwritten or Cloud Atlas as part of a two-person book club that met so frequently. Actually I can't imagine a better way to read them.
posted by feral_goldfish at 1:02 PM on November 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: An acquaintance of mine kept up reading to her children when they were university-age. I remember when she said she was reading Room with a View to her daughters.

Personally, I would suggest all of Octavia Butler's books.
posted by angiep at 1:02 PM on November 15, 2014

The Women's Room, by Marilyn French.
The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood, or Atwood's Cat's Eye.
posted by scratch at 1:31 PM on November 15, 2014

Middlemarch follows multiple lead characters over an extended period of time and provides lots of opportunities to speculate on what's going to happen next. And it's highly entertaining. Another entertaining George Eliot novel with a strong female protagonist is The Mill on the Floss.

Some other great choices if the female protagonist isn't so important:
Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clark
Merry Men by Carolyn Chute
Les Miserables (which is a surprisingly fast read for such a thick book and madly entertaining, despite some boring parts)
posted by Redstart at 1:53 PM on November 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seconding David Mitchell. I just read his latest, The Bone Clocks, and recommend it.
posted by mareli at 2:51 PM on November 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you're considering Joy Luck Club, I'd up that recommendation with Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China, which is the author's account of her family's lives in China from her grandmother through herself. I felt like I learned SO much about a piece of world history that we don't really cover well in our school system, and the story is rich and engaging the whole way through. I remember reading and enjoying The Joy Luck Club around the same age as your daughter, but I think Wild Swans just offers so much more in terms of its connection to history and its examination of the mother-daughter relationships throughout.
posted by augustimagination at 3:30 PM on November 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. It reminds me a little of Anne of Green Gables for a more grown up audience - really charming and fun with a memorable female protagonist.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier - can't beat it for romantic suspense.

The Volcano Lover by Susan Sontag - smart, absorbing historical fiction.
posted by unsub at 10:23 PM on November 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you for all the suggestions. We've agreed to start with Barbara Kingsolver - I already have a copy of The Poisonwood Bible but hadn't made it past the first 50 pages. Then we'll try David Mitchell and Amy Tan. I'll check back for more recommendations - we should have time for a dozen books between now and next August, right? And if all goes well, maybe we'll be able to continue our shared reading tradition even after she goes to college.
posted by kbar1 at 9:10 AM on November 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If you say "ruling out Jane Austen" because you've both read them all already and would love one more except there aren't any more -- then Margaret Oliphant's Miss Marjoribanks scratches that itch so well it's amazing it's not more well known.

Otherwise, based on your description of what you're looking for, check out Ann Patchett's Bel Canto.
posted by Mchelly at 1:55 PM on November 16, 2014

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
posted by brundlefly at 6:48 PM on November 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

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