What should we read?
February 26, 2006 6:41 PM   Subscribe

What should my book club read next?

I am a member of a fairly small (6 people) book club. We are all males in our early 20's. Previously we have read Everything is Illuminated, by Jonathan Safran Foer, and Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro. We're into fiction, preferably something recent, possibly serious but not too depressing. What do you think? If you have a suggestion, please include a brief description, but no spoilers. If you like, tell me what you liked about the book. In particular, I'd be interested in reading books by female authors, but all suggestions are welcome. Thanks!
posted by number9dream to Writing & Language (43 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Sorry no time rigt now for a full description, but I can't recommend "The Kite Runner" enough.
posted by surferboy at 6:54 PM on February 26, 2006

For one, Jhumpa Lahiri's, The Namesake - Here's the info from Powell's. Loved it. Loved her other book. She's an amazing writer. Engaging story about a culture and cultural experience I know little about -- well-drawn characters.

Also love Kate Atkinson's, particularly Case Histories.

I'd be curious to know what you end up reading and how it goes over. I am in a women's book group -- (30-60+ yr olds) and we've been pretty unsuccesful in choosing books that have sparked good discussion.
posted by nnk at 6:59 PM on February 26, 2006

Yes, I also second Case Histories.
posted by surferboy at 7:00 PM on February 26, 2006

Well, judging from your name, you are a David Mitchell fan. If you are, and you've never read Haruki Murakami, you should give a book of his a go, as Mitchell can seem so... similar.

Kafka on the Shore is his most recent in English, and Wind up Bird Chronicle is a modern classic.
posted by xmutex at 7:15 PM on February 26, 2006

Brick Lane by Monica Ali.

Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld. Yes, this Curtis is a woman.

A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel.

A good place for book club ideas is BookSense.com which highlights book picks by independent book sellers.
posted by TheLibrarian at 7:16 PM on February 26, 2006

Zadie Smith's most recent novel On Beauty is well-written, well-plotted, and contains much to discuss (particularly if read as a companion to E.M. Forster's Howard's End, although that might be ambitious). It concerns two interrelated academic families, and touches on issues of class, politics and race in a interesting and not too-serious way.

Any of Ian McEwan's novels (although especially Atonement) are beautifully written and thought-provoking. Atonement is about a family in the years surrouding WWII.
posted by maxreax at 7:20 PM on February 26, 2006

Three suggestions:

1)Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem -- another Brooklyn writer like Mr. Foer. The book is an easy read, well written and hysterically funny. I believe that it won a national Book Award...and it deserved it.

2)A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving -- one of the all time great modern fiction books. It's about fate. Just genuflect now. John Irving is a master.

3)The Archivist by Martha Cooley -- her first (and maybe only) novel. There are no excess words, no fluff. Life, love and loss. Outstanding book.

4)My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok -- one of a beloved series of books by the late Chaim Potok. What is it like to be an artist, complicated by being an orthodox jew. You don't have to be religious to love this book. Just read the amazon comments. An easy read.

5)Parts Unknown by Kevin Brennan -- a much overlooked book. It's funny and deals with forgiveness among other things.

6)Oral History by Lee Smith -- a series of books by a female Southern writer. I read them all years ago and have never forgotten them.

...additionally, two other terrific writers are Paul Auster and Richard Powers. Happy reading.
posted by bim at 7:20 PM on February 26, 2006

I liked Foer's other novel, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. And I second Owen Meany. It's one of my favorites. You might like Kent Haruf. Try The Tie That Binds and Plainsong.
posted by booth at 7:31 PM on February 26, 2006

Lahiri and Murakami (esp. KOTS or Norwegian Wood among others) are excellent choices. We are doing Bellow's _Herzog_ this month as another example.
posted by kcm at 7:36 PM on February 26, 2006

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susannah York. Don't let its "Harry Potter for grown-ups" rep fool you. It's a great book.

Anything by Richard Powers. His most recent, The Time of Our Singing was quite good
posted by hwestiii at 7:48 PM on February 26, 2006

Well, it's not a recent work, but I was just reminded of Octavia Butler's Kindred and how awesome that book is in light of this news.
posted by neda at 7:50 PM on February 26, 2006

Mary Doria Russell's "A Thread of Grace"
posted by gemmy at 7:56 PM on February 26, 2006

A third for Owen Meany, and also votes for either The Corrections or The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.
posted by pdb at 7:58 PM on February 26, 2006

If you aren't afraid of hardbacks, be ahead of the curve and check out The Thin Place by Kathryn Davis.
posted by aspo at 8:08 PM on February 26, 2006

Can't go wrong with Yann Martel's Life of Pi.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 8:09 PM on February 26, 2006

Another one: Liar's Club by Mary Karr (memoir)

...and unlike James Frey, she didn't make this book up!

...and the Richard Powers book cited above was definitely very good. :)
posted by bim at 8:12 PM on February 26, 2006

Can't go wrong with Yann Martel's Life of Pi.

You can't?
posted by jdroth at 8:27 PM on February 26, 2006 [1 favorite]

I second (I mean third) the Richard Powers suggestion.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:34 PM on February 26, 2006

I'd recommend Having Our Say to anyone. Completely engaging, absolutely fascinating, wonderful read.
posted by eleyna at 8:35 PM on February 26, 2006

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

Man I love that book.
posted by radioamy at 8:39 PM on February 26, 2006

For group dynamics, My Life and Loves, by Frank Harris is an interesting experience, I would guess.
posted by semmi at 8:54 PM on February 26, 2006

Second for Murakami, Jonathan Strange and the Life of Pi. That last is a beautiful piece of work.

I'd also like to recommend the lesser-known The Chess Garden, which is absolutely gorgeous. Hansen's passion and whimsy are infectious. I read it about once every eighteen months on average. It's good book club material, because not only is it whimsical and fun and adventurous in tone, but it's got some damn good philosophical depths to plumb. Good discussion fodder, if your group really likes to dive below the surface.
posted by middleclasstool at 9:02 PM on February 26, 2006

Here's one I enjoyed: Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold: a fascinating and twisty tale of a stage magician in the 1920's, full of interesting historical detail and curious personalities.
posted by SPrintF at 9:13 PM on February 26, 2006

I'm currently reading Maps for Lost Lovers by Nadeem Aslam, which is so ridiculously good that I spent an hour reading it in the library and ignoring my ling text.

I second the Zadie Smith book someone mentioned above; I also recommend something by Tom Perrotta, or perhaps Tom Bissell's marvelous God Lives in St. Petersburg or David Bezmozgis' Natasha (both of the last provided that you don't mind short stories).

I'm going to go ahead and assume that you've already read David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas, judging from your username. If you haven't, then ... what are you waiting for?
posted by anjamu at 9:33 PM on February 26, 2006

I give a lot of book recommendations, and the one that seems to have gotten the most props is Zoe Heller's What Was She Thinking? (in Britain, it's titled Notes on a Scandal). It's not incredibly recent, but everyone seems to love it. The story is about a female high school teacher who sleeps with her student. The tawdriness of the subject makes it satisfyingly schlocky, but it's narrated by a prudish, spinster co-worker of the accused teacher, and the unreliable narrator factor gives the book an almost Victorian air of literariness. All the characters are exceptionally well-drawn. This book really should have won the Booker in 2003, but it was beaten out by that awful DBC Pierre book.
posted by painquale at 11:14 PM on February 26, 2006

Nobody loves Murakami more than me, but I think I would warn members of the book club that "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle" contains graphic descriptions of torture, if I was considering it.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 12:59 AM on February 27, 2006

Desertion by Abdulrazak Gurnah puts you into another world - Mombassa - and reminds you that longing and dignity exist in all cultures.
posted by loosemouth at 2:04 AM on February 27, 2006

A lot of these recommendations seem like very long books - our book group tends to read shorter novels, as we're all pretty busy, and we want time to read other books during the month. I mean, I love Kavalier and Clay, but it's not a quick read and Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is longer than than the Bible (probably).

One of the first books we read was Brokeback Mountain (I know, I know), which comes in a collection of short stories called Close Range, all of which are well worth reading. We also got a lot out of Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49, which is short but dense. We're about to do The Time Traveler's Wife, which is already a pretty classic book club choice, but sometimes you have to go for the obvious.
posted by featherboa at 2:43 AM on February 27, 2006

Geek Love.

Brutal. Brilliant.
posted by flabdablet at 3:16 AM on February 27, 2006

Lethem's As She Climbed Across the Table. Short, sweet, heartbreaking.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:34 AM on February 27, 2006

Mary Doria Russell's "The Sparrow" and "Children of God". My all time favorite books.

And I second any mention of Octavia Butler's works. I'm mourning her passing. "Kindred" was amazing, I also loved "Dawn" and pretty much anything else she wrote.
posted by mulkey at 7:22 AM on February 27, 2006

Another yea for The Namesake, another nay for Life of Pi.
posted by kittyprecious at 8:28 AM on February 27, 2006

Why the 'Life of Pi' hate? Just curious...
posted by WinnipegDragon at 8:55 AM on February 27, 2006

Don't get me wrong, I thought the first third or so--the "zookeeper confidential" section--was great, but once the story gets in motion it turned really... er, first-year-philosophy-student-y. The narrator's voice was really gimmicky and rang false to me, the plot crossed over from ludicrous to annoying, and by the end I just didn't care.
posted by kittyprecious at 9:10 AM on February 27, 2006

Hmm... Interesting take. I'll have to reread it with that in mind.

posted by WinnipegDragon at 9:19 AM on February 27, 2006

the amazing advendtures of Kavelier and Clay - John Chabon. His other books, including Wonderboys, are good as well.
posted by markovitch at 9:20 AM on February 27, 2006

(Michael Chabon)
posted by kittyprecious at 9:31 AM on February 27, 2006

The Secret History by Donna Tartt is a really entertaining read, especially in a book group setting. As are others that have been mentioned: Powers' stuff, Jonathan Strange, The Life of Pi, Atonement -- all fun books (which I consider to be a book group prerequisite: fun).

Ew, I'm sorry, though: I read The Kite Runner in a book group and we all hated it. Just my (and their) 2 cents.
posted by penchant at 10:26 AM on February 27, 2006

Yeah, I'm with penchant on Kite Runner: Ew. First half was interesting but by the end it became incredibly schlocky and eye-rollingly simplistic.


Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Anything by Ian McEwan (seconding someone above)

The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem

Gerald's Party by Robert Coover (and then invite me over because I don't know anyone else who has ever read this and would love to talk about it)
posted by papercake at 10:54 AM on February 27, 2006

If you're into short, try Child of God by Cormack McCarthy. It is short, a relatively quick read, and almost guaranteed to provoke discussion.

Also Regeneration (and its two successors, The Eye in the Door, and The Ghost Road) by Pat Barker.
posted by hwestiii at 11:00 AM on February 27, 2006

Sanctified balls of feces, you ain't kidding about Child of God. That's a conversation starter, all right. Also a damn good read. Southern Gothic at its best.

Another whammy of a conversation starter is Boy With Loaded Gun by Lewis Nordan. I didn't drink for two weeks after reading that book.
posted by middleclasstool at 11:24 AM on February 27, 2006

Bel Canto, by Ann Patchet
Wicked, by Gregory Maguire
A Fine Balance, by Rohinton Mistry
The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger

and another enthusiastic vote for the Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay.
posted by emd3737 at 12:13 PM on February 27, 2006

If you like odd books, I'd recommend Welcome to the Arrowcatcher Fair. It's a book of short stories. Probably out of print. Oddly, also by Lewis Nordan. Owen Meany IS a beautiful book. Atlas Shrugged - it's been out of vogue for a while, but an interesting read, and good for generating discussion.
posted by clarkstonian at 5:39 PM on February 28, 2006

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