Book Clubs Recommend - 2011
“This story involves a young female journalist during World War II and a postmistress
Paired with: "Our meal theme was centered around the 1940s and the war. Meat was a
Flicks, Fiction and Forays of Darien, Connecticut, recommend:
"We loved learning about Jewish life in glamorous Cairo in the 1940s and the author’s true
“Sweeping changes uproot their devout, privileged Jewish world as Hitler marches thru Europe and Africa. The tolerant, cultured society of King Farouk falls to General Nasser. When he wins control of the Suez Canal, Nasser ousts all British and French citizens from Cairo. How does a family prepare for a Queen Mary sailing with 26 suitcases -- complete with heirloom wedding dresses, canned fruit and sardines, and jewels. Their 200 dollars won’t go far as they retrench to face the squalid Broadway Central Hotel in the Bowery. Amazing that the author and her brother eventually flourish in America.
“As we feasted upscale Cairo style, we delved into the drama of Jewish exile -- from glamorous pre-war Cairo to the desert tents of a brand new Israel, to Paris, and then to the sweatshops of Delancey Street and drab Brooklyn rooms. We discussed our own stories of immigration, what we really know about the Jewish diaspora, how lucky the author was to return to her childhood mansion on Malaka Nazli in 2005 and find old friends of her parents, and how the rocky marriage between a ‘boulavardier’ dad and a shy demoralized mom affected the children.
“The author weaves a fascinating history with extreme personalities: a vivacious and elegant grandmother, a domineering mother-in-law, a confused younger brother sat smack in the middle of a divorce mediation strategically run by Rabbis and aunts determined to save a marriage. The charismatic, rich father of Cairo fame was reduced to selling knockoff ties in New York City, and the mother must turn down a great job at Grolier publishing because married Egyptian wives simply didn’t work. We all loved this book.”
Paired with: “Inspired by Zarifa’s feast described in the story, we served meatballs and sour cherries, stewed apricots (mesh-mesh) and plums with chevre and pistachios on pita. We also served Kushari (lentil, rice and pasta casserole), Egyptian pepper salad, and Omm Ali (literally Ali’s mother), a rich bread pudding made with flaky Rokak pastry, fruit and nuts. YUM!”
“Claude & Camille is the story of the young and struggling artist Claude Monet, and his even
“We were amazed at the level of poverty Claude and his young wife and son had to live in, often leaving their home in the middle of the night so they wouldn’t be evicted without their possessions. We were also intrigued by how the artists relied on their ‘exhibitions’ in order to promote their works. They all seemed to JUST get by. We learned how the term ‘impressionist’ came to be, and enjoyed seeing Monet’s paintings, as Camille was often in his sketches. We felt the author piqued our curiosity as most of us looked up vocabulary (such as tisane) specific works, and also other artists and their sketches.”
Paired with: "A French feast, including mini quiches, Croque Monsieur, crepes, Laughing Cow cheese, brie with almonds and lavender honey, chocolate truffles, and Kir Royale cocktails (served in flutes as tall as the champagne bottle!). with a grande finale dessert for the end of the meeting -- Coeur à la Crème. The heart-shaped mold of creamy goodness topped with fresh raspberries and a raspberry coulis - the perfect finale for the love story it represented.”
“Azim's Bardo chronicles the murder of a teen by a teenage gang member. This
“We were all intrigued by the idea of ‘restorative justice’ (the idea of facing the family of the victims and apologizing), which is put forth in the book: this allows forgiveness to take place and allows the person who committed the crime to grow and learn. Often prisoners are released less capable of living in society and more capable criminals. It prompted a controversial discussion in our group as to what the punishment should be for a crime as heinous as murdering another human being. The Tariq Khamisa Foundation, a nonprofit group that tries to eliminate violence in schools and mentors at-risk kids, is the result of the collaboration of the two families of the teens involved. How the families handled this pain together and the forgiveness that took place will appeal to everyone.”
‘Tween the Lines Book Club of Grand Rapids, Minnesota, recommends:
“Paulsen has written several children's books, but he delves into his real life adventure
“Our club comprises men and women of all ages, abilities and interests. What will commonly appeal to one does not so much appeal to another. This book was unanimously liked. The women in our group could not figure out how his wife could so willingly support such a radical man and the men saw in him a man to be admired for following a dream, no matter the sacrifice. We all were impressed and a little concerned about the extremes that the racers and dogs must go to in order to race this event and discussed in detail what we would do to achieve a dream that was important and life-changing to us.”
Paired with: Playful Puppy Chow, Moose Jerky, Fruit Cake, Hush Puppies and home made Snowballs. It was a lot of fun!”
The Pre-Oprah Saturday Morning Book Club of Dallas, Texas, recommends:
“The Civil War unfolds in realistic detail in this novel that draws the reader into the
“With elements of romance, history, family conflict, and just good storytelling, the story walks the reader through frequently gruesome details of what doctors and nurses went through to save wounded soldiers. As a heroine, Mary is headstrong, stubborn and courageous. The depth of this book has been compared to Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain and makes a good companion for anyone who enjoyed that book. Readers will enjoy getting to know Mary Sutter and seeing how she grows through the novel.
"We discussed whether Mary should have gone home to help with her sister’s delivery and whether women are still limited by prejudice in the medical profession."
Las Mariposas of Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey, recommend:
“Lynnie, a young developmentally disabled girl and Homan, an African American deaf man
"The author grew up with a sibling who was disabled during that time and thankfully, her parents did not follow that path. Her personal experience and research about exposes and reforms about the mental health institutions, added a lot to the storyline.
“Since a few of the members are special education teachers, and my daughter teaches children with multiple disabilities we were very interested in the topic, especially comparing ‘then with now’. We were trying to identify Lynnie's disability because at the end she became a successful artist and was somewhat functional; our thoughts were that she was autistic which is more of a current day diagnosis. The author also based the novel on the exposes that occurred in New York at institutions such as Creedmoor and Willowbrook -- one of the members grew up near Willowbrook and remembered the scandals that occurred in the late 70s and early 80s. We loved the fact that the author based Homan's character on an real individual that spent his life in an institution - he was deaf and uneducated, so was misdiagnosed as developmentally disabled. We also liked the fact that she did include workers in the institution that truly cared for the patients as a balance to those who mistreated the patients.”
Mystery Reading Group of Framingham, Massachusetts, recommends:
“French's series is unusual because rather than staying with a single main character, she
“Most members liked the story, but even those who didn't got into very intense discussions on characters’ behavior. An author who can create such real characters and involve even disenchanted readers is very skilled - and the members all agreed on the high quality of her writing.”
Thursday Night Readers of Eugene, Oregon, recommend:
“We read The Great Gatsby partly because it’s a classic, and also because the author is ‘local’ (Fitzgerald grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota). We discussed the ‘innocent’ guy from Minnesota caught up in the new rich society of New York. We talked about his taking the blame for the death of the woman and Daisy's indifference to her guilt. Weliked the book (of course), and thought it had a lot to say about that era and perhaps ours as well.”
“This book starts off with a man trying to commit suicide because his wife has died and he is lonely. The reader is upset about his dilemma but within a couple of pages you are relieved with the outcome. The book takes you on a rollercoaster ride of emotions from the beginning. He brings his wife back to life and of course you know things never work out as you wish. It was so believable because all of us had at least one person we wish we could bring back. By the end of the book we were writing down what actors we would want to play the characters. We agreed that Danny Devito would play the character Warhol - a little mean character. After the discussion one of our members emailed the author.”
“Some of us liked this book and some of us loved it, but we all found it very interesting. Set in post-Civil War America, One Thousand White Women is the story of an agreement between the leader of the Cheyenne Indians and President Grant. The Indians would exchange 1,000 horses for 1,000 white women. The goal was for the women to bear children for the Indians and acclimate the Indians to the white man's culture. Although fiction, the story is based on a proposal made to President Grant by the Chief which never materialized. Jim Fergus takes this failed idea and writes a very interesting story about two worlds colliding in a primitive land.
“The coming together of two entirely different cultures presents many problems: the women are not accustomed to the violence displayed by the Indians, the foods of the two cultures are very different both in preparation and selection, and the Indians’ multiple wives had varying ranks in the family. But there is some merit to the arrangement also. Readers learn of a very different culture and develop respect for their spiritual beliefs and the closeness of the wives even though they share the same man. These ideas brought about lots of discussion. We felt that the author might have given the impression that the white women had acclimated to their culture a little too easily. We loved the way the women from both cultures showed their strength and determination.”
“Tales of the City is a delightful romp through 1970s San Francisco. Naive Mary Ann Singleton is someone we could all relate to. Bright eyed and not having too much direction, she moves to the city on a whim, not realizing quite what she is getting herself into or who she is bound to meet. Upon arrival she moves into 28 Barbary Lane and the neighborhood’s cast of characters quickly welcomes her into their fold (whether she wants them to or not!) We discussed the ways that San Francisco has changed and stayed the same. We also asked ourselves: Is this book timeless? Why don’t books appear in serial form in newspapers anymore? Readers will delight in the tragi-comic writing style as well as the interwoven characters as they read this San Francisco classic.”
"This book is a laugh-out-loud, cry-out-loud must read for anyone who has family members who have driven them to distraction. Judd Foxman, whose marriage has just fallen apart, is ordered by his mother to sit shiva (the week-long period of mourning for Jews) for his father – an atheist. So he finds himself in his childhood house with his mother, his older sister Wendy and her family, his older brother Paul and his wife, and his younger brother Phillip. Although the very different siblings have all gone their separate ways, the book explores their strong bonds of love and feelings of exasperation. The Foxman family is full of people who speak their minds, and our book group discussion was filled with stories about all the times we wished we had had the courage to really say what we were thinking. Amazon’s review said ‘Simultaneously hilarious and hopeful, This Is Where I Leave You is as much about a family's reckoning as it is about one man's attempt to get it together. The affectionate, warts-and-all portrayal of the Foxmans will have fans wishing for a sequel (and clamoring for all things Tropper).’ We agreed."
“We paired Murder on the Orient Express with Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers.
“We discussed Agatha Christie’s use of newsworthy topics of the time period, such as Lindbergh's baby kidnapping being the model for the book's kidnapping. We were turned off by the put down of women and the derogatory comments in Strong Poison, such as ‘he's Italian so he is hot tempered’ (not PC for today's readers!) We preferred the outcome of the story Murder on the Orient Express over that of Strong Poison: not just one person was responsible – it was a group effort and each person had his or her own reason for wanting the victim dead. We played the 1974 movie version of Murder on the Orient Express directed by Sidney Lumet during the meeting.”
Paired with: “Our hostess treated the group to an amazing tour of European cuisine. For appetizers: From England, tea sandwiches, including English cucumber with mint cream cheese on sourdough and Scottish smoked salmon with chive cream cheese on pumpernickel. From Paris, pâté de campagne with water crackers and cornichons. From Milan, an antipasto platter with sweet and hot sopressata salami, marinated mozzarella balls on a bed of fresh basil leaves, marinated artichoke hearts and giardeniera. From Vincovci in Croatia, potato pancakes with Lesco (Hungarian relish). From Lausanne (Switzerland), Swiss cheese and white wine fondue with baguette cubes. From Stamboul (Turkey), dolmas (rice and herbs in grape leaves) with raita (yogurt dip). For dinner, a poulet en casserole (chicken thighs browned in bacon and stewed with potatoes, turnips and carrots), mushy peas and Yorkshire puddings. For dessert, traditional British trifle, Belgian chocolates and Turkish Delight.”
Buttery Books Book Club of D'Hanis, Texas, recommends:
“Several of the members of our book club were raised on farms in the Midwest
“Reading this book about our current and possibly future world, introduced us to the
“Away is a compelling story of courage, resiliency, and hope. It is a story that
“A mother's love was another topic of interest spurred by the character's statement ‘Not that she is mine. I am hers.’ The group found it interesting that the reader learns what happens to Sophie but Lillian never knows. We also examined ways in which love drove the plot and how sexuality and physical love were portrayed in the novel. We also talked about the chapter titles that were drawn from Yiddish lullabies, American folksongs, ballads, and hymns. Another topic was the author's use of the third-person narrative which allows the story to jump forward and backward in time between parallel narratives.”
“On Beauty is a literary novel loaded with sharp observational humor—our club could
“Our book club periodically chooses a classic read, and East of Eden was one of our favorites. It uses the biblical story of Cain and Abel to create a rich tale of two brothers in California during the time between the American Civil War and the end of World War I. From the wild brother Charles Trask to the kind brother Adam Trask to Adam's utterly evil whoring wife Cathy Ames to his fascinating Cantonese cook Lee to the entire Hamilton clan, the book is a remarkable tapestry of characters, good and evil, and provocative twists and turns of events. We agreed with one reviewer who called East of Eden a novel ‘epic in history, geography, and morality.’”
Paired with: “After our discussion, we had to track down a bottle of ng ka py, a traditional Taiwanese liqueur consumed by Lee with his neighbor, Samuel Hamilton (who called it ‘the drink that tastes of good rotten apples’) during their amazing discussion of the Bible. Sipping ng ka py certainly sparked some interesting discussions of our own!”
“The Kitchen House tells the story of Lavinia, a young girl orphaned when her parents died
“My group absolutely loved this book which we discussed for hours without our usual diversions. Not only was the story fascinating and filled with so much history, but the characters were also quite intriguing. There were a few examples of evil men in this novel and we enjoyed analyzing why these characters might have been driven to their deplorable behavior. In addition, we discussed the racial injustices of the time period as well as the true meaning of the word family. Each member of our group actually took away something different from this story.”
Paired with: “The author has included a recipe for Molasses Cake in the book, which would be a perfect, complementary dessert to make for your book club meeting.”