Book Clubs Recommend – 2004-2005

Winter, 2005

The BBC (Breakfast Book Club) of West Hartford, Connecticut, recommends:
SATURDAY by Ian McEwan (Nan A. Talese, 2005), Fiction, 304 pages

“This was our first co-ed book discussion. Our husbands love political thrillers and this book, which spans 24 hours in the life of a neurosurgeon on his day off, took place during London’s anti-war rallies. Our hostess displayed a map of London and traced all the stops the protagonist made during the day.”

Paired with: Poached salmon and chilled shrimp (the protagonist served fish to his guests) and all the wines mentioned at the end of the novel.

The BookEnds of Glencoe, Illinois, recommend:
DEATH OF INNOCENCE: THE STORY OF THE HATE CRIME THAT CHANGED AMERICA by Mamie Till-Mobley and Christopher Benson (Random House, 2003), Nonfiction, 320 pages

“This true story highlights the role that author Mamie Till-Mobley played as a leader in the civil rights movement in the 1950s. We all were teenagers when Emmett Till was killed and we still vividly remember the incident, which took place in nearby Chicago. This book deals with faith, values, family support, courage, determination, and a mother’s devoted love.”

The Falmouth Newcomers “Secret Bees” of Falmouth, Massachusetts, recommend:
SISTER OF MY HEART by Chitra Divakaruni (Doubleday, 1999), Fiction, 336 pages

“This story takes place in India and, as you read, you can almost smell the mangoes growing! The main characters, two girls, know each other from birth and continue to be best friends through childhood and into their marriages. We loved the friendship and sisterhood that they shared.”

Paired with: An appetizer of nuts roasted with chili (chat), tandoori chicken salad, raita, coconut rice, and yogurt pie.

The Brandeis Thursday Night Book Club of Newington, Connecticut, recommends:
THE DEW BREAKER by Edwidge Danticat (Knopf, 2004), Fiction, 256 pages

“Set in 1960’s Haiti and present day New York, this novel revolves around a loving family man with a terrible secret. The book appears to be a series of unconnected short stories until you realize that the main character(s) in one story are minor characters in another. We discussed the lack of communication among the characters and whether or not we found hope in the book. This is a very serious book, one that makes you think and feel outside your own world.”

Fall, 2005

Long Branch Public Library Book Discussion Group of Long Branch, New Jersey, recommends:
SERVING CRAZY WITH CURRY by Amulya Malladi (Bantam, 2004), Fiction, 272 pages

“A story about a modern Indian woman stuck between the life she wants to live and the traditional Indian life her family expects her to live. The story revolves around her developing passion for cooking and the healing that this new passion brings her and ultimately her family, and is mixed with descriptions of her recipes as they relate to her varying moods.”

Paired with: curried lamb, fruit chutney, and black tea.

East is East Literary Discussion Group of Washington, DC, recommends:
THE BOOK OF SALT by Monique Truong (Houghton Mifflin, 2003), Fiction, 272 pages

“We discussed the concept of ‘salt’ and its various meanings and interpretations, as well as the issue of marginality. One of the main points of the book is that marginalized people don’t necessarily have anything in common, or they may have competing aims and interests. For example, quite a few of the main characters are gay, and you might think that means they have a lot in common. However, there are other distinguishing, and perhaps overriding layers, such as gender, race and nationality.”

Paired with: Vietnamese fare at Minh’s in Arlington, Virginia, including spring rolls, lemongrass satay sticks, fried rice, and Saigon beer.

Second Sunday Book Club of McComb, Mississippi, recommends:
ISAAC’S STORM: A MAN, A TIME, AND THE DEADLIEST HURRICANE IN HISTORY by Erik Larson (Crown, 1999), Nonfiction, 336 pages

Note: Book club member Christy Keirn sent this recommendation along with her report on Hurricane Katrina.

“This is a nonfiction account of the 1900 hurricane that hit Galveston, Texas, and the story of the man, Isaac Cline, who was the meteorologist for the U.S. Weather Bureau in the area. Some of the miscalculations (the magnitude of the storm was underestimated) were eerily similar to what happened in New Orleans. Cline’s personal tragedy and the guilt he felt were just incredible and make for a moving discussion. Thankfully, the loss of life here will not be as great as in the Galveston hurricane, where 6,000 people died, but the town of New Orleans, like Galveston, might never be the same.”

Spring, 2005

The Unnamed Book Club in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, recommends:
WAITING FOR SNOW IN HAVANA by Carlos Eire (Free Press, 2003), Nonfiction, 400 pages

“This is a memoir of a young Cuban boy growing up during Castro’s revolution, who was separated from his parents and airlifted out of Cuba to the United States. The book is beautifully written, almost poetic with its dream-like memories and metaphors.”

Paired with: pineapple rum cake

“Just Here For the Food” Book Club of Goffstown, New Hampshire, recommends:
(HarperCollins, 2003), Fiction, 400 pages

“Fidelis Waldvogel grew up during World War I and the war haunted him throughout his life. We liked reading of how he came to America and made a life here, bringing some of the old European traditions with him, including his work as a butcher and memories of the singing clubs of his past. We’re sure that the many twists and turns in this novel will keep you turning the pages into the wee hours of the night as it did our members!”

Paired with: German chocolate cake, German potato salad, kielbasa and sauerkraut, potato and cabbage stew, and St. Pauli Girl Beer.

The Gourmet Readers of Attleboro, Massachusetts, recommend:
LOST HORIZON by James Hilton, (Pocket, 1933), Fiction, 240 pages

“Written in the 1930s, LOST HORIZON foreshadows dire things to come (war and devastation), and explores Eastern philosophy and ideas which seemed so new twenty or thirty years ago. You’ll find some interesting thoughts on meditation, aging, the art of ‘moderation,’ and of course, a description of Shangri-La.”

Food recommendations: Chinese food, because the book is set in Tibet, especially Pomelos (an Asian grapefruit), which are mentioned in LOST HORIZON.

BBB Book Club of the San Francisco Bay Area recommends:
WHEN THE EMPEROR WAS DIVINE by Julie Otsuka (Knopf, 2002), Fiction, 160 pages

“We all felt that Otsuka’s story of local Japanese being taken to internment camps during World War II went right to the heart. She set up the difficult scenario of a mother preparing to be wrenched into the unknown without her husband by her side (he had already been taken prisoner and sent to an unknown location). The descriptions were exquisitely simple and yet full of irony. After reading the book group members researched the period and visited internment sites in the San Francisco Bay Area. We were surprised to find just how wide the hysteria from the bombing of Pearl Harbor had stretched.”

Paired with: a traditional Japanese lunch – homemade sushi, fresh fruits, tea.

Winter, 2004

The Pre-Oprah Saturday Morning Book Club of Dallas, Texas, recommends:
THE BOOKSELLER OF KABUL by Asne Seierstad (Little, Brown, 2003), Fiction, 320 pages

“This story of an Afghan family is told in searching detail by a Norwegian journalist who lived with bookseller Sultan Khan for three months in the spring of 2002. The book helped us awaken to the joy and abundance of our free and pampered society. We were heartened by the universality of the entrepreneurial spirit. And we enjoyed the small details, such as what it’s like for a woman to move about in a burka, covered head to toe and able to see just what is directly in front of her.”

The Wormies of Clearwater, Florida, recommend:
(Touchstone, 1999), Fiction, 448 pages

“We loved this book because of its format – a diary written from a woman’s point of view [Napoleon’s wife]. We liked that it’s historical fiction and a little bit slutty, too. It features a strong woman working in the shadows of a strong man, and really describes the times they were living in.”

Paired with: French cheeses with crackers, French wine, croissant sandwiches, fresh fruit, and Napoleons.

The Yet Unnamed Book Club of Viroqua,Wisconsin, recommends:
CROW LAKE by Mary Lawson (Dial, 2002), Fiction, 304 pages

“There is so much in this book–children surviving the traumatic loss of both parents; the older son giving up his chance at an education to keep the family together; the rivalry between the two brothers that escalates into a frightening physical battle in their home; an ominous situation with a neighboring family. What we loved about this book is that it made us re-think our own perceptions and opinions. It made us think and feel very deeply.”

Reading Moms Book Club of Antioch, California, recommends:
WICKED by Gregory Maguire (Regan Books, 1995), Fiction, 416 pages

“WICKED tells the story of Elphaba, The Wicked Witch of the West. We are drawn into a world so unlike the story we’ve all grown up on. Painted as a purely sympathetic character, she grows up to set out and make the world a better place by battling the forces of evil. The hostess had several of the many versions of THE WIZARD OF OZ for us to flip through. WICKED will rock your world. We gave it our highest marks…5 out of 5 stars.”

Paired with: “Devilish Concoctions,” including Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel Rum Sauce and a dip set inside the head of Frankenstein and a punch made with floating gummy worms and spiders.

The Wine & Words Book Club of Chicago recommends:
A CHRISTMAS MEMORY, ONE CHRISTMAS & THE THANKSGIVING VISITOR by Truman Capote (Modern Library, 1996), Fiction, 128 pages

“These stories contain all the hallmarks of great literature distilled to their essence — what Capote achieves in the space of these few pages many authors would need hundreds of pages to match. I re-read this collection every other year, and I never fail to marvel at Capote’s ability to evoke time, place, and emotion in these stories.”

Paired with: fruitcake, because much of the story in A CHRISTMAS MEMORY involves Capote baking holiday fruitcakes.

Fall, 2004

Portola Hills Book Club of Orange County, California, recommends:
FUNNY IN FARSI: A MEMOIR OF GROWING UP IRANIAN IN AMERCIA by Firoozeh Dumas (Villard, 2003), Nonfiction, 208 pages

“This is a memoir of a Persian woman who moved to America as a child, but had extended family here who had also immigrated from Iran. It is a heart-warming, funny immigrant tale with some profound truths at its core.”

Paired with: Mediterranean Chicken Salad, steamed asparagus spears, fresh fruit, baklava and divan (a pistachio candy from Turkey).

Dallas Gourmet Book Club of Dallas, Texas, recommends:
THE PURSUIT OF ALICE THRIFT by Elinor Lipman (Random House, 2003), Fiction, 288 pages

“A humorous book that looks at the life of very serious Alice Thrift, M.D., a surgical intern who does not have much in the way of social skills. Lipman deftly weaves in themes of sex roles in social and professional relationships as well as looking at the ways we treat each other in our friendships and families. We laughed a lot while discussing this one!”

Paired with: fudge brownies because Ray, the boyfriend, is a carnival fudge salesman.

No Boys Allowed (NBA) of Miami recommends:
(Bantam, 2004), Fiction, 288 pages

“Although it deals with difficult topics of love and death, this is ultimately an inspiring book full of hope for anyone who has ever experienced loss. We absolutely loved this book!”

Paired with: a clambake (to evoke the book’s Massachusetts setting) and a drink called “orange cloud” in honor of the protagonist in the book, Charlie St. Cloud.

Erika Gardiner’s book club of suburban Boston recommends:
GOING TO THE SUN by James McManus (Picador, 2004), Fiction, 352 pages

“Going to the Sun is a very powerful story about a woman who decides to face a previous trauma in her life and the ongoing difficulties of being diabetic. It is a great book for discussion about new beginnings, health, trauma, graduate school, biking and music. We did not have a thematically related menu, but two of us made CDs for everyone which contained music mentioned in the book. That went over really well!”