GalleyMatch book clubs preview advance reading copies (ARCs, also known as galleys) sent from publishers. Below you’ll find the titles book clubs have recently enjoyed reading and discussing along with highlights of their discussion and selected menus from their meetings.
Please note: featured books on our websites do not necessarily have a culinary tie-in: the goal of our site is to connect readers with the best titles for book clubs.
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?Book Nerd Book Club of California and Idaho
PROMISES OF THE HEART by Nan Rossiter (HarperCollins, 2/20)
The first novel in a new series tells the moving story of a couple struggling to start a family and the young foster girl with a heart condition who changes their lives forever
"You'll be hooked by the first chapter. We enjoyed discussing the book, making the recipe, and interacting with the author. PROMISES OF THE HEART appealed to our reading interests. It was a heartwarming and dramatic story—you couldn't help but fall in love with the main character. The story hits the ground running and you won't want to put it down until you finish the last page."
Menu: "Two members made the Chocolate Chip Blondies recipe included in the book. Really tasty!"
Girls’ Clubhouse Book Club, of Auburn, California
THE DOWNSTAIRS GIRL by Stacey Lee (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 8//19)
From the critically-acclaimed author of Under a Painted Sky and Outrun the Moon and founding member of We Need Diverse Books comes a powerful novel about identity, betrayal, and the meaning of family.
"We enjoyed delicious Southern soul food while discussing this bittersweet young adult novel, and visited Curtis Park's The Dragon House to end our day with Chinese culture. All members liked THE DOWNSTAIRS GIRL and some called it a phenomenal, five star book. Georgia in the 1800s with a Chinese-American character was a unique perspective. We discussed how Jo Kaun didn’t fit with any group, and led a hard life, yet she made her own way. Her 'Dear Miss Sweetie' column was refreshing and humorous— Tt was the one place where she could be herself. Stacey Lee illustrated many aspects of the South that gave an historical outlook in quilting, horse racing, and hat making. We wondered what it was like to be Jo in each of these situations."
Menu: "We met at Fixins Soul Kitchen in Sacramento for a taste of the South: catfish, collard greens, sweet tea, peach cobbler."
Cork & Olive Book Club of Valrico, Florida
THE QUEEN OF ANIMATION: The Untold Story of the Women Who Transformed the World of Disney and Made Cinematic History by Nathalia Holt (Little, Brown and Company, 10/22/19)
The untold, "richly detailed" story of the women of Walt Disney Studios, who shaped the iconic films that have enthralled generations.
"Everyone enjoyed the book, both for its historical value as well as educating us about women who worked at Disney and how they were treated. The contributions the female artists made throughout Disney's history were amazing! From the inventor of the grease pencil to the inventor of the multi-plane, the recognition of these women for their innovations was unfortunately missing. We also enjoyed the history behind each of the animations--how stories started and evolved to become the final product we see today. We have a few 'meh--Disneyers' among us, but even they agreed the book revealed many interesting facts and characters - men and women, included."
Menu: "Our theme was, of course, Disney! Remy's Ratatouille, Pocahontas' Cornbread, Gophers Succotash from The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Glass Slipper Cocktail, Magical Stuffed Mushrooms from Alice in Wonderland, Spaghetti and Meatballs from The Lady and the Tramp, Wild Acre Wood Salad Gray Stuff from Beauty and the Beast, Snow White's Potato and Sausage Soup, Frozen Jello Shots. We had several children's books from the movies and themed our food around those stories. We also had large coloring book sheets on the table so we could do a bit of 'inking' ourselves."
Neighbors of Cranberry Book Club of Plain City, Ohio
LOVE LETTERING by Kate Clayborn (Kensington, 12/19)
New York City's finest hand-letterer hides messages in her work that always go unnoticed--until a finance worker wants to know why she included the word "Mistake" in his wedding invitation, and, more importantly, how she knew his wedding was doomed to fail.
"Many of us wanted to go on the tour of Brooklyn with Meg and Reid to find the signs with them: instead we were able to curl up with this book and and enjoy it! Its amazing how a book can bring friends and neighbors together— and the laughter. We love that Meg is a funny and strong female character, successful with her own business. She isn’t a push-over, and we enjoyed seeing her looking for love. Meg is an artist and we appreciated her perspective of noticing and looking for signs! The unique fonts and the author's knowledge of the different fonts was a fun addition to the book and added to the romantic feel. We had a hysterical discussion on steaminess in literature. Thank you for helping us have another enjoyable book club over a great book! We want to see this as a movie! A great read for our bookclub and it is highly recommended to others!"
Jane Austen Book Club of Lexington, Kentucky
THE HENNA ARTIST by Alka Joshi (MIRA, March 2020)
Vivid and compelling in its portrait of one woman’s struggle for fulfillment in a society pivoting between the traditional and the modern, The Henna Artist opens a door into a world that is at once lush and fascinating, stark and cruel.
"We could not stop raving about this book! There is something in here for everyone: historical fiction, strong women, gossip eaters, inner struggles between what is right vs. wrong, all within the backdrop of 1950’s India. We have the story of Lakshmi, a woman who has established herself as a successful henna artist and dispenser of herbal medicine for women, who is moments away from having her dream of home of her own that she has designed and is waiting for the day when her parents will join her, when the past she has tried to keep hidden for so long suddenly knocks on her door.
"Members showed up with their books filled with highlighted and marked sections. One member typed up her favorite quotes (this time Indian proverbs), and another member read aloud a passage involving the Brontës! Topics ranged from what this book made us feel to the expectations that are still placed on women today.Our conversations about the story and characters lead to discussions about India’s caste system, arranged marriages, how women were treated in the 1950’s, and how those feminine role expectations are still placed on girls and women in the 21st-century We cannot recommend this book enough! Put it on your lists and read it when it comes out this coming March!"
Menu: Our bartender in the Brontë Bistro in Lexington prepared a book-inspired cocktail, Lakshmi’s
Frangipani Water, a gin and tonic with cucumber-mint water and a splash of lavender water, garnished with cucumber. A character in the book, when she has a gin and tonic, waters her plants with it because she was told they keep you healthy."
Adrienne Book Club of Flagstaff, Arizona
THREE FLAMES by Alan Lightman Counterpoint Press, 9/19)
The stories of one Cambodian family are intricately braided together in this novel, set between 1973, just before the Cambodian Genocide by the Khmer Rouge―to 2015.
"We talked more about this book than any other in recent history."—None of us had been to Cambodia, and enjoyed learned about this culture. The subject matched our interest in women's issues around the world, and we were introduced to the plight of women in Cambodia. We discussed their struggle against a backlog of male dominance, the realistic depictions of the women— we were given enough background to understand how their experiences shaped their futures. The first and last chapters provided great, hopeful bookends: forgiveness in the first chapter and hope for the youngest daughter in the last. We really enjoyed the writing — spare, but setting the scene and fleshing out the characters."
Menu: Food was very present in the book, making it easy to incorporate a Cambodian menu into the gathering. Cambodian chicken amok, green mango salad and Cambodian coffee.
#209 Book Club of Merced, California
JULIET TAKES A BREATH by Gabby Rivera (Penguin Teen, 9/17/19)
A gutsy, queer coming-of-age story perfect for fans of Nina LaCour, Rainbow Rowell, and Elizabeth Acevedo.
"Our Latina girls love exploring diverse books, and appreciated the random Spanish words throughout the book, the Latin culture, and seeing latinos represented in young adult books.We are an all-female book club so the feminist, girl power was great! I translated phrases for those who don't speak Spanish, and we explored the different cultures within the Latin community—Juliet is from Puerto Rican roots, and two members have Mexican roots and it great to share our culture, and explain the differences between Latinos. We are all huge supporters of the LGBT community, and when we can read books with that representation we discuss how different the times are.
"Women, Latinos, LGBT people have always been made to believe that they are less than and not represented as much, and we really appreciated the fact that this book combines it all. We discussed how instead of standing back and being quiet, all these diverse groups are fighting for power and equality, which is exactly what Juliet is fighting for in this book."
It’s Lit!(erature) Book Club of Gilbert Arizona and Girls’ Clubhouse Book Club, of Auburn, California
WILD GAME: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me ( Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1019)
A daughter’s tale of living in the thrall of her magnetic, complicated mother, and the chilling consequences of her complicity.
It’s Lit!(erature):”A page turner, emotional, draws you in and keeps you hooked. We all enjoyed the book and had great discussion! Topics included mother-daughter relationships, theme of forgiveness, and the burden of secrets. The group had a particularly interesting conversation when discussing the author’s voice throughout the story and what she chose to disclose and focus on at different points. Some members were initially unsure how this memoir would read like a thriller, however they were proven wrong.“
Menu: “Sliced, roasted sausage with mustard and cornichon pickles, roasted Cornish game hens with baby potatoes and carrots, Caesar salad, and Hot Buttered Rum. Peaches with vanilla ice cream from the mother’s(Malabar Hornblower) cookbook, DO AHEAD DINING, and served Malabar’s Power Pack cocktail (and mocktails).”
Girls’ Clubhouse: “The author asks to readers to imagine if the memoir began with a tragic story instead of an affair, if we would have been more sympathetic to Malabar’s decisions, a question that sparked good discussion. We felt that the mother’s motives still would have been revealed and that her choices had a lasting affect on her daughter. We discussed the impact of our mothers, and how as mothers we impact our children. For the women with more selfish moms, this book hit home and was a harder read. Others were stunned by Malabar’s antics.”
Menu: "A variety of drinks and food were fitting for discussing this memoir, as the mother used food as a ruse to stay close and interact with her lover."
Sisterhood Book Club of Macon, Georgia
CILKA'S JOURNEY by Heather Morris (St. Martins, 10/19))
From the author of the THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ, a new novel based on an incredible true story of love and resilience.
"We had read THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ and were interested in Cilka's story— and loved the book. We discussed the unfairness of the sentence put upon Cilka, her amazing strength to endure, the conditions at the gulag— and what surprised us. Morris’s superb writing made us feel the suffering, anger, and fear of the prisoners. We were totally enthralled and found it extremely difficult to put the book down. This is a story we will not forget."
Boston Bookies of Greater Boston, Massachusetts
NO SURRENDER: A Father, A Son, And an Extraordinary Act of Heroism That Continues to Live On Today by Christopher Edmonds and Douglas Century (HarperOne, 10/19))
Part contemporary detective story, part World War II historical narrative, the inspiring true story of Roddie Edmonds, a Knoxville-born enlistee who risked his life during the treacherous final days of World War II to save others from murderous Nazis, and the lasting effects his actions had on thousands of lives—then and now."
"Many of us had fathers who fought in the war and we could relate to the story. We discussed how the men’s faith in each other and God and Roddie’s leadership and courage, played a role in keeping the POWs hope and strength during such a devastating experience. We discussed the psychological impact of the war and the brutality of the senseless killings at Malmedy. Although the war was coming to a close, the Nazis couldn’t relinquish control. Charismatic personalities, such as Hitler, had such a hold over their men - right to the very end. We found it interesting to learn about the recruiting of college students, the training process, and the delegation of power."
Menu “Soup and bread in honor of the POWs who were fed thin soup and brown bread in the Stalag camps.”
Chana's Cookbook Club of Houston, Texas
BIGGER BOLDER BAKING by Gemma Stafford (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 9/19)
More than 100 accessible, flavor-packed recipes, using only common ingredients and everyday household kitchen tools.
"We love baking, and follow the author, and as a longtime fan, I was thrilled to review this through GalleyMatch. The recipes are arranged according to the baking tools you have on hand. Only want to dirty a spoon and bowl? There’s a chapter for you! Don’t want to turn on your oven in this heat? Gemma Stafford has you covered! Everything we’ve made from this cookbook over the past few weeks has been simple, straightforward, and delicious. The recipes stood up to adaptations and we loved that they were given with metric measurements as well, as so many cookbooks don’t include these. The attention to detail in these recipes is much appreciated. There’s even a recipe for almond extract in this book, which massively appeals to my inner #diydiva.”
Take Two Book Club of Wichita Falls, Texas
SPEAKING OF SUMMER by Kalisha Buckhanon (Counterpoint, 7/19)
A literary thriller about one woman's desperate search for her missing twin sister, a multi-layered mystery set against the neighborhoods of Harlem.
"We admired the author’s character development. We felt strong connections to even minor characters.
“This book stretched us a little bit: reading about a neighborhood different from ours led to a better discussion, and exposed us to a voice that was different from what we hear every day. We admired the author’s skill at relating the details of sexual abuse, an aspect of the story was told so well -- the details were so real.
"Everyone answered the question: At what point in the story did you start to question the narrator's reliability? This led to a good discussion of reliable/unreliable narrators!"
K3 Skype Book Club of Paris, Boston, and Colorado
THE PARIS ORPHAN by Natasha Lester (Forever/Hachette, 9/19)
From the author of The Paris Seamstress, a World War II novel that spans continents and crosses generations as an American soldier and an enterprising Vogue photographer brave war-torn France to help a lost little girl find the one thing she never had: a family.
"Enticing and unputdownable, and we need to read this author’s backlist now! We live in Paris, France; Boston, Massachusetts; and Centennial Colorado, so book club is a way to stay connected. This was an absolutely perfect match. We gave it a 5 star review on Goodreads. Read in two days and could not put it down! The book was moving, sweet, heartbreaking, romantic, frustrating, and fascinating all at the same time.
"Discussion centered on the story’s timelines, and we were fascinated about the inspiration for Jess’s character. We found the inherent sexism of the time absolutely heartbreaking as it pertains to women war correspondents. This is a book we will discuss for a long time.
NGE Book Club of Hudson, Ohio
THE WINEMAKER'S WIFE by Kristin Harmel (Gallery Books, 8/19)
The author of The Room on Rue Amélie returns with a moving story set amid the champagne vineyards of northern France during the darkest days of World War II, perfect for fans of Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale.
“Many weren't aware of the issues faced by the winemakers in France during World War II; several are now interested in visiting that area of France and seeing some of those underground areas. Interesting discussion point: the women being fully mobile without assistance, and with minds so intact, compared to those we know in that age range. We decided we needed to start drinking gin as this must have been her secret!”
Menu: A bottle of the Champagne from the region referenced in the book would be ideal!
Happy Bookers Book Club of Linn, Missouri
TONY'S WIFE by Adriana Trigiani (Harper Paperbacks, 7/19)
Set in the lush Big Band era of the 1940s and World War II, TONY'S WIFE is the story of two talented working class kids who marry and become a successful singing act, until time, temptation, and the responsibilities of home and family derail their dreams.
"We love Adriana Trigiani's themes of family and history, learning much about the time period with the music and fashion of the era, as you can see by our group picture!
“We have read a number of Adriana Trigiani’s books over our 26 years of reading together. We were engrossed with Chi Chi and Tony’s lives and emotional journeys. Women’s issues came into our discussion-individual career paths, marriage, dreams, raising children. How the influence of your background and your family shape you. We also discussed the immigrant experience and the hard work they and their ancestors put forth to give their children a better life. How much we have enjoyed and learned while reading a great story!"
Menu: "Saverio's favorite dessert, ciambella, a cake with cherries, handpicked from member JoAnne's cherry tree, along with Prosecco. Authors are our rock stars, and we love celebrating them and their books with food and fun! "
Asheville's (NC) Fantasy/SciFi Books & Beer Club
HOLLOW KINGDOM by Kira Jane Buxton (Grand Central, 8/19)
One pet crow fights to save humanity from an apocalypse in this uniquely hilarious debut from a genre-bending literary author.
“What a smart, thoughtful, funny, and true book! We discussed our relationship with nature.” Comments: “It was genius of Shannon to use the Cheeto as a symbol of how far away from real nature we (and our food) have come. Professors could assign students to write papers on the symbolism of the Cheeto in this book!" “Should listen to ‘Invisible Things’ by Handmade Moments when taking a break from reading HOLLOW KINGDOM.“
Menu: Cous Cous salad with Farmers’ Market veggies, a refute to the very essence of the Cheeto
Mountain Meadows Book Club of Renton, Washington
BODY LEAPING BACKWARD: Memoir of a Delinquent Girlhood by Maureen Stanton (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 7/19)
The “mesmerizing . . . daring and important”* story of a risk-taking girlhood spent in a working-class prison town
*Andre Dubus III
“We enjoyed reading the book, and had a three hour conversation. We were girls during the time of Maureen Stanton's girlhood, so were interested in her point of view. Our discussion started with the idea that the memoir was a description of a culture, very specific to the area as well as the era .We shared favorite passages: ‘Destructive urges in little kids are tests of power...pent-up energy, the need to release that energy, to smash and burn’. One member just loved the descriptive passages, such as the screen door looking like a sieve. Another member could relate to Maureen's mom using Walpole Prison as a cautionary tale as that is how her own mother tried to motivate good behavior. We discussed our negativity toward the author and her parents with regard to the drug use and lack of parental control. As the book progressed we realized Maureen had feelings of regret and disbelief at her own behavior, emotions we readers had felt from beginning of her story."
“Our group was in awe of the beauty of the writing and the power of the topics. Several members mentioned that they were reluctant to read a book that was a 'poem,' but after reading the first page, they couldn’t put it down. The book was so powerful that it’s hard to articulate responses, but our discussion was one of the best we’ve had. The issues and themes related to women's struggles, poverty concerns, and dysfunctional families, of which our group is very aware.
“To start the discussion, members posted quotes that made impressions on them on a chalkboard poster to get us to get us into the language of the poetry. It became a nice collage of the many of the key ideas presented in the various poems. We read many of the poems out loud before we discussed them."
Excerpt from poem written by Get Woke Book Club
Laurie Halse Anderson
you have activated, motivated
snared our fates
and given hope
thanks for writing”
Sactown Book Club of Sacramento, California
YALE NEEDS WOMEN: The First Ivy League Girls and Their Fight for a Seat at the Head of the Class by Anne Gardiner Perkins (Sourcebooks, 9/19)
The story of the first class of women admitted to an Ivy League university in 1969.
“We enjoyed the format, focusing on a few women and related anecdotes. Most of us went to college during the same time period and we could compare our experiences. Discussion topics included contributing factors in Kingman Brewster's decisions about admitting more women at Yale, the events that fueled changes in the admissions policy, how the experience of black women on campus differed from other women, and comparing the dynamics of meetings held by male students with meetings held by women."
Cathy's Book Club of Brentwood, California
ONCE UPON A RIVER by Diane Setterfield (Atria, pb, 7/19)
From the author of the “eerie and fascinating” (USA TODAY) THE THIRTEENTH TALE, a richly imagined, powerful new novel about the wrenching disappearance of three little girls and the wide-reaching effect it has on their small town.
“This book was a gem—subtle, magical, and should not be missed.We discussed the theme of the river — the river gave, but also took away from the people living along its shore. We also loved the mystery of the found child. Through learning the background of the families, we learned how everyone was connected by a thread, although they may not have known each other.
"We also loved the subtle humor. Those who heard the audio version thought the reader was exceptional and conveyed the humor just as the author might have intended it."
Red Read Book Club of Frisco, Texas
CITY OF FLICKERING LIGHT by Juliette Fay (Gallery Books, 4/19)
Set in the Golden Age of Hollywood and the raucous Roaring Twenties, three friends struggle to earn their places among the stars of the silent screen—perfect for fans of "La La Land" and Rules of Civility.
“We loved the book. We enjoyed the play on the word ‘Flickers’ and the movies and Hollywood as a flickering light, how actors may came and go, like flickering lights. Topics included religion, racism, homosexuality, drugs, sex, and more.”
Readalicious of Duvall, Washington, CLAMS (Corte Madera Literary and Munching Society) of Corte Madera, California, and Hot Flashers of Antioch, Calforinia
THE FOUNTAINS OF SILENCE by Ruta Sepetys (Penguin Teen, 10/19)
A gripping, extraordinary portrait of love, silence, and secrets under a Spanish dictatorship.
Readalicious: “Many members like historical fiction and although this was a young adult book, we enjoyed it. Our sixteen members are from ten different countries, in Europe, North America and South America, and too young to have experienced this period of history [the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco]. We liked learning about the history of Spain during this time, and talked about the post-war period in Spain, and also similar post-war environments in some of the members' home countries — a very interesting discussion. Also, many of us have teenagers who also love to read and like pre-release books, so we were pleased we could share the novel with them."
CLAMS: "Several members had no knowledge of the Spanish Civil War and Franco’s dictatorship, so this was an eye-opening, educational read. The book was so intriguing - we didn’t need discussion questions. We discussed character motivations, characters we wanted to follow longer, the symbolism of the title, the believability of the love story. We are looking forward to reading other books by this author! We agreed with one member’s comment that although this is a young adult book, it’s appropriate for readers of any age. “The host shared a book featuring clothing designer Oscar de la Renta, with a photo of Penelope Cruz flanked by matadors wearing suits of lights. The novel has a character who sews these suits—by hand— and another character who dreams of becoming a bullfighter.”
Menu: sangria with Spanish wine, fresh fruit, marinated olives, Spanish omelet with onion and potatoes, Spanish Lemon cupcakes, Manchego cheese with bread, jerky, and sugar-coated flower petals – all foods mentioned or Spanish foods.
Hot Flashers: “We read historical fiction, but this subject was something we all knew NOTHING about. Our group LOVED!!!! this book. The theme of silence and oppression was a big topic of discussion.The control that the Spanish government had over its people during the reign of Franco saddened us. We were horrified that the government stole so many babies and sold them.”
Jane Austen Book Club of Lexington, Kentucky
ORPHAN MONSTER SPY by Matt Killeen (Penguin Teen, 2/19)
“Like Inglourious Basterds for tweens, this clever YA title features Sarah, a blond, blue-eyed Jewish girl in 1939 Germany.”–New York Post
“Our group reads classics as well as contemporary novels by women, but rarely YA. Orphan Monster Spy gets our seal of approval! Most members declared they had the book read in days, and could NOT put it down!
It’s got everything you could want: Nail-biting action, thrills, chills, a kick-a** heroine taking down Nazis! Everyone commented on how great it was to have such a strong female main character driving the story. There were some violent moments in the book, which led to a discussion of moments that were triggers for us. We also appreciated the sections where the author wrote of kids who made an impact in the fight against the Nazis. Many members enjoy historical fiction, especially set during World WarII, and we started a list of movies and historical fiction on the topic for those wanting to to delve deeper. It lives up to the description of Mean Girls meets Inglourious Basterds. And the best part is there’s a sequel!"
Menu: Jane Austen Book Club bartender, Michael, created a delightful cocktail: Another Beach in Normandy with peach schnapps, vodka and orange juice, poured over creme de cassis.
Book Bags of New Prague, Minnesota, Morsels for the Mind of Belmont, Michigan and Reading Between the Wines of Franklin, Indiana
THE LOST FAMILY by Jenna Blum (HarperPerennial, 2018, pb, 6/19)
A vivid portrait of marriage, family, and the haunting grief of World War II in this emotionally charged, beautifully rendered story that spans a generation, from the 1960s to the 1980s.
Book Bags: “For our book club, the meaning of 'lost family' took another turn. We’ve been extended family for 20 years and 6 months ago we lost our member ‘Little Marilyn’. We invited her daughters, both avid readers, to join us for The Lost Family dinner and discussion. What a joy to discuss the book and their mother with them. A wonderful afternoon with our ’family’ sharing stories and doing what we like best: discussing books while dining on good food.
"A few topics dominated our great discussion: we were split on sympathy for Peter and his inability to create a family with June and Elsbeth: some felt that he lost his second family.
"None of the characters really had a healthy connection to food and Peter found escape in preparing food – a way of holding on to his past, but it kept him from moving forward.
"Several of us identified with June’s actions and emotions. Like many women of her era (and even today), she gave up a career when she married, experienced dissatisfaction at the her mundane life. Peter would not let her open a decorating business, so she had no outlet for her creative talents. That was compounded with Peter’s absence and preoccupation with the restaurant. We did not condone her infidelities but understood the frustrations behind them."
Menu: "Host Ann’s setting and meal did justice to the opulence of the meals and restaurants in the novel. Her menu—Waldorf Salad, Chicken Kiev, Green Beans Amandine, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Masha Torte, Cream Puffs, Rusty Nail and Tab— was strongly influenced by the food mentioned in the novel, and she also created a Minnesota connection with some of the items. When June went back to Minnesota, her mother offered to make her a sandwich with olive loaf. As a child we would often have bologna sandwiches and sometimes olive loaf. Annie decided to make something that brought back our childhood memory of olive loaf. Ann combined olives with cheese, mayonnaise, and green onion and a baguette to make an appetizer. We enjoyed reading about the Walter Cronkite—a newscaster we watched as kids — hamburger, and had a similar version, with meatballs and flamed the brandy. This was quite the conversation piece as we sipped our wine. The flames lingered for quite a while."
Morsels for the Mind:"We had interesting discussions about Auschwitz survivors, PTSD, anorexia and more. There was compassion for the lives of Peter, June and Elsbeth due to their internal struggles and circumstances.”
Menu: Masha's Menu, including Waldorf Salad, Potato Latkes, Kosher garlic pickles, brie en croute, grapes and Mint Milano cookies, Inside-Out German Chocolate Cake with Cherries Flambe and a side of whipped
cream for dessert
Reading Between the Wines: "We loved chatting with the author via FaceTime. We had many questions about how she developed the characters and their flaws. The responses made us even more sympathetic to some of the characters that we had previously been ‘meh’ about. Her description of her writing process and research also helped us appreciate the book even more. She gave us a tour of her library and writing place!
“We discussed the effects of war, the food themes, and had more to talk about after chatting with Jenna. We all agreed to read more books by the author. The best discussion topic was the concept of love. All of the characters seemed to be looking for love in all the wrong places to make up for what made them unhappy. We enjoyed reading three distinct perspectives in this broken family and that if we didn't love the characters, we sympathized with their plight and wanted to see them find REAL love.“
Menu: Pea soup, and German chocolate cake, similar to the dishes mentioned in the book, along with sundried tomato and feta pastry, and pumpkin bread.
Turn the Page Book Club of Thorofare, New Jersey
THE UNBREAKABLES by Lisa Barr (HarperPerennial, 6/19)
A delicious, sharp novel about a woman who jets off to France after her perfect marriage collapses, putting the broken pieces of herself back together while rediscovering her own joie de vivre—a lust for life, art, and steamy sex.
“Our book club loved THE UNBREAKABLES! An intriguing read, just the right drama, steam, and girl power! Sophia's life being destroyed by her friends and the man who was supposed to love her most is heart wrenching. We talked about forgiveness in our lives — and how we may have handled things a bit differently. We give it 5 stars and recommend it highly. Nicely done, Lisa Barr! We look forward to your next book."
Lakeside Lady Readers of Lake Frederick, Virginia
THE PEACOCK SUMMER by Hannah Richell (HarperPerennial, 7/19)
A story of secrets, forbidden love, and a mysterious old country estate.
“This was a great match! We enjoyed the way the book segued from past to present, appreciating that regardless of period in time, some things never change. Comments from the group: well written; couldn't put it down; liked the aspect of mystery and not knowing the how, when, or why until the end; liked that one of the main characters was an artist, and her part of story told from artist's point of view. We always rate our book reads from 1-5 stars, and gave this one a 5!”
Sip and Read of Baltimore, Maryland
MOTHERHOOD SO WHITE: A Memoir of Race, Gender, and Parenting in America by Nefertiti Austin (Sourcebooks, 9/19)
An unflinching examination of one African-American mother’s experience adopting and raising her two children in our racially-charged society that confronts the intersection of race, gender, and parenthood so that others--be they African-American, Latinx, Asian, biracial, or white--can find solidarity and empathy on their path to and through parenthood.
“Generally we do not read non fiction, but we found the title intriguing. Because of our varied ages and stages in life the discussion got quite lively. Those of us who were older and mothers couldn’t understand the need for such a book as we had our elders and peers to turn to. The younger newer mothers understood the reasoning of the book and how others would see it as helpful. This wasn’t like our usual choices, but we enjoyed the conversation it sparked.”
Wayne County Public Library Discussion Group of Monticello, Kentucky
THE BOOK WOMAN OF TROUBLESOME CREEK by Kim Michele Richardson (Sourcebooks, 5/19)
Inspired by the true and historical blue-skinned people of Kentucky and the brave and dedicated Kentucky Pack Horse library service, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek showcases a bold and unique tale of Pack horse Librarians in literary novels — a tale of fierce strength and one woman's belief that books can carry us anywhere — even back home.
"We so enjoyed it! It was our favorite book of the year.A well written depiction of how the Kentucky 'Hill' people lived, the story of Cussy, a pack horse librarian who was a life line to her patrons. These librarians were so much more than someone who brought books to your home, they were friends — almost family. The provided an outlet for the people who otherwise would never have seen past the hills they lived in. The book mobile is just a modern day packhorse!”
Book Club of Frankfort, Illinois:
MIRACLE CREEK by Angie Kim (Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 4/19)
A literary courtroom drama about a Korean immigrant family and a young, single mother on trial for murdering her 8-year-old autistic son.
“It was a perfect match in terms of topics, themes and writing style, and so interesting to be able to talk to the author, Angie Kim and hear more about her back story and writing process. We had many questions about how she connected to the plot lines, her process, and how she made decisions about characters. We couldn't get over how she would talk about the characters and their development and wanting the same things we wanted for them, but at the same time feeling the need to keep it realistic. We didn't think we would have that same restraint. We all loved the book."
Menu: “In the book, there is discussion about timing and doing what you feel you have to do versus what you want to do. A lot of that centered around food. So this meal did not appear in the book, but in keeping with the idea of not depriving ourselves or forcing ourselves to do what we should do instead of what we really wanted to do, we had the indulgent meal we wanted with multiple courses, desserts, and beverages."
“We discussed the difference in how mental health was perceived in this book versus how it was thought of in another recent read (The Key by Kathryn Hughes). We also enjoyed discussing Rudy and how he handled his first online date (companionship vs. relationship). The description of what Rudy went through while grieving was very much true-- the humor and the sadness and the anger.”
Literary Gourmets of San Diego, California:
MOTHERLAND: A Memoir of Love, Loathing, and Longing by Elissa Altman
A multilayered story about mothers and daughters, aging and time, loathing and love from the James Beard Award-winning author of the critically acclaimed memoir Poor Man's Feast, the blog of the same name, and the Washington Post column Feeding My Mother.
“We read MOTHERLAND along with Tara Westover’s EDUCATED — we felt the books went together quite well as both involved the life long effects of parental values and mindsets on children. We had a lengthy discussion about the choices you make as an adult versus as a child, the lasting impact of mental illness on children—several of our members are healthcare providers—and the way in which the physical surroundings of your childhood draw you back, even though the emotional landscape is painful. Thank you for sharing this book with us. We recommend it to other book clubs, and would like to read other books by this author.”
Best discussion question: The daughter(author)returning to the same, apparently toxic, relationship, even after finding her own partner, led to a discussion of the strength of the maternal bond.
Menu: Our connection: in recognizing the differences between you and someone you care for, you try to make them happy, or at least well fed! We served: French Garden Salad with roasted beets, roasted asparagus, goat cheese and spiced pecans and mixed greens, roasted eggplant layered with pesto, marinara, roasted pineapple with pistachios, raspberries and crème fraiche.
Get Woke Book Club of New Prague, Minnesota:
FIGHT LIKE A MOTHER: How a Grassroots Movement Took on the Gun Lobby and Why Women Will Change the World by Shannon Watts (Harperonebooks, 5/19)
An inspiring account of how one mother's cry for change became the driving force behind gun safety progress from the founder of Mom's Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
“There is no book more appropriate or meaningful for a book group of women activists. Our highlighters ran dry as we reacted to the author’s comments. Her book is an affirmation of our beliefs, a Balm of Gilead to the struggles and emotions that we experience daily, and a battle plan that speaks to our mission. Shannon wanted to ‘bring together a badass group of women . . . .and raise an army of tough mothers.’ Her goals have been exceeded.
"The Get Woke girls met for 4 1/2 hours and didn’t come close to discussing all of Shannon’s stories, affirmations, and suggestions for action. The most exciting part of the night was our opportunity to Skype with the author. Shannon addressed ways of handling burn out and stress, reminding us to take care of ourselves, manage stress, exercise, meditate, and do whatever is needed to restore your energy. It was a delightful conversation that set the mood for the rest of the evening.
"As a community group we find ourselves stretched in many directions. Shannon’s idea of finding a central focus was discussed. The importance of the red shirt was also discussed as a label. We were interested in the idea of ‘losing forward’. We have had many losses in our efforts, but each one has helped us gain more knowledge and change some perceptions in our community. FIGHT LIKE A MOTHER made us realize that winning comes in many forms.
"The book affirmed so many things that we know about ourselves as mothers and women: we are more effective lawmakers; we can’t be intimidated; we have tremendous skill sets from all of the jobs we perform daily; and we comprise the majority of the voting population. Shannon summarizes our calling perfectly, ‘If we don’t claim our motherhood as a tool, it will be used against us as a weapon.’
"This book is a road map for advocates with suggestions for organizing and advocating.
It eloquently and effectively describes the gun safety movement, but is also a universal bible for activists, especially women’s organizations. It generates hope and enthusiasm; it describes attainable goals; and it envisions a future molded by the efforts and talents of women."
"We enjoy historical fiction and THE AGE OF LIGHT was a perfect title in so many ways: Lee's enlightenment in her art, the way she enlightened Man Ray, the art scene in Paris at the time, and how she informed us about the war with her photos. Our most interesting question: Was Lee ever really in love with Man Ray?"
Menu: Coq au Vin in Burgundy, roasted asparagus, boiled baby honey gold potatoes, green salad and baguettes, with Creme Brulee for dessert
Novel Ideas Book Club of Centennial, Colorado:
LIFE ADMIN: How I Learned to Do Less, Do Better, and Live More by Elizabeth Emens (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019)
LIFE ADMIN tackles the problem of admin in all its forms, from everyday tasks like scheduling doctors appointments and paying bills, to life-cycle events like planning a wedding, a birth, a funeral — this is the book that will teach us all how to do less of it, and to do it better.
“This topic was perfect for our workplace book club—administrative employees from several departments—and the book allowed for some very interesting discussions about our duties in the workplace, but also about how our skills are translatable to everyday life. LIFE ADMIN provided some great tips and every member took something away. The entire group was intrigued by the idea of taking one task —general admin—and breaking it down into specific types. We found it was applicable to not only our workplace but also our households. Author Elizabeth Emens provided great detail in her text that the group was most appreciative of. It helped us better categorize the areas in our professional and personal lives that we can improve."
The Sisterhood Book Club of Warner Robins, Georgia:
IN ANOTHER TIME by Jillian Cantor (Harper Perennial, 3/19)
A sweeping historical novel that spans Germany, England, and the United States and follows a young couple torn apart by circumstance leading up to World War II—and the family secret that may prove to be the means for survival.
"The title was a perfect match for us. and the author was delightful. We all enjoyed the book tremendously. It is a different take on a Holocaust story. The book had a touch of sci-fi (is that what time travel falls under?). It gave us something new to discuss. What did we think of the possibility of time travel? How might it have changed the story if the wormhole had been used?
“There will be quite a bit of discussion on that with all clubs - because it is so different. The members are already asking when they can read THE HOURS COUNT! Thank you for this exciting opportunity. The members felt special that they got to be one of the first groups to read the book."
North Wales Area Library Cookbook Club, Ohio:
THE BRISKET CHRONICLES: How to Barbecue, Braise, Smoke, and Cure the World's Most Versatile Cut of Meat by Steven Raichlen (Workman, 2019)
Steven Raichlen, “The Julia Child of BBQ” (Los Angeles Times)—shares his 50 best brisket recipes while showing us step-by-foolproof-step how to ’cue it, grill it, smoke it, braise it, cure it, and boil it
“We made two types of ‘traditional’ brisket, baked beans and cookies from recipes in the the cookbook and members provided side dishes to make a delicious experience. ‘Who knew the many ways brisket could be used?’ was a fun discussion topic! We made cookies with brisket, and the group liked them, but NO one expected to! There was brisket in the baked beans and they were so good!
Mish Mash Book Club of Howell, Michigan:
A WOMAN IS NO MAN by Etaf Rum (HarperBooks, 2019)
Three generations of Palestinian-American women living in Brooklyn are torn between individual desire and the strict mores of Arab culture in this powerful debut novel.
"The book sparked an interesting discussion about immigrants in America, timely given the current news context. We were challenged by the idea that immigrants do not necessarily want to embrace 'America', and in the book, feel being American is a detriment. Our book club is outside of Dearborn, Michigan, the largest Middle Eastern community outside of the Middle East, and welcomed the opportunity to read something from a Palestinian perspective, often not represented in Muslim fiction."
“I’m completely captured by this tiny book…It talks about ways to stay creative (in good times and bad.) Full of thoughtful quotes, art and thoughts, this book is one you will read and reread. Who wants to build a Bliss Station with me? What a darling gem of a book!" "A lovely, easy read that reminds you to be kind to yourself and to allow yourself to have fun. It encourages you to seek out your creativity for no other reason than pure enjoyment of the process, regardless of the end product. It would make a great Mother's Day gift! "
Busy Bee Book Club of Taylor, Michigan, and Stories A La Carte Book Club of Centennial, Colorado:
SEE YOU IN THE PIAZZA: New Places to Discover in Italy by Frances Mayes (Crown, March 2019)
A travel narrative that crisscrosses Italy, with inventive new recipes celebrating Italian cuisine.
“We all love Italy. Some of us have visited and some of us will be going in the future. This will be a book we can plan from and travel with! We had a great time looking at Mayes' travels and talking about making them our own and the recipes inspired our Italian themed dinner."
Menu: Lasagna, home made Italian bread, caponata (recipe from the book), wine of course and cannoli for dessert.
"Mayes's recipes and Italian inspiration were fun and delicious. From those who have been to Italy, we heard travel stories. From those who had not yet been, we heard wishes and dreams. The journal-like feel of Mayes's book and reflections on history, writers, architecture, and food made for interesting introductions to new subjects and personalities."
Menu: Vitelli Scottato con Pomodoro Verde In Olio and a chocolate hazelnut dessert inspired by the Torino chapter.
Osterhout Free Library's Franklin Street Sleuths of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania:
THE LIES WE TOLD by Camilla Way (Berkley, 2018)
A novel of dark psychological suspense that explores how those closet to us have the most to hide.
"One member commented, 'We had a lengthy discussion about this book and everyone took part. With 20 people, that's a feat!' Others said: 'I couldn't put it down until it was finished." "You could never find someone who could predict every twist in this book.''It was like a new mystery on every page.'"
Book Bags of New Prague, Minnesota:
PRAISE SONG FOR THE BUTTERFLIES by Bernice McFadden (Akashic Books, 2018)
A young woman must learn to love and trust again after experiencing the brutality of ritual servitude in West Africa.
"We loved PRAISE SONG FOR THE BUTTERFLIES! We love books that use the novel genre to explore historical, cultural, and current world issues. Many of us are former teachers, and we always comment this type of novel would fit into a social studies or current issues classroom. A fictional approach to a practice like trokosi makes the reader sympathize with the victims in a very readable format.”
Menu: "Foods recalled scenes from the book: —Jollof rice —Images of mangoes and oranges, as contrasted to the stark meals that the girls were fed, led to a mango and pineapple —goat cheese with hot pepper jam and bread. We couldn’t forget the goats that started this story! Member Sharon shared authentic African items."
The Bookies of Belmont, Michigan::
IN THE NAME OF THE CHILDREN: An FBI Agent's Relentless Pursuit of the Nation's Worst Predators by Jeffrey L. Rinek and Marilee Strong (BenBella, 2018)
An unflinching look at what it's like to fight a never-ending battle against the predators who seek to harm our children.
Our members are elementary school educators and parents and grandparents of young children. While difficult to read, this book brought up an important topic to be informed about and one that the public should be aware of. Our discussion related to children and families that we have encountered over the years in our teaching careers. The book provided excellent discussion topics: the author's interview technique and how he treated the suspects, PTSD -- a topic we are hearing more about, and bullying. We came away with deeper appreciation for law enforcement agents who work cases of victimized children as well as the victims and their families."
Menu: "One member of our group got creative and made a delicious Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn Navy Bean Salad from her FBI (Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn) cookbook. Since a good portion of the book took place in California, other members brought a California Cobb Salad, Million Dollar Tortilla Roll Ups, Burrito Casserole, and Strawberry Shortcake (with California strawberries). We served two wines: 19 Crimes and Predator. We also said a special prayer to honor the children in the book and others that are still being victimized."
TwentySomething Wine & Book Club of Naperville, Illinois:
TEXT ME WHEN YOU GET HOME by Kayleen Schaefer (Dutton, 2019)
A personal and sociological examination -- and ultimately a celebration -- of the evolution of female friendship in pop culture and modern society.
"We discussed female friendship and how it fit perfectly with our group -- young twenty-somethings who are starting careers and trying to find those good female adult friendships in our lives. Also, modern relationships, how we could feel safe, and how modern times were simultaneously helping us feel stronger and more powerful while also making us feel that men like Brett Kavanaugh and others, are taking power away, power that we felt ensured our safely."