Saturday, May 22, 2010

Online Book Group for Summer?

We've had a request to have an online book group again this summer. We would be reading between June & August. Below you'll find a list of suggested titles with short descriptions. We have tried to include titles based on availability in the library catalog & length. If any of them sound interesting to you, please vote in the sidebar! Voting will end June 5th.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
290 pages
Winding up her book tour promoting her collection of lighthearted wartime newspaper columns, Juliet Ashton casts about for a more serious project. Opportunity comes in the form of a letter she receives from Mr. Dawsey Adams, who happens to possess a book that Julia once owned. Adams is a member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—no ordinary book club. Rather, it was formed as a ruse and became a way for people to get together without raising the suspicions of Guernsey's Nazi occupiers. Written in the form of letters (a lost art), this novel by an aunt-and-niece team has loads of charm, especially as long as Juliet is still in London corresponding with the society members.

Going Bovine by Libba Bray
496 pages
Libba Bray's latest offering is an unforgettable, nearly indefinable fantasy adventure, as immense and sprawling as Cervantes' Don Quixote, on which it's based. Here the hero is Cameron, a 16-year-old C-plus-average slacker who likens himself to "driftwood," but he suddenly becomes the center of attention after he is diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human variant of mad cow disease. In the hospital, he meets Dulcie, an alluring angel clad in fishnet stockings and combat boots, who presents him with a heroic quest to rescue the planet from an otherworldly, evil force. Guided by random signs and accompanied by a teen dwarf named Gonzo, Cameron sets off on a wild road trip across the U.S. to save the world, and perhaps his own life.

Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link
320 pages
An all-night convenience store's regular customers include zombies and a beautiful woman who drives a car full of ghost dogs. Some middle-aged guys in a basement playing cards call up one of those phone lines and listen to a little-girl's voice tell about how one of them is being haunted by many versions, at different ages, of his ex-wife. A guy just out of prison crashes a teenagers' drinking party and drives off with the hostess' six-year-old brother (it's not what you think, or doesn't seem to be). A middle-class family moves from Manhattan to a suburban house; almost immediately, parts of the house and things that they moved into it become haunted; well, at least there are all those rabbits on guard, maybe, on the lawn. Each of these stories is much stranger than it sounds. You'd like to know what happens after they end but aren't sure about what happened in them.

The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist
272 pages
Swedish author Holmqvist's chilling, stunning debut novel is set at the Second Reserve Bank for Biological Material, where men and women of a certain age without families or jobs deemed "valuable" by the government are sent to participate in experiments and donate organs to more essential members of society. Writer Dorrit Weger, who lives in a small house with her beloved dog, Jock, has just turned 50—and has been marked as dispensable. When she arrives at the Unit, she is surprised to find it a pleasant, clean, lovely place, complete with a restaurant, a gym, and a garden resembling a Monet painting. Dorrit gradually becomes resigned to her fate and participates in several harmless experiments while enjoying the Unit community and her close friendships with several other residents, many of whom are also artists and writers. Holmqvist's fluid, mesmerizing novel offers unnerving commentary on the way society devalues artistic creation while elevating procreation, and speculation on what it would be like if that was taken to an extreme.

The World to Come by Dara Horn
336 pages
An actual art heist inspired this fictional tale of former child prodigy and television quiz-show writer Benjamin Ziskind, who steals a Chagall sketch from a New York museum during a singles cocktail hour--he's convinced the painting, titled Over Vitebsk, belongs to his family. The provenance of the piece is revealed layer by layer in Horn's spellbinding second novel, which takes readers from a 1920s Soviet orphanage (at which the real-life Chagall taught art to young Jewish boys) to the battlefields of Vietnam, where Benjamin's father lost one of his legs. With the help of his twin sister, Sara, a talented painter, Benjamin hopes to outsmart the comely museum representative who's pegged him for the crime. A compelling collage of history, mystery, theology, and scripture, The World to Come is a narrative tour de force crackling with conundrums and dark truths.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
352 pages
Paralleling his own experiences growing up in the Dominican Republic and New Jersey, Díaz has choreographed a family saga at once sanguinary and sexy that confronts the horrific brutality at loose during the reign of the dictator Trujillo. Díaz's besieged characters look to the supernatural for explanations and hope, from fukú, the curse unleashed when Europeans arrived on Hispaniola, to the forces dramatized in the works of science fiction and fantasy so beloved by the chubby ghetto nerd Oscar Wao, the brilliantly realized boy of conscience at the center of this whirlwind tale. Writing in a combustible mix of slang and lyricism, Díaz loops back and forth in time and place, generating sly and lascivious humor in counterpoint to tyranny and sorrow. And his characters—Oscar, the hopeless romantic; Lola, his no-nonsense sister; their heartbroken mother; and the irresistible homeboy narrator—cling to life with the magical strength of superheroes, yet how vibrantly human they are.

Blood on the Wood by Gillian Linscott
320 pages
Intrepid British suffragette Nell Bray has her hands full when she accepts what seems to be a straightforward assignment. A wealthy benefactor has bequeathed a valuable French painting to the suffragettes, and Nell must claim it and bring it back to London. She heads for the Venn estate in the Cotswolds, which turns out to be a kind of socialist summer camp. After she obtains the painting and takes it to Christies for auction, however, she learns that it is a copy recently commissioned by the bereaved widower. Then, when he refuses to part with the original, Nell decides to break into the house and switch paintings. Doing so lands her in the middle of a murder investigation. Readers will soak up fascinating detail about the Fabians, the Scipians, and the Arts and Crafts Movement while following the action in this delightful romp through England at the turn of the century.

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin
192 pages
Ged was the greatest sorcerer in all Earthsea, but once he was called Sparrowhawk, a reckless youth, hungry for power and knowledge, who tampered with long-held secrets and loosed a terrible shadow upon the world. This is the tale of his testing, how he mastered the mighty words of power, tamed an ancient dragon, and crossed death's threshold to restore the balance.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like the sound of alot of these! I voted for The Unit, but I'll be happy to read any of them.