New Book-Club-In-A-Bag Sets

The new Book-Club-In-A-Bag sets are here and will be ready for check out next week.  They’re listed below, with a bit of description and commentary:

I wrote about Whisper Network by Chandler Baker in an earlier post.  Once I finished the book, in retrospect, I liked it better than at first.  The reason I chose it as a Book Club set is that it lends itself to so many avenues of discussion:  women in the workplace, work-life balance, friendship and loyalty, and the #MeToo movement.  For discussion purposes, have someone in the group research examples of harassment in the workplace to compare to the story.

Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh is a spell-binding thriller that will keep a group discussing it for hours. There’s so much going on in this story! Just the subtitle gives you so much to discuss:  The Serial Killer Isn’t On Trial, He’s on the Jury.  This book kept me guessing about different parts of the story right up to the end.  The story is about a serial killer on a vendetta mission.  He goes through elaborate processes to have someone framed for murder and then to get on the jury to ensure that he’s convicted.

The Parisian by Isabella Hammad has been very popular (especially with book clubs).  The characters are rich in this story, and there’s such fascinating history and culture that it would be a joy to discuss.  The story shows the history of Palestine through the life experiences of one man, Midhat Kamal.  He leaves Palestine to study medicine in Paris and returns to his home country at the beginning of its fight for independence.  The history of Palestine and their culture are so relevant right now as well; it would be a very easy tie-in to current events.

Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes is about the relationship between young widow and a major league pitcher who have both suffered losses and have secrets to keep.  Linda Holmes is a pop culture guru who produces a podcast and gives commentary on NPR, and this is her debut novel.  It would make for interesting discussion to listen to some of her podcasts; you can find them in the iTunes store.

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane is full of emotion: dealing with tragedy, family and friendship, marriage, and forgiveness.  It’s the story of two next-door neighbor families in New York and a set of explosive events and their lingering effects.

Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land brings the term “working poor” to life.  Land was a single mother with very little skills or opportunity who cleaned houses, took online classes to work toward a writing degree, and relied on various government programs to support her and her daughter.  What I like best about this book is that Land is not complaining or making a political statement; she’s just exposing how a person can work hard and still live below the poverty line.  To add depth to your discussion, look at her website and blog:  www.stepville.com.

Probably my favorite book this year will be The Secrets That We Kept by Lara Prescott.  This is Prescott’s first novel; and it is the story behind the writing, printing, and distribution of Dr. Zhivago.  The story is told from several women’s point of view: Boris Pasternak’s mistress Olga Ivinskaya and the female U.S. spies who worked to get the novel distributed in the Soviet Union.  I loved this book – I even watched the movie version of Dr. Zhivago with Julie Christie and Omar Sharif after reading it!  You could include a movie-watching party as part of the discussion, but you may have to do it in two parts, as it is a long film.

Quichotte is Salman Rushdie’s modern re-telling of Don Quixote.  It’s bizarre, multi-faceted, imaginative, and compelling, all rolled into a great story.  Rushdie is a consummate story-teller, and he does this story justice.  There’s so much to discuss with this book:  obsessive behavior, moral and spiritual collapse, the influence of television and social media, and the construction of the story itself.  To add a different dimension to the discussion, have half of your group read Don Quixote and the other half read Quichotte.

I mention Hellhound on his Trail: The Electrifying Account of the Largest Manhunt in History by Hampton Sides and Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail by Ben Montgomery last, as they are a special edition to the Book-Club-In-A-Bag set.  Sides is the keynote speaker at the 2020 Highland Park Literary Festival, and Montgomery is presenting as well.  The Festival committee asked if we could include at least one of the author’s books as a set, and we were happy to oblige.  Hellhound is an in-depth study of what happened in the months after Martin Luther King’s assassination by James Earl Ray.  It offers information about Ray’s early life and several unpublished documents, written in a thriller style.  Grandma Gatewood’s Walk is about the first woman to walk the entire trail alone; she was also the first person of any gender to walk it three times.  Montgomery interviewed family members and hikers who met her along the trail.  He also researched her diaries and trail journals to give readers a comprehensive study of this amazing woman.

As a reminder, our Book-Club-In-A-Bag sets contain eight copies of each title, along with discussion questions, author bios, and a list of suggested readings.  They check out for five weeks.  For more information, please email me at sperry@uptexas.org.

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