Archive for the ‘book group’ Tag

14 years and counting

The best of the last 4 years

The best of the last 4 years

I marked the 10th anniversary of our old slippers of a book group by listing all that we had read to that auspicious date. The personnel is remarkably stable, adding members very rarely, so to herald the arrival of my friend Martin Bright I am updating the list:

  • In the Country of Men – Hisham Matar (Jun 15)
  • The Bone Clocks – David Mitchell * (Apr 15)
  • The Narrow Road to the Deep North – Richard Flanagan  (Mar 15)
  • Oblivion – David Foster Wallace (Nov 14)
  • The Leopard – Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (Sep 14)
  • What Was Promised – Tobias Hill (Jun 14)
  • Stoner – John Williams * (Apr 14)
  • Rabbit at Rest – John Updike *** (Feb 14)
  • Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage – Alice Munro (Dec 13)
  • May We Be Forgiven – A. M. Homes (Nov 13)
  • Irretrievable -Theodor Fontane (Sept 13)
  • Wise Men -Stuart Nadler (July 13)
  • Bring out the Bodies – Hilary Mantel (March 13)
  • Yellow Birds – Kevin Powers (Jan 13)
  • There’s no such thing as a free press – Mick Hume (Dec 12)
  • Love and Summer – William Trevor (Nov 12)
  • The Uncoupling – Meg Wolitzer (July 12)
  • A Death in the Family – Karl Ove Knausgaard (May 12)
  • Nemesis – Philip Roth ** (April 12)
  • Old School – Tobias Wolff (March 12)
  • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court – Mark Twain (Jan 12)
  • the first ten years
The runner-up of last 4 years

The runner-up of last 4 years

Books That Changed Lives – suggestions for book groups

I’ve been in a book group with some old school friends and a motley crew of other geezers for 13 and a bit years now. Here is a summary of our first 10 years. Well it’s my turn to choose the book again now – it takes 18-24 months for the honour to come round these days so you can’t take it lightly. I put a call out to social media friends for books that had really changed their lives or ways of seeing the world. Loads of interesting suggestions came in and rather than let them fade away in the ephemeral world of Facebook etc. I thought I’d save them here so other people in other book groups/book clubs/reading groups could make use of the titles. (The quotations are from the friends making the suggestions.)

Bookshelf books

  • Out Stealing Horses – Per Petterson
  • Crossing to Safety, Wallace Stegner
  • A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
  • My brilliant friend – Elena Ferrante
  • Random Family – Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
  • Kevin Barry’s City Of Bohane
  • Don de Lillo’s Underworld
  • Marquez’ Love in the Time of Cholera
  • Fugitive Pieces, Anne Michaels – “made me think differently about how the past shapes your present/future and how as individuals we get to choose if the negative parts of our past consume our futures or not. It is also beautifully written and made me revisit poetry too.” “it is the book that taught me how beautiful words can be”
  • Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides
  • The social animal – David Brooks
  • Do No Harm – Henry Marsh
  • Andre Agassi’s “Open”
  • The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes and of His Fortunes and Adversities
  • Us – David Nicholls
  • Amongst Women by John McGahern
  • Malloy by Samuel Beckett
  • The Master by Colm Tóibín
  • The Country Girls by Edna O’ Brien
  • Foster by Claire Keegan
  • At Swim Two Birds by Flann O’ Brien
  • The Quest for Corvo – AJA Symons
  • Good Behaviour by Molly Keane
  • Birchwood by John Banville
  • How Many Miles to Babylon by Jennifer Johnston
  • The Speckled People by Hugo Hamilton
  • Love’s Work – Gillian Rose
  • The History of History – Ida Hatemer-Higgins
  • Inventing God, Nicholas Mosley – “felt my mind shifting on religion/geopolitics/Middle East. God as the greatest invention of humankind. Humanist but generous to those who have faith – a gentle riposte to the Hitchens/Dawkins approach. In a novel.”
  • A window for one year – John Irving
  • A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving – “love, friendship and sacrifice”
  • Wild, Cheyl Strayed
  • Dracula – Bram Stoker
  • The Sisters Brothers – Patrick deWitt
  • Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
  • For whom the bell tolls – Ernest Hemingway
  • To the End of the Land, David Grossman
  • Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood – “felt the terror of teenage girls when read and re-read both as a teenage girl/40 yr old woman”
  • The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy – “felt the power and grace of the quiet man”
  • Things Fall Apart – Chinwe Achebe
  • Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother “Made me respect young people more”
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Hosseini
  • The Mezzanine by Nicolson Baker “It’s very short, very unlikely and some in the group will HATE it and for others it’ll change the way they look at the world around them. You’ll never see perforations or a straw in a fizzy drink the same way again.”
  • Margaret Atwood’s The Edible Woman – “had a huge influence on my going to university and recognising the need to never find oneself in a position where you are wholly reliant on a man. All teenage girls should read it.”
  • William Leith’s The Hungry Years “taught me how not to be a food addict”
  • Cervantes’ Don Quixote “taught me to rely on my inner compass rather than external signage.”
  • Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow “showed me that our personal interpretation is where the colour and joy of the world are to be found, but to keep it just shy of solipsism”
  • Alexander Trocchi’s Cain’s Book “became my personal cultural key to unlocking New York”
  • Stoner – John Williams
  • Steppenwolf – Hermann Hesse “made me see my middle class/ inner animal struggle in a clear & cleansing light, Damn you Herman Hesse!”
  • Plumed serpent, D. H. Lawrence – “opening to the mythic underbelly”
  • Henry James’s ‘The Portrait of a Lady’ “because his characters are so compelling and so flawed. Our heroine’s youthful arrogance and stubbornness sees her turn down suitors because she values above all her freedom, only to find herself trapped in a way she could not have imagined. I was excited at her prospects and I feared for her. There were other characters I was rooting for too! Having re-read it more than 20 years later, I was interested and surprised to find I had more compassion for some characters I disliked intensely and impatience for those I felt sympathy for when I read it as a teenager. A truly astonishing, complex masterpiece.”
  • The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
  • Cormac McCarthy’s The Road “is the most piercing book I’ve read. The description of the trials faced by the father and son has stayed with me for years.”
  • 1984 – George Orwell – “”We are the dead” “You are the dead” stopped me in my 13 year old tracks. Never saw it coming”
  • Thomas Pynchon’s Against The Day – “because it really does require you to take a big chunk out of your life to read it – Rams home the idea that reading is subversive: stops you working, earning, socialising and kinda does stop time.”
  • A fraction of the whole – Steve toltz
  • Douglas Coupland’s ‘Microserfs’
  • Be Here Now – Ram Dass
  • Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
  • The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
  • The english and their history by Robert tombs – “Amazing and definitive book that filled in every gap for me in understanding where we live and why it is how it is”
  • The Spinoza Problem by Irvin Yalom “Despite the title, it’s a real page turner. Yalom goes back and forth between Spinoza and Rosenberg (part of Hitler’s propoganda machine). My book club had a fantastic discussion.”
  • Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference by Cordelia Fine
  • Humanity: A Moral History of The 20th Century by Professor Jonathan Glover
  • Lolita -Vladimir Nabokov
  • The Bone People by Keri Hulme
  • Homage To Catalonia – George Orwell
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Beingby Milan Kundera
  • The Wind-up Bird Chronicle -Haruki Murakami – “Extraordinary writing that made me see the world differently”
  • Strangers on a Train – Patricia Highsmith
  • Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
  • House of Leaves – Mark Z. Danielewski
  • Angel by Elizabeth Taylor

Again, thanks to all those who kindly contributed to the list.

In the end I opted for The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell (partly because I thought Cloud Atlas was something pretty special). Will report back on how it goes.

The Book Group 10th anniversary list

The best so far?

Ten years in the life of a London book group…

Atonement – Ian McEwan (Nov 2001) *

Oxygen – Andrew Miller (Dec 01)

The Corrections – Jonathan Franzen (Jan 02) ***

Stupid White Men – Michael Moore (Mar 02)

Rings of Saturn – WG Sebald (Apr 02)

The Year of the Goat – Mario Vargas Llosa (Jun 02)

Twelve Bar Blues – Patrick Neate (Sep 02)

Swann’s Way – Marcel Proust ??? (Oct 02)

Life of Pi – Yann Martel (Jan 03) *

A Fine Balance – Rohan Mistry (Mar 03)

Light of Day – Graham Swift (May 03)

After the Quake – Haruki Murakami (June 03)

Code of the Woosters- PG Wodehouse (July 03) **

Voyage au bout de la Nuit – Celine (Sept 03)

Revolutionary Road – Richard Yates (Oct 03)

Tomorrow’s People – Susan Greenfield  (Dec 03)

Touching the Void – Joe Simpson (Jan O4)

Vernon God Little – DBC Pierre (March 04) **

Elizabeth Costello – J. M. Coetzee (April 04)

The Comedians -Graham Greene (June 04)

The Line of Beauty – Alan Hollinghurst (Sept 04)

Clear – Nicola Barker (Nov 04)

Havoc in its Third Year -Ronan Bennett (Dec 04)

The Plot against America – Philip Roth (Jan 05)

A Heart so White – Javier Marias (March 05)

A Tale of Love and Darkness – Amos Oz (April 05) **

Saturday – Ian McEwan (June 05)

The Radetzky March – Joseph Roth (July 05)

Identity -Milan Kundera (Sept 05)

Oryx and Crake – Margaret Atwood (Nov 05) **

We need to talk about Kevin – Lionel Shriver (Dec 05)

The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini (Jan 06)

Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell (March 06) ***

Prague – Arthur Phillips (May 06)

Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe (July 06)

Kalooki Nights – Howard Jacobson (Sept 06) **

People’s Act of Love – James Meek (Nov 06)

The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins (Jan 07) **

The Secret River – Kate Grenville (Mar 07)

Homo Faber -Max Frisch (May 07)

My Name is Red – Orhan Pamuk (Sep 07)

Run Rabbit Run – John Updike (Nov 07)

In Cold Blood – Truman Capote (Jan 08)

Blindness – José Saramago (Feb 08)

What Sport Tells Us About Life – Ed Smith (May 08)

The Enchantress of Florence – Salman Rushdie (Jul 08)

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union – Michael Chabon (Sep 08) **

Engleby – Sebastian Faulks (Nov 08)

Homecoming – Bernhard Schlink (Jan 09)

Audacity of Hope – Barrack Obama (Feb 09)

Oscar Wao – Juan Diaz (Apr 09) *

Humboldt’s Gift – Saul Bellow (Jun 09)

Scoop – Evelyn Waugh ** (Nov 09)

Pnin – Nabokov (Jan 10)

Therese Raquin – Emile Zola (Mar 10)

The Razor’s Edge – Somerset Maugham (May 10)*

The Death of Ivan Ilyich / Kreuzer Sonata – Tolstoy (Jul 10)

Alone in Berlin – Hans Fallada (Aug 10)

Freedom – Jonathan Franzen (Sep 10) *

Byzantium Endures – Michael Moorcock (Jan 11)

The Bottle Factory Outing – Beryl Bainbridge (Mar 11)

The Heather Blazing – Colm Toibin (Apr 11)

The Tunnel – William H. Gass (Jun 11)

Manhattan Transfer – John Dos Passos (Aug 11)

The Sisters Brothers – Patrick deWitt (Oct 11)*

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court – Mark Twain (Nov 2011)

On the Shelf of Honour

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