I’m Mallory Barnes, a fiction writer living in West Texas.My hope here is to encourage reading and discussion. In the digital age, we often live together so separately. Community and intellectual discussion are harder and harder to come by. I hope that Book Club Bites can help alleviate that by encouraging the birth and growth of book clubs.
*If you are new here, WELCOME! For Novels about Texas Your Book Club Will Love, I provide your book club with 10 Novels set in Texas, plus food suggestions, discussion questions and more for your meeting!
As a native Texan, I sometimes forget there’s a sort of obsessive fantasy about the state. It’s a place where laws are meant to be broken, the people are as tough as nails, and everyone rides a horse. Those ideals are only partially true. While most of the people here are a tough breed and I have seen a horse or two ride through a fast food drive-thru (seriously), we aren’t all rebels and renegades and, like anywhere else, there is a diversity of people who call Texas home.
Still, there is some underlying truth to these stereotypes and the next ten books are just a few of the novels that capture the Texas spirit. They aren’t all about cowboys. You’ll find romance, historical, literary, contemporary, and adventure genres among them. If you are looking for something with a little grit, check out these novels about Texas your book club will love.
If your book club has another book in mind, please share in the comments below and be sure to check out the Texas themed food suggestions and discussion questions near the end of the post!
*If you are new here, WELCOME! For News of the World, I provide your book club with a brief summary, a recipe, and discussion questions in that order!
Today’s post features News of the World, a finalist for the National Book Award. It’s also slated to become a movie later this year starring Tom Hanks (who doesn’t love Tom Hanks?). Maybe before now you had not heard of News of the World or its author, Paulette Jiles.
This novel is one of the more literary novels featured on Book Club Bites to date, but like the others (The Goldfinch, Peace Like a River, etc), News of the World has both strong characters and strong plot. Sometimes that is not always true of literary novels, which tend to focus on character development over plot.
*If you are new here, WELCOME! For Breakfast at the Honey Creek Cafe by Jodi Thomas, I provide your book club with a brief summary, a recipe, and book club questions in that order!
Do you love small town romances? If so, then you’ll love Breakfast at the Honey Creek Cafe by Jodi Thomas. The novel is the first in a new series by Jodi Thomas, who, if you don’t know, is the queen of Texas romance.
Her books, set in Texas, range from historical to contemporary, from series to stand alone books. While she primarily writes romance, several of her books also lean towards women’s fiction like The Widows of Wichita County and The Little Teashop on Main. She’s won three RITAs for her romance books, which led to her induction into the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame (with only 17 other romance writers!).
*If you are new here, WELCOME! For Before We Were Yours, I provide your book club with a brief summary, a recipe, and discussion questions in that order!
Do you love novels based on true life events? If so, you should check out Lisa Wingate’s novel, Before We Were Yours. The novel centers around the true life events that occurred in the early half of the 20th Century at the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. Georgia Tann, who took over the Society in the 1920s, began trafficking children through the organization. She often took children away from their poor mother’s and placed them for adoption with wealthy parents, to her profit. The novel follows a fictional girl as she and her siblings fall into the hands of Georgia Tann.
Before We Were Yours is a dual timeline novel, meaning that half of the book follows the children and the other half follows a young attorney, home on leave, who discovers a hidden secret in her grandmother’s past and works to uncover the truth.
I actually began reading this book about a year ago and set it aside. While this book does deal with a heavy topic, I wish I would have pursued and read it earlier because it is a wonderful story about the question of the meaning of family and the way both main characters’ understanding of family evolves.
If your book club hasn’t read Before We Were Yours, I recommend you consider it for an upcoming pick. Beyond learning about a part of American history that was brushed under the rug for many decades, the novel delves deep into the culture of the people who live on shantyboats along the Mississippi River, which was fascinating to read about.
If you loved books like Where the Crawdads Sing and To Kill a Mockingbird, you will love this story about another fiery young girl fighting the odds in the American South.
If your book club picks Before We Were Yours to read, I’ve provided book club questions and a delicious recipe for your meeting below!
*If you are new here, WELCOME! For To Kill a Mockingbird, I provide your book club with a brief summary, a recipe, and discussion questions in that order!
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is one of the most beloved stories in American history, perhaps the most. It centers around the spirited and spunky Scout Finch as she struggles with a world-view shift and comes of age in a small Southern town rife with prejudice.
While To Kill a Mockingbird is a story many people read during school, maybe you didn’t. Somewhere between changing high schools three times, I missed the required To Kill a Mockingbird reading. It wasn’t until after college that I decided to read it and see what all the fuss was about. So, if you haven’t read it yet, there’s no shame!
I’m going to guess that even those in your book club who have read it will be delighted to read it again. It’s one of those books you can read multiple times and still turn the last page with a smile and that nostalgic feeling that comes after you’ve enjoyed a good visit with old friends.
To Kill a Mockingbird is written in the Southern Gothic style, which means that there is a dark feel to elements of the story. It is also told in first person from the view of Scout, who is almost 6 years old when the story begins. This is a coming-of-age story, and while usually characters emerge from such tales with jaded outlooks, Scout manages to emerge from her ordeal hopeful for the future and fighting the prejudices that rage around her.
“You never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them.”
-Scout Finch, Chapter 31, To Kill a Mockingbird
With all that’s going on in the world right now, it seems all of us could use a little dose of Scout Finch and her moxie anyhow. Maybe a little wisdom from the ever poignant Atticus Finch, too. So, if members of your book club haven’t read (or re-read) To Kill a Mockingbird, there’s no better time than right now.
*If you are new here, WELCOME! For the 5 Awesome Online Communities for Book Lovers, I share an extensive list of ways to connect with other readers online!
Well, the world’s turned on it’s end lately. Things just aren’t the way they’ve always been. While we’re all hopeful that life as we’ve known it will get back to normal soon, the truth is that this “novel” Coronavirus will forever change us. How? It may be a decade before we realize all the ways.
But, one thing’s for sure. People need people. And, while we’re at home, you may be desperately missing not only other family members, friends, and coworkers, but those savvy sisters (and brothers) who challenge and encourage you every month with stimulating conversation around the one thing you all love–books.
While you shouldn’t cut the cord to your local book club, maybe this crazy time could open your eyes to other online outlets you wouldn’t have explored if you weren’t isolated, tired of looking at Covid-19 memes, and desperate for some intellectual tete-a-tete. That said, there are plenty of opportunities for readers to share the love. Let me share some of the best online communities for book lovers and a few ways you can connect online with other readers.
*If you are new here, WELCOME! For 12 Online Book Clubs to Join Now, I share 12 amazing virtual book clubs waiting for new members like you!
12 Online Book Clubs to Join Now
This post is an extension of another post I wrote about connecting with other readers online. While I briefly mentioned online book clubs in that post, I wanted to delve into more detail and feature 12 online book clubs you can join now. That’s right. You can join book clubs online from the comfort of your home!
Whether you’re stuck at home due to a sickness, a surgery, a new baby, or a mixed bag of reasons, you’re probably missing the interaction with people you love, including your book club. But, don’t fret, there are many ways to connect with other book lovers online, including Online Book Clubs!
Book clubs are everywhere these days. It seems that almost every celebrity is creating a book club. So, good news, your passion for books is very vogue right now. And, better news, because it is, there are a plethora of virtual options to keep you connected with other readers online when you’re unable to meet in person.
*If you are new here, WELCOME! For Overcome Writer’s Block, I share a few stories and five books to help you fight writer’s block!
5 Books to Overcome Writer’s Block
If you’ve been writing for very long at all, you’ve probably faced the beast called Writer’s Block. You may not know that many professional writers don’t believe there is such a thing as writer’s block. If you have read something disclaiming its existence, you’ve heard people waving it off as laziness or lack of commitment or what-have-you. When you’re in the middle of it, though, you know writer’s block is a very real thing.
Overcome the Two Types of Writer’s Block
There are two types of writer’s block. The first type could easily seem like laziness or lack of commitment to some people, but if you’re already feeling down, beating yourself up for skipping another day of writing, and feeling frustrated that you haven’t felt any kind of inspiration in days,weeks, months, that kind of talk isn’t going to help at all.
The thing you may not realize, especially if you are somewhat new to writing, is that ALL writers feel this way. When you feel that lump in your stomach, that dread of facing a blank page once again, the first thing you need to do is squash the notion that the real geniuses, the real successful writers, don’t ever feel that way. It’s a myth. A myth highly circulated through hushed circles of jealous writers, but a myth nonetheless.
*If you are new here, WELCOME! For The Great Gatsby, I provide your book club with a brief summary, a recipe, and discussion questions in that order!
The Great Gatsby Book Club Questions and Recipe
This post is the third post in the Classics Series–you can check out the posts on Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and Emma by Jane Austen for more.
The Great Gatsby is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most renown work. Maybe you know The Great Gatsby from high school English, where it’s often required reading (gasp!–If you’re in high school English now, hi there! Don’t worry, you’ll survive!). Anyway, maybe that’s been a while…but you have a vague memory of parties and wealth along with Gatsby’s doomed obsession for a past love.
Or, maybe due to Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jay Gatsby, you are more recently familiar with the story. Either way, you might not have read the book as an adult. I know I hadn’t.
Let me encourage you if it’s been a while or especially if you’ve crossed into mid-life, the place where we flounder between the tug of the future and the pull of the past, to consider rereading the novel. The Great Gatsby is a timeless book that can be read every few years and mined for new insights. It’s ultimately a warning against the pursuit of wealth unrestrained by morality. But, it’s more than that, too.
Emma is one of Jane Austen’s lesser known masterpieces (often behind Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility in readers’ minds). It is a comedy about romantic mishaps and youthful overconfidence.
Don’t you remember those blissfully ignorant and misguided days of youth when you absolutely knew what everyone else wanted and needed but had no idea what you wanted or needed? No? Just me?
Well Emma, the book’s namesake, is the epitome of this dichotomy. She’s quick to meddle in all of her neighbors’ lives, yet she has is blind to the desires of her own heart. She’s presumptuous, loved by everyone, and stubborn to a fault. Throw in a cast of quirky characters including a loquacious spinster, a gold-digging vicar, and an anti-social father and you’ve got a book full of mayhem and mishaps.
If you’ve read any of her books, you’ll know that Jane Austen is the queen of miscommunication. Her books often revolve around dangers of assumptions. Emma is no different, but I found the heroine to be especially charming in a unique way to other Austen heroines.