ArchiveCategory Archives for "Literary and Upmarket"
Find book discussion guides for your favorite literary and upmarket fiction. And, much more, including memorable quotes and recipes! Thanks for stopping by!
Find book discussion guides for your favorite literary and upmarket fiction. And, much more, including memorable quotes and recipes! Thanks for stopping by!
*If you are new here, WELCOME! For Anxious People, I provide your book club with a brief summary, a recipe, and discussion questions in that order!
Anxious People by Fredrik Backman is a story about eight strangers who find themselves taken hostage by a desperate bank robber. Now that you have formed a thought about what a story like that might be like, ball it up, and throw it in the trash. Because that’s exactly what Backman, in his genius, does.
The story takes place at an apartment viewing where a bank robber who has failed to properly rob the bank across the street stumbles into eight strangers and the situation escalates into a hostage situation. What is usually a high-stakes thriller in the hands of other authors turns into a comedy about the compassion each of us requires simply to wake up and face another day.
As each of the hostages and finally bank robber reveals their deepest struggles, Backman moves the reader to examine her own needs and to consider the ways she can show kindness to those hurting around her. Much like in A Man Called Ove, nothing on the surface of these characters can be quite trusted and throughout the book Backman pulls back layer after layer compelling the characters and the reader towards compassion.
It is one of the best books I’ve read in quite some time. I found myself scribbling down poignant truth after truth. There is a way Backman disarms the reader with comedy and then delivers a blow to the heart. He’s done it time after time in all his novels and I encourage you to read more of his books! Find the list here!Continue reading
*If you are new here, WELCOME! For Americanah, I provide your book club with a brief summary, a recipe, and discussion questions in that order!
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a novel that I’ve seen here and there over the last few years (it was published in 2013), but never felt any draw to read. It was one of those novels that I presumed I knew about by the cover and title, so I passed on it because by those two things alone I was sure I wouldn’t really like it. Anyone else do that? Only me?
I quickly prejudged that this was our era’s Things Fall Apart, but Americanah, while also written by a Nigerian author, is not the same at all. It wasn’t until I saw another bookstagram account asking for opinions on the book and the dozens of replies from readers saying they loved it, that I decided to read it.
It’s not to say that I didn’t appreciate Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, or other similar books, but I’ve struggled lately to read heavy, literary works and, at 600 pages long, Americanah is no easy feat for many readers.
If the length and depth deter you, let me encourage to try the audiobook. Often when I’m struggling to get into or through a book, the audio version is a life saver. That said, Americanah is just old enough now that most book clubs will easily find it at the local library.Continue reading
*If you are new here, WELCOME! For The Alchemist, I provide your book club with a brief summary, a recipe, and discussion questions in that order!
The Alchemist is a novel that reads like a centuries-old tale, although it was first published in 1988. It is the masterpiece of Paulo Coelho who has written many other great novels. A short book at around 200 pages, it contains a depth of wisdom that has catapulted it to the top of many book clubs’ lists.
The main character, primarily referred to as “the boy,” has a good life at the beginning of the book, but he yearns for more. He longs to travel, to break free of his barriers, and to be more than a shepherd. When he learns of a treasure near the Egyptian pyramids, he takes the chance and begins a long journey towards achieving his dreams.
It sounds like your normal adventure quest story, but Paulo Coelho injects what would be a face-the-obstacles-to-find-the-treasure set of events with timeless wisdom about fate, dreams, God, and personal fulfillment. Riddled with terms such as Personal Legend, Language of the World, Soul of the World and more, Coehlo challenges the reader to examine his own life and consider what comforts he has exchanged for fulfillment.
The Alchemist is a thought-provoking novel that makes a great book club discussion and is definitely worth a read (or two). If your book club hasn’t read it or if it’s been a few years since you have, it might be time to pick up this novel by the brilliant Coehlo. If you have read The Alchemist and aren’t looking to revisit it, consider these other novels where Coehlo tackles equally deep subjects.Continue reading
*If you are new here, WELCOME! For The Giver of Stars and The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek Comparison, I provide your book club with a brief summary and comparison, a recipe, and discussion questions in that order!
I actually saw The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek long before The Giver of Stars released, but passed it by because I thought the subject might be a little heavy based on the description and I wasn’t in the mood for a heavy book. When The Giver of Stars released, I had no idea by the cover that it was about Pack Horse Librarians, but after reading the description, my interest was peaked and I decided to read it.
The controversy revolves around possible plagiarism on Jojo Moyes part, asserting that parts of The Giver of Stars are too similar to The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek to be a coincidence.
I read The Giver of Stars first, unaware of the controversy. After reading, I was shocked to see the accusations from many readers in reviews, many of them citing the Buzzfeed article where the similarities are outlined. Instead of reading the article, I decided to read The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek next and form my own opinion.
After reading both, I was confused and surprised that so many readers were vehemently choosing one or the other. The books were very different to me and BOTH worth reading. I’ve completed separate posts going into more detail on each. You can check out the posts on The Giver of Stars and The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek for more.
Yes, the topic is Pack Horse Librarians, a Works Progress Administration program enacted by Roosevelt in the 1930s to bring books to rural Kentucky, but both authors created a book on the same subject in very different way. After I finished both books, I did finally read the article and, to me, the similarities outlined were minor.
If you disagree, think about this–this is a new subject to fiction. No other books I can think of have been written on it. Yet, there are hundreds to thousands of novels written about World War II. In those books, we expect to see spies, someone facing starvation, someone being tortured physically or mentally by a Nazi, etc.
It’s not surprising to me that Moyes and Richardson would have studied the time period and the facts and come up with story elements that coincidentally are similar. Including adding colored librarians, because of the times we are in (and it’s just important), placing antagonists along the lonely routes through the mountains, because that seems the most logical way to add tension, and creating love interests, because readers love and expect this. As a writer, I read with that eye. I’m always considering what I would add to a book on the subject, and I have to say I would have added some form of those things myself.
Let me talk a little about how the two novels are very different rather than scrutinizing their similarities.
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is a novel about a single woman who faces severe persecution because of her Blue skin. This alone is worth reading about because it’s based on the real-life blue-skinned people of Kentucky, a new subject and fascinating for me. She is also a Pack Horse Librarian who takes books via horseback to her patrons in rural Appalachia. The book is primarily about her inner struggle to accept herself. It is written in a literary style. It does an exceptional job of highlighting the true-to-life details of life in Appalachia. And, it should be on your book club list.
The Giver of Stars is a friendship novel about five Pack Horse Librarians. It centers on two of the women and follows their struggles through love and life. The women fight to find their voices in a time and place where women didn’t have much say. It is a plot-driven novel that will have you cheering, but many of the true-to-life details of life in Appalachia are glossed over or not addressed. Still, any book club would love this book.Continue reading
*If you are new here, WELCOME! For The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, I provide your book club with a brief summary, a recipe, and discussion questions in that order!
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is the first bestseller of Kim Michele Richardson, but it isn’t her first book. She has written three other novels and one non-fiction book. And, her writing reflects that experience.
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek tackles two unique subjects in history that you may not be familiar with–the Pack Horse Librarians and the Blue People of Kentucky. The Pack Horse Library was part of Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration in 1930s. The blue-skinned people of Kentucky were a real group of people born with blue skin who lived in the mountains of Appalachia.
Richardson’s main character, Cussy Mary, is both a Pack Horse Librarian and a Blue. The novel follows her as she struggles through the restraints placed on her as a woman at the time and the discrimination she faces as a Blue person, which was considered colored.
The novel, which I would consider literary in style, unapologetically describes both the poverty and the pride of the residents of Appalachia. I originally delayed reading this novel because I knew the subject would be somewhat dark, and it is. But, it is something that I think needed to be written.
In addition to tackling poverty and starvation, Richardson addresses discrimination in a way that will have the reader examining her own heart. Cussy Mary is a Blue, a skin color most of us are unfamiliar with, but as a Blue she faces intense discrimination throughout the story (it is the primary obstacle). Through Cussy’s story, Richardson takes us on a journey of empathy with Cussy’s plight, confusion and anger when others refuse to see her as equal, and, finally, examination of our own lingering prejudices. It is a timely book for readers right now.Continue reading
*If you are new here, WELCOME! For A Man Called Ove, I provide your book club with a brief summary, a recipe, and discussion questions in that order!
Have you read A Man Called Ove? It’s a book that book clubs love. Fredrik Backman is a master of the human experience and A Man Called Ove captures his talent, sending the reader through the array of human emotions (which is why book clubs love the book).
This book was released in 2012, so there’s no doubt you’ve probably heard of it if you haven’t already read it. I actually watched the movie before I read the book. Good news if you want an activity for the group–the movie follows the book very closely!
If you have read A Man Called Ove and loved it, perhaps now is the time for the entire group to read it. Or, if you have already done so, check out another book by Fredrik Backman like Beartown or My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry. He’s also got a brand new release coming this fall called Anxious People.
After watching the movie a few years ago, I decided to pick up the book. It’s an amazing story of wrong perceptions, loneliness, and kindness. If you are looking for books like Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, you’ll love A Man Called Ove. If you haven’t checked it out, see my post on Eleanor Oliphant is Completey Fine, which is one of my favorites featured on the blog!
Beyond a good story that kept me intrigued, Backman has a gift for language. I often paused to consider phrases he used to describe sorrow or love which resonated deeply with me. That said, he isn’t verbose and the book was a quick, enjoyable read.
I also enjoyed reading about the Swedish community where Ove lives and his lifestyle there. It was refreshing and interesting to read about modern day Sweden. Even through the eyes of a grumpy old man named Ove!Continue reading
*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!
Maybe before now you had not heard of News of the World or its author, Paulette Jiles. News of the World was 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?).
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.Continue reading
*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! So if you are looking for food ideas and more, keep reading!Continue reading
*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.Continue reading
*If you are new here, WELCOME! For The Invention of Wings, I provide your book club with a brief summary, a recipe, and discussion questions in that order!
One of my favorite books is The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. If you haven’t read it, it is chock full of friendship, mother-daughter relationships, and Southern flair. And, of course bees. The narrator is also a spit-fire girl who comes of age during the story. It’s one of those feel-good books that you think back on and sigh with happiness. I knew the Sue Monk Kidd wrote The Mermaid Chair shortly after. For some reason, it didn’t appeal to me personally. If you’ve read it, I’d love to know your thoughts.
However, when researching books to feature here. I stumbled upon The Invention of Wings. It was released in 2015, but I had yet to read it. The premise was intriguing. In fact, I’m a sucker for Civil War fiction in the same way some people love WWII fiction.
This is another book by Sue Monk Kidd with a young narrator. Two young narrators actually–Sarah and Handful. They both have unique voices, like Lily from The Secret Life of Bees. You also have the racial discrimination (civil rights vs slavery) and coming-of-age themes. However, that is where the similarity ends.Continue reading