Really Cool Women\'s Book Club

Time to Vote for Fall and Winter reads September 30, 2014

Filed under: Nominated Books — Susan @ 1:56 pm

Below are the titles you have nominated. When ready go to survey monkey link below and vote for up to 3 titles. If we are all on the ball and vote by Thursday I can let you know at book club our next 3 books. Thanks!

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/C68283C

A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg

When Molly Wizenberg’s father died of cancer, everyone told her to go easy on herself, to hold off on making any major decisions for a while. But when she tried going back to her apartment in Seattle and returning to graduate school, she knew it wasn’t possible to resume life as though nothing had happened. So she went to Paris, a city that held vivid memories of a childhood trip with her father, of early morning walks on the cobbled streets of the Latin Quarter and the taste of her first pain au chocolat. She was supposed to be doing research for her dissertation, but more often, she found herself peering through the windows of chocolate shops, trekking across town to try a new pâtisserie, or tasting cheeses at outdoor markets, until one evening when she sat in the Luxembourg Gardens reading cookbooks until it was too dark to see, she realized that her heart was not in her studies but in the kitchen.

At first, it wasn’t clear where this epiphany might lead. Like her long letters home describing the details of every meal and market, Molly’s blog Orangette started out merely as a pleasant pastime. But it wasn’t long before her writing and recipes developed an international following. Every week, devoted readers logged on to find out what Molly was cooking, eating, reading, and thinking, and it seemed she had finally found her passion. But the story wasn’t over: one reader in particular, a curly-haired, food-loving composer from New York, found himself enchanted by the redhead in Seattle, and their email correspondence blossomed into a long-distance romance.

In A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table, Molly Wizenberg recounts a life with the kitchen at its center. From her mother’s pound cake, a staple of summer picnics during her childhood in Oklahoma, to the eggs she cooked for her father during the weeks before his death, food and memories are intimately entwined. You won’t be able to decide whether to curl up and sink into the story or to head straight to the market to fill your basket with ingredients for Cider-Glazed Salmon and Pistachio Cake with Honeyed Apricots.

Blue-Eyed Boy by Robert Timberg

“In a crisp, unsentimental style, Timberg … traces his long postwar journey from the hospital ward to the newsroom—or, as he puts it, ‘Remember[ing] how I decided not to die….’ Wisdom resonates throughout Blue-Eyed Boy, a fierce and enthralling memoir….‘I suspect there’s something essentially human about what I fought my way through,’ he writes in the book’s prologue. That only begins to hint at the fullness of his life’s journey. This is vital reading.”

Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

In this seductive, wistful masterpiece, Truman Capote created a woman whose name has entered the American idiom and whose style is a part of the literary landscape. Holly Golightly knows that nothing bad can ever happen to you at Tiffany’s; her poignancy, wit, and naïveté continue to charm.

Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules – David Sedaris’ favorite short stories from a variety of writers.

Consider the irresistible narrative arc of Sedaris’ personal essays, his indelible voice, and his crisp timing, and it will come as no surprise that he is an avid, insightful reader of short stories. He is so inspired by the form that he has put together an A-list anthology of his favorites, thus creating a collection that will seduce readers heretofore resistant to the form, and induce fellow short story lovers to nod in pleased recognition. One can’t go wrong with an anthology that includes Katherine Mansfield’s “The Garden Party,” Flannery O’Connor’s “Revelation,” and stories by Alice Munro, Lorrie Moore, Tobias Wolff, and Jhumpa Lahiri, let alone appearances by Dorothy Parker and Patricia Highsmith. An epilogue by Sarah Vowell explains that the proceeds from this collection will go to 826NYC, a nonprofit tutoring program designed to help students learn to write, one of a string of programs being established across the country by the creative and enterprising group at McSweeney’s

Cod by Mark Kurlansky

 

You probably enjoy eating codfish, but reading about them? Mark Kurlansky has written a fabulous book–well worth your time–about a fish that probably has mattered more in human history than any other. The cod helped inspire the discovery and exploration of North America. It had a profound impact upon the economic development of New England and eastern Canada from the earliest times. Today, however, overfishing is a constant threat. Kurlansky sprinkles his well-written and occasionally humorous history with interesting asides on the possible origin of the word codpiece and dozens of fish recipes. Sometimes a book on an offbeat or neglected subject really makes the grade. This is one of them.

 

How To Build A Girl by Caitlin Moran

 

The New York Times bestselling author hailed as “the UK’s answer to Tina Fey, Chelsea Handler, and Lena Dunham all rolled into one” (Marie Claire) makes her fiction debut with a hilarious yet deeply moving coming of age novel.

What do you do in your teenage years when you realize what your parents taught you wasn’t enough? You must go out and find books and poetry and pop songs and bad heroes—and build yourself.

It’s 1990. Johanna Morrigan, fourteen, has shamed herself so badly on local TV that she decides that there’s no point in being Johanna anymore and reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde—fast-talking, hard-drinking Gothic hero and full-time Lady Sex Adventurer. She will save her poverty-stricken Bohemian family by becoming a writer—like Jo in Little Women, or the Bröntes—but without the dying young bit.

By sixteen, she’s smoking cigarettes, getting drunk and working for a music paper. She’s writing pornographic letters to rock-stars, having all the kinds of sex with all kinds of men, and eviscerating bands in reviews of 600 words or less.

But what happens when Johanna realizes she’s built Dolly with a fatal flaw? Is a box full of records, a wall full of posters, and a head full of paperbacks, enough to build a girl after all?

Imagine The Bell Jar written by Rizzo from Grease. How to Build a Girl is a funny, poignant, and heartbreakingly evocative story of self-discovery and invention, as only Caitlin Moran could tell it.

 

Krakatoa by Simon Winchester

An erudite, fascinating account by one of the foremost purveyors of contemporary nonfiction, this book chronicles the underlying causes, utter devastation and lasting effects of the cataclysmic 1883 eruption of the volcano island Krakatoa in what is now Indonesia. Winchester (The Professor and the Madman; The Map That Changed the World) once again demonstrates a keen knack for balancing rich and often rigorous historical detail with dramatic tension and storytelling. Rather than start with brimstone images of the fateful event itself, Winchester takes a broader approach, beginning with his own viewing of the now peaceful remains of the mountain for a second time in a span of 25 years-and being awed by how much it had grown in that time. This nod to the earth’s ceaseless rejuvenation informs the entire project, and Winchester uses the first half of the text to carefully explain the discovery and methods of such geological theories as continental drift and plate tectonics. In this way, the vivid descriptions of Krakatoa’s destruction that follow will resonate more completely with readers, who will come to appreciate the awesome powers that were churning beneath the surface before it gave way. And while Winchester graphically illustrates, through eyewitness reports and extant data, the human tragedy and captivating scientific aftershocks of the explosion, he is also clearly intrigued with how it was “a demonstration of the utterly confident way that the world, however badly it has been wounded, picks itself up, continues to unfold its magic and its marvels, and sets itself back on its endless trail of evolutionary progress yet again.” His investigations have produced a work that is relevant to scholars and intriguing to others, who will relish it footnotes and all.

Let’s Pretend this Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

 

When Jenny Lawson was little, all she ever wanted was to fit in. That dream was cut short by her fantastically unbalanced father and a morbidly eccentric childhood. It did, however, open up an opportunity for Lawson to find the humor in the strange shame-spiral that is her life, and we are all the better for it.
In the irreverent Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Lawson’s long-suffering husband and sweet daughter help her uncover the surprising discovery that the most terribly human moments—the ones we want to pretend never happened—are the very same moments that make us the people we are today. For every intellectual misfit who thought they were the only ones to think the things that Lawson dares to say out loud, this is a poignant and hysterical look at the dark, disturbing, yet wonderful moments of our lives.

 

Salt by Mark Kurlansky

Only Kurlansky, winner of the James Beard Award for Excellence in Food Writing for Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World, could woo readers toward such an off-beat topic. Yet salt, Kurlansky asserts, has “shaped civilization.” Although now taken for granted, these square crystals are not only of practical use, but over the ages have symbolized fertility (it is, after all, the root of the word “salacious”) and lasting covenants, and have been used in magical charms. Called a “divine substance” by Homer, salt is an essential part of the human body, was one of the first international commodities and was often used as currency throughout the developing world. Kurlansky traces the history of salt’s influences from prehistoric China and ancient Africa (in Egypt they made mummies using salt) to Europe (in 12th-century Provence, France, salt merchants built “a system of solar evaporation ponds”) and the Americas, through chapters with intriguing titles like “A Discourse on Salt, Cadavers and Pungent Sauces.” The book is populated with characters as diverse as frozen-food giant Clarence Birdseye; Gandhi, who broke the British salt law that forbade salt production in India because it outdid the British salt trade; and New York City’s sturgeon king, Barney Greengrass. Throughout his engaging, well-researched history, Kurlansky sprinkles witty asides and amusing anecdotes. A piquant blend of the historic, political, commercial, scientific and culinary, the book is sure to entertain as well as educate. Pierre Laszlo’s Salt: Grain of Life (Forecasts, Aug. 6) got to the finish line first but doesn’t compare to this artful narrative. 15 recipes, 4o illus., 7 maps.

 

The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt

 

Longlisted for the prestigious Man Booker Prize and hailed by The Washington Post as “Siri Hustvedt’s best novel yet, an electrifying work,” The Blazing Worldis a masterful novel about perception, prejudice, desire, and one woman’s struggle to be seen.

In a new novel called “searingly fresh… A Nabokovian cat’s cradle” on the cover of The New York Times Book Review, the internationally bestselling author tells the provocative story of artist Harriet Burden, who, after years of having her work ignored, ignites an explosive scandal in New York’s art world when she recruits three young men to present her creations as their own. Yet when the shows succeed and Burden steps forward for her triumphant reveal, she is betrayed by the third man, Rune. Many critics side with him, and Burden and Rune find themselves in a charged and dangerous game, one that ends in his bizarre death.

An intricately conceived, diabolical puzzle presented as a collection of texts, including Harriet’s journals, assembled after her death, this “glorious mashup of storytelling and scholarship” (San Francisco Chronicle) unfolds from multiple perspectives as Harriet’s critics, fans, family, and others offer their own conflicting opinions of where the truth lies. Writing in Slate, Katie Roiphe declared it “a spectacularly good read…feminism in the tradition of Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex or Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own: richly complex, densely psychological, dazzlingly nuanced.”

 

“Astonishing, harrowing, and utterly, completely engrossing” (NPR), Hustvedt’s new novel is “Blazing indeed:…with agonizing compassion for all of wounded humanity”(Kirkus Reviews, starred review).

The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell

 

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, September 2014: Fans of David Mitchell (Cloud AtlasBlack Swan GreenThe Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet) have been salivating over the release of The Bone Clocks —and they have every reason to. This is a feast of a book—perhaps the author’s best to date—a saga that spans decades, characters, genres, and events from Mitchell’s other novels. The structure is most similar to Cloud Atlas, with The Bone Clocks pivoting around a central character: Holly Sykes. Each chapter/novella is narrated from the perspective of an intersecting character, with settings ranging from England in the 80s to the apocalyptic future. Each story could stand alone as a work of genius, as they slowly build on Holly’s unwitting role in a war between two groups with psychic powers, culminating in a thrilling showdown reminiscent of the best of Stephen King. Taken together this is a hugely entertaining page-turner, an operatic fantasy, and an often heartbreaking meditation on mortality. It’s not to be missed.

 

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

 

Donna Tartt’s latest novel clocks in at an unwieldy 784 pages. The story begins with an explosion at the Metropolitan Museum that kills narrator Theo Decker’s beloved mother and results in his unlikely possession of a Dutch masterwork called The Goldfinch. Shootouts, gangsters, pillowcases, storage lockers, and the black market for art all play parts in the ensuing life of the painting in Theo’s care. With the same flair for suspense that made The Secret History (1992) such a masterpiece, The Goldfinch features the pulp of a typical bildungsroman—Theo’s dissolution into teenage delinquency and climb back out, his passionate friendship with the very funny Boris, his obsession with Pippa (a girl he first encounters minutes before the explosion)—but the painting is the novel’s secret heart. Theo’s fate hinges on the painting, and both take on depth as it steers Theo’s life. Some sentences are clunky (suddenly and meanwhile abound), metaphors are repetitive (Theo’s mother is compared to birds three times in 10 pages), and plot points are overly coincidental (as if inspired by TV), but there’s a bewitching urgency to the narration that’s impossible to resist. Theo is magnetic, perhaps because of his well-meaning criminality. The Goldfinch is a pleasure to read; with more economy to the brushstrokes, it might have been great.

 

The Last Resort by Maureen Holtz (local author! If we pick this one I can get you signed copies)

It’s 2021 and the small African nation of Mkanda, anxious to lift itself from poverty, legalizes physician-assisted suicide to encourage a new type of travel euthanasia tourism. With the United States slashing Medicare coverage and instituting new rules, Mkanda appeals to those desperate to end their struggles in a timely way. In Illinois, Hank Grimmager, suffering from ALS and the early stages of Alzheimer’s, pleads with his devoutly Catholic daughter, Olivia Harper, to take him to Mkanda. Olivia doesn’t want to bypass all her beliefs and be a party to her father’s death, but finds it impossible to ignore his needs. Moving between Central Illinois and Africa, The Last Resort, erupts into inevitable conflict when religion and money are involved in matters of love and health.

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

 

After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.

Tom, who keeps meticulous records and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel insists the baby is a “gift from God,” and against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.

 

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry 

 

There’s a murderer on the loose—but that doesn’t stop the girls of St. Etheldreda’s from attempting to hide the death of their headmistress in this rollicking farce.

The students of St. Etheldreda’s School for Girls face a bothersome dilemma. Their irascible headmistress, Mrs. Plackett, and her surly brother, Mr. Godding, have been most inconveniently poisoned at Sunday dinner. Now the school will almost certainly be closed and the girls sent home—unless these seven very proper young ladies can hide the murders and convince their neighbors that nothing is wrong.

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place is a smart, hilarious Victorian romp, full of outrageous plot twists, mistaken identities, and mysterious happenings.

 

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

Starred Review. Noted short story writer Bacigalupi (Pump Six and Other Stories) proves equally adept at novel length in this grim but beautifully written tale of Bangkok struggling for survival in a post-oil era of rising sea levels and out-of-control mutation. Capt. Jaidee Rojjanasukchai of the Thai Environment Ministry fights desperately to protect his beloved nation from foreign influences. Factory manager Anderson Lake covertly searches for new and useful mutations for a hated Western agribusiness. Aging Chinese immigrant Tan Hock Seng lives by his wits while looking for one last score. Emiko, the titular despised but impossibly seductive product of Japanese genetic engineering, works in a brothel until she accidentally triggers a civil war. This complex, literate and intensely felt tale, which recalls both William Gibson and Ian McDonald at their very best, will garner Bacigalupi significant critical attention and is clearly one of the finest science fiction novels of the year.

 

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

 

Echoing the ever-popular search for wilderness salvation by Chris McCandless (Back to the Wild, 2011) and every other modern-day disciple of Thoreau, Strayed tells the story of her emotional devastation after the death of her mother and the weeks she spent hiking the 1,100-mile Pacific Crest Trail. As her family, marriage, and sanity go to pieces, Strayed drifts into spontaneous encounters with other men, to the consternation of her confused husband, and eventually hits rock bottom while shooting up heroin with a new boyfriend. Convinced that nothing else can save her, she latches onto the unlikely idea of a long solo hike. Woefully unprepared (she fails to read about the trail, buy boots that fit, or pack practically), she relies on the kindness and assistance of those she meets along the way, much as McCandless did. Clinging to the books she lugs along—Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Adrienne Rich—Strayed labors along the demanding trail, documenting her bruises, blisters, and greater troubles. Hiker wannabes will likely be inspired. Experienced backpackers will roll their eyes. But this chronicle, perfect for book clubs, is certain to spark lively conversation.