Second Saturday Book Club
Second Saturday Book Club
Meets at Books Inc. in Opera Plaza on the 2nd Saturday of every month at 10:30 AM. and discusses literary fiction ranging from classics to contemporary.
Books Inc. in Opera Plaza
601 Van Ness
April 2015 Selection: An ordinary life--its sharp pains and unexpected joys, its bursts of clarity and moments of confusion--lived by an ordinary, but unforgettable woman: this is the subject of "Someone," Alice McDermott's extraordinary seventh novel.
We first glimpse Marie Commeford as a child: a girl in thick glasses observing her pre-Depression world from a Brooklyn stoop. Through her first heartbreak and eventual marriage; her delicate brother's brief stint as a Catholic priest and his emotional breakdown; her career as a funeral director's "consoling angel"; the deaths of her parents and the births of her children--we follow Marie through the changing world of the twentieth century and her Irish-American enclave. Rendered with remarkable empathy and insight, "Someone" is a novel that speaks of life as it is daily lived, with passion and heartbreak, a crowning achievement of one of the finest American writers at work today.
March 2015 Selection: "The trilogy is trying to tell something about the parts of war that don't get into the official accounts" -Pat Barker
The first book of the Regeneration Trilogy and a Booker Prize nominee
In 1917 Siegfried Sasson, noted poet and decorated war hero, publicly refused to continue serving as a British officer in World War I. His reason: the war was a senseless slaughter. He was officially classified "mentally unsound" and sent to Craiglockhart War Hospital. There a brilliant psychiatrist, Dr. William Rivers, set about restoring Sassoon's "sanity" and sending him back to the trenches. This novel tells what happened as only a novel can. It is a war saga in which not a shot is fired. It is a story of a battle for a man's mind in which only the reader can decide who is the victor, who the vanquished, and who the victim.
One of the most amazing feats of fiction of our time, "Regneration "has been hailed by critics across the globe. As August 2014 marks the 100-year anniversary of World War I, this book is as timely and relevant as ever.
February 2015 Selection: It is 1959 in Wicklow, Ireland, and Annie and her cousin Sarah are living and working together to keep Sarah's small farm running. Suddenly, Annie's young niece and nephew are left in their care.
Unprepared for the chaos that the two children inevitably bring, but nervously excited nonetheless, Annie finds the interruption of her normal life and her last chance at happiness complicated further by the attention being paid to Sarah by a local man with his eye on the farm.
A summer of adventure, pain, delight, and, ultimately, epiphany unfolds for both the children and their caretakers in this poignant and exquisitely told story of innocence, loss, and reconciliation.
January 2015 Selection: Brilliant and poignant...By his compassion, clarity of insight and crystal-bright prose, he makes Rabbit's sorrow his and our own.THE WASHINGTON POSTHarry Angstrom was a star basketball player in high school and that was the best time of his life. Now in his mid-20s, his work is unfulfilling, his marriage is moribund, and he tries to find happiness with another woman. But happiness is more elusive than a medal, and Harry must continue to run--from his wife, his life, and from himself, until he reaches the end of the road and has to turn back....
December 2014 Selection: Styron's novels--such as Confessions of Nat Turner and Sophie's Choice--have established him as a writer of international stature. Here he traces the betrayals, spite and disappointed love that afflict the members of a Southern family and that culminate in the suicide of the beautiful Peyton Loftis.
November 2014 Selection: The wellsprings of desire and the impediments to love come brilliantly into focus in Evelyn Waugh's masterpiece-a novel that immerses us in the glittering and seductive world of English aristocracy in the waning days of the empire.
Through the story of Charles Ryder's entanglement with the Flytes, a great Catholic family, Evelyn Waugh charts the passing of the privileged world he knew in his own youth and vividly recalls the sensuous pleasures denied him by wartime austerities. At once romantic, sensuous, comic, and somber, Brideshead Revisited transcends Waugh's early satiric explorations and reveals him to be an elegiac, lyrical novelist of the utmost feeling and lucidity.The wellsprings of desire and the impediments to love come brilliantly into focus in Evelyn Waugh's masterpiece-a novel that immerses us in the glittering and seductive world of English aristocracy in the waning days of the empire.Through the story of Charles Ryder's entanglement with the Flytes, a great Catholic family, Evelyn Waugh charts the passing of the privileged world he knew in his own youth and vividly recalls the sensuous pleasures denied him by wartime austerities. At once romantic, sensuous, comic, and somber, Brideshead Revisited transcends Waugh's early satiric explorations and reveals him to be an elegiac, lyrical novelist of the utmost feeling and lucidity.- See more at: http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/titles/evelyn-waugh/brideshead-revisite...The wellsprings of desire and the impediments to love come brilliantly into focus in Evelyn Waugh's masterpiece-a novel that immerses us in the glittering and seductive world of English aristocracy in the waning days of the empire.Through the story of Charles Ryder's entanglement with the Flytes, a great Catholic family, Evelyn Waugh charts the passing of the privileged world he knew in his own youth and vividly recalls the sensuous pleasures denied him by wartime austerities. At once romantic, sensuous, comic, and somber, Brideshead Revisited transcends Waugh's early satiric explorations and reveals him to be an elegiac, lyrical novelist of the utmost feeling and lucidity.- See more at: http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/titles/evelyn-waugh/brideshead-revisite...
October 2014 Selection: "The Fixer" is the winner of the 1967 National Book Award for Fiction and the 1967 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
"The Fixer" (1966) is Bernard Malamud's best-known and most acclaimed novel -- one that makes manifest his roots in Russian fiction, especially that of Isaac Babel.
Set in Kiev in 1911 during a period of heightened anti-Semitism, the novel tells the story of Yakov Bok, a Jewish handyman blamed for the brutal murder of a young Russian boy. Bok leaves his village to try his luck in Kiev, and after denying his Jewish identity, finds himself working for a member of the anti-Semitic Black Hundreds Society. When the boy is found nearly drained of blood in a cave, the Black Hundreds accuse the Jews of ritual murder. Arrested and imprisoned, Bok refuses to confess to a crime that he did not commit.
August 2014 Selection: "I set out deliberately to write a tour-de-force. Before I ever put pen to paper and set down the first word I knew what the last word would be and almost where the last period would fall." --William Faulkner on "As I Lay Dying"
"As I Lay Dying" is Faulkner's harrowing account of the Bundren family's odyssey across the Mississippi countryside to bury Addie, their wife and mother. Narrated in turn by each of the family members--including Addie herself--as well as others the novel ranges in mood, from dark comedy to the deepest pathos. Considered one of the most influential novels in American fiction in structure, style, and drama, "As I Lay Dying" is a true 20th-century classic.
This edition reproduces the corrected text of" As I Lay Dying" as established in 1985 by Noel Polk.
June 2014 Selection: In an astonishing feat of empathy and narrative invention, our most ambitious novelist imagines an alternate version of American history.
In 1940 Charles A. Lindbergh, heroic aviator and rabid isolationist, is elected President. Shortly thereafter, he negotiates a cordial "understanding" with Adolf Hitler, while the new government embarks on a program of folksy anti-Semitism.
For one boy growing up in Newark, Lindbergh's election is the first in a series of ruptures that threaten to destroy his small, safe corner of America-and with it, his mother, his father, and his older brother.
May 2014 Selection: Wallace Stegner's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is a story of discovery--personal, historical, and geographical. Confined to a wheelchair, retired historian Lyman Ward sets out to write his grandparents' remarkable story, chronicling their days spent carving civilization into the surface of America's western frontier. But his research reveals even more about his own life than he's willing to admit. What emerges is an enthralling portrait of four generations in the life of an American family.
April 2014 Selection: Includes an extended conversation with David Sedaris
One of the most important and blazingly original writers of his generation, George Saunders is an undisputed master of the short story, and "Tenth of December" is his most honest, accessible, and moving collection yet.
In the taut opener, "Victory Lap," a boy witnesses the attempted abduction of the girl next door and is faced with a harrowing choice: Does he ignore what he sees, or override years of smothering advice from his parents and act? In "Home," a combat-damaged soldier moves back in with his mother and struggles to reconcile the world he left with the one to which he has returned. And in the title story, a stunning meditation on imagination, memory, and loss, a middle-aged cancer patient walks into the woods to commit suicide, only to encounter a troubled young boy who, over the course of a fateful morning, gives the dying man a final chance to recall who he really is. A hapless, deluded owner of an antiques store; two mothers struggling to do the right thing; a teenage girl whose idealism is challenged by a brutal brush with reality; a man tormented by a series of pharmaceutical experiments that force him to lust, to love, to kill--the unforgettable characters that populate the pages of "Tenth of December" are vividly and lovingly infused with Saunders's signature blend of exuberant prose, deep humanity, and stylistic innovation.
Writing brilliantly and profoundly about class, sex, love, loss, work, despair, and war, Saunders cuts to the core of the contemporary experience. These stories take on the big questions and explore the fault lines of our own morality, delving into the questions of what makes us good and what makes us human.
Unsettling, insightful, and hilarious, the stories in "Tenth of December"--through their manic energy, their focus on what is redeemable in human beings, and their generosity of spirit--not only entertain and delight; they fulfill Chekhov's dictum that art should "prepare us for tenderness."
March 2014 Selection: It is 1998, the year in which America is whipped into a frenzy of prurience by the impeachment of a president, and in a small New England town, an aging classics professor, Coleman Silk, is forced to retire when his colleagues decree that he is a racist. The charge is a lie, but the real truth about Silk would have astonished even his most virulent accuser.
Coleman Silk has a secret, one which has been kept for fifty years from his wife, his four children, his colleagues, and his friends, including the writer Nathan Zuckerman. It is Zuckerman who stumbles upon Silk's secret and sets out to reconstruct the unknown biography of this eminent, upright man, esteemed as an educator for nearly all his life, and to understand how this ingeniously contrived life came unraveled. And to understand also how Silk's astonishing private history is, in the words of "The""Wall Street Journal," "magnificently" interwoven with "the larger public history of modern America."
February 2014 Selection: "Things Fall Apart" tells two intertwining stories, both centering on Okonkwo, a "strong man" of an Ibo village in Nigeria. The first, a powerful fable of the immemorial conflict between the individual and society, traces Okonkwo's fall from grace with the tribal world. The second, as modern as the first is ancient, concerns the clash of cultures and the destruction of Okonkwo's world with the arrival of aggressive European missionaries. These perfectly harmonized twin dramas are informed by an awareness capable of encompassing at once the life of nature, human history, and the mysterious compulsions of the soul.
January 2014 Selection: This is the moving story of the unforgettable Rosa Burger, a young woman from South Africa cast in the mold of a revolutionary tradition. Rosa tries to uphold her heritage handed on by martyred parents while still carving out a sense of self. Although it is wholly of today, "Burger's Daughter" can be compared to those 19th century Russian classics that make a certain time and place come alive, and yet stand as universal celebrations of the human spirit. Nadine Gordimer, winner of the 1991 Nobel Prize in Literature, was born and lives in South Africa.
October 2013 Selection: Malaya, 1951. Yun Ling Teoh, the scarred lone survivor of a brutal Japanese wartime camp, seeks solace among the jungle-fringed tea plantations of Cameron Highlands. There she discovers Yugiri, the only Japanese garden in Malaya, and its owner and creator, the enigmatic Aritomo, exiled former gardener of the emperor of Japan. Despite her hatred of the Japanese, Yun Ling seeks to engage Aritomo to create a garden in memory of her sister, who died in the camp. Aritomo refuses but agrees to accept Yun Ling as his apprentice "until the monsoon comes." Then she can design a garden for herself.As the months pass, Yun Ling finds herself intimately drawn to the gardener and his art, while all around them a communist guerilla war rages. But the "Garden of Evening Mists" remains a place of mystery. Who is Aritomo and how did he come to leave Japan? And is the real story of how Yun Ling managed to survive the war perhaps the darkest secret of all?
August 2013 Selection: A modern masterpiece from one of Italy's most acclaimed authors, "My Brilliant Friend" is a rich, intense, and generous-hearted story about two friends, Elena and Lila. Ferrante's inimitable style lends itself perfectly to a meticulous portrait of these two women that is also the story of a nation and a touching meditation on the nature of friendship. The story begins in the 1950s, in a poor but vibrant neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples. Growing up on these tough streets the two girls learn to rely on each other ahead of anyone or anything else. As they grow, as their paths repeatedly diverge and converge, Elena and Lila remain best friends whose respective destinies are reflected and refracted in the other. They are likewise the embodiments of a nation undergoing momentous change. Through the lives of these two women, Ferrante tells the story of a neighborhood, a city, and a country as it is transformed in ways that, in turn, also transform the relationship between her protagonists, the unforgettable Elena and Lila. Ferrante is the author of three previous works of critically acclaimed fiction: "The Days of Abandonment, Troubling Love," and "The Lost Daughter." With this novel, the first in a trilogy, she proves herself to be one of Italy's great storytellers. She has given her readers a masterfully plotted page-turner, abundant and generous in its narrative details and characterizations, that is also a stylish work of literary fiction destined to delight her many fans and win new readers to her fiction.
July 2013 Selection: Through the story of an ordinary man unwittingly drawn into a senseless murder on an Algerian beach, Camus explored what he termed "the nakedness of man faced with the absurd." First published in 1946; now in a new translation by Matthew Ward.
June 2013 Selection: A deeply evocative story of ambition and betrayal, "The Paris Wife" captures the love affair between two unforgettable people: Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley.
Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a quiet twenty-eight-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness--until she meets Ernest Hemingway. Following a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris, where they become the golden couple in a lively and volatile group--the fabled "Lost Generation"--that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Though deeply in love, the Hemingways are ill prepared for the hard-drinking, fast-living, and free-loving life of Jazz Age Paris. As Ernest struggles to find the voice that will earn him a place in history and pours himself into the novel that will become "The Sun Also Rises, " Hadley strives to hold on to her sense of self as her roles as wife, friend, and muse become more challenging. Eventually they find themselves facing the ultimate crisis of their marriage--a deception that will lead to the unraveling of everything they've fought so hard for.
May 2013 Selection: Honeymooners Viktor and Liesel Landauer are filled with the optimism and cultural vibrancy of central Europe of the 1920s when they meet modernist architect Rainer von Abt. He builds for them a home to embody their exuberant faith in the future, and the Landauer House becomes an instant masterpiece. Viktor and Liesel, a rich Jewish mogul married to a thoughtful, modern gentile, pour all of their hopes for their marriage and budding family into their stunning new home, filling it with children, friends, and a generation of artists and thinkers eager to abandon old-world European style in favor of the new and the avant-garde. But as life intervenes, their new home also brings out their most passionate desires and darkest secrets. As Viktor searches for a warmer, less challenging comfort in the arms of another woman, and Liesel turns to her wild, mischievous friend Hana for excitement, the marriage begins to show signs of strain. The radiant honesty and idealism of 1930 quickly evaporate beneath the storm clouds of World War II. As Nazi troops enter the country, the family must leave their old life behind and attempt to escape to America before Viktor's Jewish roots draw Nazi attention, and before the family itself dissolves.
As the Landauers struggle for survival abroad, their home slips from hand to hand, from Czech to Nazi to Soviet possession and finally back to the Czechoslovak state, with new inhabitants always falling under the fervent and unrelenting influence of the Glass Room. Its crystalline perfection exerts a gravitational pull on those who know it, inspiring them, freeing them, calling them back, until the Landauers themselves are finally drawn home to where their story began.
Brimming with barely contained passion and cruelty, the precision of science, the wild variance of lust, the catharsis of confession, and the fear of failure - the Glass Room contains it all.
April 2013 Selection: In this luminous new novel about love, loss, and the unpredictable power of memory, John Banville introduces us to Max Morden, a middle-aged Irishman who has gone back to the seaside town where he spent his summer holidays as a child to cope with the recent loss of his wife. It is also a return to the place where he met the Graces, the well-heeled family with whom he experienced the strange suddenness of both love and death for the first time. What Max comes to understand about the past, and about its indelible effects on him, is at the center of this elegiac, gorgeously written novel -- among the finest we have had from this masterful writer.
February 2013 Selection: Beginning with the expulsion of its eponymous hero from “the best of all possible castles” and the loss of his beloved Cunégonde, Candide takes the form of a classic journey story. Candide must endure a series of misfortunes and trials before he can be reunited with his beloved and regain a qualified kind of redemption. It is in the misfortunes that Candide and others suffer in the novel that Voltaire cuts through the pretensions, hypocrisies, and outright idiocies of the Age of Reason.
January 2013 Selection: Winner of the 2011 Man Booker Prize
A novel so compelling that it begs to be read in a single setting, "The Sense of an Ending" has the psychological and emotional depth and sophistication of Henry James at his best, and is a stunning new chapter in Julian Barnes's oeuvre.
This intense novel follows Tony Webster, a middle-aged man, as he contends with a past he never thought much about--until his closest childhood friends return with a vengeance: one of them from the grave, another maddeningly present. Tony thought he left this all behind as he built a life for himself, and his career has provided him with a secure retirement and an amicable relationship with his ex-wife and daughter, who now has a family of her own. But when he is presented with a mysterious legacy, he is forced to revise his estimation of his own nature and place in the world.
December 2012 Selection:As soon as it first appeared in 1953, this gem by the great Saul Bellow was hailed as an American classic. Bold, expansive, and keenly humorous, "The Adventures of Augie March" blends street language with literary elegance to tell the story of a poor Chicago boy growing up during the Great Depression. A "born recruit," Augie makes himself available for hire by plungers, schemers, risk takers, and operators, compiling a record of choices that is-to say the least- eccentric.
October 2012 Selection: is the spring of 1767, and the vengeful Erasmus Kemp has had the mutinous sailors of his father's ship brought back to London to stand trial on piracy charges. Much to Kemp's dismay, the Irish fiddler Sullivan has escaped, and retrieving him proves too much in the midst of overseeing the dramatic legal case and a new business venture in the northern coal and steel industries of Thorpe. But the two men's paths are about to collide once again, for Sullivan is also on his way to Thorpe to fulfill the dying wish of his shipmate.
September 2012 Pick: At Westish College, baseball star Henry Skrimshander seems destined for big league until a routine throw goes disastrously off course. In the aftermath of his error, the fates of five people are upended. Henry's fight against self-doubt threatens to ruin his future. College president Guert Affenlight has fallen unexpectedly and helplessly in love. Owen Dunne becomes caught up in a dangerous affair. Mike Schwartz realizes he has guided Henry's career at the expense of his own. And Pella Affenlight returns to Westish after escaping an ill-fated marriage, determined to start a new life.
As the season counts down to its climactic final game, these five are forced to confront their deepest hopes, anxieties, and secrets. Written with boundless intelligence and filled with the tenderness of youth, ""The Art of Fielding" is mere baseball fiction the way "Moby Dick" is just a fish story" (Nicholas Dawidoff). It""is an expansive, warmhearted novel about ambition and its limits, about family and friendship and love, and about commitment--to oneself and to others.
August 2012 pick: In the early 1950s, an eleven-year-old boy in Colombo boards a ship bound for England. At mealtimes he is seated at the "cat's table"--as far from the Captain's Table as can be--with a ragtag group of "insignificant" adults and two other boys, Cassius and Ramadhin. As the ship crosses the Indian Ocean, the boys tumble from one adventure to another, bursting all over the place like freed mercury. But there are other diversions as well: they are first exposed to the magical worlds of jazz, women, and literature by their eccentric fellow travelers, and together they spy on a shackled prisoner, his crime and fate a galvanizing mystery that will haunt them forever. By turns poignant and electrifying, "The Cat's Table" is a spellbinding story about the magical, often forbidden, discoveries of childhood, and a lifelong journey that begins unexpectedly with a spectacular sea voyage.
July 2012 Pick: A stark and allegorical tale of adultery, guilt, and social repression in Puritan New England, "The Scarlet Letter" is a foundational work of American literature. Nathaniel Hawthorne's exploration of the dichotomy between the public and private self, internal passion and external convention, gives us the unforgettable Hester Prynne, who discovers strength in the face of ostracism and emerges as a heroine ahead of her time. As Kathryn Harrison points out in her Introduction, Hester is "the herald of the modern American heroine, a mother of such strength and stature that she towers over her progeny much as she does the citizens of Salem."
June 2012 Pick: Many love stories end in marriage; rare is the love story that begins with one--already promised, already worn. Set in San Francisco during the early part of Obama's presidency, this beautifully drawn novel charts the daily struggles and triumphs of a marriage. Touched by tragedy and by ordinary hopes that have not come true, Lena Rusch and her husband Charlie Pepper must face, for the first time in their lives, real limitation. The compromises and silent promises Lena and Charlie have made are familiar: "If we can have one more healthy baby, we'll be done." "If he can just earn that much money, we'll remake our life. If I can just get through this, I promise I'll become the person I know I should be." Including such unforgettable characters as Cal Rusch, Lena's uncle, a Silicon Valley titan, and Ivy, his socialite wife, whose ruthless desires engender complication in all the lives they touch--their grown children, business partners, friends, the servants and workers upon whom the glamorous life depends--"Three Stages of Amazement "is a riveting story about confronting adversity, gaining wisdom, and finding great love.
April 2012 Pick: Few works of contemporary literature are so universally acclaimed as central to our understanding of the human experience as Nobel Prize winner Samuel Beckett's famous trilogy. "Molloy," the first of these masterpieces, appeared in French in 1951. It was followed seven months later by "Malone Dies" and two years later by "The Unnamable." All three have been rendered into English by the author.
March 2012 Pick: Inspired by her four grandparents (from four different countries), Krauss tells the story of a man who, 60 years ago in the Polish village where he was born, fell in love and wrote a book. And though he doesn't know it, that book survived, inspiring fabulous circumstances, even love.
February 2012 Pick: In this sumptuous offering, one of our premier storytellers provides a feast for fiction aficionados. Spanning four decades and three prize-winning collections, these 21 vintage selected stories and 13 scintillating new ones take us around the world, from Jerusalem to Central America, from tsarist Russia to London during the Blitz, from central Europe to Manhattan, and from the Maine coast to Godolphin, Massachusetts, a fictional suburb of Boston. These charged locales, and the lives of the endlessly varied characters within them, are evoked with a tenderness and incisiveness found in only our most observant seers.