The Recommended by a Stranger Book Club
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April 2015 Selection: In her comic, scathing essay "Men Explain Things to Me," Rebecca Solnit takes on what often goes wrong in conversations between men and women. She writes about men who wrongly assume they know things and wrongly assume women don't, about why this arises, and how this aspect of the gender wars works, airing some of her own hilariously awful encounters.
She ends on a serious note-- because the ultimate problem is the silencing of women who have something to say, including those saying things like, "He's trying to kill me!"
The updated edition of this national bestseller features two new essays, including Solnit's recent essay on the remarkable feminist conversation that arose in the wake of the 2014 Isla Vista killings.
March 2015 Selection: Doctor Julie Walker has just signed her divorce papers when she receives news that her younger sister, Heather, has gone into labor. Though theirs is a strained relationship, Julie sets out for the hospital to be at her sister's side - no easy task since the streets of San Francisco are filled with commotion. Today is also the day that Julie will find herself at the epicenter of a violent standoff in which she is forced to examine both the promising and painful parts of her past - her Southern childhood; her romance with her husband, Tom; her estrangement from Heather; and the shattering incident that led to her greatest heartbreak.
February 2015 Selection: "Stick and stones break bones. Words kill."
They recruited Emily Ruff from the streets. They said it was because she's good with words.
They'll live to regret it.
They said Wil Parke survived something he shouldn't have. But he doesn't remember.
Now they're after him and he doesn't know why.
There's a word, they say. A word that kills.
And they want it back . . .
"Best thing I've read in a long time . . . a masterpiece." --Hugh Howey, "New York Times" bestselling author of "Wool"
January 2015 Selection: Only the author of Flaubert's Parrot could give us a novel that is at once a note-perfect rendition of the angsts and attitudes of English adolescence, a giddy comedy of sexual awakening in the 1960s, and a portrait of the accommodations that some of us call "growing up" and others "selling out."
Novmber 2014 Selection: Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; the second expedition ended in mass suicide, the third expedition in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another. The members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within weeks, all had died of cancer. In "Annihilation," the first volume of Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy, we join the twelfth expedition.
The group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain, record all observations of their surroundings and of one anotioner, and, above all, avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.
They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers--they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding--but it's the surprises that came across the border with them and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another that change everything.
October 2014 Selection: The carnival rolls in sometime after midnight, ushering in Halloween a week early. The shrill siren song of a calliope beckons to all with a seductive promise of dreams and youth regained. In this season of dying, Cooger & Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show has come to Green Town, Illinois, to destroy every life touched by its strange and sinister mystery. And two boys will discover the secret of its smoke, mazes, and mirrors; two friends who will soon know all too well the heavy cost of wishes. . .and the stuff of nightmare.
Few American novels written this century have endured in the heart and memory as has Ray Bradbury's unparalleled literary classic SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES. For those who still dream and remember, for those yet to experience the hypnotic power of its dark poetry, step inside. The show is about to begin.The carnival rolls in sometime after midnight, ushering in Halloween a week early. The shrill siren song of a calliope beckons to all with a seductive promise of dreams and youth regained. In this season of dying, Cooger & Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show has come to Green Town, Illinois, to destroy every life touched by its strange and sinister mystery. And two boys will discover the secret of its smoke, mazes, and mirrors; two friends who will soon know all too well the heavy cost of wishes. . .and the stuff of nightmare.
Few American novels written this century have endured in the heart and memory as has Ray Bradbury's unparalleled literary classic SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES. For those who still dream and remember, for those yet to experience the hypnotic power of its dark poetry, step inside. The show is about to begin.
September 2014 Selection: Hilariously picaresque, epic in scope, alive with the poetry and vigor of the American people, Mark Twain's story about a young boy and his journey down the Mississippi was the first great novel to speak in a truly American voice. Influencing subsequent generations of writers -- from Sherwood Anderson to Twain's fellow Missourian, T.S. Eliot, from Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner to J.D. Salinger -- "Huckleberry Finn," like the river which flows through its pages, is one of the great sources which nourished and still nourishes the literature of America.
August 2014 Selection: Walker meets Rachel at a glamorous party by the bay. When she turns up at his apartment two days later, there is a hint of erotic promise in the air. But it isn't Walker she wants--at least not yet. Her husband, Malory, has gone missing, and she wants Walker to find him.
So begins Walker's quest, as well as this beautiful novel that takes our hard-boiled knight across the vast landscape of an imaginary middle America that begins subtly to morph into something stranger. Walker's search intensifies, and soon it seems that somebody else is searching for him. In "The Search," his second novel, Geoff Dyer concocts a sophisticated and enthralling narrative puzzle.
July 2014 Selection: The international publishing sensation--over six million copies sold worldwide!
A reluctant centenarian much like Forrest Gump (if Gump were an explosives expert with a fondness for vodka) decides it's not too late to start over . . .
After a long and eventful life, Allan Karlsson ends up in a nursing home, believing it to be his last stop. The only problem is that he's still in good health, and in one day, he turns 100. A big celebration is in the works, but Allan really isn't interested (and he'd like a bit more control over his vodka consumption). So he decides to escape. He climbs out the window in his slippers and embarks on a hilarious and entirely unexpected journey, involving, among other surprises, a suitcase stuffed with cash, some unpleasant criminals, a friendly hot-dog stand operator, and an elephant (not to mention a death by elephant).
It would be the adventure of a lifetime for anyone else, but Allan has a larger-than-life backstory: Not only has he witnessed some of the most important events of the twentieth century, but he has actually played a key role in them. Starting out in munitions as a boy, he somehow finds himself involved in many of the key explosions of the twentieth century and travels the world, sharing meals and more with everyone from Stalin, Churchill, and Truman to Mao, Franco, and de Gaulle. Quirky and utterly unique, " The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared" has charmed readers across the world.
June 2014 Selection: A special 25th anniversary edition of the extraordinary international bestseller, including a new Foreword by Paulo Coelho.
Combining magic, mysticism, wisdom and wonder into an inspiring tale of self-discovery, The Alchemist has become a modern classic, selling millions of copies around the world and transforming the lives of countless readers across generations.
Paulo Coelho's masterpiece tells the mystical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure. His quest will lead him to riches far different--and far more satisfying--than he ever imagined. Santiago's journey teaches us about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, of recognizing opportunity and learning to read the omens strewn along life's path, and, most importantly, to follow our dreams.
May 2014 Selection: 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.
April 2014 Selection: A Winner of the Alex Award, a finalist for the "Los Angeles Times" Book Prize for First Fiction, named a Best Book of the Year by NPR, "Los Angeles Times," and "San Francisco Chronicle
The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon away from life as a San Francisco web-design drone and into the aisles of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. But after a few days on the job, Clay discovers that the store is more curious than either its name or its gnomic owner might suggest. The customers are few, and they never seem to buy anything--instead, they "check out" large, obscure volumes from strange corners of the store. Suspicious, Clay engineers an analysis of the clientele's behavior, seeking help from his variously talented friends. But when they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, they discover the bookstore's secrets extend far beyond its walls. Rendered with irresistible brio and dazzling intelligence, Robin Sloan's "Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore" is exactly what it sounds like: an establishment you have to enter and will never want to leave.
March 2014 Selection: Milkman Dead was born shortly after a neighborhood eccentric hurled himself off a rooftop in a vain attempt at flight. For the rest of his life he, too, will be trying to fly. With this brilliantly imagined novel, Toni Morrison transfigures the coming-of-age story as audaciously as Saul Bellow or Gabriel Garci a Ma rquez. As she follows Milkman from his rustbelt city to the place of his family's origins, Morrison introduces an entire cast of strivers and seeresses, liars and assassins, the inhabitants of a fully realized black world.
February 2014 Selection: This stunning and elegiac novel by the author of the internationally acclaimed Wind-Up Bird Chronicle has sold over 4 million copies in Japan and is now available to American audiences for the first time. It is sure to be a literary event.
Toru, a quiet and preternaturally serious young college student in Tokyo, is devoted to Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman, but their mutual passion is marked by the tragic death of their best friend years before. Toru begins to adapt to campus life and the loneliness and isolation he faces there, but Naoko finds the pressures and responsibilities of life unbearable. As she retreats further into her own world, Toru finds himself reaching out to others and drawn to a fiercely independent and sexually liberated young woman.
A poignant story of one college student's romantic coming-of-age, Norwegian Wood takes us to that distant place of a young man's first, hopeless, and heroic love.
January 2014 Selection: "What if your life was upended in an instant? What if your spouse or your child disappeared right in front of your eyes? Was it the Rapture or something even more difficult to explain? How would you rebuild your life in the wake of such a devastating event? These are the questions confronting the bewildered citizens of Mapleton, a formerly comfortable suburban community that lost over a hundred people in the Sudden Departure. Kevin Garvey, the new mayor, wants to move forward, to bring a sense of renewed hope and purpose to his traumatized neighbors, even as his own family disintegrates. His wife, Laurie, has left him to enlist in the Guilty Remnant, a homegrown cult whose members take a vow of silence but haunt the town's streets as "living reminders" of God's judgment. His son, Tom, is gone, too, dropping out of college to follow a crooked "prophet" who calls himself Holy Wayne. Only his teenaged daughter, Jill, remains, and she's definitely not the sweet "A" student she used to be.
Through the prism of a single family, Perrotta illuminates a familiar America made strange by grief and apocalyptic anxiety. "The Leftovers "is a powerful and deeply moving book about regular people struggling to hold onto a belief in their futures.
November 2013 Selection: Winner of the 2011 National Book Award A hurricane is building over the Gulf of Mexico, threatening the coastal town of Bois Sauvage, Mississippi, and Esch's father is growing concerned. A hard drinker, largely absent, he doesn't show concern for much else. Esch and her three brothers are stocking food, but there isn't much to save. Lately, Esch can't keep down what food she gets; she's fourteen and pregnant. Her brother Skeetah is sneaking scraps for his prized pitbull's new litter, dying one by one in the dirt. Meanwhile, brothers Randall and Junior try to stake their claim in a family long on child's play and short on parenting.As the twelve days that make up the novel's framework yield to their dramatic conclusion, this unforgettable family-motherless children sacrificing for one another as they can, protecting and nurturing where love is scarce-pulls itself up to face another day. A big-hearted novel about familial love and community against all odds, and a wrenching look at the lonesome, brutal, and restrictive realities of rural poverty, "Salvage the Bones" is muscled with poetry, revelatory, and real.
August 2013 Selection: This exquisite, resonant novel by PEN/Faulkner winner James Salter is a brilliant portrait of a marriage by a contemporary American master. It is the story of Nedra and Viri, whose favored life is centered around dinners, ingenious games with their children, enviable friends, and near-perfect days passed skating on a frozen river or sunning on the beach. But even as he lingers over the surface of their marriage, Salter lets us see the fine cracks that are spreading through it, flaws that will eventually mar the lovely picture beyond repair. Seductive, witty, and elegantly nuanced, "Light Years" is a classic novel of an entire generation that discovered the limits of its own happiness--and then felt compelled to destroy it.
July 2013 Selection: Hig somehow survived the flu pandemic that killed everyone he knows. Now his wife is gone, his friends are dead, and he lives in the hangar of a small abandoned airport with his dog, Jasper, and a mercurial, gun-toting misanthrope named Bangley.
But when a random transmission beams through the radio of his 1956 Cessna, the voice ignites a hope deep inside him that a better life exists outside their tightly controlled perimeter. Risking everything, he flies past his point of no return and follows its static-broken trail, only to find something that is both better and worse than anything he could ever hope for.
June 2013 Selection: Winner of the PEN/Faulkner AwardFor Fiction
National Book Award and "Los Angeles Times" Book Prize Finalist
A "New York Times" Notable Book
A gorgeous novel by the celebrated author of "When the Emperor Was Divine" that tells the story of a group of young women brought from Japan to San Francisco as "picture brides" nearly a century ago. In eight unforgettable sections, "The Buddha in the Attic" traces the extraordinary lives of these women, from their arduous journeys by boat, to their arrival in San Francisco and their tremulous first nights as new wives; from their experiences raising children who would later reject their culture and language, to the deracinating arrival of war. Once again, Julie Otsuka has written a spellbinding novel about identity and loyalty, and what it means to be an American in uncertain times.
May 2013 Selection: January 1946: writer Juliet Ashton receives a letter from a stranger, a founding member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. And so begins a remarkable tale of the island of Guernsey during the German occupation, and of a society as extraordinary as its name.
April 2013 Selection: Published posthumously in 1964, "A Moveable Feast" remains one of Ernest Hemingway's most enduring works. Since Hemingway's personal papers were released in 1979, scholars have examined the changes made to the text before publication. Now, this special restored edition presents the original manuscript as the author prepared it to be published.
Featuring a personal Foreword by Patrick Hemingway, Ernest's sole surviving son, and an Introduction by grandson of the author, Sean Hemingway, editor of this edition, the book also includes a number of unfinished, never-before-published Paris sketches revealing experiences that Hemingway had with his son, Jack, and his first wife Hadley. Also included are irreverent portraits of literary luminaries, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ford Maddox Ford, and insightful recollections of Hemingway's own early experiments with his craft.
Widely celebrated and debated by critics and readers everywhere, the restored edition of "A Moveable Feast "brilliantly evokes the exuberant mood of Paris after ?World War I and the unbridled creativity and unquenchable enthusiasm that Hemingway himself epitomized.
February 2013 Selction: "From the summer of my twelfth year I carry a series of images more vivid and lasting than any others of my boyhood and indelible beyond all attempts the years make to erase or fade them... " So begins David Hayden's story of what happened in Montana in 1948. The events of that cataclysmic summer permanently alter twelve-year-old David's understanding of his family: his father, a small-town sheriff; his remarkably strong mother; David's uncle Frank, a war hero and respected doctor; and the Haydens' Sioux housekeeper, Marie Little Soldier, whose revelations turn the family's life upside down as she relates how Frank has been molesting his female Indian patients. As their story unravels around David, he learns that truth is not what one believes it to be, that power is abused, and that sometimes one has to choose between family loyalty and justice.
January 2013 Selection: This is a beguiling fable that shines with the wonder of imagination, the beauty of romance, and the power of storytelling. Set during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, the novel tells the story of two hapless city boys sent to a remote mountain village for reeducation.
November 2012 Selection: From the critically acclaimed author of "The 25th Hour "and "When the Nines Roll Over," a captivating novel about war, courage, survival -- and a remarkable friendship that ripples across a lifetime.
During the Nazis' brutal siege of Leningrad, Lev Beniov is arrested for looting and thrown into the same cell as a handsome deserter named Kolya. Instead of being executed, Lev and Kolya are given a shot at saving their own lives by complying with an outrageous directive: secure a dozen eggs for a powerful Soviet colonel to use in his daughter's wedding cake. In a city cut off from all supplies and suffering unbelievable deprivation, Lev and Kolya embark on a hunt through the dire lawlessness of Leningrad and behind enemy lines to find the impossible.
By turns insightful and funny, thrilling and terrifying, "City of Thieves" is a gripping, cinematic World War II adventure and an intimate coming-of-age story with an utterly contemporary feel for how boys become men.
October 2012 Selection: Oddly compelling and often hilarious, Roach visits the good deeds of cadavers over the centuries and tells the engrossing story of our bodies when we are no longer with them.
September 2012 Selection: One night, after the first snowfall of the year, a boy named Jonas wakes up and discovers that his mother has disappeared. Only one trace of her remains: a pink scarf, his Christmas gift to her, now worn by the snowman that inexplicably appeared in their yard earlier that day. Inspector Harry Hole suspects a link between the missing woman and a suspicious letter he's received. The case deepens when a pattern emerges: over the past decade, eleven women have vanished--all on the day of the first snow. But this is a killer who makes his own rules . . . and he'll break his pattern just to keep the game interesting, as he draws Harry ever closer into his twisted web. With brilliantly realized characters and hair-raising suspense, international bestselling author Jo Nesbo presents his most chilling case yet--one that will test Harry Hole to the very limits of his sanity.
August 2012 pick: When a dying millionaire hires Philip Marlowe to handle the blackmailer of one of his two troublesome daughters, Marlowe finds himself involved with more than extortion. Kidnapping, pornography, seduction, and murder are just a few of the complications he gets caught up in.
July 2012 Selection: First published in 1899, this beautiful, brief novel so disturbed critics and the public that it was banished for decades afterward. Now widely read and admired, "The Awakening" has been hailed as an early vision of woman's emancipation. This sensuous book tells of a woman's abandonment of her family, her seduction, and her awakening to desires and passions that threated to consume her. Originally entitled "A Solitary Soul, " this portrait of twenty-eight-year-old Edna Pontellier is a landmark in American fiction, rooted firmly in the romantic tradition of Herman Melville and Emily Dickinson. Here, a woman in search of self-discovery turns away from convention and society, and toward the primal, from convention and society, and toward the primal, irresistibly attracted to nature and the senses "The Awakening," Kate Chopin's last novel, has been praised by Edmund Wilson as "beautifully written." And Willa Cather described its style as "exquisite, " "sensitive, " and "iridescent." This edition of "The Awakening" also includes a selection of short stories by Kate Chopin.
June 2012 Selection: An irresistible comic novel from the master storyteller Percival Everett, and an irreverent take on race, class, and identity in America
"I was, in life, to be a gambler, a risk-taker, a swashbuckler, a knight. I accepted, then and there, my place in the world. I was a fighter of windmills. I was a chaser of whales. I was Not Sidney Poitier."
Not Sidney Poitier is an amiable young man in an absurd country. The sudden death of his mother orphans him at age eleven, leaving him with an unfortunate name, an uncanny resemblance to the famous actor, and, perhaps more fortunate, a staggering number of shares in the Turner Broadcasting Corporation.
Percival Everett's hilarious new novel follows Not Sidney's tumultuous life, as the social hierarchy scrambles to balance his skin color with his fabulous wealth. Maturing under the less-than watchful eye of his adopted foster father, Ted Turner, Not gets arrested in rural Georgia for driving while black, sparks a dinnertable explosion at the home of his manipulative girlfriend, and sleuths a murder case in Smut Eye, Alabama, all while navigating the recurrent communication problem: ""What's your name?" a kid would ask. "Not Sidney," I would say. "Okay, then what is it?""