Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New books and 2012 suggestions

As we stare down the rumblings of another year, we bravely face the need to clean, reorganize, list goals and promise things will be different.
Poo on that.
Let’s just read more good books and be done with it.
Fellow readers suggest these titles. I’ve included some of them here, and also a listing of relatively recent releases that promise to, at least, entertain or inform us.

Millbury’s Roving Readers nominate “Power of One,” by Bryce Courteney. While its title raises the image of a self-help book, this is a novel about a boy, during a war. It’s reputed to be “the classic novel of South Africa.” I have some reservations about that, but time will tell. It sounds fascinating: As World War II darkens the globe, apartheid begins to unleash itself in South Africa, where Peekay is born, abandoned, cruelly treated. He vows to escape his bonds through heroic plots and takes a journey through the land, with its tribal superstitions and modern prejudices, learning that words have the power to transform lives.

Several groups liked Meg Waite Clayton’s “The Wednesday Sisters,” which is right up all of our alleys, being a novel about a book club. Its members’ tight bonds, their personal growth and support for each other, enrich the story.

Several folks, mostly locals, or residents who’ve ventured elsewhere, responded to a request for “one terrific read.” I repeat their suggestions here, without prejudice:
Jenn Fenn Lefferts: “Unbroken,” a favorite in several book clubs, is an extraordinary nonfiction narrative of survival by Laura Hillenbrand, author of the popular “Seabiscuit.”
Beth Antos: You can expect a lot of prose in “Pillars of the Earth,” Ken Follett’s humongous work about intrigue and mayhem in the building of a 12th century cathedral (still being aired on public television). Wikipedia can help you keep the characters straight as you read this big boy of a book.
Barb Chapman: “Affinity,” by Sarah Waters, (“The Little Stranger,” “Fingersmith)” is about a late-1800s spinster in London who reacts to grievous loss by taking on charity work at a prison for women. It’s a historical novel, offering much appetite-whetting emotional conflict for book club members.
Al Tuttle: An overlooked novel (published in 1968, again in 2003), “It Happened in Boston?” is Russell H. Greenan’s amazing story of a brilliant, unhinged artist who strives to meet God face-to-face, seeking only to destroy Him. Unforgettable characterization and many plot twists that shock. An “underground” classic, it’s a fascinating read.
Elizabeth Marble: This reader prefers classics like Charles Dickens’ “Bleak House” and “Great Expectations,” and suggests Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” a sci-fi tale in which women are subjugated under a totalitarian theocracy after the United States government is overthrown. It explores themes of women in subjugation and their means of escaping it.
Amy Brenner-Fricke: Wally Lamb’s books (“She’s Come Undone,” “I Know This Much is True,” and “The Hour I First Believed”). Lamb looks for what is most real beneath the assumptions we make about others, whether it’s the behavior of a schizophrenic brother or the cutting humor of a young woman on the road to obesity. In “The Hour …” he confronts doubts about God and hope. I’d suggest as well “Couldn’t Keep it to Myself,” written by his female writing students at the York Correctional institution in Connecticut. Again there are powerful voices and moments of hope.
Diane Brown: suggests that Jane Austen is always a good read. Thousands of readers agree.
Michele Callan: Gail Tsukigama’s “Dreaming Water,” published in 2003, is a rich, multi-layered story about a mother and daughter, and two lifelong friends. The story surrounds Cate, recently widowed, her cares for her daughter, Hana, who has Werner’s syndrome, which ages a person at twice the normal rate.
Mary Montalvo recommends Ed Sutter’s “Patient 13.” This novel deals with the reverse of Hana’s aging disease. When an experiment results in an elderly alcoholic becoming physically younger, he flees the lab, only to be found by a therapist who uncovers centuries of memories in the man. Of course, those who could profit by it are after Patient 13’s blood. It’s sci fi, something many clubs don’t delve into, and may be a nice break.

The following recently published books may appeal to clubs seeking fresh reads:
Every Day by the Sun.” Dean Faulkner Wells—whose guardian and uncle was the famed author William Faulkner—published her memoir last spring, shortly before her death. She wrote of her life with William Faulkner, whom she called “Pappy.”
Then Again.” Actress Diane Keaton published this memoir in mid-November. It is about her mother and herself. Mom filled 85 journals during her life. So the real-life “Annie Hall” steps forward to reveal her mother, Dorothy Hall. Keaton’s portrait is candid, a memoir of four generations in her family. It’s also the story of her mother, restless and full of creative energy, seeking an outlet for her own talents.
It Chooses You.” Screenwriter Miranda July traveled around Los Angeles to meet strangers she found in the local PennySaver. For real. Her experiences resulted in these essays about strangers, as well as an artist’s experiences with procrastination, boredom and making art.
11/22/63.” They say good fiction begins with the question, “What if?” Stephen King’s latest, published Nov. 8, asks what if President John Kennedy could be saved from assassination by time-travel? Well, why not? King’s always unique, and we eagerly await this tale.
Damned.” The author of “Fight Club” released this in late October.
There was a popular cartoon strip in the Sunday funnies during my youth, Hatlo’s Inferno, that showed people in Hell, enduring various forms of punishment. It was grim. Palahniuk is well capable of outdoing Hatlo, and “Damned” is his look at Hell through the eyes of, unbelievably, as 13-year-old girl who finds herself there after death.

How do you keep members involved in your book club, and how do you seek new members? Share the details by contacting Ann Frantz at Catch up on earlier columns and other reading tidbits at (yes, two ee’s in reeap).