It's unlikely I would have read Winston Graham's "Poldark" without having seen the series opener on Masterpiece Theater this year (admittedly, having the handsome Aidan Turner in the title role helps draw viewers). I purchased the first book, in what I've happily noted is a long series, and read it insatiably in early August. Then I read the second, "Demelza." The third, "Jeremy" sits on my shelves while I consider whether to read it ahead of season two.
Will I go the distance, reading all 12 books? I doubt it. Rarely do I plunge into a series, given that I read for this column and a blog, author profiles, my book club, my ownchoices and books about the writing craft. I don't have the kind of time I did when I devoured Nancy Drew, as a kid left to her own resources. I've never taken the time to re-read "Gone With the Wind" or the Tolkien trilogy, though I want to. I've read the first "Outlander," the first Evanovich, Ken Follett's "The Pillars of the Earth," but not "World Without End." Etcetera.
In fiction reading, I tend to return more often to a specific author, rather than a series. Ivan Doig, Annie Proulx, Louise Erdrich, T.C. Boyle, Colum McCann, Chris Bohjalian, Kate Atkisson, Kristin Hannah, and many of the classics. People do love series, however, and readers often remain absorbed in a favorite author from book one onward. That's what passionate reading is all about. There's also a huge following for historical non-fiction series writers: Bernard Cornwell, Phillippa Gregory, the late Leon Uris, Ken Follett.
"Masterpiece Theater" prodded me to read Henning Mankell's series of Wallander books, one or two Sherlock Holmes mysteries, and now, "Poldark." The entire series is slated for BBC, six seasons in all. It was first popularized in an earlier version, around 1975-76.
"Poldark" is a rich narrative, full of the wild sea and constant winds in Cornwall, draped around the class advantages of the rich amid the everyday difficulties of impoverished lives in 18th century England. Poldark, despite a privileged background, champions the common man. But he has his flaws. I'm absorbed in the love, the greed, the cruelty and the rich characterization it offers. Graham isn't around today to enjoy a second draught of fame, but the stories remain classic for this age as well.
Many of these books make excellent book group fodder, though tackling a series is impossible. Best you can do is focus on one or two of the best ones, hoping members will pursue the others on their own.
R.A. Salvatore, a Leominster-based fantasy writer whose best-sellers include many series, "The Dark Elf Trilogy" and "The Demon Wars Saga" among them, will be guest author at the 7:30 p.m. Sept. 9 "A Conversation with R.A. Salvatore," at the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford, Connecticut. Tickets are $25, available from the museum.
Salvatore has written more than 40 books, selling more than 10 million copies in a dozen languages. During 2012, he received the prestigious Chandler Award of Merit from Thayer Memorial Library in Lancaster.
Worcester resident and artist Karla Cinquanta, marketing and creative content manager at Bancroft School, recently received an Indie Book Award of 2015 for "The Tiny Portrait," a story and picture book for children or adults. Indies recognize the best books from self-published authors an small publishers. The book has also received a Mom's Choice 2015 Gold Award. Cinquanta's story centers on two siblings who discover a tintype portrait of an unknown ancestor in a family heirloom trunk and embark on an adventure as they seek her identity. The children also explore their own connection to the past by creating a family tree. Cinquant's photo illustrations make the book unique. It is available through Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com.
Joseph W. Bebo of Hudson has applied a master's in computer science from Boston University to his latest techno-thriller, "Lamp of the Gods." This self-published work follows a journalist's search for missing astrophysicist Benjamin Teller—pursued by the FBI, police, the White House and those greedy to profit from Dr. Teller's time-exploration discovery. Bebo has written a number of sci-fi novels and two fictionalized histories, "The Charbonneau Letter" and "Of Lake, Land and Liberty: The Battle of Plattsburgh in the War of 1812." The books are available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble.
Organizing your "reads"
Anna Ford, a young book club member in Philadelphia, has created a free book club organizing site—dreamed up with her boyfriend when she wanted to keep better track of selections, member information and popular books. You can also send invites and gather RSVP responses there. She invites book club members to check it out at https://www.bookclubz.com. I did, and thought it interesting to see what other clubs have most liked lately ("The Goldfinch," "Just Kids," "Madame Bovary," "The Magic of Ordinary Days" and "We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves.")
Book group selections
Friday Morning Book Club in Northborough, meets Sept. 11, to discuss "Andersonville," the Pulitzer Prize-winning story of the Civil War prison. The group meets at 10 a.m. in the library.
Food is the topic at Worcester Public Library's September meeting, says Morgan Manzella, reference librarian. She encourages participants to bring in a favorite recipe as the group discusses local harvests. Call the library for times, or email email@example.com.
"We decided to take on another of Sue Monk Kidd’s novels for our September book," says Joan Killough-Miller of the NOW Women's Issues Book group, Worcester. "Most of us liked 'The Secret Life of Bees' very much. Perhaps Kidd is a better novelist than she is memoirist. So the book for Sept. 14 will be 'The Invention of Wings,' a novel set in slavery times, inspired in part by the historic figure of Sarah Grimké." This group meets at 7 p.m. in Barnes & Noble, 541 Lincoln St., Worcester.
Off-Track Bookies in Lancaster is reading JoJo Moyes' touching "Me Before You" for its Sept. 10 meeting.
Full Court Press of Sutton is reading "The Beast in the Garden" by David Baron. Selections are chosen by the month, and recently included: "All the Light We Cannot See;" "The Girl on the Train" and "Orphan Train."
The next meeting of the Douglas Library Book Group will consider "Isaac's Storm" by Eric Larson. The group meets at 6:30 p.m., Sept. 8, marking the 115th anniversary of a hurricane that killed over 6,000 people in Galveston, Texas.
Brown Bag Book Group is reading Ayaan Hirsi Ali's "Infidel" for its Sept. 3 meeting, and "The Girls of Atomic City" by Denise Kiernan for its Oct. 1 meeting. Contact Leominster Public Library for times.
The book club at Fitchburg Public Library meets at 1:30 and 6:30 p.m. for each selection. Next meetings are Sept. 9 and the book is "Signora da Vinci" by Robin Maxwell.
Merrick Public Library's Bannister Book Group, Brookfield, will meet Sept. 29 at 7 p.m. to discuss Cathy Luchetti's "Women of the West," a myth-shattering look at the women who really settled the West, told through their own words and illustrated with period photographs.
The Southbridge book group meets the first Monday of the month at Jacob Edwards Library. Next selection is Maya Angelou's "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" and the meeting is at 6:30 p.m., Sept. 14.
At Thayer Memorial Library in Lancaster, the Adult Book Group has chosen "Enon" by Paul Harding, slated for 6:30 p.m., Sept. 29. All readers welcome. To reserve a copy, call the library.
Anne Young of Heywood Library, Gardner, says the 4:30 p.m., Sept. 30 meeting will revolve around Isabel Allende's "My Invented Country: A Nostalgic Journey Through Chile."
The Contemporary Book Club at Gale Free Library in Holden meets at 10:30 a.m., Tuesday, Sept. 8, to discuss "A Tale for the Time Being" by Ruth Ozeki. Books are available through the library. Coming up in October: "Black River" by S.M. Hulse.
The Pearle L. Crawford Memorial Library Book Group will meet at 6 p.m., Thursday (Sept. 3) to discuss "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry" by Rachel Joyce. Library Director Karen Wall says the group explores a variety of genres in fiction and nonfiction throughout the year, normally meeting the first Thursday of the month. The Oct. 1 selection is Erik Larson's history, "Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania."
Ann Connery Frantz writes about books and book clubs at www.readitandreeap.blogspot.com (sorry for the two e's). Send news or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org