Category Archives: Book Club Book Ideas

I’ll Finish It On My Next Trip

…Dear Committee Members, Over the past twenty-odd years I’ve recommended god only knows how many talented candidates for the Bentham January residency – that enviable literary oasis in the woods south of Skowhegan: the solitude, the pristine cabins, the artistic camaraderie, and those exquisite hand-delivered satchels of apples and cheese… Well, you can scratch all prior nominees and pretenders from your mailing lists, because none is as provocative or as promising as Darren Bowles.

Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher

From the book flap:

“…this droll and inventive novel uses to tell (the) tale is a series of hilarious letters of recommendation that he is endlessly called upon by this students and colleagues to produce, each one of which is a small masterpiece of high dudgeon, low spirits, and passive-aggressive strategies.”

As a fan of ‘inventive’ story-telling, I had to pick this up, and I’m betting it is as good as all the reviews say but I can’t say yet if that is true. This isn’t a book to be read slowly and savored, a chapter (or a letter) a night; it should be read in one sitting or, at most, over one weekend.

I read the first 5 letters with great enjoyment, but then it was a few days before I had time to read again and starting with the 6th letter after even that short period of time, wasn’t working. Therefore, I am considering this book for 2017 Brooklyn Book Group recommendation as well as a top choice for my next flight.


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Why We Meet

Emma Washburn watched the small figures across the mouth of the river. There was no change. Not that she could see from where she stood in the front room, which served as dining and sitting room for the Pines.

Prudence by David Treuer


We’ve agreed to only bring one (or one and a back-up in the event your one is suggested by someone else) suggestion to next month’s meeting to select our 2016 Brooklyn Book Club reading list. As one of the people who brought more than a dozen ideas last year (and the year, and the year before that…), I’m taking this need to winnow down my list very seriously. It has me wondering about what sort of a book makes the best Book Club read? I don’t expect it is the same for all groups, so I should be more specific, what is the best type of book for us? Non-fiction that makes us think, perhaps even debate? Light novels that result in friendly conversation? Heavy stories that we want to know how they impact other readers? Books that will result in philosophical discussion or ones that will make us all start reminiscing about our childhoods (this has happened more times than you’d think in our group)?

For example, I would recommend Prudence because I have questions that my Brooklyn Book Club co-members might be able to help answer. I’m going to attempt to phrase these in a way so they aren’t spoilers, but if you haven’t read it and you want to know nothing going in to a story, don’t keep reading.

Why did the author spend most of the first 153 pages on a particular character that didn’t make an appearance in the other 100 pages? What happened to Emma and Jonathan; did Mr. Treuer expect us not to care or to be able to assume the rest of their story line?

The prologue starts with this sentence: Everyone remembers that day in August 1952 when the Jew arrived on the reservation. It seems likely that the Jew was the stranger who visited Gephardt, but I didn’t understand that entire section so knowing that didn’t help me understand the significance to the mention of the Jew. Unless it was about secrets; although Gephardt doesn’t show up until page 215 and I didn’t care about his secrets.

Did Prudence die (this is revealed in the 4th sentence of the prologue) because she realized Billy was telling the truth about Frankie?


A funny thing happened as I wrote this post, I think I understand the story more than before I wrote it. In fact, I had to change the questions because as I wrote them I gained understanding of the story and answered the original questions myself.

So I may not be able to bring a dozen different titles to book group next month, but I’ll still have this blog to help me sort through any book I read.

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That Time of Year Again

Today we meet to select next year’s reading list. What recommendations will I bring?

How to Build a Girl: A Novel

“Vivid and full of truths…. There’s a point in midlife, when you’re already built, as it were, when the average coming-of-age story starts to feel completely uninteresting. But Moran is so lively, dazzlingly insightful and fun that “How to Build a Girl” transcends any age restrictions.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

Stone Mattress: Nine Tales

“Witty and frequently biting … this book’s stories offer characters a chance to put their own understandings of gallantry, courage and revenge to the test, in ways both mundane and extraordinary.”
—The New York Times Book Review

Everything I Never Told You: A Novel

Lydia is dead. From the first sentence of Celeste Ng’s stunning debut, we know that the oldest daughter of the Chinese-American Lee family has died. What follows is a novel that explores alienation, achievement, race, gender, family, and identity–as the police must unravel what has happened to Lydia, the Lee family must uncover the sister and daughter that they hardly knew. There isn’t a false note in this book, and my only concern in describing my profound admiration for Everything I Never Told You is that it might raise unachievable expectations in the reader. But it’s that good. Achingly, precisely, and sensitively written. –Chris Schluep

The Museum of Extraordinary Things: A Novel

“Alice Hoffman employs her trademark alchemy of finding the magical amid the ordinary in her mesmerizing new novel.…If you’re looking for an enchanting love story rich with history and a sense of place, step right up to The Museum of Extraordinary Things.” (USA Today)

Delicious!: A Novel

“Its title strikes me as perfectly apt. . . . The novel presents a whole passel of surprises: a puzzle to solve; a secret room; hidden letters; the legacy of James Beard; and a parallel, equally plucky heroine from the past, who also happens to be a culinary prodigy.”—The New York Times Book Review

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What Do We Want To Read?

At today’s meeting of the Brooklyn Street Book Group, we’ll be choosing books for the upcoming year and everyone has been asked to bring ideas.

I am bringing four:

The summary of Patron Saint of Liars sounds so familiar I wonder if I’ve already read it, but reading the first few pages does not trigger a memory. That doesn’t sound like a great selling point for the rest of the group, I should probably come up with some other explanation.

Bel Canto, Ann Patchett’s other title on my list, has had rave reviews from everyone I know, but that might include the rest of the group and they might not want to reread it.

My sister is a great fan of David Sedaris and his book Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim so I’ve been meaning to read it.

Finally, Olive Kitteridge, and its author, Elizabeth Stout, have had rave reviews and this book is on my personal list to read.

All four are books I plan to read whether or not they are on the group’s list, all four are books I already own.

Really need to work on my sales pitch!

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3 Days Ago I Hadn’t Heard of Her, Now I Want To Read Everything She’s Written

Catching up on newspaper reading 3 days ago I read a short interview with author Curtis Sittenfeld. Just enough to get me to add her work,including Prep and Sisterland, to my list of books to read. For good measure I also added books that she mentioned to the list:
Sea Creatures by Susanna Daniel, which she describes as an intelligent page-turner about, among other things, South Florida, art, insomnia, and marriage;
Old School by Tobias Wolff;
Oh The Glory of It All by Sean Wilsey; and
Far From The Tree by Andrew Solomon, about how we as a society define disability and react to differences.

And then, as so often happens, reading a different newspaper a bit later I find a review of her book Sisterland. Then I read an essay in the New York Times Magazine (July 14, 2013) that I enjoyed; you won’t be surprised to hear that the author was Ms. Sittenfeld.

One name and six new additions to the list.

Book club note: Ms. Sittenfeld suggests Far From The Tree as a “great book club pick (that would) lead to really interesting conversations.” She also recommends breaking it into three different meetings.

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