While Silicon Valley companies are usually about the latest and greatest gadgets, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is embracing a decidedly low-tech trend: book clubs. His New Year’s resolution for 2015 was to read a book every two weeks (the first selection is the 320 page paperback The End of Power by Moises Naim). Unsurprisingly, the Facebook group “A Year of Books” already has more than 190,000 fans.
Although Zuckerberg might not mind a dull book in the midst of his 26 book binge, most members of book clubs don't have the luxury of wasting time on uninspiring texts. So, here are some monthly suggestions to get the most out of your book club reading list this year:
If you’re a pessimist, January’s a cold, bleak, dark month of the year. For optimists, January’s a time for new possibilities and changes in your life. I choose the latter. This month’s pick is The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly. Yes, it’s a YA historical novel, but the Newberry Award-winning story of 11-year-old Calpurnia trying to find her way at the turn of the century as a girl with an unconventional passion for the natural world will surely inspire more than a few readers to make the most of the start of 2015.
In a month focused on love, it’s tempting to select a romance. But if your book club rolls their eyes at Nicholas Sparks novels and finds the usual picks like The Time Traveler’s Wife annoying, go for a twist: Another Bullshit Night in Suck City: A Memoir by Nick Flynn. While the About Flynn movie (2012) didn’t get rave reviews, I’ve never met someone who didn’t love this true story about an incredibly complicated relationship between a con-artist-turned-poet, homeless father and his homeless shelter caseworker son.
It’s Women’s History Month and what better time to re-read a classic text? Past favorites this month have been the essayists Joan Didion and Nora Ephron, along with novelists Virginia Woolf and Jane Austen. 2015’s pick? Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I read it in high school and hated Jane for returning to Rochester. I learned to appreciate Jane’s strength in college, but a re-read in my mid-twenties made me truly appreciate the complex choices that Bronte constructed for Jane. What would a re-read teach you? There’s only one way to find out.
In Spring, suddenly everyone’s got a green thumb. While you contemplate ordering 17 different types of zucchini seeds even through you hate zucchini, farmers are actually gearing up for the start of their busy seasons. While there are plenty of farm memoirs (believe me, I’ve read more than a few), one of my favorites is The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball.
Toni Morrison’s newest book God Help the Child is slated for an April 30th release. Sounds like a good excuse to devote the next month to reading this new book or going back to an old Morrison favorite.
Are you there, readers? It’s me, Judy Blume. The YA author is coming out with her first new novel for adults in 15 years and it’s already generating a lot of buzz. In the Unlikely Event uses the real-life series of plane crashes over a span of three months in 1951-1952 near her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey as a backdrop to the stories of three generations of a family. Since it’s a Judy Blume book, expect plenty of “first love, estranged parents, difficult friendships, familial obligations, divorce, career ambitions, a grandparent’s love, a widower’s hope, and everything in between.” My bet: Oprah will probably be promoting this book pretty heavily.
As you sip bottomless margaritas poolside, it’s inevitable that your reading lists descend into fluffy fare. But it’s a good time to remind yourself that once you get off that deck chair, you actually have work to do. Tracy Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World tells the incredible story of a dedicated physician, who along with his charity, Partners in Health, is healing one patient, one country at a time.
Sure, the SF Giants only seem to win World Series in even years, but there’s still plenty of time to enjoy a day out at the ballpark. What better way to celebrate America’s pastime than with The Setup Man by Bay Area writer T.T. Monday (a.k.a. Nick Taylor)? This mystery novel about an aging pitcher named Johnny Adcock, who moonlights as a P.I., is sure to win over baseball fans and everyone else too.
Even in the mad rush of fall publications, there will be plenty of attention given to Jonathan Franzen’s latest book Purity. While little has been revealed yet about this book, your book club can have the satisfaction of being among the first to judge it.
Sure, you could pick Frankenstein or any Stephen King novel, but why not try something off the beaten path? Nathaniel Philbrick’s In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex tells the story of the 1820 sinking of the Nantucket whaleship Essex in the South Pacific. While drifting for 90 days in three small whaleboats, the eight survivors faced “weather, hunger, disease, and ultimately turning to drastic measures in the fight for survival.” Sounds too horrific? There’s always In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. Both require sleeping with a nightlight on.
Reading David Giffels’ hilarious book All the Way Home: Building a Family in a Falling-Down House will make you grateful for all the little things you take for granted in your life, like a roof not infested with all manner of wildlife. Fair warning: despite the many pitfalls Giffels endures trying to restore this Gilded Age mansion in Akron, Ohio, you may also find yourself feeling a little jealous that you aren’t there to enjoy the rewards of his hard work.
It’s tempting to choose A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and celebrate the holiday spirit. But for those looking for a beautifully written book that reminds you of the quiet majesty of the American West and the pioneer spirit, there’s always James Galvin’s The Meadow.