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mollykm's avatar

What book would you suggest for the first to be read in a book club?

Asked by mollykm (121points) September 19th, 2007
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32 Answers

omfgTALIjustIMDu's avatar

What kind of book club is it? What is the age range of the members? Specific favoritism towards a certain genre? Men or women?

omfgTALIjustIMDu's avatar

Oops, not sure why that posted another response….

mirza's avatar

as omg said it depends on the age range and gender of the members. But here are a few general suggestions –
Song Of Solomon – Toni Morrison
Ishmael – Daniel Quinn.
Catcher In The Rye – JD Salinger
Demian – Herman Hesse

mollykm's avatar

The group is about ten women age’s 25 to 30. We don’t have any certain genre preference but we all work about a million hours a week so would like to choose something that’s not to much of an undertaking if you know what I mean. For instance someone suggested “Eat, Pray, Love” which is great, but have the group has read it. But along those lines would be nice….

mollykm's avatar

sorry, I meant to write HALF the group has read it as opposed to HAVE the group is read it.

mirza's avatar

for women definitely read Song Of Solomon , GREAT GATSBY, The Namesake, The Color Purple (not a huge fan personally but my girlfriend loves it for some reason), A Streetcar Named Desire

mistermister's avatar

what about “the namesake” by jhumpa lahiri (pardon the spelling?) or “middlesex” by geoffrey eugenides. They are both recent but not too recent…i think a good first book group book might be one with a strong plot so that its really easy to get the conversation going. also, just an aside, there was a great scottish tv show a few years ago called “the bookgroup” which you can find on stage6.com..its worth watching.

omfgTALIjustIMDu's avatar

Here are some fantastic books depicting other cultures:
Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Memoirs of a Geisha (don’t know the author)
Kirinyaga by Mike Resnick

gailcalled's avatar

THE NAMESAKE and MIDDLESEX are extraordinary novels but may be too long and too dense for your book clubs’s initial sally.. Ditto KITE RUNNER and GEISHA. Oprah has some mama bear books on her list; not too big and not too small. booklist

And even if half your group has read Eat, Pray, Love, why not start w. it. My sis is reading it w. her book group and loved it. There will never be a choice that someone has not already read. Begin somewhere, anywhere, and get the tone and the level of discourse.

mollykm's avatar

Thanks for all the great answers guys! These are all really great books, many of which I love. I’m happy to take more suggestions however because we would really like to kick it off with a new book to all, or at least most of us and I’m still searching for that. But you all are suggesting some of my favorites of recent years so I look forward to hearing more.

omfgTALIjustIMDu's avatar

There is also the newest book from Khale Hosseini if you have already read Kite Runner, I believe it’s called A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS, but I could be wrong.

gailcalled's avatar

Omg, you took the words out of my mouth, altho I have not read 1000 (you’re right about the title).

@mollymarg; do you plan to read only fiction?

mollykm's avatar

No, we don’t have to stick to fiction. But A thousand… is a great suggestion!

mirza's avatar

am i like the only person in this world who hated the kite runner?

omfgTALIjustIMDu's avatar

I have not read it yet either, I’ve been trying to get my hands on a copy for weeks…unfortunately I have as of yet been unsuccessful :(

gailcalled's avatar

Mirza: what did you hate about it? It was a complicated book.

hossman's avatar

“To Reign in Hell” by Stephen Brust (although that may be a little too complex). Bronte’s “Jane Eyre” followed immediately by “Wide Sargasso Sea” by Jean Rhys, because not only are both outstanding novels in their own right with content very relevant to women, but it is fascinating how one author was able to write a sequel to another author’s work that is so different yet still consistent with the original work.

How about short stories, since time is an issue? A complex short story can stimulate just as much discussion as a novel, without as much time devoted.

I would heartily recommend, not just for the book club, but anybody, “That Beautiful Undiscovered Voice” by Selwa Bakr, a simply amazing short story that speaks to every woman I know who has read it. It’s only a few pages, but no one I know who has read it has not found it moving, insightful and influential. On one level, it is about the struggle of women in a culture that is not only male-dominated, but almost compels women to exist as domestic animals. On another level, it is about the sacrifice of any parent who either chooses or is compelled to sacrifice their own actualization to take care of the domestic needs of a family. It is breathtakingly beautiful, and moved me, I must admit, to open sobbing. I don’t believe I fully appreciated my own mother until I read this story.

mirza's avatar

@gailcalled : i didnt find it a complicated book at all – it was an easy read – the symbols and imagery were easily predictable. The plot did not feel original at all – going to save a kid (now i have seen atleast 3 movies about such rescue movies),friendship differences (theres a french film that came out a long time ago which dealt with the same plot of the friendship between two people of different societies). The book was two cliche. Khaleid Hussaini has no writing style whatsoever – the book is just a story – and yet its so popular.

I prefer books that have a good writing style like Steinbeck, Toni Morrison, Flitzgerald

gailcalled's avatar

Two books I LOVED were suggested to me by Rovdog; “Rohinton Mistry’s A FINE BALANCE as a really powerful Indian story written in English” and his FAMILY MATTERS, also about a small group of interconnected people, in Bombay this time, rather than Calculla and surrounds.

@Mirza; I am always interested in how we all react differently…I thought that the background of the initial stability and then the political chaos in Afghanistan enhanced a complicated story about courage, fear, cowardice, bullying, love and redemption. Hosseini is the first Afghan novelist to gain an international reputation. And altho I appreciate your remarks about clichés, there are really no original ideas left, just original ways of telling old stories. Personally, I am not crazy about either Steinbeck or F Scott. So goes it.

omfgTALIjustIMDu's avatar

I very much agree with Gail, abour all her remarks directed at Mirza…I hated Steinbeck, but I can’t judge Fitzgerald because I havne’t really read much of his stuff.

mirza's avatar

@omfg : read The Great Gatsby by Flitzgerald

omfgTALIjustIMDu's avatar

Yes, thank you for the reminder, I meant to read it over the summer but just didn’t find the time.

gailcalled's avatar

@omg; the most interesting thing about F Scott and his unstable wife, Zelda, were their lives. Altho I did find Gatsby interesting when I read it as a young woman…Mirza, I had forgotten about Daisy and “her voice like money.” (Skip the movie, please. Mira Farrell and Rob’t Redford, badly cast, if I am remembering correctly.)

GothGirl1313's avatar

Our book club, made up of men and women in their late 30’s-50, chose ‘Slaughterhouse Five’ as our first book. Entertaining and timely read, it was a success. We also just wrapped up ‘The Big Sleep’ by Raymond Chandler. The point I brought up is for our next book, it should be by a female author. We had to make a decision that night and the majority voted for Annie Proulx, but if anyone has other suggestions, I’m all ears.

gailcalled's avatar

Barbara Kingsolver, Annie La Mott, Louise Erdlich, Margaret Atwood, Margaret Drabble, Edna O’Brian, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Jane Smiley, Elizabeth Huxley, Izak Dinesen, Jill Ker Conway (first volume of autobiog), But I LOVE Annie Proulx, especially THE SHIPPING NEWS.

Supergirl's avatar

Love That Dog by Sharon Creech

jca's avatar

an excellent book that came out about 8 years ago, Snow Falling on Cedars. I don’t know the author. it’s written like a tapestry, where the two sets of people’s lives are interwoven, two different time periods interwoven. a great book.

mirza's avatar

jca its david guterson

christybird's avatar

This is such a great question! I moved recently and had to leave a great book club behind. :(
Here are a few suggestions you may not have read + that I LOVED:

The Patron Saint of Liars – Ann Patchett (Bel Canto is terrific too but many more people have read that)
Brookland – Emily Barton (a bit long, but good – about a woman gin distiller in 18th century Brooklyn with an ambitious vision)
The Mill on the Floss – George Eliot (I think Eliot should be as frequently read as Austen)
the Emperor’s Children – Claire Messud (anyone in their mid-twenties-early thirties struggling to figure out how to be an adult will relate – perhaps too well! – to this one)
the Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger (again, long, but so original and compelling)
either of Marilynn Robinson’s novels, Gilead or Housekeeping
any of Phillip Roth’s recent work – I really liked the Human Stain

Ok I’m going to make myself stop now.

christybird's avatar

I just re-read your comment about “not too much of an undertaking” and realize that half of the books I suggested are a bit, uh, tome-like. Another one I just thought of that is a quick read and great is “the Collector” by John Fowles. But, it is really really creepy. Anything by Jonathan Lethem is great too, his books are usually more svelte, and not creepy.

gailcalled's avatar

Picking up on Hoss’s excellent juxtaposition of JANE EYRE and WILD SARGASSO SEA, I would recommend Colm Tóibin’s THE MASTER (short-listed for the Booker). It is a novel about Henry James that interweaves biographical data and verbatim sentences from the writings of James, O W Holmes, Emerson, Hawthorne, Thoreau, Oscar Wilde, and other famous contemporaries.

The book is self-referrential – a sentence about James’ voice is written in a Jamesian voice. Then read some James. His short stories and perhaps the least tome-Like novel, WASHINGTON SQUARE.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

You mentioned that your book club was mainly women short on time.

One really quick read that’s actually a great piece of literature is The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros.

It’s only 128 pages and very east to read. And it’s been highly acclaimed. Cisneros won the Columbus Foundation’s American Book Award, the PEN Center West Award for Best Fiction, Quality Paperback Book Club New Voices Award, Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and the Lannan Foundation Literary Award. Cisneros’s work has been highlighted and lauded by The New York Times and American Library Journal. It’s also listed as one of the “500 Best Books by Women”.

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