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Chris Bohjalian's Secrets of Eden

Publishers Weekly's starred review of Chris Bohjalian's Secrets of Eden (February 2010):

"Bohjalian (Law of Similars) has built a reputation on his rich characters and immersing readers in diverse subjects—homeopathy, animal rights activism, midwifery—and his latest surely won’t disappoint. . .This is a masterfully human and compassionate tale."

Developing characters, interesting issues and themes, and, of course, secrets revealed. What more can a reading group want! 

Look for Secrets of Eden in February and a surprise in the February 2010 Reading Group Choices e-newletter!

Become of fan of Secrets of Eden

Go Chris!

Chris reveals some of his faves of 2009 books in his e-newsletter.

"I am asked often what I am reading.  Well, among the books that I particularly enjoyed this year and I can recommend for you and your families and friends are:
Perfection, by Julie Metz
• Americans in Space, by Mary E. Mitchell
Her Fearful Symmetry, by Audrey Niffenegger
• The Girl Who Played with Fire, by Stieg Larsson
• The Third Reich at War, by Richard J. Evans
• The Story Sisters, by Alice Hoffman
Life Class, by Pat Barker

Among the terrific galleys or manuscripts I read for books you will see in 2010.

Look for:
• The Informer, by Craig Nova (January)
• A Taste of Honey, by Jabari Asim (March)
• Authentic Patriotism, by Stephen P. Kiernan (May)"

Barbara's picture

Teaser Tuesday 12/8

My 12/8 Tuesday Teaser!.

One Amazing Thing by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (February 2010)

"The dark was full of women's voices, keening in a language he did not know, so that at first he thought he was back in the war. The thought sucked the air from his lungs and left him choking."

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!


Barbara's picture

Strout's Emotionism in Fiction

I found this post online -- a review of Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout"s novel, by Rebecca Wells Jopling

Jopling expresses the incredible way Strout using emotion to develop and portray her characters. In her review, Jopling deftly reveals how Strout gets down to the nitty gritty of emotion and the way it plays with ideas and thoughts in our lives. She is spot-on and comments on Strout's creative writing in dealing with self-discovery, personal issues, and narrative perspective. Perfect issues for a lively book discussion!

In an interview with Tom Ashbrook, host of NPR’s “On Point,” Strout expressed herself quite passionately on how emotions are distorted from our earliest years:

I think that from a very young age, we are taught to use language in a distorted way, and therefore our feelings are distorted. For example, if a little child says, in anger or frustration, “I hate my brother!” then of course the mother says, “You do not hate your brother.” And I’m not saying that she shouldn’t be admonishing the child. We are trying to live in a civilized way. But what I am saying is that this happens again and again, for years and years and years, until our feelings that we have expressed at a young age in their most primitive form, they have been retaught...and I think what happens is that we end up not really knowing what we feel sometimes, and not really knowing our emotions, and therefore not being able to be fully compassionate to somebody else, because if we don’t know what we’re feeling, then we’re going to have trouble knowing what somebody else is feeling. So I really do think that we go to fiction or poetry or literature to find that sentence that’s either muscular enough or felicitous enough to return us to the truthfulness and clarity of what we did once know about human emotions in ourselves and then in other people.

Please read this fascinating and intriguing review.

Taken from On Fiction

OnFiction is a magazine with the aim of developing the psychology of fiction. Using theoretical and empirical perspectives, the writers endeavour to understand how fiction is created, and how readers and audience members engage in it.

Barbara's picture

Anne Tyler's New Book

Anne Tyler's new novel is coming out in January! This is her eighteenth.

Noah's Compass is a story about Liam Pennywell, a schoolteacher, who is forced to retire at sixty-one and has to come to terms with the final phase of his life. His early retirement doesn't bother him so much -- didn't like the job at the run-down private school, anyway.

Liam is bothered by the fact that he has lost the memory of what happened the night he moved into his new condominium. All he knows when he wakes up in the hospital is that his head is sore and bandaged.

His attempts to recover his moments of his life that was stolen from him leads him on a unexpected detour. All he needs is someone to remember for him. Well, he gets something quite different that he was counting on!

Tyler lives in Baltimore and all of her stories are set in Baltimore. I live near Baltimore so I enjoy the regional character of her books. Along with, of course, her excellent writing.

All of her books are great reading group choices. Can't wait to read Noah's Compass.

Barbara's picture

Inquiring Minds Want to Know

Every so often, I get email and/or comments on OTB that I would like to share with you. Sometimes, more cooks in the kitchen can produce a great meal!

Karen runs a “Movie Discussion Group” at her local community center.   “Are there any resources with “suggested questions” for use when discussing movies? Thanks.”

Bonnie asks: “Any ideas for the December meeting? Christmas/holiday themes. One year we went to a play - the Christmas Carol. Last year we all brought in our favorite holiday book. Some adult, some classic, some children's. That was fun, but what should we do this year?”

Jennis comments, "I was just wondering if you could include something in your reviews about the content of the books.  I have bought many books that I have heard were good, but in reading them find that I am often offended.....I don't like to spend money on things that I feel are not in good taste...and I know that is a matter that is different to each person.  Maybe a side bar that rates these things would be good for adult books. I am not the only one who would like this.....Just a thought. : )

Any thoughts, suggestions, resources for Karen, Bonnie, or Jennis? Please comment and keep the conversation going.

Barbara's picture

Robert's Reflections

Everyone has a mentor -- whether it is a family member, teacher, boss, fellow colleague. Robert Segedy, veteran bookseller, was/is mine. His knowledge and experience of the book world has assisting me though my bookseller days and beyond. His dry,and sometimes acerbic, humor saved me through many situations! Every so often, Robert will be adding his thoughts and ideas to this book blog. Thanks so much, Robert!

When I first started bookselling, there was no such thing as computer databases or the Internet; everything was done by hand or memory. When a book was sold, the title was written down. For reorders, an index card marked the spot on the shelf, and was retrieved later, so another copy could be ordered. If someone asked if the store had a book in stock, it was up to the bookseller that managed that section to actually know whether or not the store carried it. Instead of Google, we used the massive and immediately out of date Books in Print; forthcoming titles were researched on microfiche (I know, what was that?). Yes, it all sounds so terribly antiquated and old-fashioned, but it was bookselling, by god.

Today, anyone with a computer has access to an untold wealth of information; authors have Facebook pages, publishers have websites, and millions of people are making their opinions known -- from the mundane to the cerebral.

A quick search of the words "book clubs" bring forth a tidal wave of options -- from Oprah's sacred selections to the humble individual blogster -- one can work this particular vein like a prospector on the trail for gold.

So what does it all mean? Is reading making a much discussed return to the forefronts of coolness? Have reading clubs merely replaced previous generation's bridge clubs and sewing circles? Do you really believe that people are starved for the opportunity to gather and discuss ideas, to engage in enlightened conversation? Are we really that hungry for culture? Are we famished for the nourishment that can only come from a great book?

I believe that we are. I think that we are tired of being bludgeoned with reality television and smug attitudes, bored to death of shallow characters reciting tired lines that pass for comedy or drama or entertainment.

Yes, only a book can engage the brain, warm the heart, touch the soul.  When a reader picks up a book and begins that special process, when the words flow off the page and we are swept along in the journey, we are partaking in a wondrous experiment. Books can become very special friends -- they can remind us of certain times in our lives, they can entertain, educate, enthrall us.  It is often said that reading is a solitary habit, and it usually is. We do need to bring a certain amount of commitment with us, an ability to sit still and focus, a willingness to surrender to the text.

But in a book club, we have an unique opportunity. We can be among other readers, we can speak of what books have touched our lives, we can feel a certain feeling of pride in being a booklover.

Books can be so much more than a mere distraction, a temporary entertainment. Books can unite us with their words, they can educate us, and most importantly, books can make us feel whole again.

In these times of media overload, of limited attention spans, of
the idiocy of multi-tasking, we all need some quiet time with a good book and a chance to dicuss ideas and issues important to us. That is what book clubs and reading groups are all about!

Barbara's picture

Teaser Tuesday Two

Just got Secrets of Eden by Chris Bohjalian in the mail. I loved Midwives and The Double Bind so I'm very excited to start reading this. So, my teaser today:

"In theory, I knew a very great deal about prayer, so praying shouldn't have been all that difficult. I had studied it at seminary, I had read all the right books."

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

What's yours?

Barbara's picture

Cool Video from New Zealand

This video is so cool. Maurice Gee's short stories and novels are well known for their real or imaginatively reworked local settings, dysfunctional families and sketches of violence. Gee’s numerous publications, and his wide readership, have contributed to his status as one of New Zealand’s most significant writers.

The New Zealand Book Council says that "Going West (1993) is significant for its exploration of the nature of literary creation ..."

Talk about "literary creation!" Thanks to Reading Matters,  New Zealand Book Council and The Fiction Desk!



Barbara's picture

Women Unbound Reading Challenge

The term Women's Studies is "the multidisciplinary study of the social status and societal contributions of women and the relationship between power and gender.". (Webster's dictionary). The Women Unbound reading challenge has participants reading nonfiction and fiction books related to the rather broad idea of ‘women’s studies.’ The challenge runs from November 2009-November 2010, but you may join in the fun whenever you wish! The challenge runs from November 2009-November 2010, but you may join in the fun whenever you wish!

For nonfiction, this would include books on feminism, history books focused on women, biographies of women, memoirs (or travelogues) by women, essays by women and cultural books focused on women (body image, motherhood, etc.). The topics listed aren’t mean to be exhaustive; if you come across a nonfiction book whose subject is female-related, it counts! Of course, if you’re not sure you can always ask about it in a comment.

It’s trickier to say what is applicable as fiction. Obviously, any classic fiction written by a feminist is applicable. But where do we go from there? To speak generally, if the book takes a thoughtful look at the place of women in society, it will probably count.

At the end of the day, it’s up to you to explain in your review why you chose this for the challenge and its connection to women’s studies. Once again, if you need some specific ideas, check out the ‘Reading Lists’ page.

One quick note about author gender. There isn’t a rule if a book’s written by a woman it counts and if by a man it doesn’t count. Men can be feminists and that not all women are feminists. As long as the book adheres to the definition of women’s studies

Interested in participating? Great! There are three levels you can choose as a reader:

  • Philogynist: read at least two books, including at least one nonfiction one.
  • Bluestocking: read at least five books, including at least two nonfiction ones.
  • Suffragette: read at least eight books, including at least three nonfiction ones.

I've signed up! What about you? The sky's the limit, have fun and report back to Women Unbound and me. I'll like to see what you reading.  

Barbara's picture

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My teasers: "She could take the key from where it hangs next to the fridge, pick her way over the wet grass, pushing the baby in his squeaking pram, open up the door and go inside. She could look at what is pinned to the wall, at any canvases she's left leaning against the cupbord, she could try to reconnect with whatever it was she'd been doing before."

--The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O'Farrell (galley)


What's your teaser?

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