Fall Reading

Last night’s Book Club marked the 7th year of reading for our group.  We have traipsed from genre to genre, high brow to low brow.  Our final selection this year took us from Chicago to Europe to spend the 1920’s with Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley, in The Paris Wife.  I am an English major.   I now realize I created a fanciful mythology regarding the macho Ernest, the glamorous F.Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Alice B Toklas, and all of their salon society.    Paula McLain’s novel,  based on Hemingways’s The Movable Feast ,  informed me that these and many other American writers ditched this country to live as expats after World War I.  The fact that the war was fought on European dirt seemed to infuse culture with a permissive, almost destructive indifference to discipline and character.  I now have a new lens through which to view these beautiful people, and their vices and excesses obscure their beauty.    I am not sure that The Great Gatsby will ever be the same novel to me.

I have dabbled with my summer reading, and stumbled upon great books.  ( Room,Faith, Maine, The Year We Left Home) and some fun distractions (The Weird Sisters) As summer closed, I tip toed into the Hunger Games Trilogy and now I want to just park and sponge them up.  But these are darkly themed, and my seasonal blues will only allow incremental exposure.  My KIndle tells me I am halfway through Book2.  I knew the main characters would survive Book I- after all, there are two more books.  But Catching Fire, and Book 3, Mockingjay  hold no such guarantees.  Suzanne Collins wrote these for young adult readers; they are adrenaline infused. I like to limit my heartpounding.   This restricts my reading.  If I begin to read at night, I do not want to stop until all my characters are safe.  And in this post-apocalyptic world, they are never safe.

Next month the Bookbags return to one of our favorite authors, Ann Patchett with State of Wonder. Bel Canto was one of my  favorite books, ever, despite the fact that I know nothing about opera.  I was so determined to live in that world that I bought a truck load of opera music on I Tunes.  It has messed up my Genius recommendations irretrievably.

I have promised to list all of the Book Bags selections, and here they are.  The BOLD selections were our “Book of the Year” and the italics are reserved for books we universally hated.  We are a positive group, and we try to find merit in what we spend time on.  But there were a few clunkers, so noted.

The Book Bags: 8 years of Reading

Year 1

The Jane Austen Book Club,  Karen Joy Foster

The Devil in the White City,  Erik Larson

The Red Tent , Anita Diamant

I am Charlotte Simmons,  Tom Wolfe

The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini

The Other Boleyn Girl, Philippa Gregory

My Sister’s Keeper ,Jodi Picoult

Plan B ,Anne Lamott

The Narrows, Michael Connelly

Nemesis,  Peter Evan


Year of Pleasures,  Elizabeth Berg

One Thousand White Women,  Jim Fergus

Life of Pi,  Yann Martel

The Curious Incident of the DogIn the Night Time,  Mark Haddon

I’m a Stranger Here Myself ,Bill Bryson

The Reading Group, Elizabeth Noble

Transister Radio, Chris Bohjalian

March, Geraldine Brooks

The Memory of Running, Ron McLarty

The Rich Part of Life ,Rick Kokoris

Molokai,Alan Brennert


Sullivan’s Island,  Dorothea Benton Frank

The Poe Shadow,  Matthew Pearl

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter,  Kim Edwards

The Glass Castle,  Jeanette Wallis

The Power of One,   Bryce Courtenay (maybe our favorite EVER)

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan,  Lisa See

Bel Canto,  Ann Patchett

Broken for You, Stephanie Kallos

The Tortilla Curtain,  T.C. Boyle

Water for Elephants,  Sara Gruen

Song of Solomon,  Toni Morrison

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,  Jonathan Froer


A Thousand Splendid Suns,  Khaled Hosseini

Pope Joan,  Donna Woolfolk Cross

Annie Freeman’s Fabulous Traveling Funeral,  Kris Radish

Eat, Pray, Love  Elizabeth Gilbert

Loving Frank,  Nancy Horan

People of the Book,  Geraldine Brooks

Dry , Augusten Burroughs

The Tenderness of Wolves,  Stef Penney

Blink , Malcolm Gladwell

The Year of Fog,  Michele Richmond

The Pillars of the Earth,  Ken Follett


The Book Thief , Mark Zusak

American Wife,  Curtis Sittenfeld

The Shack , Wm. Paul Young

The Thirteenth Tale,  Diane Setterfield

Infidel,  Ayan Hirsi Alii

Olive Kitteridge ,Elizabeth Strouts

The Guernsey LiteraryAnd Potato Peel Pie Society,

by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Schaffer

Dreamers of the Day, Mary Doria Russell

Emma , Jane Austen

A Reliable Wife ,Robert Goolrick


Cutting for Stone,  Abe Verghese

The Help,  Kathryn Stockett

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,  Stieg Lasrsson

Shadow Divers,  Robert Kurson

The Elegance of the Hedgehog,  Muriel Barbury

Empire Falls,  Richard Russo

Catcher in the Rye,  J.D. Salinger

Let the Great Earth Spin, Colum McCann

Into Thin Air,  Jon Krakauer

The Postmistress, Sarah Blake

Shutter Island,  Dennis Lehane

Wolf Hall,  Hilary Mantel



Every Last One,  Anna Quindlen

Little Bee,  Chris Cleave

Shadow of the Wind,  Carlos Ruiz Zafron

Freedom,  Jonathan Franzen

Tiger , John Vaillant

Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy

The Things They Carried,  Tim O’Brien

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,  Rebecca Skloot

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand,  Helen Simonson

Let’s Take the Long Way Home,  Gail Caldwell

The Paris Wife, Paula McLain


8.(to be read….)

Year of Wonder , Ann Patchett

The Submission, Amy Waldman

I am giving some thought to packing a bag of books and running away to the lake next week.  It could happen….I’ll let you know.  There will be no bullfight or fishing books, ever again.   I am still sour on Ernest.  He behaved badly toward his Paris Wife.  And he thought we were narrow and too boring to write of.  So there…



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