Bonus Book Content

Good for Book Clubs

You know that feeling when you finish a book and you’re desperately wanting more? We’ve collected Author Essays, Author Q&As, and Reader Guides from many of our featured books to continue your reading journey — and to start a lively book club discussion!

Bonus Book Content Good for Book Clubs

Reading Guide for The Gracekeepers

For readers of The Night Circus and Station Eleven, a lyrical and absorbing debut set in a world covered by water.

Inspired in part by Scottish myths and fairytales, The Gracekeepers tells a modern story of an irreparably changed world: one that harbors the same isolation and sadness, but also joys and marvels of our own age.

As a Gracekeeper, Callanish administers shoreside burials, laying the dead to their final resting place deep in the depths of the ocean. Alone on her island, she has exiled herself to a life of tending watery graves as penance for a long-ago mistake that still haunts her. Meanwhile, North works as a circus performer with the Excalibur, a floating troupe of acrobats, clowns, dancers, and trainers who sail from one archipelago to the next, entertaining in exchange for sustenance.

In a world divided between those inhabiting the mainland (“landlockers”) and those who float on the sea (“damplings”), loneliness has become a way of life for North and Callanish, until a sudden storm offshore brings change to both their lives–offering them a new understanding of the world they live in and the consequences of the past, while restoring hope in an unexpected future.

Reader's Guide Good for Book Clubs

Reader’s Guide for The Life and Death of Sophie Stark

“A fierce, page-turning, exposé of a would-be/could-be bright star. –Marie Claire

Told in a chorus of voices belonging to those who knew Sophie best, The Life and Death of Sophie Stark is an intimate portrait of an elusive woman whose monumental talent and relentless pursuit of truth reveal the cost of producing great art. It is “not only a dissection of genius and the havoc it can wreak, but also a thunderously good story” (Emma Donoghue, author of Room).

It’s a perfect book for book groups, and we’ve gathered some questions that will inspire a lively conversation. We’ve also asked the author to answer some of the questions we had after reading this wonderful novel.

Author Essay Good for Book Clubs

When a Book Becomes a Calling

Forty years after the Fall of Saigon, and fifty years since our nation’s involvement in a conflict that became a long and bloody war in Vietnam, I began to reflect on the journey that has led me to tell the stories of those who serve.

“I ultimately located the parents of Jefferson Donald Davis in Tennessee and Daniel H. Petithory in Massachusetts,” writes bestselling author Eric Blehm. “They invited me to their homes. I spent a weekend sleeping in the bedroom where Dan had grown up, surrounded by the sad but proud memorabilia that honored his death in the line of duty, including the Silver Star and Purple Heart that had been presented posthumously. We sat at the kitchen table for hours. There were tears throughout days that began with coffee, shifted to beer, and ended with good whiskey.”

Perfect for Book Clubs Good for Book Clubs

Conversation with Chris Beckett, author of Mother of Eden

Why do you think it’s so important to debunk stereotypes about literary fiction and science fiction?

“As I’ve said many times before,” says Chris Beckett, author of Dark Eden and Mother of Eden, “all fiction involves making stuff up—making up characters, making up situations—in order to be able to explore aspects of life that might otherwise be impossible to reach. Science fiction’s one defining feature is that, as well as inventing characters and situations, it also invents worlds that are in some way different from the one we actually know.

SF can be brilliant, good, bad, and terrible, but then so can love stories, or war stories, or stories set in the past.”

Author Essay Good for Book Clubs

Why I Love Bookstores (It’s Not What You Think)

Bookstores. One of my favorite places. Right up there with bars, restaurants, nightclubs, the gym, the doctor’s office, dry cleaners, and the DMV.

Can I tell you something? I love bookstores. I do. Not just because I’m a big reader—I loved Flowers in the Attic, Bonjour Tristesse, Anaïs Nin (all), Colette (again: all), Madame Bovary, Dangerous Liaisons . . . you get the idea. (Merci, France! You’ve taught me so much.) No, I love bookstores because they’re full of hot guys. You know what I’m talking about: the kind of guy who’s all scruffy and bespectacled and underfed, wearing corduroy pants and a dorky concert T-shirt, getting all excited over some Swedish poetry or six-hundred-page treatise on the nature of parks in urban landscapes? I love that guy.

Author Essay Good for Book Clubs

Erik Larson is Bringing History to Life on Twitter, and It’s Amazing

Starting today (or rather late last night) one of our favorite authors Erik Larson is recreating history . . . on Twitter!

We love it when authors bring their books to life in cool ways, and this is a fantastic example. Erik Larson – author of the New York Times bestseller Dead Wake will be live-tweeting the last voyage of the Lusitania through the ship’s final moments on May 7th. He’ll be using images and video to bring the story to life.

We can’t wait to watch the story unfold. We’ve captured a feed here on RIF which organizes the tweets in chronological order for easy perusing.

Perfect for Book Clubs Good for Book Clubs

Miranda Beverly-Whittemore on the Books That Inspired Bittersweet

Bittersweet shares a theme with my favorite books: an outsider longs to be part of an elite inner circle, makes it in, and only later pays the steep price of admission.

“There are a few other trends in my most beloved books,” says Miranda Beverly-Whittemore.

“The outsider is almost always poor; his gateway “in” is often a person or group of people on whom he has a crush (or at least a deep admiration); the paradise he gains access to is, at first, seductive for the reader as well, offering a rare glimpse into an elite playground; and there is almost always an unreliable narrator. But all the outsiders in these favorite books are men! And so Mabel Dagmar was born, as was her ‘gateway’ into Winloch—her college roommate, Ev. Here are the books that inspired Bittersweet, all of them delicious reads which have made my mouth water and heart stop.”

Perfect for Book Clubs Good for Book Clubs

Why All the Unlikable Characters? A Conversation with Herman Koch

Your characters have been described as completely unlikable. What is your reaction to that description?

Herman Koch: “They are unlikable in a way, but I personally never dislike them completely. I am not writing satirical novels with caricatures of real bad people in them.

In order to write about, or from the point of view of, a character, I must feel sympathy for him or her in some way. I might disagree with certain actions or thoughts, but I always try to understand them. And last but not least, I truly believe that ‘un-likable’ characters are the salt of the earth—they can be funny and make us laugh, or shock and revolt us, but in the end I think they offer a much more ac- curate version of “the truth” than their more likable counterparts.”