Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

When You Share a Name With a Literary Character

What’s in a name? Well, if you share one with a famous literary character…a lot! When you read a book where the protagonist shares your name, it’s easy to get invested in the character.

Most of my friends and family call me by my nickname, Nora. As a kid, I was thrilled when my parents gave me a picture book titled Nora and the Bear, about—you guessed it—a girl and a bear. Nora gets lost in the snowy woods, and the bear she was supposed to be hunting helps guide her back to her village. For my reading level at the time, it was an action-packed thriller. I felt a frission of excitement whenever I saw my name on the page, and it was like reading about an adventure I could have in the future. I’m sure the enjoyment of reading that book is one of the (many) reasons I became a bookworm.

I felt a similar sense of kinship when I read A Doll’s House in high school. Written in the late nineteenth century, the play was ahead of its time in its portrayal of an independent woman. Nora, the protagonist, challenges societal norms and leaves her husband so she can discover herself. I found myself feeling protective and proud of the character, as though we had a special connection.

Giveaways Good for Book Clubs

Literary Fiction Giveaway: Fates and Furies

Fates and Furies is a literary masterpiece that defies expectation. A dazzling examination of a marriage, it is also a portrait of creative partnership written by one of the best writers of her generation.

Every story has two sides. Every relationship has two perspectives. And sometimes, it turns out, the key to a great marriage is not its truths but its secrets. At the core of this rich, expansive, layered novel, Lauren Groff presents the story of one such marriage over the course of twenty-four years.

At age twenty-two, Lotto and Mathilde are tall, glamorous, madly in love, and destined for greatness. A decade later, their marriage is still the envy of their friends, but with an electric thrill we understand that things are even more complicated and remarkable than they have seemed. With stunning revelations and multiple threads, and in prose that is vibrantly alive and original, Groff delivers a deeply satisfying novel about love, art, creativity, and power that is unlike anything that has come before it. Profound, surprising, propulsive, and emotionally riveting, it stirs both the mind and the heart.

Bonus Book Content Good for Book Clubs

The Gates of Evangeline

Start Reading The Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young. (One of our favorite picks for fall!)

I can’t pinpoint the moment I cross over. It comes slowly: the seductive darkness, my face and limbs dissolving into something weightless and fuzzy. Then consciousness spreads through me like caffeine. My senses come alive.

This time there is water. A soft shhh, on either side of me.

I wait. Try to orient myself. Am I in a boat?

The darkness lifts, and a picture forms. Swamp. I’m on a rowboat, a canoe maybe, drifting through brown water and swirls of green scum. Around me I see dead leaves, rotted branches curling like fingers, partially submerged trees clawing their way upward. On my right, I catch a flash of movement. Watchful green eyes peer up at me. An alligator.

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

How to Make a Book Gift Still Special

We love books, but receiving one as a gift is an entirely different matter. Often it can seem like an impersonal gift, making the recipient believe that his/her friend, family member, or significant other expended no more effort than walking into a bookstore and snatching up the closest title on the New and Popular table. It takes a very special set of circumstances to make a book a truly exceptional present, superseding all other gift options. Here’s how:

Figure out his/her tastes. You wouldn’t buy an unathletic friend workout gear, or flashy jewelry or clothes for a significant other whose tastes run more minimal. Similarly, you have to consider what your recipient would actually like to read, not just what you want him/her to read. Is he your horror-movie buddy? Recreate that experience with a page-turning thriller. Does she work a drudging office job? That’s an entire subgenre!

Do your research! Did she love Gone Girl or Station Eleven? You’ve got resources like Read It Forward and GoodReads to find the new and classic books that will hit those same emotional and thematic beats. There are readers everywhere eager to share what they loved (and didn’t), so consider them a litmus test.

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

I Said I Read This Book, But I Lied

A few years back, I bought a one-way ticket to a small Pacific island called Yap, packing only a few t-shirts and the hundred books I was most embarrassed not to have read. The books were the usual suspects: War and Peace, The Bible, and Dave Barry Turns 40. Since writing my own vaguely humorous book (A Beginner’s Guide to Paradise) about reading all those books, I’ve been asked on occasion, “Did you really read all hundred books?”

“Oh sure,” I usually say.

“All of them?” a few of the incredulous have asked.

“Well, yeah. Basically.” To me, basically, was a kind of hedge, a moat around the truth that few would want to cross. Because to get beyond “basically,” by definition means to get more complex and few people want that. I try not to start sentences with ‘to be honest,’ but to be honest, I didn’t read one book in its entirety: Moby-Dick. And I may have quickly skimmed a few parts of The Bible.

I know Moby-Dick is a pillar of literature, a pillar supporting the roof of…I don’t know…much easier-to-read literature. And at 208,773 words in length, it’s 40% shorter than The Brothers Karamazov. But still, to me, Moby-Dick feels at least several hundred words too long.

And this is coming from someone who has a high tolerance for plodding. Everyone has a hidden talent, and—not to brag—but I have two: the ability to make turkey sandwiches (including sliced tomato) with only my toes, and extreme patience when it comes to the less-than-zesty. How patient?

When I was a kid, I used to watch televised city council meetings for hours. Proposed changes to pension plan funding schedules for municipal workers? Tell me more! Street-repair bond packages? Bring it! So when I brought Moby-Dick to Yap, I thought; I got this. It turns out, however, I didn’t have this.

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

The Best Thing I Ever Found Tucked in a Book

I worked in a bookshop between 1996 and 2002. What a brilliant job that was for a book nerd like me! To my mind, there is something almost sacred and spiritual about books, and walking into a beautiful bookshop is akin to entering a church. Books are my religion, I have to admit.

One of the best parts of my job was looking through the secondhand books (the shop sold both new and used books), cleaning and dusting them before placing them on the shelves for sale. I found many forgotten bookmarks tucked inside those fusty pages. Once I stumbled across a lock of Victorian hair, which was macabre, but so pretty and ethereal. I found numerous postcards, receipts, bank notes and newspaper and magazine clippings. My favorite finds were the letters, always fascinating, always giving away something of the writer. One in particular caught my eye and my imagination.

Giveaways Good for Book Clubs

Enter to Win We Never Asked for Wings from the Bestselling Author of The Language of Flowers

From the beloved New York Times bestselling author of The Language of Flowers comes her much-anticipated new novel about young love, hard choices, and hope against all odds.

For fourteen years, Letty Espinosa has worked three jobs around San Francisco to make ends meet while her mother raised her children—Alex, now fifteen, and Luna, six—in their tiny apartment on a forgotten spit of wetlands near the bay. But now Letty’s parents are returning to Mexico, and Letty must step up and become a mother for the first time in her life.

Navigating this new terrain is challenging for Letty, especially as Luna desperately misses her grandparents and Alex, who is falling in love with a classmate, is unwilling to give his mother a chance. Letty comes up with a plan to help the family escape the dangerous neighborhood and heartbreaking injustice that have marked their lives, but one wrong move could jeopardize everything she’s worked for and her family’s fragile hopes for the future.

Vanessa Diffenbaugh blends gorgeous prose with compelling themes of motherhood, undocumented immigration, and the American Dream in a powerful and prescient story about family.

Giveaways Good for Book Clubs

Literary Fiction Giveaway: Days of Awe

“An immensely gifted writer—a writer adept at capturing the sad-funny mess that happens to be one woman’s life” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

Celebrated for her irresistibly witty, strikingly intelligent examinations of friendship and marriage, Lauren Fox has written her most powerful novel to date. Days of Awe is the story of a woman who, in the wake of her best friend’s sudden death, must face the crisis in her marriage, the fury of her almost-teenage daughter, and the possibility of opening her cantankerous heart to someone new.

Teeming with longing, grief, and occasional moments of wild, unexpected joy, Days of Awe is a daring, dazzling book—a luminous exploration of marriage, motherhood, and the often surprising shape of new love.