2015-16 Book Club
The Book Club has decided to read short stories over the summer. Feel free to read entire collections, skip around from writer to writer, or approach these stories in whatever way you wish. The list of Short Story Collection for Summer Reading includes links to reviews of the books.
The book club will discuss Rachel Cusk's Outline. New York Times reviewer Heidi Julavits describes Cusk's novel this way: "The narrator of Rachel Cusk's lethally intelligent novel, Outline, is a cipher who inspires other people to confess. In her presence, they divulge stories about their wives and husbands and mistresses, their parents and children and careers. The narrator's bio, meanwhile, remains faintly sketched. She is a woman. She lives in London. She is the mother of more than one child. She is divorced. She is a novelist teaching a summer writing course in Greece." And the reviewer concludes of Cusk "spend much time with this novel and you'll become convinced she is one of the smartest writers alive."
The April Book Club is the final meeting of the year and our end of year celebration, including a potluck dinner, before summer break. Please note that the last book club meeting of the year will take place at Yesim's house.
The book selection for March is Daughters of the Samurai by Janice Nimura. In 1871, five young girls were sent by the Japanese government to the United States. Their mission: learn Western ways and return to help nurture a new generation of enlightened men to lead Japan. Raised in traditional samurai households during the turmoil of civil war, three of these unusual ambassadors―Sutematsu Yamakawa, Shige Nagai, and Ume Tsuda―grew up as typical American schoolgirls. Upon their arrival in San Francisco they became celebrities, their travels and traditional clothing exclaimed over by newspapers across the nation. As they learned English and Western customs, their American friends grew to love them for their high spirits and intellectual brilliance. The passionate relationships they formed reveal an intimate world of cross-cultural fascination and connection. Ten years later, they returned to Japan―a land grown foreign to them―determined to revolutionize women’s education.
For more information on Daughters of the Samurai click here.
The book selection for February is H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald. H is for Hawk appeared on the top of most of the lists of top 10 non-fiction books of 2015 . It is a memoir of Macdonald's response to the death of her father and tells the story of her decision to raise and train a young goshawk. Vicki Constantine Croke in the New York Times calls Macdonald's memoir a "breathtaking new book" in which Macdonald "renders an indelible impression of a raptor's fierce essence-and her own- with words that mimic feathers, so impossibly pretty we don't notice their astonishing engineering."
For more information on H is for Hawk click here.
The selection for January 10 is Kate Atkinson's A God in Ruins. Reviewer Tom Perrotta describes A God in Ruins as "a sprawling, unapologetically ambitious saga that tells the story of postwar Britain through the microcosm of a single family." The novel has been described as a companion volume to Atkinson's Life After Life which we read a few years ago. "Atkinson's book covers almost a century, tracks four generations, and is almost inexhaustibly rich in scenes and characters and incidents....it's a masterly and frequently exhilarating performance by a novelist who seems utterly undaunted by the imposing challenges she's set for herself."
The book club selected Anne Enright's The Green Road as this month's book. It is a family sage covering over 30 years in the life of an Irish family scattered around the globe in New York, Mali, Dublin and beyond. Enright is a previous winner of the Booker Prize. In reviewing The Green Road, The New York Times critic David Leavitt remarks that Enright "writes with authority and confidence" in relating the story of a family whose individual lives tell us much about our recent history. The book club will also use this meting to plan the reading for January. There will be no meeting in December.
The October book club selection is The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. "In this epic novel set in France in World War II, two sisters who live in a small village find themselves estranged when they disagree about the imminent threat of occupation. Separated by principles and temperament, each must find her own way forward as she faces moral questions and life-or-death choices. Haunting, action-packed, and compelling."
We had a lively discussion of quite an array of biographies at our September meeting from Catherine the Great to Katherine Graham and many others. It was good to be back together again discussing books and, in this case, such varied women's lives.
During the summer months, members choose books from a list of titles based on a theme. In September, the Women Faculty Book Club members meet again to discuss the books they read over the summer, including their favorites. This year, the summer theme is women's autobiographies and biographies of women. Some book suggestions are The Abandoned Baobab; The Autobiography of a Senegalese Women by Ken Bugul, Gellhorn: A Twentieth Century Life by Caroline Moorehead, Harriet Jacobs: A Life by Jean Fagin Yellin, The Upstairs Wife by Rafia Zakaria, Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert Massie, Virginia Woolf: An Inner Life by Julia Briggs, Michelle Obama: A Life by Peter Slevin, Tales From the Heart: True Stories From My Childhood by Maryse Conde, Infidel: A Memoir by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and Poet of the Appetites: Life and Loves of M.F.K. Fisher by Joan Reardon.
For reviews on the books above, click here.
The April book selection for April is The Door by Magda Szabo. The Door relates the story of a friendship between two very different women in Communist Hungary. First published in 1987, it has been recently reissued by New York Review Books Classics. The women's friendship is "set on the stage of a single street in mid-twentieth century Budapest" and has been described as an "account of humanity's struggle to love fully and unconditionally, a struggle that is perhaps doomed." NYRB Classics is currently offering books for up to 50% off, so you might want to check out their web site http:/www.nybooks.combooks/imprints/classics/ for book bargains. Hope to see all of you in April to celebrate our reading and our friendship.
The March book club selection is Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life by Hermione Lee. We read Fitzgerald's The Bookshop in 1998. Fitzgerald began publishing as a writer of novels when she was in her fifties "after one of the longest limbering-ups in literary history." She has been described as a writer "who turns out to be a protector of the confused, a lover of lost worlds and causes, rhapsodic on uncertainty and ambivalence." Once awarded and three times nominated for the Booker Prize she had quite a fascinating life for a woman who described herself as "not a professional writer, but only very anxious to write one or two things which interest me."
Please join us in learning more about Penelope Fitzgerald's life. Lee's recent biography of Fitzgerald is our Women's History Month book choice. We are eager to remake acquaintance with some of our members who have been frequently absent. We hope to see you in March.
This month’s book, a Man Booker Prize Finalist, is How To Be Both by Ali Smith (published in two versions).
"An heir to Virginia Woolf, Ali Smith subtly but surely reinvents the novel. . . How To be Both brims with palpable joy, not only at language, literature and art's transformative power but at the messy business of being human, of wanting to be more than one kind of person at once". (The Telegraph)