October is National Reading Group Month and a great time to think about starting a book group, joining one or changing how your current group functions. Tips for Book Groups can help in planning for a new group or in enriching the discussions in your existing group.
The library’s book group collection has sets of good books for discussion that can be checked out with a discussion packet. Browsing the book group titles has just become easier with the library’s new KitKeeper option. Simply go to www.epls.org and click on the box that says Book Group Sets. Titles can be reserved online and you will receive an email confirmation of your reservation and another email when the set is ready for you to pick up.
We will be adding five new titles to the book group collection soon. You might want to consider one of these for your group. I’ve included a brief synopsis of each title and possible ideas for further discussion:
The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan Philipp Sendker
When a successful Wall Street attorney disappears, his adult daughter Julia travels to his native Burma (Myanmar) hoping to find him. When she arrives a mysterious man approaches her and begins to tell her a story. He asks if she believes in a love that knows no bounds. She doesn’t know how to answer – is he speaking of romantic love or the love one feels for a child. As the story unfolds she finds out. Discuss the themes of love and death in this book and how Burmese and Western attitudes toward love and death differ. Think about why this particular title was chosen for this book. Consider the ambiguous ending and how Julia will face the future.
The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro
Claire Roth is a struggling artist who agrees to create a copy of a painting at the request of a friend – an act that has serious repercussions for herself and the people she cares about. Discuss the characters in this book and what motivates them. Why does Claire make the decisions she does? What else could she have done? Several other characters also make questionable decisions – what motivates them? Talk about the book’s structure. The author inserts letters from the past throughout the book. What is the author trying to do by inserting these letters? How do they relate to the rest of the story? Do they enhance the story or detract from it?
In Falling Snow by Mary Rose MacColl
Young Australian nurse, Iris Crane travels to France to find her 15-year-old brother who has run away to fight in World War I. Once there she meets a woman who is a doctor and who is setting up a hospital near the front for the war wounded. Iris joins the hospital staff and has a very intense experience for several years. Much later her granddaughter learns the whole truth about what happened in France so long ago. Discuss the life-changing decisions that Iris makes and whether you agreed with her decisions. Could you have done what she did? An issue in this book is the lives and choices of women. Compare the lives and choices of Iris and her granddaughter.
Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan
An English woman is recruited into the British Secret Service in the 1970s during the Cold War. She is given the assignment of cultivating a novelist who will – it is hoped – write novels with messages the Services thinks are appropriate. This is a book about deception and betrayal. Talk about who is deceived and betrayed. How did you react to the deceptions and betrayals? Consider how the story speaks to the issue of intellectual freedom. Is this topic still relevant today? With the book’s ambiguous ending, reflect on how you wanted the story to end.
The Mirrored World by Debra Dean
In this tale of love and devotion set during the reign of Catherine the Great of Russia, Xenia, a young aristocrat, reacts dramatically to tragedies in her life. Discuss whether Xenia was mad or simply devout. Talk about the significance of the title. Consider reading and discussing Catherine the Great by Robert Massie first as it will expand your understanding of The Mirrored World.