Last week I attended the Heartland Fall Forum, a conference for independent booksellers. Book nerds from all over the Midwest gathered to “meet, network, promote new titles, place orders, and learn crucial skills”. (That’s from the official literature.) It was, as promised, very informative, and loads of fun as well. Sue Boucher was asked to present her favorite books for fall at the Buzz Panel session; unfortunately, I couldn’t attend because I was at the social media session, creatively titled “Tweak Your Tweets”. I learned a lot about Twitter at that session, and have actually started tweeting. Right away, I attracted some followers — including someone whose name I can’t reproduce here because it’s in a foreign alphabet, and another person who seems to be running an escort service.
Another thing I learned at the social media session was that people like to read lists. This made sense to me because I like to read lists, but then I realized I like to read almost anything, including cereal boxes and church bulletins. Anyway, I thought Sue put together a great list of 10 new books to read this fall:
- The Daughters of Mars (Thomas Keneally) — Australian author Keneally won the Booker Prize for Schindler’s List; his new novel tells the story of two sisters, both nurses, who leave their home in Australia to join a hospital ship at the beginning of World War I.
- Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune (Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell Jr.) — Dedman (who won a Pulitzer Prize for journalism) is a cousin of Huguette Clark, the heiress who grew up in the largest house in New York City yet lived the last 20 years of her life in a single room.
- A Guide for the Perplexed (Dara Horn)– Three interconnected narratives (from the Book of Genesis, medieval philosophy, and modern technology) explore the meaning of memory.
- The Last First Day (Carrie Brown) — A quiet and beautiful love story about a couple facing their retirement from a private boys’ school.
- Longbourn (Jo Baker) — For fans of Jane Austen and Downton Abbey — Pride and Prejudice from the point of view of the servants.
- The Lowland (Jhumpa Lahiri) — Two brothers grow up together in India; one becomes involved in radical politics and one travels to the United States to pursue an academic career . . . and they both end up marrying the same woman.
- The Outcasts (Katherine Kent) — A great romp! A woman escapes from a Texas brothel and finds herself on the run from the law.
- The Rosie Project (Graeme C. Simsion) — Reminiscent of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, this is an absolutely delightful story about a brilliant yet socially challenged professor on the hunt for a wife.
- The Signature of All Things (Elizabeth Gilbert) — Yes, the same Elizabeth Gilbert who wrote Eat Pray Love and Committed. But this novel is a total departure from Gilbert’s two memoirs — it’s about a 19th century female botanist.
- Someone (Alice McDermott) — Like The Last First Day, this is a quiet book — the simple, beautifully written story of an ordinary woman, her life, and family.
My book club met last week and we came up with our own list of books. We hadn’t met all summer, and the purpose of our meeting was for us to share our favorite books we had read over the past few months. Here are 10 books our members suggested:
- Sharp Objects (Gillian Flynn) — Flynn’s debut novel is just as dark and disturbing as Gone Girl.
- Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls (Anton DiSclafani) — A coming of age story set in the Blue Ridge Mountains in the 1930s.
- The Burgess Boys (Elizabeth Strout) — The author of Pulitzer-Prize winner Olive Kitteridge returns with the story of three siblings leading very different lives.
- Rules of Civility (Amor Towles) — One of those rare books everyone loves. In Depression-era New York, a young secretary catapults into high society.
- The Other Wes Moore (Wes Moore) — Nonfiction account of two men named Wes Moore — one a Rhodes Scholar, decorated war veteran, and White House Fellow and one a convicted murderer serving a life term in prison.
- Flat Water Tuesday (Ron Irwin) — One reviewer called it “A Separate Peace with rowing”.
- The Perfume Collector (Kathleen Tessaro) — A young woman in London receives a mysterious inheritance that takes her to an old Parisian perfume shop. Packed with information about how perfume is made.
- Beautiful Ruins (Jess Walter) — The New York Times loved this book just as much as Madonna Merritt, our book group recommender, calling it a “high-wire feat of bravura storytelling”.
- Stations of the Heart: Parting With a Son (Richard Lischer) — Lischer, a professor of theology at Duke, has written a beautiful tribute to his son, who died at age 33 of melanoma.
- Sutton (J.R. Moehringer) — Moehringer, author of The Tender Bar (a book group favorite), succeeds admirably at his first foray into fiction. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was a complicated and brilliant man, full of contradictions.