Wednesday, November 2, 2016
Top Ten Books To Read If Your Book Group Likes Classics
I don't write that many Top Ten Tuesday posts but I couldn't resist this one -- some of my happiest reading experiences have been with book groups and I've always found book groups to be the best ways to find kindred spirits. I've been in many book groups and it's always fun to throw in a classic every once in awhile. I've been pleasantly surprised by classics that I thought I would absolutely hate.
I actually couldn't narrow it down to ten, so there are two bonus choices. In no particular order:
1. Germinal by Emile Zola. By far, one of the classics that has had the greatest impact upon me as a reader. I'd read a couple of books by Zola but Amanda from The Zen Leaf suggested our real-life classics book group read Germinal and I understood what all the fuss was about. It's amazing.
2. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. Even though true crime really creeps me out, the writing is just masterful.
3. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. This is short, but powerful, and it speaks to so many women. Some of it is in dialect but it's a really easy (and short) read.
4. The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck. I think I've read this with three different book groups, and it's been a hit every time. Set in China between the wars, the themes about family dynamics are universal.
5. The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham. Another book set in China, but very different from The Good Earth. Kitty Fane is the spoiled, self-centered wife of a doctor working in 1920s Hong Kong, and after her husband realizes she's been unfaithful, he takes her to the Chinese countryside so he can treat a cholera outbreak. It's tragic and beautiful, and one of Maugham's beat (also a great movie adaptation).
6. Main Street by Sinclair Lewis. I finally finished this a couple of months ago and I so wish I could discuss it with a book group! Young and idealistic Carol Kennicott moves from Minneapolis to a small Minnesota town and thinks she can uplift and elevate the locals.
7. Mildred Pierce by James M. Cain. Not so much crime noir as you'd think, this is the story of a really twisted relationship between a working-class mother trying to pull herself up by her bootstraps to impress her ungrateful daughter. They put the fun in dysfunction! I chose it for a book group simply because the library had enough copies and it one of the group's top reads of the year, I can't stop recommending it.
8 & 9. Ethan Frome or House of Mirth by Edith Wharton. Ethan Frome is shorter but House of Mirth has Lily Bart, one of literature's most tragic heroine. They have totally different settings but both of them are about the futility of loving the wrong person.
10. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers. I'd never had any desire to read this but it was for a book group. I was blown away by the beautiful writing and themes of this book about a group of misfits living in a boarding house in a small Southern town. This would be a great choice for a book group that's already discussed To Kill a Mockingbird.
11. West with the Night by Beryl Markham. An amazing memoir by an aviatrix raised in Africa, she was a contemporary of Isak Denisen, Denys Finch-Hatton, and Ernest Hemingway. The writing is just beautiful. There's also a beautiful illustrated edition with lovely photos.
12. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I was nearly done with the list and I realized how tragic most of them are! A Tree Grows in Brooklyn has sad elements, but it's a beautiful and uplifting book. I didn't read it until I was grown up and I am so sorry I waited!
And I can't believed I left out Steinbeck, Dickens, and Hardy! If I don't stop now the list will be twice as long. Bloggers, which classics would you recommend for book groups? Please let me know in the comments.