The Prose Practice – Books for Book Groups

I am currently ‘oop north’ in Manchester and have been joined at my aunties by the lovely Granny Savidge Reads (though she does prefer to be known as simply Gran) and last night she was asking me my advice on possible choices for one, of the three that she is a member of, book groups and their choices of reads next year.

They already have a list of possible options and the idea is that each member of the group chooses twelve of the titles from the list giving them points in order of preference (twelve being the maximum and working down) and the ones that get the most votes are the twelve they head for in 2011.

Naturally I thought that all of you would make a wonderful panel who could recommend a title of twelve from the list, rather than just me. So here without further ado, and in order of authors first name, is the list of the possible reads, I have crossed some out as Gran had already read them and didn’t fancy them again or just didn’t fancy end of – though I am sure she could be persuaded by you all…

  • The Children’s Book – A.S. Byatt
  • The Yacoubian Building – Alaa al Aswanny
  • La’s Orchestra Saves The World – Alexander McCall Smith
  • The Long Song – Andrea Levy
  • The White Tiger – Aravind Adiga
  • The Card – Arnold Bennett
  • Dreams From My Father – Barack Obama
  • Our Mutual Friend – Charles Dickens
  • Last Train From Liguria – Christine Dwyer Hickey
  • Short Stories – D.H. Lawrence
  • Death Sentence – David Lodge
  • Counting My Chickens – Deborah Devonshire
  • These Foolish Things – Deborah Moggach
  • The Good Soldier – Ford Maddox Ford
  • Girl in a Blue Dress – Gaynor Arnold
  • Adam Bede – George Elliott
  • Three Cups of Tea – Greg Mortenson
  • Kafka on the Shore – Haruki Murakami
  • Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel
  • Family Romance – John Lancaster
  • Paradise Postponed – John Mortimer
  • The Plague of Doves – Louise Erdrich
  • An Education – Lynn Barber
  • The Red Queen – Margaret Drabble
  • The Memory Box – Margaret Forster
  • The Glassblower of Murano – Marina Fiorato
  • Florence Nightingale – Mark Bostridge
  • The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
  • The Hamilton Case – Michelle De Krester
  • Memento Mori – Muriel Spark
  • The Wasted Vigil – Nadine Aslam
  • Great Fortunes – Olivia Manning
  • Border Crossing – Pat Barker
  • Peripheral Vision – Patricia Ferguson
  • The Law of Dreams – Peter Belling
  • Trespass – Rose Tremain
  • Sacred Hearts – Sarah Dunant
  • The Little Stranger – Sarah Waters
  • Engleby – Sebastian Faulks
  • Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
  • The Beacon – Susan Hill
  • Restless – William Boyd
  • A Whispered Name – William Brodrick
  • The Believers – Zoe Heller

That’s quite a list isn’t it? I am sure you can understand why I thought opening this up to all of you would be much more helpful as I haven’t heard of half of the authors. Which is also an apology if therefore I have spelt some titles and authors wrongly, I am going by the spreadsheet Gran brought with her. I did recommend ‘The Little Stranger’ oddly as though I didn’t initially love it, it grew on me over time, I would have loved to have read it and been able to discuss the ending and what it all seemed to mean.

So which twelve would you pick and why? I know Gran will be popping by and checking, as will I as I have some of these on Mount TBR which I have been itching to get around too. Let us know, if you could suggest twelve in orderof preference and why that would be amazing…

16 Comments

Filed under Book Group, The Prose Practise

16 responses to “The Prose Practice – Books for Book Groups

  1. I think my top choice would be Our Mutual Friend. I’ve never read any Dickens (shame!) but it seems like there is always so much going on in each of his novels that a book group would never lack things to discuss! Family Romance and Momento Mori would also rank high on my list.

  2. An impressive book discussion list. I don’t know all of the authors/books, so really can’t say “pick me first”.

    I would definitely do Three Cups of Tea. We did last winter and had quite a discussion on the book. I’m not sure how much discussion would come from Counting My Chickens, though Debo’s new book sounds like it would worthy of a discussion. I think it was just released and would be worth looking into.

    I have found that those books in which we didn’t like the ending, the subject matter, etc. are the ones that promote the greatest book discussions.

  3. gaskella

    A friend who is a classics professor recommended ‘Last train to Liguria’ to me which is on my TBR and I’ve been meaning to read ‘Engleby’ for ages.

    Of those I have read, ‘An Education’ was brilliant and covers more of Barber’s life than the episode in the wonderful film, ‘The Glassblower of Murano’ was an interesting and easy read, and ‘Our Mutual Friend’ is my fave Dickens so far.

  4. • The Children’s Book – A.S. Byatt 4
    • The Long Song – Andrea Levy 6
    • Our Mutual Friend – Charles Dickens
    • Last Train From Liguria – Christine Dwyer Hickey
    • Short Stories – D.H. Lawrence 3
    • Death Sentence – David Lodge
    • Counting My Chickens – Deborah Devonshire
    • These Foolish Things – Deborah Moggach
    • The Good Soldier – Ford Maddox Ford
    • Girl in a Blue Dress – Gaynor Arnold 9
    • Three Cups of Tea – Greg Mortenson
    • Family Romance – John Lancaster
    • The Plague of Doves – Louise Erdrich 8
    • An Education – Lynn Barber 10
    • The Red Queen – Margaret Drabble
    • The Memory Box – Margaret Forster
    • The Glassblower of Murano – Marina Fiorato 5
    • Florence Nightingale – Mark Bostridge
    • The Hamilton Case – Michelle De Krester
    • Memento Mori – Muriel Spark 7
    • Great Fortunes – Olivia Manning
    • Peripheral Vision – Patricia Ferguson
    • The Law of Dreams – Peter Belling
    • Trespass – Rose Tremain 2
    • Sacred Hearts – Sarah Dunant 11
    • The Little Stranger – Sarah Waters 12
    • The Beacon – Susan Hill 1
    • A Whispered Name – William Brodrick
    • The Believers – Zoe Heller

    Most of these are – because I want to read them very much, but The Little Stranger takes top place because there are so many different ways to interpret it that it would be great discussion fodder. Sacred Hearts takes second place because I’ve read so much by Sarah Dunant and she never disappoints when it comes to historical fiction. And Education – shallowly I base its high mark on the outstanding film. Some of the lumiaries get lower marks because I’ve a troubled past with them (Susan Hill is hit or miss for me I’m afraid). Girl in a Blue Dress only gets a 3 because although I think it sounds fascinating it’s linked to Dickens who I can never quite bring myself to like, y’know as a person. Not that he needs my approval or anything;)

  5. Wow, what a list. My top choice would be The Yacoubian Building. So much to discuss in it.

  6. The Children’s Book – A.S. Byatt
    The Little Stranger – Sarah Waters
    An Education – Lynn Barber
    Memento Mori – Muriel Spark
    The Beacon – Susan Hill
    The Believers – Zoe Heller
    Trespass – Rose Tremain
    These Foolish Things – Deborah Moggach
    Counting My Chickens – Deborah Devonshire
    Three Cups of Tea – Greg Mortenson
    Florence Nightingale – Mark Bostridge
    Peripheral Vision – Patricia Ferguson

    The Children’s Book – A.S. Byatt – because I loved it and you don’t want to miss it, Granny Savidge Reads. The Little Stranger – Sarah Waters – because it was one of the best winter evening reads. An Education – Lynn Barber – because it’s simply good. Next 4 just because I want to read them. And I’ve read already two other books of Rose Tremain and loved them. And the last five I don’t rally know why. It’s just when I see them on the list something in me says: pick those, choose those. 🙂
    I hope you will have a good book group reading year.

  7. Hi, it’s actually Peter Behrens who wrote The Law of Dreams, which would be our pick. Mari Strachan’s The Earth Hums in B Flat should be on the list!

  8. I would say no to Three Cups of Tea, I have read review after review that was severely disappointed in the book. I haven’t read it, but I know I don’t feel any inclination to do so either.

    I would say definitely The Children’s Book and The Long Song, even if I haven’t read both. That must seem strange, but I have heard so many good things about them both.

  9. Eva

    I haven’t read much of the list, but I loved The Children’s Book (I’m a Byatt girl), The Yacoubian Building was really interesting (lots of fodder for discussion), and I read a different Levy book (Small Island) which blew me away. I wasn’t impressed with The Hamilton Case: the ideas were good, but the execution didn’t live up to them. I bet it’d spark some good conversation though!

  10. m

    I’d go for The Little Stranger, so much to discuss in it. Or Ford Madox Ford, which I read years ago and loved.
    I started The Plague of Doves a while ago and couldn’t get into it; wouldn’t inflict AS Byatt on a group; and the Zoe Heller isn’t a patch on the one they made into a film, what’s it called? Oh, you know the one I mean!

  11. m

    Notes on a Scandal … knew I’d remember it as soon as I clicked!

  12. One book stands out here — The Good Soldier. This is a truly remarkable novel, a true early 20th century classic — readable, thought-provoking — and should be on everybody’s list of books that must be read. There are other good novels on there, but it would be very sad if this one was not included.

  13. jane

    I completely agree – whatever else is chosen, The Good Soldier just has to be! One of my very, very favourite novels. I know there are plenty of good books in the world and it’s easy to say “everyone must read this” but this one is unique and, to me, completely perfect. It would be a genuine shame for someone to miss out on reading it, and not just because they’d enjoy reading it, but because it says things and because they’re true. Its original title was to be “The Saddest Story”, and it is. Julian Barnes called FMF “a true reader’s writer”, and he is. An under-rated classic.

    Having just been reading some of DHL’s short stories I’m not convinced they’d make a good choice for a book group — too disparate to discuss in a short period of time.

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