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Best bets for book clubs
The month of June offers several great choices for reading groups. BookPage's selections, all newly published in paperback, are listed below. We hope these titles will inspire lively discussion in your book club.
By Elizabeth Berg
An Oprah Book Club pick, Berg's novel examines the damage wrought by divorce upon one woman's life. Samantha, reeling from the shock of her husband's abandonment, suddenly finds herself a single woman again. With a son to raise and a living to make, everyday existence takes on a new urgency, and she is forced to open her home to boarders in order to make ends meet. The novel expands with each new guest, including a depressed student named Lavender Blue and King, a man who encourages Sam to re-engage with the world. As she slowly reconstructs her life, Sam begins to date again while rediscovering the woman she was before she became a wife and mother. A Ballantine Reader's Circle guide is included in the book.
New Jack: Guarding Sing Sing
By Ted Conover
This sobering account of life inside the American penal system, written by acclaimed journalist Ted Conover, is a virtuoso piece of investigative reporting. When Conover applied for a job as a prison officer, his assignment to Sing Sing led him into the state's most notorious maximum-security facility. Within Sing Sing's walls, Conover witnessed prison life first-hand - gang wars, drugs and violence - and met a varied array of characters, including transvestites, mentally ill inmates (known as "bugs") and a thick-skinned supervisor named Mama Cradle. An unforgettable journey to an unforgettable place, New Jack is a fascinating narrative that examines the prison crisis and the nature of justice in America today.
Living to Tell
By Antonya Nelson
Set in Wichita, Kansas, Nelson's wonderfully detailed novel is the story of the Mabies, a family haunted by tragedy who welcome their son Winston home after his five-year prison sentence. Winston finds the family much changed: his sister Emily is divorced, his mother is losing her sight and his younger sister Mona has attempted suicide. Now the clan - all adults - find themselves back in the family home, struggling to live with their losses. Despite their bouts with misfortune, the Mabies pull together, and the story of their endurance is at once complex, unflinching and heart-warming. In the hands of Nelson, the power of family seems like a force of nature itself. A reading group guide is included in the book.
By Zadie Smith
The debut novel from British literary sensation Smith is an expansive work that teems with characters and voices as diverse as the city in which it is set: London. Spanning 25 years, the narrative focuses on Archie Jones and Samad Iqbal, two World War II veterans who are now married. Smith's hilarious epic tells the story of their two multicultural families while touring modern London, touching down in a Jamaican hair salon, an Irish poolroom-cum-immigrant caf and an Indian restaurant in Leicester Square. Smith, brilliantly satirical, takes race, politics and history into account in a novel that has earned her comparisons to everyone from Charles Dickens to Salman Rushdie. A reading group guide is available online at www.vintagebooks.com/read. For a printed version, ask your local bookseller.
Life Isn't All Ha Ha Hee Hee
By Meera Syal
The story of three childhood friends - Tania, an independent woman who pursues a glamorous television career; Sunita, a former law student, who opts for marriage and motherhood; and innocent Chila, who captures the heart of the highly desirable Deepak - Meera Syal's novel examines the lives of three Indian women as they come of age in London. When Tania makes a documentary about her two friends, the girls' world is turned upside down and surprising truths are revealed - the reality of marriage and friendship, the hidden emotions that everyday life conceals. Full of pop-culture references and lyrical language, this is prize-winner Syal's second novel. A reading group guide is available at www.picadorusa.com.