Book Club: we need suggestions for our March book

Discussion in 'Chit Chat' started by kholmes, Feb 7, 2008.

  1. kholmes

    kholmes New Member

    If we vote earlier than usual, it will be easier to get if there's a hold list at the library. I'll post a voting thread with your suggestions in a few days.

    As you all know, this month's book is MIDDLESEX, by Jeffrey Eugenides. I'll post a discussion thread on it around the 24th.

  2. rockgor

    rockgor Well-Known Member

    and fellow book lovers. I am going to recommend an author rather than a book.

    Her name is Dora Saint and she uses the nom de plume of Miss Read. She was a school teacher, started writing in the mid 50s, and produced a book about every year for 40 years.

    They are all set in an English Village. Not much ever happens. Very restful. Like the books of Barbara Pym or Jan Karon. Only Miss Read is more cheerful than Pym and less pious than Karon.

    I am always pleased to find an author I like who is prolific.
    You can read the books in any order. If you get thru them all you can read them again. Gordon gave me one for Christmas. I enjoyed it for the second or third time.

    I am not recommending one of her books for a monthly discussion. Just thought some of you might want to check out the Miss Read series. (Doesn't "misread" seem like a funny name to pick?)

  3. kholmes

    kholmes New Member

    I will check out the Saintly Miss Read. Do you a Dora? Sounds very peaceful. Does anything ever happen in English villages?

    Good for you both for hitting the local used bookstores. There are a few near the University of New Mexico that I've been wanting to check out. The library gets old after a while.

    Just got my copy of EAT, PRAY, AND LOVE. My wife, Wendy, wants to read it, too. That might be a good nonfiction choice for March, too; a few people on here have mentioned it before.

    [This Message was Edited on 02/07/2008]
  4. kellyann

    kellyann New Member

    Water for Elephants

    By Sara Gruen

    Plot introduction
    Set during the Great Depression of the 1930s, Water for Elephants tells the story of a young man who leaves his life as a Cornell University veterinary student and jumps onto a train that happens to house the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. After a short confrontation with Blackie, a bouncer that stops stowaways, and Camel (a limp old worker) promising him a job and an audience with Uncle Al (The Ringmaster) Jacob decides to stay aboard the train. Since his parents have died in an automobile accident, and he has not a home to call his own, he decides that joining the circus is his last resort. The story is told as a series of memories. The main character, Jacob Jankowski, is in a nursing home and reminisces about his time with the circus.

    Jacob is employed as the show’s veterinarian and he faces a number of challenges in dealing with the head trainer, August, while also learning how to function in the hierarchy of the circus and falling in love.

    Plot summary
    The story is told as a series of memories by Jacob Jankowski, a ninety-three-year-old man who lives in a nursing home.

    As the memories begin, Jacob Jankowski is twenty-three-years old and preparing for his final exams as a Cornell University veterinary student when he receives the news that his parents were killed in a car accident. Jacob’s father was a veterinarian and Jacob had planned to join his practice. When Jacob learns that his parents were deeply in debt because his father treated animals even when their owners weren’t able to pay, he has a breakdown and leaves school just short of graduation. In the dark of night, he jumps on a train only to learn it is a circus train. When the owner of the circus, Uncle Al, learns of his training as a vet, he is hired to care for the circus animals.

    The novel chronicles Jacob’s experiences with the circus as he learns the hierarchy of circus workers and performers, gains an understanding of the brutalities of circus life while struggling to maintain his own moral compass, and falls in love.

    The head trainer, August, is a brutal man who abuses the animals in his care as well as the people around him. Alternately, he can be utterly charming. Jacob develops a guarded relationship with August and his wife, Marlena, with whom Jacob falls in love. August is suspicious of their relationship and beats Marlena and Jacob. Marlena subsequently leaves August, which is the precipitating event leading to the ultimate demise of the Benzini Brothers circus.

    As the story climaxes, several circus workers who were redlighted off the train come back and release the animals (redlighting refers to throwing circus workers off the moving train as punishment or in order to avoid paying them[1]). In the ensuing panic, August is killed. As a result of this incident, which occurred during a circus performance, the circus is shut down. Marlena and Jacob leave, along with several circus animals, and begin their life together.

    Explanation of the novel's title
    In the beginning of the novel, Jacob mocks another resident of the nursing home who claims to have worked in the circus and carried water for the elephants. We are led to believe that this is a popular, but untrue, claim.

    Characters in Water for Elephants
    Jacob Jankowski – The novel’s protagonist. He is a 93-year-old nursing home resident reminiscing on the time he spent in the circus when he was in his 20s.
    Marlena – A star performer with the circus. Marlena joined the circus after she ran away from home to marry August. She enjoys a special rapport with the animals and cares for them deeply.
    August – Marlena’s husband and the head animal trainer. He is a brutal man who alternates between being abusive and everyone’s best friend. Later in the book, it is explained that he is mentally ill.
    Uncle Al – The violent, abusive owner of the circus. He is known for redlighting circus workers – throwing them off the train in the middle of the night to avoid paying them. If these roustabouts are deemed to have committed some particularly egregious offense, they were thrown off while the train was passing over a trestle, presumably with the hope that they would die or be seriously injured.
    Kinko/Walter – A dwarf with whom Jacob shares living quarters on the circus train. Initially, their relationship is rocky, but they develop a strong friendship. At the beginning of the story, he is known as Kinko. Walter is his real name and he only lets his friends call him this. He has a small dog named Queenie he is very attached to.
    Camel – One of the first people Jacob meets when he jumps the train. Camel is a drunk who is instrumental in getting Jacob in the circus. When Camel gets sick, Jacob and Walter hide him in their room and care for him.
    Rosie – An elephant that Uncle Al buys from another circus. She is believed to be useless until it is discovered that she understands commands only in Polish. She is often the target of August’s rage. August’s killer.

    Major themes
    The major themes explored in this novel include circus life during the depression (Gruen did extensive research on the subject[2]), the testing of a man’s moral compass, and love triangles.

    Allusions/references to other works
    Sara Gruen has said that the backbone of her story parallels the biblical story of Jacob in the book of Genesis.[3]

    One of the most interesting aspects of the novel is that the death of August is described twice through Jacob's viewpoint, once in the Prologue and once at the end of the novel. In the first instance, the passage is written in such a way that the reader might believe that the character August is killed by Marlena, Jacob's love interest. In the second instance, August is clearly killed by Rosie the elephant. The novel leaves who actually killed August deliberately ambiguous, although the theory that it could have been Marlena is argued against by the description of the killer using a metal tent stake to split August's "head like a watermelon," something it would have been next to impossible for the slight Marlena to do. Early in the novel, Rosemary the nurse explains to Jacob that "Sometimes when you get older [...] things you think on and wish on start to seem real. And then you believe them, and before you know it they're a part of your history [...]" (177). Later, Jacob reflects how he kept the secret that Rosie killed August from Marlena. He thinks, "At first I stayed silent to protect Rosie [...].In the entire history of our marriage, it was the only secret I kept from her [...]. With a secret like that, at some point the secret itself becomes irrelevant" (327). These passages suggest that memories are inherently flawed and subjective.

    However, the rest of the novel fits in the neatly with the "Rosie killed him" theory, and the author even describes this incident in the book as being based on a factual account of an elephant killing a trainer after he threw a lit cigarette in her mouth. The interpretation is ultimately left up to the reader with the Marlena theory being extremely unlikely.

    Allusions/references to actual history, geography and current science
    The book contains multiple references to Ringling Brothers as the best circus of the time. Also, photos of actual circuses and circus performers of the time are included throughout the book.

    This looks so interesting to me! I'd love to read it, what do you think?

    I am still looking for more interesting books for us to pick from! I love you guys!

    Your reading buddy!
  5. mollystwin

    mollystwin New Member

    Water for Elephants is an excellent book! We already chose that for book club a few months back. Most of us enjoyed that one.

    Can you come up with another good idea? I'm kinda at a loss too.

    [This Message was Edited on 02/08/2008]
  6. mollystwin

    mollystwin New Member

    Eat Pray and Love sounds like a good choice for book club. Now we need a few more so we can vote. I'm all out of ideas, but if I think of something, I post again.

    Rock, I think I will try out some of those miss read books too.

    I have also order two of PJ Langford's books "It's Not in Your Head". It's about lyme disease so it wouldn't be a good book club choice.

  7. kellyann

    kellyann New Member

    Sorry, I didn't know you had already read the Water for Elephants, guess I'll get it and read it myself!

    The Bluest Eye
    by Toni Morrison
    Announced on April 27, 2000

    About the Book
    The Bluest Eye is Toni Morrison's first novel, a book heralded for its richness of language and boldness of vision. Set in the author's girlhood hometown of Lorain Ohio, it tells the story of black, eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove. Pecola prays for her eyes to turn blue so that she will be as beautiful as beloved as all the blond, blue-eyed children in America. In the autumn of 1941, the year the marigold in the Breedloves' garden do not bloom. Pecola's life does change -- in painful, devastating ways. With its vivid evocation of the feat and loneliness at the heart of a child's yearning, and the tragedy of it's fulfillment, The Bluest Eye remains on of Toni Morrison's most powerful, unforgettable novels - and a significant work of American fiction.

    This is my last sugesstion for this month. I hope everyone is doing well and reading,reading, reading!


  8. Marta608

    Marta608 Member

    I think those Geeks messed up my 'puter!

    OK. I just finished Sue Grafton's latest, T is for Trespass but I would NOT recommend it for book club. Even for a casual read, I don't think it's her best. I have some of Michael Connelley's thrillers to read right now. As you can see, I'm leaning toward the simple.

    Here are some books on my To Read List, some of which are a bit deeper and might interest you:


    RUN by Ann Patchett

    WHAT ON EARTH HAVE I DONE by Robert Fulgum, that wise old guy


    and the ever-popular ALL I NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED FROM MY CAT by Somebody Becker

    And there's always the book Oprah is promoting by Eckhard Tolle about which she's doing a class on her website with E. Tolle. Someone here will remember the title. :>P A NEW EARTH! I looked it up.

    [This Message was Edited on 02/09/2008]
  9. Rosiebud

    Rosiebud New Member

    I have suggested a few books written by Muslims and I'm doing so again. If not chosen I recommend you read them because they are absolutely wonderful!! What a storyteller.

    These are two fantastic books written by a young 'American' Afghani - he was born in Afghanistan and came to the States when a young boy.

    They give a great insight into life before and during the coming to power of the Taliban, what it's like for the ordinary people - the stories are so well told and intriguing - I couldn't put them down and will happily read them again if chosen for March.

    KHALED HOSSEINI (author)

    THE KITE RUNNER - (now made into a film)- story of a young boy growing up there and the sport of Kite Running, his move to USA, then back to Afghanistan for a visit and a discovery about his friend.

    A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS - story of two women brought together through marriage to the same ruthless man who uses the dictates of the Taliban to control them.


    [This Message was Edited on 02/09/2008]
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    [This Message was Edited on 02/10/2008]
  10. rockgor

    rockgor Well-Known Member

    This is not a suggestion for a book. Just some ramblings on what I've been reading.

    Just finished "The Happy Hocky Family Moves to the Country." This book was described in the Daedalus cataloge. "sly like Dick and Jane but act more like Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn...clever satire."

    It would have been a little more accurate to say this is an ordinary book for children ages 4-6 which lacks the slightest charm or interest for the adult who has to read it to the child.

    Am reading Dead Dog Blues by Neal Barrett. As those of us who do crosswords can tell you, there are a several ways to spell "Neil" and "O'Neal". This causes a good deal of unnecessary confusion in an already confusing world, and yet the authorities do Dave Barry often says.

    Anyway the characters were colorful and seemed more complex than in the average thriller.

    "The Hider" is a book about the old west (well, 1898; guess that's not really old) and is not about someone who is hiding but about a buffalo hunter. He shot buffalo for their "hides".

    I got the book because I read a good thriller by the same author. This book is for YA i.e., young adults even tho it has no marking as such. But I am still young at heart (or possibly immature), and enjoyed it anyway.

    "The Peterkin Papers" was written by Lucretia Hale whose dates are easy to remember: 1820 to 1900. This is a silly book about a family of nincompoops. Each chapter is a short story. I read it when I was a kid, but I didn't know it was considered a kid's book.

    Anyway, according to the editors, the author came from two distinguished New England families. Her uncle was a senator and president of Harvard. Her brother was a well-known preacher and abolitionist.

    I was writing this in my mail box to avoid having the post disappear, but the evil computer froze up. I feel that those of us who are plagued w/ multiple incurable medical conditions should not have to deal w/ mundane troubles such as recalcitrant computers. My feelings on this issue do not seem to matter, however.

    Anyway, was going to write more, but I'd better quit before this blows up too. Yes, Ken. I adore Dora. Don't know if she is still with us. If she is she's about 95 y/o.

    Thanks for all the suggestions, folks. I will check them out. Haha

  11. kellyann

    kellyann New Member

    Is for:
    The Bluest Eye
    By Toni Morrison

    I really want to read this one!

  12. LenoreR

    LenoreR New Member

    I'm fairly new to the message boards and didn't know there was a book club discussion group here. I'm an avid reader, so can I come play in your sandbox? I read Middlesex, loved it, and would love to be part of the discussion.

    Currently on my nightstand:

    Up High in Trees by Kiara Brinkman

    Told in the voice of a high functioning Autistic boy named Sebby who loses his mother. Dad withdraws from all the kids. Dad takes Sebby alone to a summerhouse "in an effort to give them both the time and space they need to recover". It goes on from there and was reviewed in People Magazine and the LA Times book review-- both raves.

    The Law of Dreams by Peter Behrens

    New York Times Book Review- "Absorbing, unsparing and beautifully written". It's a best seller that I picked up in Costco for $7.79. It's about an Irish boy who leaves Ireland during the great hunger of 1847, travelling to Americaand meets up with three other characters.

    I mention these two books because according to their summaries, both are very visual and don't have a million characters and subplots. I find now that I need the visualization to remember what I read "through the fog" and books with lots a characters now confuse me <frown>.

    Whatever the March book is, can I join too?

    Wishing everyone a great week ahead,
  13. rockgor

    rockgor Well-Known Member

    WELCOME to the book club. It's like a 12 step program. The only requirement for membership is a desire to join.

    You can discuss the book of the month of some other book. We are very relaxed and free wheeling in the sandbox. Isn't that a play by Albee? Our school put it on many decades ago. Alas, I was graduated the previous year.

    Am currently reading a book of short stories; all have some connection w/ the movies. One story talks about cinemascope and admission prices of $1.20. Sure enuff; it was written in the 50s.

    The author was Robert Bloch, famous for writing the short story Pyscho.

  14. Jana1

    Jana1 New Member

    Oh my gosh...I am a huge fan of "Miss Read". In fact, I corresponded with her for a couple of years when I was a special services librarian. She was in a sort of nursing home in her late eighties and had just published another FairAcre book.

    I use the name FairAcre on message boards. Have you read her other series about Thrush Green? some real characters in that village!

    I love these book and have them any of her other assorted books. We bought them all in England when we were last there and I read them all through abaout every 3 years. I fel like I live there comfortably in my mind.

    I haven't ever met anyone else who likes the books like I do...How I wish we could talk on the phone or something about them...maybe make a date in the chatroom if it is not too much trouble for you?

    Maybe I could talk you into reading my first choice of a series, The WhiteOaks of Jalna.

    Rockgor, you give me hope sometimes that there are others out there in the world like me.


  15. kholmes

    kholmes New Member

    Glad you're joining us!

    Thanks for the updates on what's on your nightstand, too. Both books sound really good.

  16. rockgor

    rockgor Well-Known Member

    Well, my post already disappeared. Will try again.

    How great that you corresponded w/ Dora. Were her letters just like her books? What is a special services librarian anyway?

    My aunt was a librarian in Minneapolis. She took the Kuder Preferance test and it said "librarian" so that's what she did. And later she was a teacher/librarian at a high school.

    Never heard of the Whiteoaks book, but I looked it up on Wikipedia. I see it was a miniseries in Canada. I put it on hold at the library.

    Did you ever read any E.F.Benson? He died the year I was born, but his talent was not magically transfered to me, alas. Anyway he wrote the Mapp and Lucia books in the 20s and 30s. Also a miniseries on PBS 10-15 years ago.

    Like Dora he wrote scads of books. There are several Lucia books, the first one is Queen Lucia. You might want to check them out unless, of course, you are already a devotee.
    Benson wrote a bestseller in England back in the 1890s. Most of his other books I find unreadable, but the Lucia books are timeless.

    Come and chat on the book club threads more often.



  17. kholmes

    kholmes New Member

    The People of the Book, by Gwendolyn Brooks. It's a fairly new release.

    Here is info about it:
  18. kellyann

    kellyann New Member

    I am getting near the end of my Stephen King book - Duma Keys. It is a good one! It is like reading a nightmare towards the end, it is getting very scary! HEHE! I love his books, and this one is one of the best I've read in a long time. My husband bought me a three in one book at Borders bookstore last week. It has three full length Dean Koontz novels in on book....just too cool! I am a big fan of Dean Koontz also. I love scary books for some reason. I even love Ann Rice, anyone else read her books? I love a good ghost story! One of my favorite actors is Vincent Price....he is just so smooth! I don't like bloody chop em up movies that are just all gore, Dracula, Frankenstein and the Mummy,etc., I like stuff like that! Anyone else a fan of horror novels?

  19. rockgor

    rockgor Well-Known Member

    what in the world is going on with our margins?

    Hey, I sound like a stockbroker.

  20. Rosiebud

    Rosiebud New Member

    I thought this was only happening on my machine.