Book Reviews

Top 10 Favorite Books of 2020 for Book Club Discussion

Dec 14, 2020

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Anna Ford

Books leave an impression, and book club discussions can go in unexpected, moving, and memorable directions. Our team of avid readers are also active book club participants! Anna, Nancy, Erica, and Ian from the Bookclubz team share their favorite books from book club this year, and the discussions that inspired them. Happy Holidays from us! 

 

Erica Eliot

About the Book: The debut novel from a Vietnamese-American poet, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous is written in the form of a letter from a son to his illiterate mother.

 

 

Why we loved it: This is near the top of the list of favorite books I've ever read (although not everyone in my book club shared those thoughts). Our discussion of this book ranged from topics of poetry to immigration to senses of place and belonging and coming-of-age. This meeting stands out in my mind as one of the most powerful and vulnerable discussions our club has had — one in which we all were pulling out our copies to reference lines and read aloud to one another some of the passages we found most compelling and moving.

Erica Eliot

About the Book: The Yellow House is an unforgettable memoir that chronicles Broom's family, her life growing up in New Orleans East, and the eventual demise of her beloved childhood home after Hurricane Katrina.

 

Why we loved it: This meeting is fresh in my mind, as it's the most recent one our book club held (and probably our last in-person, socially distanced meeting until spring!). We all found this memoir moving, and it illicited discussions of race, belonging, family, and place. I was surprised at how we all came to view it (individually) as an anthropologial excavation into Broom's past. This is a book I wish I could have written.

Erica Eliot

About the Book: Olive, Again is Strout's second series of interconnected short stories about Olive Kitteridge — an endearing, curmudgeonly character — and all of the characters in her orbit in her small town on the coast of Maine.

 

 

 

Why we loved it: Olive's fictional hometown of Crosby, Maine is based on the small town where I moved two years ago, and as I read this book (and watched the HBO miniseries with Frances McDormand) I was struck by just how real Strout's characters were. They were uncannily characters of people I knew from my day to day: rough around the edges, survirors of a way of life in Maine that requires a bit of struggle from everyone, and always complicated. Reading this with members of our small town book club (some who are new, others who are new-ish, and others who have lived here for generations) was enlightening, engaging, and reflective. The book, and our book club discuission, were such lovely reminders of the communities we create wherever we land, the beauty that we sometimes overlook in our ordinary day-to-day, and the steadiness with which we, as humans, all do need one another.

Anna Ford

About the Book: The Nickel Boys dramatizes another strand of American history through the story of two boys sentenced to a hellish reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida. Based on the real story of a reform school in Florida that operated for one hundred and eleven years and warped the lives of thousands of children, The Nickel Boys is a devastating, driven narrative that showcases a great American novelist writing at the height of his powers.

 

Why we loved it: We all agreed that parts of The Nickel Boys were difficult to read, but we also couldn't put the book down. At a time when systemic racism is still so alive and well in America in forms different but all too similar to the Jim Crow south, The Nickel Boys led to a serious discussion of our modern day criminal justice system. Whitehead wrote a spellbounding novel based on true events, which is no easy task. We all appreciated his writing and the surprise ending.

Anna Ford

About the Book: The debut novel from international bestselling literary star Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie explores the emotional turmoil of adolescence and the bright promise of freedom for two teenagers in Nigeria. Purple Hibiscus is set in postcolonial Nigeria and follows fifteen year old Kambili, a member of a wealthy family dominated by her devoutly Catholic father, Eugene.

 

Why we loved it: I read this book in three book clubs this year, with high reviews all around. The novel includes stunning descriptions of Nigeria and an array of deeply complex (and unforgettable) characters. We discussed topics ranging from teenage love, family loyalty, African immigration to the United States, abuse and domestic violence. Purple Hibiscus is Adichie's first novel, and none of us could understand why we hadn't read it sooner!

Anna Ford

About the Book: The Song of Achilles is a fresh take on the ancient story of the events preceding the Trojan War and Homer's "The Iliad". In a world where Gods, demi-gods and people all live together, "The Song of Achilles" is the love story of Patroclus and Achilles.

 

Why we loved it: My local book club met in the spring overlooking the water in our small town in Maine for a refreshing discussion of Miller's mesmerizing novel. We were all taken back through our recollections of Greek mythology in an entirely new and different way. Song of Achilles is a powerful love story. I may have come home to watch Troy after our meeting to visualize just how different Miller's take is from most accounts of ancient Greece!

Nancy Brown

About the Book: Severance is a satirical science fiction that follows Candace Chen, an unfulfilled Bible product coordinator, before and after Shen Fever slowly obliterates global civilization.

 

Why we loved it: My book club read this in February and it was comically and frightingly timely. Reading a science fiction novel just before that same scenario plays out in real life is a real trip. This book club meeting was my last in person book club meeting of 2020, as I fled New York in March much like the characters in this science fiction novel!!

Nancy Brown


About the Book: Fleishman is in Trouble is about Toby Fleishman, a hepatologist in his forties who is undergoing a bitter divorce from his wife, Rachel.
 

 

Why we loved it: Another satire pick for 2020, which seems fitting. This was our first book club meeting of 2020 and I remember gathering in a restaurant on a snowy week night in New York. It was the perfect backdrop to a story set in Manhattan with plenty of "New York" moments.

Nancy Brown

About the Book: A novel about childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it.

 

Why we loved it: This was not the first time I read To Kill a Mockingbird, but I read this with my "international book club" (three friends from Spain) and I loved hearing their perspective on it as first time readers. I don't typically re-read books but I really enjoyed the experience of revisting this story 10 + years later and witnessing how it impacted me differently.

Ian Campbell

About the Book: The Buddha in the Attic tells the story of a group of young women brought from Japan to San Francisco as “picture brides” nearly a century ago and traces their experiences from the arduous journeys by boat to the deracinating arrival of war.

 

Why we loved it: I discussed this novel with my family book club and it was just as relevant this year as it would have been a century ago. We had a rich discussion about race, identity and loyalty, and what it means to be an American in uncertain times. Views of Otsuko's unique writing style varied, which led to a rich discussion and history lesson on Japanese internment camps in the 1940s.

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COMMENTS

Rita smith

Dec 17, 2020 - 1 year

The summaries and Why you liked the book is very helpful!

Rita smith

Dec 17, 2020 - 1 year

All of this information will be well-used in our Bookclubz. T