What I always refer to as “my personal book club” is celebrating reading, dining, and even traveling together for 24 years soon.
I asked everyone to name a favorite book out of all the ones we read as well as a least favorite. Although these books span the last quarter century, all are readily available.
Andrea enjoyed Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, the first in a series of gentle human interest stories set in Botswana. She found this one and the rest of the series “relaxing nighttime reading.” But thumbs down went to Gunter Grass’s The Tin Drum.
Sue D. nominated as her favorite Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper, the book Picoult set her formula with of multiple narrators in a complex issue story. Sue appreciated the medical issue at play in the story. But another thumbs down goes to The Tin Drum.
Mary Anne picked as a favorite Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale, a World War II historical fiction book that was highly acclaimed. Mary Anne also gave the thumbs down to The Tin Drum.
Pat chose a non-fiction favorite, Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime because “he could create an understanding of the oppression of apartheid through laugh out loud humor”; and she liked Gone Girl for its surprise ending. Pat gave a thumbs down to David Sedaris’s Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls because its humor just didn’t speak to her.
Ethel enjoyed A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry, about four characters in India during its historical time of “Emergency.” We even had a guest speaker from India join us to give us some extra context. Ethel’s least favorite? The Tin Drum.
Karen noted that there were many wonderful books we’ve read, but she’s picking a recent one, Anxious People by Frederick Backman which she points out “touched my heart and is full of idiots. What’s not to love?” She gave a thumbs down to Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections as portraying “American family dysfunction too over the top.”
Lynn chose Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden which she found “culturally interesting” as well as surprising that a man wrote a book depicting women’s points of view so well. She gave a thumbs down to . . . wait for it . . . The Tin Drum.
Sue P picked the non-fiction book Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. This was also the best pick of Kathy’s and mine. Larson’s talent is to write academically rigorous history that reads like riveting fiction, and his story of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair interwoven with a serial killer at work in Chicago at the same time is hard to put down. Even his end notes are fascinating. Kathy’s least favorite was a diplomatic vote for a book she herself chose, The Girl with Seven Names by Hyeonseo Lee, a non-fiction account of escaping from North Korea. Kathy found its style complicated and confusing.
Sue P also gave a thumbs down to The Tin Drum but added a silver lining comment that, “I’m glad we read it because it often comes up in Jeopardy.” This is true!
Joan chose as a favorite Jeannette Wall’s The Glass Castle, a book she went on to use in her college composition classes for years. “Students were inspired, as was I, by the author’s resilience in this non-fiction account of a difficult childhood.” Her thumbs down went to the book ‘Tis, which is also my pick for least favorite for the same reason – Frank McCourt’s brilliant Angela’s Ashes raised expectations of another wonderful book, and ‘Tis was beyond disappointing. I can still hear the thud as I tossed it in the trash can finding it unfit to even give away.
As to The Tin Drum, what can I say. No one enjoyed it or even found it interesting, yet Gunter Grass was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature based largely on this 500-page tome. The translation is considered outstanding, so we can’t blame that. I invite you to give it a go and feel intellectually superior to the rest of us. We don’t mind.
Since this column also is posted on the Library’s blog, I encourage all readers to comment on the blog site, which I’ll link to the library’s homepage and FB site as always, and give your favorite and least favorite reads through the last twenty or so years. We would love to hear from you.
See you at the Library!
(By Roz Weedman for publication in the Frankenmuth News, September 8, 2021.)