When I gave the talk on nonfiction (memoirs and biographies) last week, I had in mind to mention some nonfiction titles that would be good to read in book groups. There was only one small hitch with this plan: I don't really know what makes a book good for book groups or clubs. As an added complication, library staff trying to plan their book discussions are always limited as to the types of books they can choose: they have to choose titles that aren't too new or hugely popular, because then the waiting lists for patrons to get them will be too long; but they also have to choose widely available books that their library or system owns sufficient copies of so that all the book group members can check the book out from the library at the same time. It's a quandary.
So here are some of the newer or classic memoir and biography titles I thought might make for good discussions. What do you think? Agree or disagree on any of the titles? And what makes a title a good "book group" title anyway?
- Elisabeth Tova Bailey: The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating
- Amy Chua: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother
- Helene Hanff: 84, Charing Cross Road (simply because everyone should read it)
- Rhoda Janzen: Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home
- Kristin Kimball: The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love (maybe in a "back to the land" theme group)
- Anything by Jen Lancaster (and please, if your book group does a title by her, please come back and explain to me why she's so popular?)
- Greg Mortenson: Three Cups of Tea (just for fun--then discuss the memoir/truth/charity controversy)
- David Small: Stitches (graphic novel)
- Edmund Morris: Colonel Roosevelt
- Joan Schenkar: The Talented Miss Highsmith: The Secret Life and Serious Art of Patricia Highsmith (libraries probably don't own enough copies of this one, but I thought maybe some attendees could read this, and others could read Highsmith's books, and have a "themed" discussion)
- Stacy Schiff: Cleopatra: A Life
- Charles Shields: MockingbirdMockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee (although this one may still be too new)
- Donald Sturrock: Storyteller: The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl (ditto here; even if the library doesn't have enough copies, participants could read either a sampling of his kids' classics or his memoirs like Boy)
- And, because I had the Royal Family on my mind, what about a modern monarchy theme, featuring books like Katie Nicholl's William and Harry: Behind the Palace Walls, Christopher Andersen's After Diana: William, Harry, Charles, and the Royal House of Windsor, Gyles Brandreth's Philip and Elizabeth: Portrait of a Royal Marriage, and even Robert Hardman's beautifully photographed Monarchy: the Royal Family At Work
I should go to a library book group this spring or summer, especially if I can find one that reads nonfiction.