Books My Book Club Loved

By Julie Rand

My book club has been meeting for several years. Not every book we've read has been a winner but some of them have been terrific. I thought I'd share a list of the titles that almost all of us loved. You can use it as a personal reading list or for your own book club. It includes a mix of fiction and nonfiction titles.

  • In the Time of the Butterflies

    1994 by Julia Alvarez

    I love the way historical fiction teaches readers about significant events in an enjoyable way. Before reading this book I knew nothing about the Dominican Republic or the repressive regime of Rafael Trujillo who ruled from 1930 until his assassination in 1961. Alvarez beautifully describes the coming of age of a group of four sisters and gives each woman a voice as we follow them into adulthood and their fight for freedom.

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  • The Warmth of Other Suns : the epic story of America's great migration

    2010 by Isabel Wilkerson

    Isabel Wilkerson wields her considerable journalistic talents to chronicle the story of America's great migration. She focuses on the experiences of three individuals out of the nearly six million black citizens who fled the Jim Crow South throughout the 20th century. The book made for an interesting discussion and we all learned a great deal about this important part of U.S. history. It's definitely a book I will never forget.

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  • Where'd You Go, Bernadette : a novel

    2012 by Maria Semple

    This book was a welcome tonic after some of the more serious books we read. It's truly hilarious especially if, like most of us in the book club, you've raised children, been married, had a career, and dealt with the political correctness of your kids' schools and other parents. Semple's novel is full of wit, humor, and observations that not only tell an engaging story but brilliantly capture the mundane interactions of modern life. I've read the book twice and still laugh out loud at her writing.

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  • A House In the Sky : a memoir

    2013 by Amanda Lindhout

    I first heard about this book on NPR and was intrigued by Amanda Lindhout, a Canadian woman who was kidnapped in 2008 and held for ransom in Somalia. Linkhout ventured into Somalia to make her reputation as a journalist. Four days into her visit she and her photographer, Nigel Brennan, were kidnapped by Somalis. Her harrowing story made for a lively book discussion. Two of our book club members listened to the audiobook version and felt that Lindhout's narration was not very good, so it may be best to stick to the print or eBook version.

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  • Americanah

    2013 by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

    Americanah is the story of Ifemelu; a young woman from Nigeria who leaves her home and her first love, Obinze, to start a new life in America. It's a fascinating look at America through the eyes of a "Non-American Black." Adichie's writing is elegant and her observations are compassionate and insightful, but also scathing and critical (and not just of the U.S. but Nigeria, too). I'm eagerly awaiting the movie version which is currently under development by Actress Lupita Nyong'o who has cast herself in the title role with hot British-Nigerian actor David Oyelowo as Obinze.

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  • The Underground Girls of Kabul : in search of a hidden resistance in Afghanistan

    2014 by Jenny Nordberg

    Jenny Nordberg, an award-winning foreign correspondent, saw firsthand how limited girls' lives are in a country where men are considered superior and religion is used to justify sex roles. She also learned that girls sometimes disguise themselves as boys in order to attend school, help their families economically, and for for the simple luxury of walking freely in public. Many families in the community know that the "boys" are really girls but continue to treat them as their assigned role. This book is fascinating and raised all sorts of questions in our group about gender roles, cultural differences, identity, and other issues.

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  • Euphoria : a novel

    2014 by Lily King

    Margaret Mead is arguably the world's best known anthropologist and until I read this book I imagined her as a staid academic. This fictionalized account of an event in her life showed me that this could not be further from the truth. Set in Papua New Guinea in the 1930s, King tells the tale of a professional and romantic rivalry among three anthropologists who have different approaches to their work. Not just a love story, the book explores the different ways each of the three anthropologists study the native culture and how their approaches inform their research.

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  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

    2010 by Rebecca Skloot

    Skloot tells the story of Henrietta Lacks, a 31 year old African-American woman who died of cervical cancer in 1951. Unbeknowst to her family and without their permission, doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital took her cells and cultured them in a lab to create the first "immortal" cell line for use in medical research and experiments. The book is emminently readable, fascinating, and sad all at the same time. Oprah Winfrey optioned the book and is in the process of making a TV movie to be aired in 2017.

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