Summer Reading!

Summer is nearly here, and although we at Literary Masters have been reading furiously to gather THE LIST for our 2017-18 Season, we know you need a few titles to get you through the long, hot summer months. Of course, we always save the best for THE LIST, but here are some stellar summer reads nonetheless. Enjoy! And if you feel like it, let us know what you think.  Oh, and in case you’re wondering, THE 2017-18 Season LIST will be posted in late August, early September.  So come back for a visit and see what Literary Masters members will be reading next!

Our Summer Reading List is here–drum roll, please!

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The Leavers by Lisa Ko. Everyone is saying how timely this book is, so you can see if you agree. Dealing with issues of immigration, family, and cultural assimilation, to name a few, this debut novel won the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Fiction, “awarded by Barbara Kingsolver for a novel that addresses issues of social injustice.”

More info from Amazon here.

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Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. This gorgeous and, if you’re familiar with Saunders, unsurprisingly unique book would have landed on THE LIST, but we don’t like to repeat authors too often, and we recently enjoyed his short story collection. This is his first novel, and it centers on Abe Lincoln, who is grieving the loss of his son Willie. You can read this book quickly, but you shouldn’t. You should savor it and ponder the biggest issues that life presents.  Hint: life and love are two of them.

More from Amazon here.

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News of the World by Paulette Jiles.  Why is that poets write such gorgeous novels?  (Rhetorical question!)  This book was a finalist for the National Book Award and we can see why.  Take a trip back in time to Texas and travel with a most unlikely pair.  It’s 1870 and Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd is returning 10 year old Johanna, recently rescued from her Kiowa kidnappers, to her relatives in San Antonio.  Johanna, however, has other ideas.  Exploring issues of identity, family, and morality, among others, this book also illuminates an issue–based on true events–that you may not be aware of.

More from Amazon here.

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Nutshell by Ian McEwan.  This is a FUN read!  Narrated by a fetus (yes, we too thought this sounded weird) who is listening to his mother plot the murder of his father with her lover–who, wait for it…is the fetus’ uncle!  Shades of Hamlet for sure!  Are you in a brave book club?  Tackle both the play and this novel in the same month and discuss them both!  Laugh out loud funny with serious issues to explore.

More from Amazon here.

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Girl at War by Sara Novic.  Another debut novel we couldn’t put down.  Exploring issues of how war impacts an individual, a family, a community–and yet can go unnoticed by so many–this book is poignant and timely.  Read this along with The Cellist of Sarajevo, a Literary Masters favorite.

More from Amazon here.

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Born A Crime by Trevor Noah.  Many of you know Trevor Noah from The Daily Show, and he is funny!  This is his memoir, and yes, it’s funny, but it’s also serious and thought-provoking.  Trevor was born to a white Swiss-German father and a black Xhosa mother in South Africa during the time of apartheid.  Thus, his birth was literally a crime.  And this is his story–specifically–but it encompasses so much more.  Read it and ponder.

More from Amazon here.

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Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout.  Not quite a collection of short stories and not exactly a novel–this book seems to encompass both.  One chapter’s secondary or tertiary character shows up as the starring attraction of the next chapter.  Lucy Barton, who many of you know from Strout’s previous book My Name is Lucy Barton, has a role in this new book–but you can read them discretely.  Elizabeth Strout’s writing, of course, plays a dazzling role.

More from Amazon here.

The Nix by Nathan Hill.  What do you really know about anyone?  Especially your mother?  Think about it.  Or, jump on board this ride, accompanying Samuel Andresen-Anderson as he tries to unravel the mystery of who his mother is–and who he is as well.  Over 600 pages that fly by!

More from Amazon here.

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Swing Time by Zadie Smith.  Almost like reading two books that converge.  And two for the price of one from Zadie Smith has to be a good thing, right?  Readers should enjoy the musicality and rhythm of this novel as they contemplate issues such as identity, friendship, responsibility, equality and more.

More from Amazon here.

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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.  Marketed as a Young Adult novel, this book is being read by many grown-ups as well.  It’s timely and thought-provoking; an unarmed youth is shot by a police officer.  Read it with your teenagers and discuss.

More from Amazon here.

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Moonglow by Michael Chabon.  We love this description from the Amazon page: “From the Jewish slums of prewar South Philadelphia to the invasion of Germany, from a Florida retirement village to the penal utopia of New York’s Wallkill prison, from the heyday of the space program to the twilight of the ‘American Century,’ the novel revisits an entire era through a single life and collapses a lifetime into a single week. A lie that tells the truth, a work of fictional nonfiction, an autobiography wrapped in a novel disguised as a memoir, Moonglow is Chabon at his most moving and inventive.”  How could not want to read this book now?

More from Amazon here.

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Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult.  Race seems to be a large theme in our list this summer, which is fitting–considering it’s a large part of our national conversation.  This novel doesn’t shy away, and will keep you riveted from page one.  Read it before the movie is released!

More from Amazon here.

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The Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson by Jeffrey Toobin.  Yes, it’s TBT!  We couldn’t resist putting this on our summer reading list because of the renewed interest in this tragedy due to the television drama and documentary.  This is an excellent read–it explores the historical context of what happened before, during, and after the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.  Prepare to feel many emotions as you read.

More from Amazon here.

Enjoy your summer!  Read a book.  Discuss a book.  Share a book.  Give a book.

 

 

Literary Masters and Creatubbles: Exploring Books by Creating Art

Are you familiar with Creatubbles?  It’s a safe, secure, and incredibly cool platform where children (and grown-ups) can save, share, and explore artwork from around the world.  Literary Masters recently partnered with Creatubbles so that LM members can now illustrate our monthly book and share it with other art lovers.

Today Liz of Literary Masters is honored to be interviewed by Creatubbles and highlighted on their State of the Art blog.  We discuss how books can be deeply explored by appreciating and analyzing any illustrations in a work of literature as well as by creating our own art that illuminates what that book means to us.  If you like this interview, feel free to spread the word.  More readers connecting deeply to books via artwork–that’s a good thing!

Please visit the Literary Masters page on Creatubbles and feel free to share your creative side with us!

Should Your Book Club Read Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adicie?

Should Your Book Club Read Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adicie?  Yes.  Especially if your book club members have a month where there’s a lot going on outside book club (did I hear you just say “That’s every month!”?) because this book is SHORT but very, very thought-provoking.

The book is a letter to Ms. Adicie’s friend, who has just given birth to her baby girl Chizalum and has asked Adicie for advice on raising her as a feminist.  The book is that letter, offering 15 suggestions, each of which heads its own chapter.  The entire book is only 63 pages and you can finish it well under an hour.  Or you can savor it and think deeply as you read.  Or you can return to it, dipping into its wisdom as and when you like.  You may want to order copies to give as gifts to new–and old–mothers.  Or to daughters.  Or sons!  To fathers and husbands.

I agree with much of the book, and there are parts of the book that I am still mulling over.  One stark piece of advice that I disagree with, however, is under the suggestion “Teach Chizalum to read.”  Obviously I don’t disagree with that advice!  However, Adicie goes on to say, “If all else fails, pay her to read.”  I must say, I strongly disagree with this. 

There are many, many ways to teach a child to read and to foster the love of reading.  Paying money, in my opinion, sends the wrong message.  I’d prefer children to be intrinsically motivated to read, rather than extrinsically.

As I said, this is my opinion.  I am guessing, though, that there are studies with data out there about this.  Just using common sense, though, what happens to a child who has been ‘rewarded’ to read when that money is no longer paid?  I presume the argument is that the child will have developed the habit of reading and therefore will continue to do so even without remuneration.

Hmm.  Maybe.

Contrast this idea, though, with a child who has actually developed the appreciation and love of books and reading for their value, not because of the value of $$$.  A child who finds books and reading worthwhile and a reward in itself will be a life-long reader.  That’s my strong bet, anyway.

You all know I am open-minded, however, so if you disagree, please feel free to weigh in–I’d love to hear from you!

AWOL Blogger: Buried Under Her Books!

Isn’t this a great cartoon by Tom Gauld?  What I’m wondering is–how did he get into my house to see my library? 🙂

Have you been missing my posts?  THANK YOU!  I’m sorry that I haven’t written any recently.  No excuses, just the reality that I’ve been…READING.  I will try to post at the end of the current Literary Masters season.  I promise!  Meanwhile, let me swiftly bring you up to date with what’s been happening with Literary Masters members.

We’ve been enjoying THE LIST so far!  The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead was a hit all around; even members who found it difficult to read at times still appreciated its worth.  Some of us, including yours truly, loved the fantastical elements in it, which carried truth to the reader in an entirely new way.

Everyone agreed that Rose Tremain’s The Gustav Sonata is a little gem of a book.  We found so much to talk about!  I look forward to blogging about that one.  Rose Tremain is a real crafts person; not a word is wasted.  And there is so much beneath the surface!

December was our month for a classic, and we read Graham Greene’s The Quiet American.  Every time I read that book, I close it and say “That is SUCH a good book.”  Literary Masters members agreed!  And it was the perfect book to read after last season’s The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen.  If you’re looking for a pairing, this is a good one.

We then moved on to our nonfiction selection for the season: Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS by Joby Warrick.  Everyone agreed–this should be required reading.  Everyone learned a lot and our discussions were intense!

This month we are discussing the most gorgeous novel: The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig.  After a few pages, I sat back, relaxed, and thought “Ah…I am in good hands.”  This is “poetry under the prose”–so much so that I reread passages just to experience them again.  I can’t wait to “dig deep” into this book with all our wonderful Literary Masters members!

You can always visit the Literary Masters website to see what members are reading–or have read.  When are you going to join a Literary Masters book group?

Should Your Book Club Read The Lonely War by Nazila Fathi?

Should your book club read The Lonely War by Nazila Fathi?  The answer is absolutely yes!  This wonderful memoir was the 2015-16 season’s nonfiction selection for Literary Masters book groups and salons, and almost everyone loved it.  I say ‘almost’ because some people only ‘liked it a lot’.  Some avid nonfiction readers said it was the best nonfiction book they had read in ages.  Everyone agreed that it is worth reading and also important reading, considering what’s going on in the world today.

So, what can your book club discuss?

Warp-speed plot summary:  Nazila Fathi was born in Tehran in 1970 and was all of nine years old when the revolution occurred and ushered in a whole new world for the Iranian people.  Although many families fled the country, Nazila’s stayed, and she grew into adulthood in the new Islamic state.  Fluent in English, Nazila was eventually hired to write for the New York Times until she and her family (her husband and two children) were forced to flee the country in 2009.  In this memoir, Nazila takes the reader through her journey as well as the journey of the country of Iran and its people.  As the years progress, we witness the growing pains of each as they grapple with new identities.

You’ll want to talk about how/whether this book has affected your view of Iran and the Iranian people.  Literary Masters members are well educated and very engaged in world affairs, but still, almost everyone said they learned quite a bit about the revolution and the people involved–and about what the Iranian people wanted.  You’ll want to discuss the Iranians’ desire for democracy–and what has happened to it since 1979.  You’ll want to think about how US and British historical actions (think Moussadeq) affected the Iranian’s attitude toward the West and helped contribute to bringing about the revolution.  You’ll want to connect all of this to today’s world, of course–a long conversation in itself!

Related to the above, you’ll want to discuss what you think Iran’s main problem is.  And you’ll definitely want to discuss what it is that you admire about Iran.

You’ll want to discuss the class system in Iran and how the regime used it to further their aims.  Was is a mutually beneficial relationship?  Who came out ahead and who came out behind as a result of all the tumult?  Ask yourselves: How responsible is the class system for the revolution?  Also ask yourselves: Does anything like this exist in America?

You’ll want to talk about the various ideologies vying for power in Iran.  Talk about how those who are in power get and remain there.  Also, talk about the ways ordinary citizens survive or thrive under the various power structures.  Also, talk about university students and technology–and the power that resides there!

You’ll want to talk about Iran in relation to its neighbors.  Talk about how you think Iranians feel about themselves in comparison to other countries in the region.  And how they feel about their political leaders, both historical and current.

You’ll want to talk about national security vs. individual freedoms:  how do you feel about this debate with regard to our country after reading this book?  How do we balance the two?  If one side deserves more weight than the other, how do we keep it in check so we don’t topple over?

You’ll want to discuss Ms. Fathi’s parents and how they dealt with all the changes they were going through.  If there was one criticism of the book from Literary Masters members, it was that they wanted to know more of the personal experiences of the family.  (Sequel, Ms. Fathi?)

You’ll want to talk about the experience of women in Iran.  Try to look at is AS a woman in Iran.  And of course, look at it AS a western woman (or whatever you may be).  This was quite the discussion in all Literary Masters groups!  You will definitely want to discuss the veil!

You’ll want to talk about oil and its effect upon the people of Iran.

You’ll want to talk about Ms. Fathi.  Do you think she offers a balanced view or is she biased in her telling of Iran’s recent history?  The subtitle is “One Woman’s Account of the Struggle for Modern Iran.” Is she acknowledging bias on her part?  Does her memoir connect you to the Iranian people or to Islam or to Iranian culture or to anything/anyone else in a new way?

You’ll want to talk about the relationship between the author and her maid.  How do you feel about the choices Ms. Fathi makes?  How do you feel about the choices the maid makes?

Well, this should get you started!  Let me know how your book club enjoys discussing this wonderful memoir!

Literary Awards Season!

I just love this time of year, as you all know!  Long lists and shortlists are out, and there is so much to ‘dig deep’ into!  If you missed it, the 2016-17 Literary Masters LIST has been posted, and our October selection The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead has also landed on the long list for the National Book Award for fiction, while our May choice The Sellout by Paul Beatty is now short listed for the Man Booker Prize.

Here are the long list titles for the National Book Award:

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
Sweet Lamb of Heaven by Lydia Millet
News of the World by Paulette Jiles
Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett
The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan
The Throwback Special by Chris Bachelder
What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell
Miss Jane by Brad Watson
The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie

And here are the titles on the short list for the Man Booker Prize:

The Sellout by Paul Beatty
Hot Milk by Deborah Levy
His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet
Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh
All That Man Is by David Szalay
Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien

Don’t you just LOVE this time of year?  Let me know what you’re reading from the above lists!