February 28, 2005
Nominations for April's Book!
Our February book discussion officially starts today! That means we need to pick a new book.
This entry will serve as the nomination collection group. Leave your nominations for the book you'd like to discuss in April in the comments on this post. At the end of the week, I will put up a poll for voting with four or five choices. (I'll try to make it as democratic as possible when deciding on the polling options!)
So give me your titles everyone!
PS - Don't forget: The book we will be reading in March is a long one: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell.
February Book Discussion Begins!
Come join our discussion of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon.
February 10, 2005
The winner of our first vote is:
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
by Susanna Clarke
Jonathan Strange won with 31 out of 89 votes. The Namesake was runner-up with 23 votes. I'll automatically put it in the vote for April's book.
Since Jonathan Strange is a long book I thought I'd move back the discussion date to April 4th - giving us an extra week (and more importantly, an extra weekend.) Don't forget, the discussions are ongoing - so if you can't make it when it first begins, make it a little later. I'm thrilled to see that the Roth discussion is still going on (I promise I'll pop back in next week!).
I wanted to mention too, since Jonathan Strange is a hardcover book, it can be expensive. Amazon.com is selling it for $17.61 - just a little more than the paperback will cost - buy.com has it for $15.84! If you'd like to buy the book, bargains can be found.
Thank you all for voting!
Don't forget the February Discussion starts February 28th.
February 09, 2005
Last Chance to Vote!
If you haven't voted yet, today's the last chance to vote for March's Book! Polls close at midnight EST.
February 05, 2005
Here are the top nominations for March's Discussion:
[Voting is below book descriptions. You can only vote once. Thank you!]
Choice #1: The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
In The Namesake, Lahiri enriches the themes that made her collection an international bestseller: the immigrant experience, the clash of cultures, the conflicts of assimilation, and, most poignantly, the tangled ties between generations. Here again Lahiri displays her deft touch for the perfect detail -- the fleeting moment, the turn of phrase -- that opens whole worlds of emotion.
The Namesake takes the Ganguli family from their tradition-bound life in Calcutta through their fraught transformation into Americans. On the heels of their arranged wedding, Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli settle together in Cambridge, Massachusetts. An engineer by training, Ashoke adapts far less warily than his wife, who resists all things American and pines for her family. When their son is born, the task of naming him betrays the vexed results of bringing old ways to the new world. Named for a Russian writer by his Indian parents in memory of a catastrophe years before, Gogol Ganguli knows only that he suffers the burden of his heritage as well as his odd, antic name.
Choice #2: Snow by Orhan Pamuk
Following years of lonely political exile in Western Europe, Ka, a middle-aged poet, returns to Istanbul to attend his mother's funeral. Only partly recognizing this place of his cultured, middle-class youth, he is even more disoriented by news of strange events in the wider country: a wave of suicides among girls forbidden to wear their head scarves at school. An apparent thaw of his writer's curiosity — a frozen sea these many years — leads him to Kars, a far-off town near the Russian border and the epicenter of the suicides.
No sooner has he arrived, however, than we discover that Ka's motivations are not purely journalistic; for in Kars, once a province of Ottoman and then Russian glory, now a cultural gray-zone of poverty and paralysis, there is also Ipek, a radiant friend of Ka's youth, lately divorced, whom he has never forgotten. As a snowstorm, the fiercest in memory, descends on the town and seals it off from the modern, westernized world that has always been Ka's frame of reference, he finds himself drawn in unexpected directions: not only headlong toward the unknowable Ipek and the desperate hope for love — or at least a wife — that she embodies, but also into the maelstrom of a military coup staged to restrain the local Islamist radicals, and even toward God, whose existence Ka has never before allowed himself to contemplate. In this surreal confluence of emotion and spectacle, Ka begins to tap his dormant creative powers, producing poem after poem in untimely, irresistible bursts of inspiration. But not until the snows have melted and the political violence has run its bloody course will Ka discover the fate of his bid to seize a last chance for happiness.
Choice #3: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
English magicians were once the wonder of the known world, with fairy servants at their beck and call; they could command winds, mountains, and woods. But by the early 1800s they have long since lost the ability to perform magic. They can only write long, dull papers about it, while fairy servants are nothing but a fading memory.
But at Hurtfew Abbey in Yorkshire, the rich, reclusive Mr Norrell has assembled a wonderful library of lost and forgotten books from England's magical past and regained some of the powers of England's magicians. He goes to London and raises a beautiful young woman from the dead. Soon he is lending his help to the government in the war against Napoleon Bonaparte, creating ghostly fleets of rain-ships to confuse and alarm the French.
All goes well until a rival magician appears. Jonathan Strange is handsome, charming, and talkative — the very opposite of Mr Norrell. Strange thinks nothing of enduring the rigors of campaigning with Wellington's army and doing magic on battlefields. Astonished to find another practicing magician, Mr Norrell accepts Strange as a pupil. But it soon becomes clear that their ideas of what English magic ought to be are very different. For Mr Norrell, their power is something to be cautiously controlled, while Jonathan Strange will always be attracted to the wildest, most perilous forms of magic. He becomes fascinated by the ancient, shadowy figure of the Raven King, a child taken by fairies who became king of both England and Faerie, and the most legendary magician of all. Eventually Strange's heedless pursuit of long-forgotten magic threatens to destroy not only his partnership with Norrell, but everything that he holds dear.
Choice #4: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
An epic tale of fathers and sons, of friendship and betrayal, that takes us from Afghanistan in the final days of the monarchy to the atrocities of the present.
The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father's servant, The Kite Runner is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country that is in the process of being destroyed. It is about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption, and it is also about the power of fathers over sons-their love, their sacrifices, their lies.
The first Afghan novel to be written in English, The Kite Runner tells a sweeping story of family, love, and friendship against a backdrop of history that has not been told in fiction before, bringing to mind the large canvases of the Russian writers of the nineteenth century. But just as it is old-fashioned in its narration, it is contemporary in its subject-the devastating history of Afghanistan over the last thirty years. As emotionally gripping as it is tender, The Kite Runner is an unusual and powerful debut.
Choice #5: Cloud Atlas: A Novel by David Mitchell
A reluctant voyager crossing the Pacific in 1850; a disinherited composer blagging a precarious livelihood in between-the-wars Belgium; a high-minded journalist in Governor Reagan's California; a vanity publisher fleeing his gangland creditors; a genetically modified "dinery server" on death-row; and Zachry, a young Pacific Islander witnessing the nightfall of science and civilization — the narrators of Cloud Atlas hear each other's echoes down the corridor of history, and their destinies are changed in ways great and small.
In his captivating third novel, David Mitchell erases the boundaries of language, genre and time to offer a meditation on humanity's dangerous will to power, and where it may lead us.
[All of the book links lead to Powells, which has more information, including links to reviews.]
Voting will close on Wednesday, February 9th. Thank you!
And the winner is...