Friday, October 17, 2014

We're Voting Early (Our Book Club, That Is)

Because one of the couples in our book club cannot make it to our Whispering Pines weekend in Nebraska City next month, we decided to go ahead and vote on our 2015 booklist at our next meeting -- which is tonight. I'm listing below the books that Claire and I are submitting.

Will they make it? Who knows? The members of our noble company once enjoyed greater unanimity in the types of books we enjoyed but, in recent years, we've seen much wider differences of taste, opinions, time available, and so on. Some like more modern stuff while others, like Claire and I, would like to stay with classic literature. (If there was an 18th and 19th Century-only club, we'd probably join it!) Some want to avoid long novels. Some want to avoid dialect (Sir Walter Scott, for instance). Some prefer lighter themes while others go for the Russians. Some absolutely refuse to read anything on a Kindle, making some choices too expensive to buy in hard copies.

You get the idea. Finding literature that the whole group wants to read is a difficult business. But, like we always do, we'll give it a go.

Anyhow, here's the Hartfords' list of suggestions for this time around. If these are the kind of books you like reading and discussing, by all means, let us know. We're always ready for a book conversation over lunch or coffee. In fact, we're even open to the possibility of joining (or starting) another book club.

Why not? What else are we going to do? Watch TV? Yuck.

Denny & Claire’s Recommendations for 2015 
(All books listed have been read in full by the endorsers.)

1) Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak – Russia. Revolution. Romance. What won’t you like about this grand novel? Length? C’mon. We used to read these long novels in years past and loved them. We can do it again. And, if need be, we take an extra month to read it. No big deal. (648 pages. Several used, cheap copies around. $11 for a Kindle edition. 5 copies in the local library.)
If you don’t want this particular re-read, would you consider:
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Doestoevsky?
Or Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott?
Or 1984 by George Orwell?

2) Drums Along the Mohawk by Walter D. Edmonds -- Gilbert and Lana Martin are newlywed pioneers trying to make a home in the Mohawk Valley just as the American Revolution is launched. But the Martins’ hopes for a life together must not only overcome poverty, hard work and extreme loneliness, but they are also violently challenged by Indians, British soldiers, and the Loyalists devoutly set against the new nation. Here's a much different view of the Revolution because this story isn't set in Philadelphia or Boston but rather on the distant New York frontier. (580 pages. Several used copies around at cheap prices. 2 copies in the local library.)

3) Richard III by Edward de Vere (aka William Shakespeare) – From 1993 through 2003, the Napoleons voted in a Shakespeare play. We suggest we return to the Bard this year with this riveting historical drama. The writing is beautiful. The potential for meaningful conversation is enormous. The educational value is immense. And a Shakespeare play probably takes less time than any novel we’ll read…even if you throw in watching a good movie version. (Available just about everywhere, including your own library at home.)

4) Knight Without Armor by James Hilton -- Published in 1933, this thriller is quite a bit different from the author’s better-known novels, Random Harvest, Goodbye Mr. Chips, and Lost Horizon. This deals with Ainsely Fothergill, a lost young man who begins a career as a journalist covering the Russo-Japanese war (1903) but, through an unusual series of events, becomes a reluctant spy for the British government in revolutionary Russia.  (297 pages. $2.99 at Kindle. $8 at ABE Books. Free through Gutenberg.)

5) Run Silent, Run Deep by Commander Edward L. Beach, Jr. -- No, this isn't much like the Clark Gable, Burt Lancaster flick of the same name. It is, in fact, much more interesting and worthwhile. The novel provides a detailed look at submarine service during World War II through the eyes of one crew, but the reader learns a lot about how subs worked, training, strategy, Pearl Harbor, and matters of the human soul. The plot also involves a very daring adventure against a Japanese war genius. Beach himself served on submarines in the Pacific during the war and his writing is terrific.  This book has made it to NHN Alternative status before. Let’s take it all the way. (343 pages. Used from $1 at ABE Books.)

6) Miss Bishop by Bess Streeter Aldrich -- Ella Bishop comes to college as an eager, curious and dedicated young student…and stays as a teacher through many long and lovely (though sometimes lonely) years. This is a touching story of integrity, unrequited love, loyalty, and passion for teaching young people. And of course, Aldrich is a Nebraska author. (337 pages. $2.99 Kindle and $5.89 at ABE Books. Free at Project Gutenburg. 4 copies in the local library.)

7) The Seventh Cross by Anna Seghers -- A tense, deeply moving novel about the escape of a young Communist from a Nazi concentration camp and his ongoing efforts to avoid recapture. (344 pages. Used starting at $1 at ABE Books.)

8) Mistress Wilding by Rafael Satabini – Rebellion. Romance. Heroes and villains. Chivalry and adventure. A rousing adventure from one our favorite authors, set against the intriguing background of the Duke of Monmouth's return to England during the reign of King James. (262 pages. Free on Kindle and $4.99 at Amazon).

9) Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier -- "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again." You loved the movie; I think you’ll love the book – even though you’ll find the ending quite a bit different.  Du Maurier is an incomparable craftsman and in Rebecca she has created one of America’s most intense and intriguing gothic novels.  416 pages.  (Used copies starting at $.01 at Amazon.  10 copies in the local library.)

10) Persuasion by Jane Austen – Jane Austen might have saved her very best for her last novel. Though connected a bit to Northanger Abbey (the Royal Navy, the city of Bath, family complications), the story finds Austen exploring a more darkly satirical perspective than in her other work. But just for a season. In the end, there is a very positive, uplifting tone and message. Her treatment of the various ways in which a person is “persuaded” to be something they are not is terrific. And, not surprisingly, it is a masterfully crafted novel. (272 pages. Both new and used copies abound at inexpensive prices. 13 copies in the local library.)