For the past several years I’ve chaired the reading committee that selects the titles for the Great Group Reads list that comes out in September in time for National Reading Group Month (October). There were 22 readers this year and we read like fiends all spring and summer. It was fun and exhausting at the same time and I really appreciate the readers’ their efforts. We put together a great list of books.
National Reading Group Month is sponsored by the Women’s National Book Association–the other WNBA–and to celebrate NRGM all the chapters around the country have author programs, highlighting the Great Group Reads books and other wonderful new books that will provoke lively discussions.
The New York WNBA chapter program is this Wednesday evening–October 17–at the Strand Book Store in their classy Rare Book Room and I’m moderating the panel of 5 authors. For me, this is the high that comes at the end of the hard work: the chance to talk to authors of novels and memoirs, to find out how they wrote those wonderful books, what they were thinking about when they wrote them, how they write, and maybe even why they write. If you’re in NYC, come to the Strand for the 7pm program–it’s only $10 and for that you’ll get a $10 Strand gift card–can it be possible that there’s a book you want to buy?
The authors on the panel are: Alix Kates Shulman whose current novel is Menage (Other Press), a wicked sendup of modern marriage. Shulman’s name ought to be familiar to you as the writer of the iconic feminist novel Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen.
Elizabeth Nunez will be there too, author of Boundaries (Akashic Press), a lovely cross-cultural story of a woman coping with competing demands of family and career.
David Maine, author of An Age of Madness (Red Hen Press), a devastating psychological study of a woman doctor whose family life has gone horribly wrong. I was delighted that this title made it onto the Great Group Reads list.
I’m eager to meet Ben Ryder Howe and hear more about his hilarious and heartfelt memoir My Korean Deli: Risking it all for a Convenience Store (Picador). I listened to this one and laughed out loud often. It’s more than just humorous–it’s a great New York story with lots of food for thought about who we are and the choices we make for the ones we love.
Marisa de los Santos will be there to talk about Falling Together (Wm. Morrow Paperbacks), a novel about three college friends who find that despite their close friendship, they’ve been blind to some important truths.
So, come to the Strand if you can and say hello. There will be time to ask questions of the authors and talk to them after the program.
October is National Reading Group Month, a good time to think about how much our lives are enriched by the discussions we have with friends–and even casual acquaintances–about books. I have to admit I have a special interest here; I chair the committee of readers who read and select the titles for the Great Group Reads list that comes out as part of National Reading Group Month.
I spend all spring and summer madly reading and (virtually) talking about the books that are candidates for that list. We vote in August and then the list is released in mid-September. I love the titles on this year’s list; they’re a more diverse group than we’ve had before (this year we picked more titles). It’s diverse in writing style, setting, plot, character–all the many ways that novels can differ from each other. And we have a few lovely memoirs. I’ll write more about individual titles in later posts.
For the second year, I had the fun of chairing the committee that reads and selects the titles for this list. We look for books that will be good for discussion, midlist books that may not get the big bucks for publicity. Since we read many titles pre-pub, we sometimes include a title or two that does turn out to be a bestseller. We’ll live with that! The list is mainly fiction, but this year and last year we picked one memoir. Here’s a link to the Great Group Reads website with all the titles, annotations, and links to reviews and publishers’ websites. The readers come from around the country and we have a great virtual conversation about the books.
Great Group Reads is part of National Reading Group Month, which is sponsored by the Women’s National Book Association, a great group that’s been around since 1917, when a group of women–ticked off by the all-male Bookseller’s League’s no-women members policy–formed their own group. Still going strong after 93 years, there are chapters in cities around the country. The NYC chapter is the founding chapter, and we host networking and educational events for our members, a great group of authors, editors, agents, publishers, librarians, and others involved in the book world.
All the WNBA chapters host events for National Reading Group Month (October); I’m moderating an author panel for the NYC chapter’s event on October 19th at Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn, starting at 6:30 pm. Come if you can–the event is free and there will be donations of books from publishers, refreshments, and book signings afterwards. Since Brooklyn now seems to be author central, we have a great group of authors: Susan Henderson, Sheri Holman, Rick Moody, Jackson Taylor, and Emily St. John Mandel. There’s a little more detail on the WNBA website events page; I’ll have more information as it gets closer.
If you haven’t heard about Great Group Reads, well, it’s the first year that this list of books selected for their discussability is making an appearance. I volunteered to coordinate the group of readers for this new National Reading Group Month initiative. It was hectic but fun! We were ten readers from around the country; we all read a group of books, discussed them virtually and chose nine titles, fiction and nonfiction. The list is below, but here’s a link to the Great Group Reads website with links to information about each book, including links to discussion guides.
Appassionata by Eva Hoffman
The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist
The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte by Syrie James
The House on Fortune Street by Margot Livesey
Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal by Julie Metz
While I’m Falling by Laura Moriarty
Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson
Cost by Roxana Robinson
Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie