Top 2013 Book Club Recommendations (Part 2)

There's nothing worse than being stuck with a bad book for your book club. Actually, there is something worse - being the one responsible for choosing it!

To save you from Book Club embarrassment, here are a dozen carefully selected books personally recommended by our reviewers. All have recently published in paperback, or will publish in paperback before the year end (and all are also available as ebooks). You can browse through an excerpt of each so as to decide which are right for your book club. You can also read a a range of review opinion for each book (and, if you're a member, BookBrowse's full review and backstory). All but one also has a handy printable reading guide.

Publication dates are all for USA, and may differ elsewhere


Me Before YouMe Before You by Jojo Moyes

Paperback: July, 2013; 400 pages. Penguin Books

Me Before You is a story about personal redemption and self-worth, about finding courage, about knowing what to hold onto and what to let go. It's also a meditation on one of the most controversial and divisive issues of our times.  (Reviewed by Norah Piehl).
Reviews, Excerpt & Reading Guide


Dear LifeDear Life by Alice Munro

Paperback: July 2013; 336 pages. Vintage

Alice Munro writes with an almost invisible, crystalline style that rarely incorporates common literary devices like simile or metaphor. The height of Munro's flourish is a bit of repetition or delicate hints at vernacular language. This clarity allows for a closer proximity to the characters, who speak and act in the straightforward manner of a moment or memory rather than the formality of a performance.  (Reviewed by Elizabeth Whitmore Funk).
Reviews, Excerpt & Reading Guide


Small DamagesSmall Damages by Beth Kephart

Paperback: July 2013; 304 pages. Published by Speak

I have never been to Spain. I have never stayed on a bull ranch just outside of Seville, where the heat beats down on the olive groves, and the smell of saffron permeates the thick atmosphere. I have never breathed in the air there, "which smells like fruit and sun and the color blue." But after reading Small Damages I feel like I have. In fiction, a vividly drawn landscape can ground the reader. It can help the reader rest comfortably inside the story because she knows – by way of her senses – where she is. Beth Kephart is a master at this. She creates landscape in a glorious way. With lyrical prose that rings unique and familiar all at the same time, she opens the reader's ears, eyes, nose and skin – she transports the reader smack into the middle of the world she has created.  (Reviewed by Tamara Smith).

This is a young adult book with cross over appeal for adults, thus could be a particularly good choice for mother-daughter book clubs.
Reviews, Excerpt & Reading Guide


Sweet Tooth Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan

Paperback: July 2013, 400 pages. Published by Anchor

Sweet Tooth is, in part, a fictionalized memoir of the literary scene in the 1970s (based quite heavily on McEwan's own experiences as a university student and as a young short story writer; the novel includes cameos by a handful of his friends and mentors) and a breathy piece of escapist spy fiction. McEwan is not John le Carre, however, and so the most intriguing aspects of McEwan's novel are not about espionage per se, but rather about the ways in which writers of realistic fiction, by mining their own lives and the lives of those around them, are, in themselves, the craftiest and most artful spies of all.  (Reviewed by Norah Piehl).
Reviews, Excerpt & Reading Guide


HomesickHomesick by Roshi Fernando

Paperback: July 2013; 288 pages. Published by Vintage

In the end, Homesick emerges as a moving and powerful novel about Sri Lankans in England. In showcasing her characters' everyday anxieties and triumphs, Fernando effectively portrays a slice of humanity we can all - immigrants or not - identify with readily. It is this empathy that Fernando manages to elicit from her readers and that makes Homesick such a compelling, triumphant debut.  (Reviewed by Poornima Apte).
Reviews, Excerpt & Reading Guide

The ProphetThe Prophet by Michael Koryta

Paperback: August 2013; 432 pages. Back Bay Books

Hot diggity! How can you lose by reading a gritty whodunit about football, smack in the thick of football season? Here's the thing: You can't. Even if you're not a football fan. Even if you can't tell a cornerback from a lineman. Because, see, I don't even know the difference between those two positions and I loved this book. Michael Koryta takes full advantage of the football theme in The Prophet. It serves as a story arc, a metaphor and - most interestingly - structure for this dark thriller.  (Reviewed by Donna Chavez).
Reviews, Excerpt & Reading Guide


AsunderAsunder by Chloe Aridjis

Paperback: September 2013; 208 pages. Mariner Books

It is to Chloe Aridjis' enormous credit that she makes the daily machinations of a museum guard riveting reading. Marie's days might be outwardly repetitive and even boring but the reader sees her mind working in inventive and interesting ways...As Marie tries to make peace with her internal struggles, there's a tightly wound energy that's apparent on every wonderful page, just waiting to leap up and hold the reader in its welcome embrace.  (Reviewed by Poornima Apte).
Reviews, Excerpt & Reading Guide



Mr Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
Paperback: September 2013; 304 pages, Published by Picador

Sloan effectively combines real-world technologies, settings, and situations with unabashed fantasy - trying to discern the difference (and in many cases deciding it doesn't really matter) is a great deal of the fun. Ultimately a very satisfying (and surprisingly old-fashioned) adventure story, Sloan's debut is also a reminder for readers about the varied pleasures of reading, of discovery, of investigation, and of books themselves.  (Reviewed by Norah Piehl).
Reviews, Excerpt & Reading Guide



The Twelve Tribes of HattieThe Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis

Paperback: October 8, 256 pages. Published by Vintage

Ayana Mathis's debut novel The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is a stunning, penetrating portrait of a woman through the eyes of her children. Devotion and its intersection with love is one of the central ruminations of the novel. The narrative structure of the novel is intriguing, and somewhat like a puzzle. For example, although Hattie is the titular character, she is rarely allowed the opportunity to provide her own perspective. The effect is powerful and subtle. Each chapter provides information that creates a complete picture of a proud, intelligent, and ultimately, trapped woman. The Twelve Tribes of Hattie establishes Ayana Mathis as a gifted writer, one who will be watched with excitement. Fans of Toni Morrison and James Baldwin will find another favorite in this powerful new talent.  (Reviewed by Sarah Sacha Dollacker).
Reviews, Excerpt & Reading Guide


IlluminationsIlluminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen by Mary Sharratt

Paperback: October 15, 2013; 288 pages. Mariner Books

Deftly written, this novel places the reader fully into Hildegard's life and time with fully rounded characters, the historical backdrop of the Crusades and the ongoing struggle of women to overcome the social roles expected of them.  (Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).
Reviews, Excerpt & Reading Guide


The DinnerThe Dinner by Herman Koch

Paperback: October 29, 2013; 304 pages. Hogarth

Provocative and unsettling, The Dinner explores parental responsibility for their children's behavior, as well as the extreme lengths a parent would go to protect his or her child. But also, it suggests we face the fact that evil might not be easy to recognize.  (Reviewed by Sarah Tomp).
Reviews & Excerpt (no reading guide as yet, but likely to be one after publication)


The House Girl The House Girl by Tara Conklin

Paperback: November 5, 2013; 384 pages. Published by William Morrow

I've read many books set in the US's slavery era, and this is one of the best. It poses a unique connection between a young slave "house girl" and a driven New York lawyer. The House Girl portrays an inspiring story of how, through art, a person survives long after leaving this world.  (Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).
Reviews, Excerpt & Reading Guide


The Aviator's WifeThe Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin

Paperback: November 26, 2013; 448 pages. Published by Bantam

Until reading Melanie Benjamin's exquisitely crafted novel, The Aviator's Wife Anne Morrow Lindburgh seemed to be, as the title suggests, simply the aviator's wife. But her remarkable life far outshines that of her famous spouse.  (Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).
Reviews, Excerpt & Reading Guide


A Possible LifeA Possible Life by Sebastian Faulks

Paperback: November 26, 2013; 304 pages. Published by Picador

Have you ever thought about how remarkably different people's lives are - that an intricate arrangement of choices, chance meetings, unforeseen circumstances, and relationships can combine to create a unique life path? Or, on the other hand, have you ever marveled over the universal sameness of the human experience? In A Possible Life: A Novel in Five Parts, Sebastian Faulks explores these seemingly contradictory yet complimentary ideas through five main characters, living in five different places, during five different time periods.  (Reviewed by Elena Spagnolie).
Reviews, Excerpt & Reading Guide

Top 2013 Book Club Recommendations, Part 1

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