I put all of the suggestions from yesterday’s thread together and chose 5 general fiction books at random and 5 classics, also at random. Please vote for one in each category. The book with the most votes from each category will be the books that we read this month and discuss in October. Remember, if you read/discuss one you aren’t obligated to read both…you can always choose just one 🙂 Also, I’m keeping a record of the suggestions that didn’t get chosen and they’ll be entered into next month’s pool.
Here are brief summaries of each book in the running!
Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
The true story of one family, caught between America’s two biggest policy disasters: the war on terror and the response to Hurricane Katrina.
Abdulrahman and Kathy Zeitoun run a house-painting business in New Orleans. In August of 2005, as Hurricane Katrina approaches, Kathy evacuates with their four young children, leaving Zeitoun to watch over the business. In the days following the storm he travels the city by canoe, feeding abandoned animals and helping elderly neighbors. Then, on September 6th, police officers armed with M-16s arrest Zeitoun in his home. Told with eloquence and compassion, Zeitoun is a riveting account of one family’s unthinkable struggle with forces beyond wind and water.
In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson
Erik Larson’s latest work, In the Garden of Beasts, revisits chilling times, from Hitler’s ascent to power in 1933 to the orgiastic climax of killings in the Night of the Long Knives. But he crafts his narrative through the eyes of America’s ambassador, a history professor from Chicago, and his rather easy-virtued daughter, Martha, whose amorous encounters introduce us to a cadre of kooks, including a love-sick Soviet spy and the inadequately sadistic Gestapo chief.
The Magicians by Lev Grossman
Quentin Coldwater is brilliant but miserable. A senior in high school, he’s still secretly preoccupied with a series of fantasy novels he read as a child, set in a magical land called Fillory. Imagine his surprise when he finds himself unexpectedly admitted to a very secret, very exclusive college of magic in upstate New York, where he receives a thorough and rigorous education in the craft of modern sorcery.
He also discovers all the other things people learn in college: friendship, love, sex, booze, and boredom. Something is missing, though. Magic doesn’t bring Quentin the happiness and adventure he dreamed it would. After graduation he and his friends make a stunning discovery: Fillory is real. But the land of Quentin’s fantasies turns out to be much darker and more dangerous than he could have imagined. His childhood dream becomes a nightmare with a shocking truth at its heart.
At once psychologically piercing and magnificently absorbing, The Magicians boldly moves into uncharted literary territory, imagining magic as practiced by real people, with their capricious desires and volatile emotions. Lev Grossman creates an utterly original world in which good and evil aren’t black and white, love and sex aren’t simple or innocent, and power comes at a terrible price.
God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Compared favorably to the works of Faulkner and Dickens, Arundhati Roy’s debut novel is a modern classic that has been read and loved worldwide. Equal parts powerful family saga, forbidden love story, and piercing political drama, it is the story of an affluent Indian family forever changed by one fateful day in 1969. The seven-year-old twins Estha and Rahel see their world shaken irrevokably by the arrival of their beautiful young cousin, Sophie. It is an event that will lead to an illicit liaison and tragedies accidental and intentional, exposing “big things [that] lurk unsaid” in a country drifting dangerously toward unrest. Lush, lyrical, and unnerving, The God of Small Things is an award-winning landmark that started for its author an esteemed career of fiction and political commentary that continues unabated.
Room by Emma Donoghue
Five-year-old Jack and his Ma live and eat and play and sleep in one room–an 11×11-foot space that is their prison–captives of the terrifying man Jack calls Old Nick. But as Jack grows older and more curious, it becomes clear that the room will not be able to hold him and Ma forever.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Published in 1868, Little Women follows the lives, loves and tribulations of fours sisters growing up during the American Civil War. The story is based the childhood experiences Alcott shared with her real life sisters, Anna, May and Elzabeth. The novel stars Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy and explores the rich nuances of family and family relationships
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Jane Austen’s first published novel, Sense and Sensibility is a wonderfully entertaining tale of flirtation and folly that revolves around two starkly different sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. While Elinor is thoughtful, considerate, and calm, her younger sister is emotional and wildly romantic. Both are looking for a husband, but neither Elinor’s reason nor Marianne’s passion can lead them to perfect happiness—as Marianne falls for an unscrupulous rascal and Elinor becomes attached to a man who’s already engaged. Startling secrets, unexpected twists, and heartless betrayals interrupt the marriage games that follow. Filled with satiric wit and subtle characterizations, Sense and Sensibility teaches that true love requires a balance of reason and emotion.
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Hugo’s classic tale is set against the backdrop of political upheaval in 19th-century France. It retains its timeless appeal in documenting the struggles of former convict Jean Valjean. The suspenseful central plot traces Valjean’s endeavor to emerge from desperate circumstances while being pursued by the duty-obsessed Inspector Javert. . The principal characters are of epic proportions, and the tale expands upon major themes of redemption through good works and the importance of authentic charity.
Lady Chatterly’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence
D.H. Lawrence finished “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” in 1928, but it was not published in an uncensored version until 1960. Many contemporary critics of D.H. Lawrence viewed the Victorian love story as vulgar, and even pornographic. It was banned immediately upon publication in both the UK and the US. The obscenity trials which followed established legal precedents for literature which still endure. At the heart, “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” is a story about the invisible bonds between lovers, companions, and husbands and wives. Against this backdrop, Lawrence also explores the relationship between physical desire and spiritual fulfillment, often using sensual and explicitly sexual language.
The Portrait of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
The Portrait of Dorian Gray was first published in 1890 by Oscar Wilde. It’s seen as one of the first Gothic horror fiction stories and it was criticized as scandalous and immoral! This is the special Reader’s Choice Edition which has been carefully designed for Dorian Gray and Oscar Wilde fans for extra easy reading. Plot summary: This classic book is about a young man named Dorian Gray. He is the subject of a painting by artist Basil Hallward who thinks he is very good looking, with a pure beauty. One thing leads to another and Dorian embraces a new hedonism with Basil and a new group of friends. He begins to believe that the only things worth pursuing in life are beauty, fulfillment of the senses, and pleasures of the flesh…