It always takes me a couple of weeks to sort through all the conference swag after an ALA meeting. But once I do, I find I have a long list of forthcoming reading to look forward to. This year I have two stacks of books I’m going to put on my short list for book groups for next year. Here’s a look at the first of them.
Book groups love memoirs and they’ll like this one from debut author Imran Ahmad, The Perfect Gentleman. It’s warm and funny and touching. It could be the story of anyone we know. Ahmad was born in Pakistan and left at the age of one after losing the “Bonniest Baby” contest (he’s certain it was rigged). The family moved to London and Ahmad grew up struggling between his Eastern heritage and Western environs. Readers will appreciate talking about Ahmad’s experiences growing up and what it means to be Muslim in the West today.
Readers looking for historical fiction will enjoy Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan or The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott. Half-Blood Blues was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize in 2011. The story is split between Berlin in 1939 and 1992. A 20 year old black German musician escapes to Paris, meets Louis Armstrong and is arrested by the Gestapo, never to be heard from again. More than 50 years later the musician resurfaces as a jazz legend and the subject of a documentary. A powerful story of music, race, and friendship.
The Dressmaker will appeal to readers of other historical book group favorites, The Paris Wife and Loving Frank. Tess is a young woman who survives the sinking of the Titanic and is plunged into a different tragedy. Her employer, designer Lady Duff Gordon becomes embroiled in a media scandal and a figure in the hearings on the Titanic disaster. Read in April, just in time for the centennial anniversary of the great ship’s sinking.
The bright lights of Broadway provide the backdrop for Alan Shapiro’s debut, Broadway Baby. Miriam is a stage-struck girl who grows up to be a stage-struck mother. Her own dreams of Broadway stardom are thwarted as she takes on the role of wife and mother to three children. Family sacrifice and unrealized dreams will be the primary issues up for discussion.
Look for the second half of this post which will focus on four more titles for next year’s book groups.