One of my goals for 2014 was to read a book a month. I have always loved to read, but sometimes life gets in the way and I realize that I’ve gone months without getting lost in a good book. I made a conscious decision that I would not allow that to happen this year, and I’ve done pretty well so far. It’s June, and I’m already into my 7th book. YAY ME!
I’m always looking for new authors to discover, so I was thrilled when I was invited to participate in a campaign promoting the launch of New York Times bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf’s newest release, Little Mercies (available on June 24, 2014.) I watched the book trailer and immediately agreed to hop on board. I knew this was going to be right up my alley, and it was. Take a look.
When my copy of Little Mercies arrived, I wasted no time getting started. I was hooked on the first page. I could. not. put it down. I read Little Mercies in less than 24 hours.
I love finding a new author to binge on! I’ve had so much fun discovering Heather Gudenkauf.
Having a good book to read is one of the only ways I manage to unplug and leave the digital world behind for a while, and we all need that sometimes. Most of the books I’ve read this year were fantastic. I tend to have a bit of an eclectic taste in books. I’ve read everything from Michael Pollan to Janet Evanovich to Khaled Hosseini to Heather Gudenkauf and enjoyed them all.
I like each for a different reason. I generally like books that teach me something, whether it’s information about our food industry or the history of Afghanistan or insights into our public social services system. And sometimes it’s just fun to kick back and laugh at the hilarity of the life of Stephanie Plum.
One of my favorite things about summertime is the Summer Book Club for the ladies at my church. I’ve discovered some great books through our summer book club — books that I might not otherwise pick up to read. Because reading tends to be a solitary activity, it’s always fun to get together with others who have read the same book and discuss the characters and the plot and the author’s choices in the storyline.
If you don’t currently belong to a book club and you like to read, consider starting one on your own. Even if it is just one other friend, sharing a thought-provoking book with someone definitely enhances the reading experience.
The biggest challenge when participating in a book club is probably choosing a book that everyone will enjoy. Personally I think the perfect book club book is one that makes you think, gives you a controversial topic to discuss, or offers insight into a particular challenge/personal situation that the readers can relate to.
Of course what resonates with a particular group depends largely on the personality and preferences of your club members, but here are a few books to consider if you’re part of a book club or thinking of starting one.
5 Summer Book Club Picks
The Round House by Louise Erdrich
One of the most revered novelists of our time—a brilliant chronicler of Native-American life—Louise Erdrich returns to the territory of her bestselling, Pulitzer Prize finalist The Plague of Doves with The Round House, transporting readers to the Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota. It is an exquisitely told story of a boy on the cusp of manhood who seeks justice and understanding in the wake of a terrible crime that upends and forever transforms his family.
I’m still reading this, but it’s a fascinating read and provides insight into a culture that is largely forgotten and ignored. Incidentally, I’m reading this for my summer book club that is meeting this month.
UPDATE: I put this book down and I’m no longer recommending it. I got into it and it’s just way too vulgar for my tastes. I really do not care to be inside the mind of a teenage boy.
Instead, I am going to put in The Fault In My Stars. I haven’t read it yet, but I’m going to because it is my son’s required summer reading, and I know it is one that many people have read or want to read.
The Fault In My Stars by John Green
Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.
Read my movie review.
Me Before You by JoJo Moyes
Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has barely been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex–Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.
This one is dark, but it definitely provides food for thought and plenty of fodder for a book club discussion.
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Propelled by the same superb instinct for storytelling that made The Kite Runner a beloved classic, A Thousand Splendid Suns is at once an incredible chronicle of thirty years of Afghan history and a deeply moving story of family, friendship, faith, and the salvation to be found in love.
Born a generation apart and with very different ideas about love and family, Mariam and Laila are two women brought jarringly together by war, by loss and by fate. As they endure the ever escalating dangers around them-in their home as well as in the streets of Kabul-they come to form a bond that makes them both sisters and mother-daughter to each other, and that will ultimately alter the course not just of their own lives but of the next generation. With heart-wrenching power and suspense, Hosseini shows how a woman’s love for her family can move her to shocking and heroic acts of self-sacrifice, and that in the end it is love, or even the memory of love, that is often the key to survival.
A stunning accomplishment, A Thousand Splendid Suns is a haunting, heartbreaking, compelling story of an unforgiving time, an unlikely friendship, and an indestructible love.
This book is not a light read. Parts of the story are disturbing, but it’s not terribly graphic. It has so many angles to discuss within a book club setting, and I appreciated the glimpse into Afghan culture. If nothing else, it makes me more appreciative of the freedom we have here in America.
The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
Today, buffeted by one food fad after another, America is suffering from what can only be described as a national eating disorder. Will it be fast food tonight, or something organic? Or perhaps something we grew ourselves? The question of what to have for dinner has confronted us since man discovered fire. But as Michael Pollan explains in this revolutionary book, how we answer it now, as the dawn of the twenty-first century, may determine our survival as a species. Packed with profound surprises, The Omnivore’s Dilemma is changing the way Americans thing about the politics, perils, and pleasures of eating.
I wanted to recommend a Pollan book, but I couldn’t decide whether to recommend The Omnivore’s Dilemma or In Defense of Food, the first Pollan book I read that changed how our family eats and thinks about food. I went with The Omnivore’s Dilemma because it is more thorough, and Pollan’s visit to Polyface farm should not be missed.
And of course…
Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf
Veteran social worker Ellen Moore has seen the worst side of humanity—the vilest acts one person can commit against another. She is a fiercely dedicated children’s advocate and a devoted mother and wife. But one blistering summer day, a simple moment of distraction will have repercussions that Ellen could never have imagined, threatening to shatter everything she holds dear, and trapping her between the gears of the system she works for.
Meanwhile, ten-year-old Jenny Briard has been living with her well-meaning but irresponsible father since her mother left them, sleeping on friends’ couches and moving in and out of cheap motels. When Jenny suddenly finds herself on her own, she is forced to survive with nothing but a few dollars and her street smarts. The last thing she wants is a social worker, but when Ellen’s and Jenny’s lives collide, little do they know just how much they can help one another.
A powerful and emotionally charged tale about motherhood and justice, Little Mercies is a searing portrait of the tenuous grasp we have on the things we love the most, and of the ties that unexpectedly bring us together.
Little Mercies is one of those books that immediately draws you into the story. The main character could be me or you or the neighbor next door, caught in an unimaginable nightmare when one small mistake has life-altering consequences. This book is described as a powerful and emotionally charged tale about motherhood and justice, but that barely scratches the surface.
I enjoyed how the author tells the story from two perspectives and alternates between each main character until she eventually intertwines the two storylines. I can’t say much more without giving away the plot, but this is a story that will resonate with every mother and one that leaves you wondering, What if . . .
This is why it would make such a great book club read. There are plenty of issues to explore and discuss between the two storylines, and the questions in the back make it easy to host a discussion. If you want, there is even a book club guide available.
If you’re curious, here is an excerpt of Little Mercies to get you started. Warning: don’t read it unless you want to get hooked! The story is well written and believable; there is nothing about it that feels trite or contrived. I cannot wait to read more from Heather Gudenkauf.
Heather Gudenkauf is an Edgar Award nominated, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. Heather lives in Iowa with her husband and children. In her free time Heather enjoys spending time with her family, reading, and running. (You can see why I instantly knew that I’d like her!)
Little Mercies will be available on June 24. 2014 on Amazon.com and at other retailers.
If you decide to read Little Mercies, I hope you’ll come back and tell me what you think! And if you have any book club book suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments.
One lucky reader will win a Heather Gudenkauf book bundle including Little Mercies, The Weight of Silence and These Things Hidden. Use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter the sweepstakes!
Winners must be 18 years or older with a USA or Canadian mailing address. Winners will be announced within 48 hours of close of giveaway and have 48 hours to reply or another winner will be chosen. See complete Terms and Conditions in the Rafflecopter widget.
This post was written in partnership with Harlequin and I was compensated for my participation, but all opinions are mine and mine alone. Follow me on Good Reads for more book recommendations.