2009 Great Group Reads
Welcome to the inaugural Great Group Reads list!
Created in 2009, Great Group Reads provides an annual list for reading groups, and this was the one that got us started!
Featuring 9 titles, the list shows a wide range of perspectives and experiences. No two books are alike!
We hope you’ll read as many books as you can and enjoy them as we do. If you talk about them on social media, use #GreatGroupReads.
And if you are looking for a book club to join, the Bookwoman Book Club exclusively reads books from the GGR lists.
We hope you’ll join us in celebrating these fantastic reads!
by Eva Hoffman
Publication Date: May 5, 2009
Categories: women, family, artists
Isabel Merton is a renowned concert pianist, whose performances are marked by a rare responsiveness to the complexities of her art, and its intensities of feeling. At the height of her career, she feels increasingly torn between the compelling musical realm she deeply inhabits, and her fragmented itinerant artist’s life, with its frequent flights, anonymous hotels, and brief, arbitrary encounters. Away from her New York home on a European tour, Isabel meets a political exile from a war-torn country, a man driven by a rankling sense of injustice and a powerful desire to vindicate his cause and avenge his people. As their paths cross in several cities, they are drawn to each other both by their differences and their seemingly parallel passions — until a menacing incident throws her into a creative crisis, and forces her to reevaluate his actions, and her own motives.
In this story of contemporary love and conflict, Hoffman illuminates the currents and undercurrents of our time, as she explores the luminous and dark faces of romanticism, and those perennial human yearnings, frustrations, and moral choices that can lead to destructiveness, or the richest art.
by Ninni Holmqvist
Publication Date: June 9, 2009
Categories: dystopian, women, artists, healthcare, in translation
Ninni Holmqvist’s uncanny dystopian novel envisions a society in the not-so-distant future, where women over fifty and men over sixty who are unmarried and childless are sent to a retirement community called the Unit. They’re given lavish apartments set amongst beautiful gardens and state-of-the-art facilities; they’re fed elaborate gourmet meals, surrounded by others just like them. It’s an idyllic place, but there’s a catch: the residents — known as dispensables — must donate their organs, one by one, until the final donation.
When Dorrit Weger arrives at the Unit, she resigns herself to this fate, seeking only peace in her final days. But she soon falls in love, and this unexpected, improbable happiness throws the future into doubt.
The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte
by Syrie James
Publication Date: June 30, 2009
Categories: historical, biographical, women, artists
“I have written about the joys of love. I have, in my secret heart, long dreamt of an intimate connection with a man; every Jane, I believe, deserves her Rochester.”
Though poor, plain, and unconnected, Charlotte Bronte possesses a deeply passionate side which she reveals only in her writings — creating Jane Eyre and other novels that stand among literature’s most beloved works. Living a secluded life in the wilds of Yorkshire with her sisters Emily and Anne, their drug-addicted brother, and an eccentric father who is going blind, Charlotte Bronte dreams of a real love story as fiery as the ones she creates.
But it is in the pages of her diary where Charlotte exposes her deepest feelings and desires — and the truth about her life, its triumphs and shattering disappointments, her family, the inspiration behind her work, her scandalous secret passion for the man she can never have . . . and her intense, dramatic relationship with the man she comes to love, the enigmatic Arthur Bell Nicholls.
“Who is this man who has dared to ask for my hand? Why is my father so dead set against him? Why are half the residents of Haworth determined to lynch him — or shoot him?”
From Syrie James, the acclaimed, bestselling author of The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, comes a powerfully compelling, intensely researched literary feat that blends historical fact and fiction to explore the passionate heart and unquiet soul of Charlotte Bronte. It is Charlotte’s story, just as she might have written it herself.
The House on Fortune Street
by Margot Livesey
Publication Date: May 5, 2009
Categories: literary, mental health, coming-of-age
It seems like mutual good luck for Abigail Taylor and Dara MacLeod when they meet at university and, despite their differences, become fast friends. Years later they remain inseparable: Abigail, the actress, allegedly immune to romance, and Dara, a therapist, throwing herself into relationships with frightening intensity. Now both believe they’ve found “true love.” But luck seems to run out when Dara moves into Abigail’s downstairs apartment. Suddenly both their friendship and their relationships are in peril, for tragedy is waiting to strike the house on Fortune Street.
Told through four ingeniously interlocking narratives, Margot Livesey’s The House on Fortune Street is a provocative tale of lives shaped equally by chance and choice.
by Annia Ciezadlo
Publication Date: June 9, 2009
Categories: memoir, women, grief
July 2009 Indie Next List
Julie Metz’s life changes forever on one ordinary January afternoon when her husband, Henry, collapses on the kitchen floor and dies in her arms. Suddenly, this mother of a six-year-old is the young widow in a bucolic small town. And this is only the beginning. Seven months after Henry’s death, just when Julie thinks she is emerging from the worst of it, comes the rest of it: She discovers that what had appeared to be the reality of her marriage was but a half-truth. Henry had hidden another life from her.
“He loved you so much.” That’s what everyone keeps telling her. It’s true that he loved Julie and their six-year-old daughter ebulliently and devotedly, but as she starts to pick up the pieces and rebuild her life without Henry in it, she learns that Henry had been unfaithful throughout their twelve years of marriage. The most damaging affair was ongoing — a tumultuous relationship that ended only with Henry’s death.
For Julie, the only thing to do was to get at the real truth–to strip away the veneer of “perfection” that was her life and confront each of the women beneath the veneer. Perfection is the story of Julie Metz’s journey through chaos and transformation as she creates a different life for herself and her young daughter. It is the story of coming to terms with painful truths, of rebuilding both a life and an identity after betrayal and widowhood. It is a story of rebirth and happiness — if not perfection.
While I’m Falling
by Laura Moriarty
HC September 1, 2009
Publication Date: September 1, 2009
Categories: literary, women, family, psychological
In While I’m Falling, Laura Moriarty presents a compelling depiction of how one young woman’s life changes when her family breaks up for good.
Ever since her parents announced that they’re getting divorced, Veronica has been falling. Hard. A junior in college, she has fallen in love. She has fallen behind in her difficult coursework. She hates her job as counselor at the dorm, and she longs for the home that no longer exists. When an attempt to escape the pressure, combined with bad luck, lands her in a terrifying situation, a shaken Veronica calls her mother for help — only to find her former foundation too preoccupied to offer any assistance at all.
But Veronica only gets to feel hurt for so long. Her mother shows up at the dorm with a surprising request — and with the elderly family dog in tow. Boyfriend complications ensue, along with her father’s sudden interest in dating. Veronica soon finds herself with a new set of problems, and new questions about love and independence.
Darkly humorous, beautifully written, and filled with crystalline observations about how families fall apart, While I’m Falling takes a deep look at the relationship between a daughter and a mother when one is trying to grow up and the other is trying to stay afloat.
Out Stealing Horses
by Per Petterson; Anne Born (translator)
originally published by Picador; Graywolf Press
Publication Date: April 29, 2008
Categories: literary, in translation
Winner of the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
A novel beloved by readers the world over, Per Petterson’s Out Stealing Horses is a “masterpiece of death and delusion in a Nordic land” (The Guardian). At age sixty-seven, Trond has settled in an isolated part of eastern Norway to live out his life in solitude, but a chance encounter with his only neighbor stirs up long-dormant memories. Trond recalls the fateful July morning when he and his friend Jon impulsively stole a ride on horses at a nearby farm, an adventure shrouded by Jon’s inexplicable grief. Trond soon learned of the tragic events that befell Jon the day before, which would haunt them both forever.
The atmospheric nostalgia and profound vision of Out Stealing Horses make it an achingly good read that has touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of people across the world. The enthusiasm of readers and critics alike landed the book on Top Ten Books of the Year lists at the New York Times Book Review and Time magazine. It was selected as a 2007 Critics’ Pick by the National Book Critics Circle and was the winner of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. With this new paperback edition, Graywolf is delighted to present the novel that first won Per Petterson international acclaim.
by Roxana Robinson
Publication Date: May 26, 2009
Categories: literary, family, drugs
Julia Lambert, an artist, is spending the summer in her old Maine farmhouse. During a visit from her elderly parents, she hopes to mend complicated relationships with her domineering father, a retired neurosurgeon, and her gentle mother, who is descending into the fog of Alzheimer’s. But a shattering revelation intrudes: Julia’s son, Jack, has spiraled into heroin addiction. In her attempts to save him, Julia marshals help from her loosely knit clan, but Jack’s addiction courses through the family with a devastating energy, sweeping them all into a world of confusion, fear, and obsession.
In Cost, Roxana Robinson applies her “trademark gifts as an intelligent, sensitive analyst of family life” and creates a “warmly human and deeply satisfying book, marking a new level of ambition and achievement for this talented author” (Chicago Tribune).
by Kamila Shamsie
Publication Date: April 27, 2009
Categories: historical, war, racism, family
Winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award; An Orange Prize Finalist
Nagasaki, August 9, 1945. Hiroko Tanaka watches her lover from the veranda as he leaves. Sunlight streams across Urakami Valley, and then the world goes white.
In the devastating aftermath of the atomic bomb, Hiroko leaves Japan in search of new beginnings. From Delhi, amid India’s cry for independence from British colonial rule, to New York City in the immediate wake of 9/11, to the novel’s astonishing climax in Afghanistan, a violent history casts its shadow the entire world over. Sweeping in its scope and mesmerizing in its evocation of time and place, this is a tale of love and war, of three generations, and three world-changing historic events. Kamila Shamsie’s Burnt Shadows is a story for our time by “a writer of immense ambition and strength . . . . This is an absorbing novel that commands in the reader a powerful emotional and intellectual response” (Salman Rushdie).
About Great Group Reads
Started as an initiative in 2009 for the Women’s National Book Association’s National Reading Group Month program, Great Group Reads (GGR) is a list of recommended books perfect for shared reading. The list is released annually in time to celebrate National Reading Group Month in October.
“Booklist and the American Library Association share the Women’s National Book Association’s mission to get the word out about worthy and exciting books, and to encourage reading and book discussion. To commune privately with a book, then share the thoughts and feelings, questions and realizations that a book inspires is to expand and deepen one’s life and sense of connection. Booklist is delighted to join in the celebration of National Reading Group Month and the Great Group Reads selections.” — Donna Seaman, Editor, Adult Books, Booklist