National Reading Group Month & Great Group Reads
Each October, members of the Women’s National Book Association (WNBA) gather to celebrate National Reading Group Month (NRGM). To kick off our celebration, we have released the 2019 Great Group Reads (GGR) list.
From March to July, GGR volunteers read dozens of books that have been sent by publishers to the GGR selection committee. The process began with 200 books and ended with a final list of 20 books. The list contains books from a variety of genres and authors. The goal is to find books that would work well read in groups such as book clubs.
Without further ado, here is the 2019 Great Group Reads list!
2019 Great Group Reads List
The Affairs of the Falcóns by Melissa Rivero
(Ecco, HC 978-0062872357)
The story of a young, undocumented mother, her husband, and their two children as they struggle to survive under the radar in the US, this is a raw, unvarnished, and revealing look at a family trying to make a better life for themselves against all odds, at immigration, at poverty, and at the strength and determination of women.
All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir by Nicole Chung
(Catapult, HC 978-1936787975)
This memoir is a personal and honest account of Chung’s life as a Korean American woman adopted by white parents and raised in a predominately white community as well as her search for her birth family and her own journey to parenthood. It is an examination of one woman’s reality of interracial adoption and the question of culture in the context of family.
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson
(Sourcebooks Landmark, TP 978-1492671527)
Cussy Mary, the daughter of a coal miner, is the last of the blue-skinned people of Kentucky and a Pack Horse librarian in the Appalachian Mountains during the Great Depression. Because of her blue skin, she suffers significant prejudice and hatred from the people in town but finds much more acceptance from the terribly poor folks in the mountains and hollers that she visits in her role as librarian.
Death of a Rainmaker by Laurie Loewenstein
(Kaylie Jones Books/Akashic Books, TP 978-1617756658)
A very detailed and well-researched historical mystery set in 1930s Dust Bowl Oklahoma, this novel follows a sheriff in a small town as he tries to solve a murder and retain his position of sheriff even as he and his wife continue to mourn the loss of their child, a loss that drove them to this stoic and struggling community years prior.
The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib
(St. Martin’s Press, HC 978-1250202444)
This novel is a powerful and visceral look at anorexia and body image through the diary and medical documents of a former ballerina as she struggles to get well and leave the residential treatment house that is, perhaps, her last hope. A gut-wrenching look at the hard work of recovery, this is truly an inside view of one young woman’s fight against herself.
Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law by Haben Girma
(Twelve, HC 978-1538728727)
Haben Girma is a disability advocate, a Harvard trained lawyer, and a deaf blind woman. This is her story. It is personal, compelling, and eye-opening as it tackles issues of ableism, overcoming, and resilience.
The Honey Bus: A Memoir of Loss, Courage and a Girl Saved by Bees by Meredith May
(Park Row Books, HC 978-0778307785)
When Meredith May’s parents’ marriage falls apart, her mother takes Meredith and her brother to live with their grandparents in California. Meredith’s grandfather, a beekeeper, teaches her about bees, life, and love. An emotionally resonant memoir of a dysfunctional childhood saved by nature and a caring grandparent, this is a poignant and touching story.
The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner
(Berkley, HC 978-0451492159)
A German American girl and a Japanese American girl sent to the same internment camp during WWII become close friends before each being repatriated, with their families, to the country of their parents, countries neither child has ever known, during the last years of the war. This is a fresh look at WWII and internment, one that might give us pause given the rising shadow of increased nationalism we’re seeing today.
Laurentian Divide by Sarah Stonich
University of Minnesota Press, TP 978-1517902490)
A small, northern Minnesota community waits for semi-hermit Rauri Paar to reappear in their midst, signaling the end of winter. As the residents wait, their own lives move forward even without Rauri. This is a warm, wise, and wonderful look at the inhabitants of a small town, at connection, and support in good times and bad.
The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland
(Anansi International, TP 978-1487005221)
When Alice Hart survives the fire that kills her abusive father and her pregnant mother, she goes to live with her hitherto unknown grandmother on the native flower farm that has been in their family for generations. Although Alice aches for the story of her history, her grandmother is unwilling to give it to her, wanting to protect her from so much sadness. But that protection cannot last and as Alice leaves the safety of the farm, she must write her own story. This is a beautiful novel tackling the horror of abuse, the kinship of women, and love.
Love You Hard: A Memoir of Marriage, Brain Injury, and Reinventing Love by Abby Maslin
(Dutton, HC 978-1524743314)
This is an emotional memoir about T.C. and Abby Maslin’s life and marriage after T.C. suffers a traumatic brain injury as the victim of a senseless crime. Abby becomes her husband’s caretaker during his long recovery while also caring for their toddler son and watching her beloved father’s health deteriorate. Her anguish and hope, her exhaustion and commitment, her anger and grace all shine through this story of a woman faced with a new reality, a changed life, and a determination and strength to remake her family in the face of the unfathomable.
Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice
(ECW Press, TP 978-1770414006)
Initially, when internet, cable, and finally electricity all fail on a northern Anishinaabe reservation just as a brutal winter descends, there isn’t much cause for concern but as time goes on without any communication from the world to the south and a heavily armed white man wanting to benefit from the Anishinaabe’s ancient survival skills arrives to cause dissension and discord, it becomes clear that the world, and specifically the native culture, is in danger. This foreboding novel is a penetrating reenactment of the long history between Native Americans and the white people who come into their world uninvited.
Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner
(Atria Books, HC 978-1501133480)
Two sisters, complete opposites, growing up in the 50s and 60s, live out a changing range of experiences, living lives no one would have predicted for them. Jo chooses the path of marriage and motherhood in the suburbs despite her earlier passion for activism and her lesbianism. Bethie changes from the conventional good girl when she goes off to college, wafting through life untethered, eventually landing in a commune. Set during times of changing opportunities for women, this novel explores the choices available to the sisters and the things, both personal and social, that point them down their respective paths.
No Good Asking by Fran Kimmel
(ECW Press, TP 978-1770414389)
In the few days leading up to Christmas, a young girl removed from her isolated existence in an abusive situation is temporarily placed in the care of a family already grappling with its own demons in this novel dealing with foster care, PTSD, autism, and loss.
Retablos: Stories From a Life Lived Along the Border by Octavio Solis
(City Lights Publishers, TP 978-0872867864)
These lyrical short memories of growing up as a poor Mexican-American boy on the border are both universal and specific. Covering themes of immigration, poverty, family life, and the forces that shape a growing child, this is a timely collection.
Southernmost by Silas House
(Algonquin Books, TP 978-1616209360)
An evangelical minister in Tennessee reexamining his beliefs and teachings finds himself at odds with his congregation and his wife over the issue of homosexuality in this soul-searching novel about tolerance, family, right versus wrong, and forgiveness.
Tomorrow’s Bread by Anna Jean Mayhew
(Kensington, TP 978-0758254108)
When the city of Charlotte decides to demolish the African American community of Brooklyn and relocate its inhabitants under the auspices of urban renewal and the eradication of “blight,” they don’t take the feelings or desires of the residents into account at all. Told in the rotating voices of several of the people set to be dislocated and a white woman whose husband is on the commission carrying the demolition out, this is an engrossing novel about the disappearance of a well-established community, one not without its troubles but a proud one nonetheless.
Tonic and Balm by Stephanie Allen
(Shade Mountain Press, TP 978-0998463438)
This interconnected collection of short stories centered around a traveling medicine show in the early nineteen teens focuses on the people in the show, those who are there for the duration and those who only come and go, briefly touching the others. This is a melancholy and realistic look at marginalized people, racism, and sexism as well as love and friendship.
The Tubman Command by Elizabeth Cobbs
(Arcade Publishing, HC 978-1948924344)
Harriet Tubman was more than a conductor on the Underground Railroad. She was also a spy for the Union army during the Civil War and this fictionalization of that time in her life brings her into sharp focus as a woman and a hero, deserving of her legend.
Unfurled by Michelle Bailat-Jones
(Ig Publishing, TP 978-1632460752)
Ella was raised by her ferry boat captain father after her mentally ill mother abandons the family. When her father dies in an accident, secrets come to light that force her to look at the way this abandonment shaped her life, her relationships, and her feelings about children. This is an affecting and intense story of mothers and daughters, mental illness, desperation, loss, and forgiveness.
Once you’ve enjoyed the 2019 Great Group Reads list, be sure to check out past GGR lists!
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