What my bookgroup will be reading in the first half of 2017
You may notice that I sometimes identify a review as being for a book I’ve read with my reading group, but only once before in this blog have I dedicated a post to my reading group’s schedule, so I thought it was time to do it again. It’s particularly appropriate now because last night my group chose our first 6 books for next year.
I recently mentioned in a comment to ANZLitLovers Lisa that my group would be choosing its schedule, and she wished me good luck because she knows reading group selections can be fraught. However, that’s never really been the case in my group (at least I don’t think so. Those who read this blog can correct my rose-coloured glasses if they see it differently!).
This is not to say that there’s not discussion about our selections, or that there aren’t some different reading interests in the group. There is always some lively argy-bargy. But, the group was established on the basis that we wanted to read “good” books – books that challenge us, books that have a reputation for quality, books that have something to encourage discussion. Content is part of it, but sometimes you hear people recommending a book as a “good reading group book” because it’s an “issues book” like, say, a Jodi Picoult. We have nothing against “issues books” – many of us read them – but for our schedule, for the sort of discussion we want, the books we choose need to be more multi-dimensional.
Before you think it, I must clarify that this doesn’t mean that we read only “worthy” award-winning literary fiction. We read all sorts – including non-fiction – and we’ve occasionally had poetry nights. The best way to demonstrate this is to share our next 6 books:
- Jane Fletcher Geniesse’s Passionate nomad: this book was chosen as the result of one of the members reading my recent post on 19th century travellers. In the end, we chose a biography of an early twentieth century “lady traveller”, Freya Stark. It’s probably our riskiest selection, but the biography is respected we believe.
- Grahame Greene’s Travels with my aunt: we try to do at least one classic each year – such as, most recently, Dostoevsky’s Crime and punishment and Chinua Achebe’s Things fall apart – so when someone suggested Grahame Greene whom we haven’t discussed before, he was in.
- Madelaine Dickie’s Troppo: this is a debut novel which won the T.A.G. Hungerford Award for unpublished manuscript in 2014. Of course, it helped that the author is the fiancée of one of our founding members.
- AS Patric’s Black rock, white city: as this year’s Miles Franklin Award winner, Patric’s book was an obvious choice.
- Ian McEwan’s Nutshell: there are several McEwan fans in the group, and we haven’t done one of his books since Solar in 2010, so it seemed time!
- Kim Mahood’s Position doubtful: this is author-artist-mapmaker Mahood’s memoir about her experience of place and landscape in the Tanami Desert area of remote central Australia where she grew up and now spends part of her time each year. This book is particularly interesting to us because of the perspectives she can bring from her very particular history as a white woman working and living in what is now indigenous land.
So, three women writers and three men; four novels and two non-fiction works; three Australian writers and three not. No translated works or indigenous writers in this group, but there’s always the second half of the year to increase the diversity. We did do a translated work, an indigenous writer, and an African writer this year.
If you’re in a reading group, have you decided on your schedule for next year yet? And, if so, what criteria do you use?