Calling All Book Clubs!

The Home Book Club needs a recommendation! Where do you find your next book club selection? We here at The Home Book Club love Goodreads. Head on over to search by genre, read reviews, and even write some!

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We also love to get recommendations from readers. Comment on this post with your favorite book and why you think it would be a great choice for The Home Book Club’s next discussion. Contest ends at midnight EST on February 28, 2014. Comment below to enter now!

South of Superior- Ellen Airgood

South-of-SuperiorEllen Airgood’s debut novel South of Superior introduces us to Madeline Stone, a nondescript heroine whose struggles range from the everyday to the tragic. It is her universality that makes this book appeal to so many. She could be any one of us, which makes this book the perfect pick for women’s book clubs. Some of the plot elements seem a little forced but the emotion, that of a woman feeling overwhelmed by life’s obstacles, is very real. Set against the harsh yet majestic wilderness surrounding Lake Superior, the town of McAllaster breeds residents that are tough, enduring, and a real community. Through enduring struggles with these remarkable people, Madeline comes to realize the real value of hard work and how to be truly rich.

For the ladies’ book clubs out there:

– How do Madeline’s priorities change through the book? Why do you think this happens?

– Madeline is initially critical of Randi as a mother. What do you think?

– Madeline moves to McAllaster to find out more about her family. Do you think she is happy with what she finds? How does it impact her own journey?

– What do you think of Gladys and Arbutus’ relationship?

– What does the hotel represent for the various characters in the book? Is it the same for each of them?

– There are a lot of strong, albeit flawed, female characters in South of Superior. Who did you relate to most?

Find out about the real-life inspiration for McAllaster and its cast of characters at Ellen Airgood’s website.

Flowers for Algernon- Daniel Keyes

This week’s book is a thought-provoking one, full of moral, social, and existential questions. So settle in for a serious few minutes. Grab a coffee, turn the ringer off on your phone, check Facebook one last time if you need to….

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Okay, ready? Let’s get talking…

Daniel Keyes’ novel Flowers for Algernon tells the story of Charlie, a developmentally impaired man of very low IQ and his remarkable journey to experimentally increase his intelligence, following the success of the same procedure on an mouse named Algernon. Keyes tells the story through a series of journal entries, termed “progris reports” or “progress reports,” depending on the stage of Charlie’s journey. This novel can be found in almost every secondary school English classroom, as required reading at some point in the curriculum. I read it when I was in high school just as students read it today. Why do you think it is so widely read?

Charlie’s story is pure fiction. The technology to make this kind of progress does not yet exist. But what if it did? It would be hailed as a scientific miracle but is it really? Charlie’s intelligence, and by extension the man himself, is seen as a problem to be fixed. Professor Nemur, Dr. Strauss, and even Miss Kinnian encourage Charlie to participate in the experiment because of his curious nature and kind spirit. But, as readers will see, as Charlie’s intelligence rises, some of the qualities that made him such a good candidate start to diminish. What is the ultimate cost of Charlie’s increased intellectual abilities?

Keyes looks to explore these and other questions. Here are some more to get those neurons firing:

– Why do you think that Keyes chose to tell the story through journal entries? Why not tell it as a running narrative from Charlie?

– Charlie lives most of his life with a very low IQ. How does experiencing the world differently influence his participation in the experiment?

– As his IQ increases, Charlie’s intellectual development moves much faster than his emotional development. What does this say about the different types of intelligence? Is it possible to be smart in one area but not another?

– What is Charlie’s greatest strength? Greatest weakness? Do these change as he becomes smarter?

– Why do you think that Charlie is so attached to Algernon? Do the other characters understand their connection? Why or why not?

– Charlie begins the novel believing that he is deficient in some way and that everyone around him is almost god-like, but as he later learns, each character has some sort of weakness. What does this say about the idea of “perfection?”

Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog- Ted Kerasote

merles-doorThis month, the book club read Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog by Ted Kerasote. It’s not something that I would normally pick up and even if I had, I probably would not have gotten past the first chapter had it not been a group read. So, because I was able to branch out into a new literary area, I’m glad that we picked the book. But, not being a dog owner or an avid outdoors-woman, that’s about where my satisfaction ended.

The book was interesting to read and very well-researched, but I had trouble relating to any of the characters or their situations. I don’t have a dog, so I knew going into it that I wouldn’t relate to the main premise of the book–the relationship between dog and owner. But, I don’t ski, shoot elk, or go mountaineering, so a lot of the background action was also lost on me. I did enjoy reading about the history of the domestication of dogs and what is going on in pet research today. If you are interested in those things, you’d probably enjoy this book.

I can’t say that I recommend it for a book club, though. Unless you have a group of people that are all into skiing, rafting, hunting, and dogs (of course), this book probably won’t spark a lot of lively discussion or debate. If you do have a group like that, go for it! It will probably be right up your alley. Otherwise, this one is better left for individual reading. Even then, you might want to save it for a camping trip or other outdoors weekend, when you can maybe relate more to the material.

Have you read any books that were completely out of your normal genre or realm of experience? Did you have trouble relating to them or did they open your mind to an entirely new world?

The Fault in Our Stars- John Green: Book Club Questions

Here are some things to think about as you read and discuss John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars.

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– Hazel and Gus purposefully do not act as we “expect” cancer patients would. Why do you think Green portrays his characters this way?

– Towards the end of the book, Van Houten reveals why he treated Hazel and Gus the way he did in Amsterdam. Do you think that his reaction and explanation are understandable? What did you think of Hazel’s treatment of him?

– How does Green portray Gus and Hazel’s classmates? Do you think that this is an accurate depiction of what would happen in real life? What is Green saying by including this in the book?

– What did you think of Green’s depiction of a teenage girl? Was it convincing?

– Is this a cancer book or a love story? What do you think is the central theme of the book?

Find more at Lit Lovers: An Well-Read Online Community and read a Q&A with the author on his website.

The Fault in Our Stars- John Green

9780525478812_custom-7eb6cc16a8a3f2266865895e1718ac9e9d6232e0-s6-c30Last week I read The Fault in Our Stars. I’m guessing that those of you who have read this book understand why I don’t offer any other explanation. It is simply not necessary for, or even worthy of, the magnificent book that John Green has created. Don’t expect to feel uplifted and happy about life’s troubles after reading this book– it is a “cancer book,” after all. But about the human spirit? Absolutely.

As much as I enjoyed reading the book, today’s post is not going to focus on the fictional teenagers at its center. As I started researching the movement around John Green and the seemingly endless praise for his work, I realized something very remarkable. So many of the comments on  his website and Twitter feed are from teenagers. A generation that we, productive adults, have counted out as lost. Kids today, we say, they just don’t get it. We complain about their sense of entitlement. We complain about their lack of personal responsibility. We even complain about their communication, their text-speak. But, reading the comments of these tweens and teens, it struck me how much we have been missing about who that generation really is. We overlook the fact that they feel entitled… to choices and opportunity, and are willing to correct situations that don’t offer them. We don’t see that they take responsibility… for their own expression, doing whatever they can to find out who “me” is. And as we are shaking our heads at their LOLs and YOLOs (by the way, TFIOS=The Fault in Our Stars–it’s a thing), we fail to realize that they are communicating… to each other and the world at a rate never before available or seen.

Go over to John Green’s website or follow him on Twitter, @realjohngreen to find out more about him, his work, and his amazingly wonderful readers.

Book club questions coming tomorrow!