Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Book Club Books

Top Ten Tuesday

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is the top ten books that would make great book club picks. Some of these books I have actually read with a book club; others I haven’t, but I think they might make for good discussion.

  1. [amazon_link id=”0385341008″ target=”_blank” ]The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society[/amazon_link], Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer: It’s a book about book clubs! What could be better to read with a book club?
  2. [amazon_link id=”0312304358″ target=”_blank” ]Moloka’i[/amazon_link], Alan Brennert: This might be because I just chose it for my book club, but I think it would be great for discussion, especially because it’s a good story, but it has some flaws.
  3. [amazon_link id=”0345521307″ target=”_blank” ]The Paris Wife[/amazon_link], Paula McLain: I think this one would be great for literary book clubs who want to learn more about Hemingway and his circle.
  4. [amazon_link id=”1451648502″ target=”_blank” ]The Kitchen Daughter[/amazon_link], Jael McHenry: It might be fun to bring the dishes described in the book to the meeting. I also think discussing adult Asperger’s would make for an interesting evening.
  5. [amazon_link id=”1594484465″ target=”_blank” ]The Little Stranger[/amazon_link], Sarah Waters: I picked this mostly because I would like to talk about the ending and see what everyone else thinks happened at the end.
  6. [amazon_link id=”0399157913″ target=”_blank” ]The Help[/amazon_link], Kathryn Stockett: I liked this one a lot and see it being a good book to talk about when you’re done with it. I could even see a good discussion about whether it’s another in the long line of “white people solve racism” books/movies.
  7. [amazon_link id=”1613821395″ target=”_blank” ]The Woman in White[/amazon_link], Wilkie Collins: Marian and Count Fosco are great characters. So was Frederick Fairlie. He’s hysterical, in fact. I think it might be interesting to talk about how Collins popularized some of those tropes we consider clichés.
  8. [amazon_link id=”0142001805″ target=”_blank” ]The Eyre Affair[/amazon_link], Jasper Fforde: There is so much bookish fun in this one. I think book nerds would really like reading and talking about it.
  9. [amazon_link id=”B005K5XQRY” target=”_blank” ]The Lace Reader[/amazon_link], Brunonia Barry: I am not sure it would appeal to everyone in the group, but it has a classic unreliable narrator, and those always make for juicy discussion. Plus you could try to brew up some “Difficul-tea” and try out lace reading (if you can figure it out).
  10. [amazon_link id=”0385338015″ target=”_blank” ]Madame Bovary’s Ovaries[/amazon_link], David P. Barash and Nanelle R. Barash: The premise of this book is that you can explain the behavior of some characters in great literature through evolutionary psychology. It’s an interesting read. It’s sure to generate some discussion; I can’t imagine you’d get a whole group to agree on whether or not the authors are right. It serves the dual purpose of making you interested in the literature they discuss, too. The Goodreads reviews on it are all over the place.

Honorable mentions: [amazon_link id=”0812979303″ target=”_blank” ]Reading Lolita in Tehran[/amazon_link], Azar Nafisi; [amazon_link id=”0679751521″ target=”_blank” ]Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil[/amazon_link], John Berendt (only left out of top ten because everyone’s surely read it by now); and [amazon_link id=”014029628X” target=”_blank” ]Girl in Hyacinth Blue[/amazon_link], Susan Vreeland.

The Little Stranger

The Little StrangerI have never read anything written by Sarah Waters before. I had no expectations going into this book. The art teacher at my school said I would like it, and that the last page was a doozy. If what I think happened is what happened, then she’s right.

The Little Stranger is the story of Dr. Faraday and his long-standing obsession with Hundreds Hall, the home of the Ayres family. He first encounters the family as a small child when he visits the estate as part of an Empire Day celebration. Taken with the charm of the house, its grandness, its stateliness, he prizes a small acorn decoration from a plaster border in one of the passages in the house. The next time Dr. Faraday enters the house about thirty years later, it is to treat the Ayres family’s maid Betty. Dr. Faraday gradually becomes closer to the Ayres family and even becomes indispensable. Strange things start to happen around the house: a girl is badly bitten by the otherwise docile Gyp, the Ayres family dog. Strange marks begin to appear on the walls and ceilings. Objects move. Is it the ghost of poor little Susan Ayres who died before her younger sister and brother were born? Or is it something even stranger and more mysterious?

The book is as much a gothic ghost story as it is the story of the waning of the British class system, perfectly encapsulated by Mrs. Ayres as quoted by her daughter, “She said families like ours, they had a—a responsibility, they had to set an example. She said, if we couldn’t do that, if we couldn’t be better and braver than ordinary people, then what was the point of us?” In the post-WWII setting of the novel, many of the old gentry like the Ayres family are rapidly losing their money and are unable to keep up their grand estates. Course, nouveau-riche families like the Baker-Hydes are moving into the nearby estates. Keeping Hundreds Hall going occupies all of Roderick Ayres’s time (nice touch with the literary allusion in that name). Meanwhile, Dr. Faraday has risen from a humble background as the son of a shopkeeper and former Hundreds Hall servant to become a doctor. Even as the last vestiges of the class system seem to be dying away, some parts of it hang on with a frustrating tenacity that prevents Faraday from truly advancing in the ways he hopes to.

This book has some genuinely creepy parts. I was a little spooked reading it at night. One portion late in the book concerning the haunting of Mrs. Ayres was actually scary. Readers who like a definitive ending instead of one you have to mull over and determine what you think happened—because Waters does leave it up to your interpretation—might not enjoy this book. It is slow to start, but parts of it are gripping and will keep you turning the pages. I am knocking off a star for the plodding pace in portions of this book and the fact that I didn’t like the characters very much (with perhaps the exceptions of Betty and Mrs. Ayres). It’s been a long time since I read a really good ghost story, and I enjoyed this book a great deal. I know I’ve enjoyed a book when I close it and wish I could write one like it. If you enjoy spooky ghost stories like The Turn of the Screw, Rebecca, and The Ghost Writer by John Harwood, you’ll like this book. I’ve read it is also a cousin of The Haunting of Hill House, but I haven’t read that one yet.

Rating: ★★★★☆

This book is my seventh book in the Typically British Reading Challenge. One more book and I will meet the challenge’s highest level: Cream Crackered.

Summer Reading

Summer is rapidly approaching. I have one more week of teaching, one more week of finals, and a couple of days of post-planning, after which my teaching responsibilities for 2009-2010 will have ended. Of course, before you tell me how lucky I am to have two months off (it’s not actually three), don’t forget I am actually not paid for that time. Most teachers are paid for ten months, but have their pay divided among twelve. Also, no teacher—let me rephrase that—no good teacher I know really takes that time off. Most of us usually spend that time planning for the next year, doing professional reading, and taking professional development courses or college courses. I’ll be doing all three. However, more time will also mean more time for reading. Here are the books on my radar (subject to change) for summer reading.

The Story of BritainThe Adventure of English: The Biography of a LanguageMedieval Lives

Rebecca Fraser’s The Story of England and Melvyn Bragg’s The Adventure of English: The Biography of a Language are on tap as I plan my British Literature and Composition courses. I have also checked out the DVD companion for Bragg’s book from my school library. Both books should help me plan my courses. Terry Jones’s Medieval Lives should add some dimension to studies of Chaucer next year.

In terms of professional reading, I plan to finish some books I’ve started, specifically:

Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do  About It The Grammar Plan Book: A Guide to Smart Teaching

Even if I am not teaching 9th grade next year, which is the grade level at which our grammar instruction is focused, I still think a solid foundation in how to teach grammar in a way that will stick and will make a difference in student writing is a good idea. In addition, I would like to try to read this book:


In this day of easy cut and paste, plagiarism is much easier, and I believe, more tempting than ever before.

Finally, for pleasure reading, I plan to select from the following:

I thoroughly enjoyed Syrie James’s second novel, The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë, and as a fan of Jane Austen, I look forward to The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen. I originally purchased both The Forgotten Garden and The Meaning of Night for potential reading for the last R.I.P. Reading Challenge. My husband is thoroughly enjoying The Meaning of Night, and he highly recommends it.

These first two books will indulge my interest in the Romantic poets. The first book, Lord Byron’s Novel: The Evening Land, explores the story of Byron’s own contribution to the famous writing challenge that produced Frankenstein and the first vampire novel. Passion: A Novel of the Romantic Poets explores the lives of Byron, the Shelleys, and Keats. As a child, I was extremely interested in dinosaurs and paleontology. Of course I want to read Remarkable Creatures, the first novel I know of written about Mary Anning, who discovered the fossil of an ichthyosaur and two plesiosaurs near her home at Lyme Regis.

The Little Stranger comes highly recommended from our art teacher. Emily’s Ghost promises to be an interesting novel about Emily Brontë: most of the novels about the Brontës either focus on Charlotte or broaden the focus on the Brontës in general. The Dream of Perpetual Motion will be my first steampunk novel.