Saturday, December 6, 2014


It's that time again.

Book group Christmas party on Tuesday night means that I have the weekend to bag up the lollies (sweets / candy) that we use for the count.

Our book group is a very democratic in the way we choose our books. All of the group bring along two books for the choosing. Criteria for these books are 1. Of literature or good popular fiction standard, 2. Under 500 pages (though there is a bit of leeway on this.) 3. No non-fiction, autobiography and biography. 4. Easily obtainable either in a library, online or in e-book form.

At the meeting on Tuesday everybody will champion their two books, after which all are handed a rubber glove and a bag of 25 lollies with which they will cast their votes. You can't vote for your own books, but as many lollies as you want on the books. The top eleven books are selected for the year. I love what's been put up this year - I can say after Tuesday what they are, but for now, I have my own dilemma.

What am I going to put up?

Here's the bother. I had a couple of books in mind, but they've been put up already by people in the group. So I've raided my kindle and the bookshelves and I've got to get down the job of picking two.


So here is my long list, with pros and cons.

Tampa by Alissa Nutting

Pros: Well under 500 pages. Acclaimed.
Cons: It's the story of a female sociopathic paedophile who preys on teenage boys

See, I think this could really bring up some great conversation around the table. However I wonder how it might be received by some of the more delicately constitutioned members of the group. I've only heard good things about this book and think that the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to putting it up.

All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld

Pros: Well under 500 pages, winner of last year's Miles Franklin Award, Australian content
Cons: Might be over-hyped

I've heard a lot about this book - and finally picked it up at the airport on the way home from Sydney the other day. It's the story of an outsider and the book allegedly reveals an existence of beauty, horrors, hope and redemption. Unsettling and fresh. This is another strong maybe book. But after a head of somewhat harrowing books this year (ie. Gillian Mear's "Foals Bread" and Flanagan's "The Narrow Road to the Deep North" maybe something lighter is a good idea.

A Short History of Tractors in the Ukraine by Marina Lewicka

Pros: Under 500 pages, Funny
Cons: Strange title. About parents - and we all have our parent issues

This book is a few years old and tells the tale of a daughters and fathers. Dad, it appears, is going a bit dotty and remarries - a glamorous woman from the Ukraine - his place of origin. As the sisters try to to usurp the gold digger some not so great family history comes out. I think this is a pretty benign choice that should get the conversation flowing, especially as most of us in the group have aging parents.

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

Pro: Under 500 pages, we've never done any Sebastian Faulks, well regarded
Con: War story

Birdsong is seminal - probably the most beautiful book ever written about trench warfare. It's up there as one of the best books I've ever read and Sebastian Faulks is one of my favourite authors. However, I'm known as "war girl" in the group as I've often put up books about war. So after putting up the "The Book Thief", "The Narrow Road to the Deep North" and a couple of other books in the same vein, I wonder if they're sick of me putting these sorts of books up for the group.

All That I Am by Anna Funder

Pros: Under 500 Pages. Award winner. Australian Author
Cons: War story. It's been put up before and didn't make the cut.

We've had a couple of books that should have made the cut, but didn't. Ian McEwan's "Atonement" being one. This is the other. A story of Jewish refugees in London in 1939, it tells the tale of two sisters living their lives under a greater threat. Anna Funder is an amazing writer, but I'm wondering if it would get a second telling - though in saying that, we have four new members in the group now who wouldn't have voted for it when it didn't make it (and it only missed out by one lolly - just like Atonement - yet another war story)

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

Pros: An author we respect, looks interesting
Cons: Over 500 pages

Michel Faber wrote one of my favourite books - "The Crimson Petal and the White". We also did "Under the Skin" earlier this year - strange book that it was. He's a fantastic writer - but the book is over 500 pages - not by much, but I think that this will preclude it. This might be my Christmas reading.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Pros: My mother thinks it's brilliant, great reviews
Cons: Just over 500 pages. War story

It may seem strange to want to put up a book my Mum likes but she's has good taste in books. I send a lot of books her way and she tells me of things she likes. She's raved about this one. However, it tells the story of a blind girl in France and a young boy in Germany in World War II - do you see a theme happening here? Good reads rates it up there as one of the books of the year.

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Pros: Under 500 pages, great author
Cons: A bit strange

Margaret Atwood is one of my favourite authors. The queen of dystopia, she's incredible. I love her imagination and her presence of mind. We did "The Handmaid's Tale" a few years ago and the group loved it. I listened to "The Year of the Flood" the sequel to the book on a road trip to Adelaide a few years ago and that was brilliant. Margaret Atwood is a living treasure.

So can you see my dilemma? There are a number of other books I've considered putting on the short list and I have to make my decision by the end of tomorrow. We're nearly there - but gee, this is a hard one.

Any advice on what the two should be would be welcome.

Have a great one.



Bron said...

Why are 11 books selected and not 12?

Pandora Behr said...

The December meeting is book choosing meeting

Jackie K said...

What a great selection - I would read any of these, and have only read Birdsong (which I believe you might have recommended to me many years ago) - one of my favourite books.
I'd go the Marina Lewicka one and the Michael Faber.