Thursday, June 01, 2017

My Suggestions for Book Club

As we were wrapping up Lady Chatterley's Lover, we started discussing which book we were going to read next.

Despite the fact that my last - couple suggestions have not been popular, I've always got tons of ideas on what I want to read next.

My first idea was to attempt to sell our book club on The Cairo Trilogy.  So I posted the following to our Facebook page:

May 19, 2017
Looking ahead to the next book: This is the lecture that got me interested in The Cairo Trilogy (My suggestion for the next book). Give it a listen and see if this is something that interests you?

PS--This review also helped to pique my interest:


But, in fact, The Cairo Trilogy was far from the only book on my radar.  At any given minute, I have a huge list of "Books I've Been Meaning to Read Someday".
And so, a few days later, just to widen my net a little bit more, I decided to post a much bigger list of books I was interested in.

And I've decided to reduplicate that same post here on this blog.

Why?  Well, the usual excuse really.  (It's my blog, and I reserve the right to be self-indulgent).

Also, the older I get the more I realize that I probably won't get to all the books on my reading list.  (Last year I only read 6 books.  At that rate, I won't get to half of the books on my list before I kick it.)
So, in light of the fact that I might never get around to actually reading most of these books, I thought I might as well at least post the list here just to announce my interest.

May 28, 2017
So, I was thinking maybe it would be a good idea if we each made a list of books we're interested in before Tuesday.

This will give us time to research each other's suggestions a bit, and decide if they're something that would interest you or not.

(Besides, I always feel like talking about what you're going to read next is more fun than the actual reading--it's the same way I like browsing in a bookstore more than actually reading the books).

My own biases are to stick with the classics because it provides an external reason to read. (i.e. even if we pick a book I'm not particularly interested in, I'll read it just because it's a classic and it increases my cultural capital).

I also tend to think one of the main purposes of a book club like this is that it provides support for classics that you might otherwise not get through. (I'll be honest, I probably would have given up on both Lady Chatterley and The Brothers Karamazov if we weren't working through it together).

But that being said, if I'm the only one who feels this way, and everyone else wants to read something modern, let me know and I'll try to be flexible.
My first choice is still The Cairo Trilogy
All of my knowledge of the Cairo trilogy comes from this lecture, so if you've watched that lecture, you know all I know. And if it doesn't appeal to you, I've got nothing more to add, so we'll just call it fair enough.

My other suggestions.
The last couple books have been a bit hard to get through because of slow moving plots. Which may be just something we have to deal with in older books.
I'd still like to stick to the classics, but I was thinking of some more modern classics: Gore Vidal, Norman Mailer, or Margaret Atwood.

Gore Vidal: Myra Breckinridge seems like it would be a very interesting book. (It would continue our theme of books that broke sexual taboos).
I'm also interested in Burr by Gore Vidal. It's a historical novel, but it's a classic historical novel. This is probably more of interest to the history nerds in the group.

Normal Mailer: I think The Naked and the Dead is his most famous book. Although because of my politics, I'm more interested in The Armies of the Night.
Also, I don't know how good it is, but I've been interested in Why Are We in Vietnam? by Norman Mailer, ever since I saw it on display in a museum in Melbourne in an exhibit in banned books. (It was banned in Australia when that book first came out).

Margaret Atwood: The Handmaid's Tale is pretty much a modern classic, isn't it? I'd be up for that.

Speaking of modern classics: I never read The Wrinkle in Time series by Madeleine L'Engle. Am I the only one? Anyone else not read that series yet, and be up for it?

I've also never read Lord of the Rings but...I'm the only one, aren't I?

I've read a bit of Hemingway, but never did "The Sun Also Rises" yet. Anyone else up for that?

I like Steinbeck, but I've already read most of his more famous stuff. However, I never read "In Dubious Battle" and that looks really interesting. Anyone else up for that?

Moby Dick--Moby Dick is probably going to be a bit of a slog, but it's one of those classic books we all have to read some day or other, so I figure we might as well do it in a book club and give each other moral support. Who else is up for this?

10 Days That Shook the World by John Reed--Okay, admittedly, this is a work of journalism, not a novel but it's a classic journalism. (Every Trotskyist I know has read this book.) Plus it routinely makes the list of best journalistic books ever written. Plus, we're up on the 100th anniversary of the 1917 Revolution this year, so this is the perfect year to read this book.

(Also, now that I've opened the door to classic history books, I'm also interested in Plutarch's Lives and Thomas Carlyle's History of the French Revolution. If we ever decided to do classic histories.)

Frankenstein--I know I pitched this last time, and not everyone was interested. But it's one of those classic books we all have to read at some point in our lives, so I thought I'd through it out again.

Arabian Nights--The danger is it good be episodic and not good for discussion. And yet, in his lecture, Grant Voth made this sound really interested:

Faust by Goethe--Another one that I'm primarily interested in because of Grant Voth's lecture. Doesn't he make this book sound really cool?

The Red and the Black by Stendhal--Another book I'm primarily interested in because of the history and not the literature per se. Apparently this book has a lot of interesting information about life in Restoration France.

Graham Greene--We talked about Graham Greene last time. I've already read a few of his books (The Power and the Glory, The Quiet American, This Gun for Hire) but I'd be up for anything else. I think Our Man in Havana got mentioned at the last meeting. I'd be up for that.

Also, sometimes I feel a little guilty about how Western-centric my reading list has been. I've never read any of the 4 great classic Chinese novels. Anyone up for trying to tackle one of them? I'd be up for any one of the 4:

Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain--supposed to be one of Mark Twain's greatest books, and as a bonus I've seen it in bookstores in Saigon.

Emile or on Education by Rousseau. I've heard from some people that this is actually more readable than you would think, and kind of written like a novel.


Update--in the end, we went with none of them.  Having had my suggestions win out for the last three - consecutive - books, it was time to give someone else's suggestions a try.  So the next book we're reading is something someone else wanted to try: Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov.  (I should be back with my review of that in about a month or so).


Whisky Prajer said...

Yikes -- do you give no thought for brevity? Mahfouz is worth reading, but to pitch the entire trilogy seems exorbitant. Also: Mailer, Vidal, LOTR ... dude! Graham Greene is a step in the right direction. How about Evelyn Waugh (maybe I've said that before)?

The Sun Also Rises is Hemingway's best, IMO. Punchy, nuanced, problematic because of its antisemitism and doubly so because it can't make its point without it.

Joel Swagman said...

Yeah, you're probably right. I overdid it by attempting to pitch the whole trilogy.

There is some precedent for long reads in this book club. We knocked of the Brothers Karamazov--it took us 2 months, but we did it.

Thanks for the tip on The Sun Also Rises. I'll put that back towards the top of my reading list.