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January 2009

ReadingGroupGuides.com Newsletter January 2009
Happy New Year...A Great Year of Reading is Ahead!
Okay, HOW did it get to be January 14th already? Seriously, we need this year to sloooooow down. We all had a wonderful holiday and a nice break on the Outer Banks and since then I have been moving at Mach speed.
 
I do like it when Christmas falls on a Thursday. When I was in school I figured out that this would bring the longest break with a long weekend after both Christmas AND New Year's. There was a lot of time for reading --- wonderful books this trip --- knitting, movies and just hanging around.
 
I was inspired to write a blog post with an idea for book clubs after an experience we had with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which you can read here. The best part about being away is that I have lots of time to think --- to come up with creative ways to make our websites even more fun for readers.
 
With that in mind, you may note that the newsletter now has a slightly different format. It's wider and we removed the table of contents at the top to make for faster access to the material. For those of you who use RSS feeds to keep track of your favorite blogs, you can now sign up for an RSS feed that highlights new features on the site as well as new guide listings so that you can stay updated on developments before the monthly newsletter is sent out.
 
Thank you to Contributing Editor Shannon McKenna for pulling together our "Best of" Lists for 2008. She includes New Favorites, Ongoing Favorites and Enduring Favorites. See how they stack up to your group's choices. Next month we will add a feature where you each can add what your group is reading each month. We want to see what you are discussing --- and have others be able to share their selections as well.
 
We also just added a fan page for ReadingGroupGuides.com on Facebook. You can become fans of the site on Facebook by searching ReadingGroupGuides.com or clicking here. On this page we will be adding our daily blogs and putting out questions for discussion. We would love you to share pictures of your groups and comments on the books that we suggest. While we have a very vibrant message board on the site, we know that many of you like to share your thoughts via Facebook. I look forward to seeing you as fans of Reading Group Guides on Facebook.
 
Every once in a while, something comes across my desk that I cannot wait to share with you. With that in mind, check out this five-minute video where Kelly Corrigan, author of The Middle Place, reads an essay from the book that is just now out in paperback on the capacity of women to support each other. It was posted on December 8th, and, as of January 14th, it had nearly 3 million page views. When you watch it, you will see why. You WILL send this to friends.
 
I also wanted to share an article from the Philadelphia Inquirer by Joshua Henkin, who has become one of our regular bloggers, where he talks about his conversations with book clubs. Joshua's wonderful novel, Matrimony, is now available in paperback and is also one of our featured titles for registered book clubs this month. Read on for details.
 
The other two Registered Book Club titles that we are offering this month are just as fabulous. Kristin Hannah's Firefly Lane quickly caught on with book clubs when it was published last year. Themes of friendship, the challenges of maintaining long-term friendship, the sacrifices that come with motherhood and the obstacles that women face make this a great read for book groups. Also be on the lookout for True Colors by Kristin, a fabulous book about three sisters and the lives that join and divide them, which will be in stores on February 3rd. I read it a few months ago and just loved it. I think it's her best to date.
 
Just out last week is Still Alice by Lisa Genova, which I just loved. In fact, I even reviewed it for Bookreporter.com, something I rarely do, just because of a lack of time. One of my goals this year is to create a list of new titles that I think are sooooo special that when they come out we want to say, “Just read this now.” Right now the plan is for this list to be debut authors, or names you may not know, but things will evolve as the year goes on. Still Alice is the first of those titles. Some of the others I start conversation about below, but trust that conversation is going to be ongoing. Last year, The Art of Racing in the Rain was the book that really tickled me like this. More on these books to come as the year unfolds, but I am considering this a resolution I am not going to break.

People always ask what I am reading as I usually read ahead. I now share a few titles that are coming up that you'll want to note.  

The first is a debut novel called The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Set in 1963, it's the story of three women --- two African American maids in the Deep South and a young white woman who sees a story in the world that they live in. It's just brilliantly written. You hear the voices, see the houses and truly feel like a voyeur in their world. I found myself reaching for the book between present opening, dinner preparations and other holiday festivities. Aibileen, Minny and Skeeter are strong characters, and the stories they tell speaks volumes about the time. Stockett closes the book with a piece about her family's maid, which shows why she could write this book with such insight and honesty. And yes, reading it I could not help but think how much has changed with the upcoming Inauguration. No matter what your political views, reading The Help and seeing the world 46 years ago when the right to vote was something that was fought over, and not taken for granted, is interesting. 

I just finished reading A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick, which is out in March. I am not a huge fan of books with historical settings, but this one became my read late/read early book, and I had real trouble tearing myself away from it.

Now I am reading Shelter Me by Juliette Fay, which is a beautifully written story about a young mom whose husband is killed in a car accident, leaving her with two small children. Besides her Aunt Jude, her cousin Cormac and her friend Shelly, who are the rocks of her world, two new people come into her life --- Father Jake, her parish priest, and Tug, a builder who unbeknownst to Janie was commissioned by her husband to build a porch for their house before he died. I am about halfway through and love the time I am spending with each of these characters. There is so much honesty in them! I am sure we will have more on this to come. Also note this is a Target Bookmarked Club Pick.

Have a teen in your house? If so, we have something they may want to explore. In association with the Children’s Book Council (CBC), Teenreads.com is giving teen readers a very special opportunity to share their five favorite books of 2008. The five titles that receive the most “votes” will serve as the finalists for the CBC’s 2009 Teen Choice Book AwardOnce this first round of nominees is ready, we will have more information on where teens can vote for the winner, which will be announced in May 2009.

Last but certainly not least, we wanted to let you know that The Book Report Network is looking for interns for both spring and summer 2009 to assist the Editorial department in a number of projects for our online websites. Tasks will include writing various features for the company’s editorial websites, compiling information about books being published in the months ahead, posting book reviews on Amazon.com and monitoring website traffic, as well as filing and other administrative duties. Interested? Send your resume and cover letter to Tom Donadio at Tom@bookreporter.com. For more information about The Book Report Network, visit TheBookReportNetwork.com. Please note that this is an unpaid internship.

Whew...that's a lot for the first 14 days of the year. Thanks for joining us and have a great month meeting with your group.

Carol Fitzgerald (Carol@bookreporter.com)

 

Click here to view ReadingGroupGuides.com's new Facebook page.

 
Now Available in Paperback: PEOPLE OF THE BOOK by Geraldine Brooks
Hanna Heath, an Australian rare-book expert, is offered the job of a lifetime: analysis and conservation of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah. Priceless and beautiful, the book is one of the earliest Jewish volumes ever to be illuminated with images. When Hanna discovers a series of tiny artifacts in its ancient binding, she begins to unlock the book's mysteries.

Inspired by a true story, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Geraldine Brooks takes the reader on a journey of a rare illuminated manuscript through centuries of exile and war.

 
Click here to read the guide for People of the Book.

 
LARK & TERMITE by Jayne Anne Phillips
From admired writer Jayne Anne Phillips comes a rich, wonderfully alive novel. Lark & Termite is set during the 1950s in West Virginia and Korea. It is a story of the power of loss and love, the echoing ramifications of war, family secrets, dreams and ghosts, and the unseen, almost magical bonds that unite and sustain us. Told with deep feeling, the novel invites us to enter into the hearts and thoughts of the leading characters.
Click here to read the guide for Lark & Termite.

 
THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS by Arundhati Roy
Compared favorably to the works of Faulkner and Dickens, Arundhati Roy’s debut novel is a modern classic that has been read and loved worldwide. Equal parts powerful family saga, forbidden love story, and piercing political drama, it is the story of an affluent Indian family forever changed by one fateful day in 1969.

The God of Small Things is an award-winning landmark that started for its author an esteemed career of fiction and political commentary that continues unabated.

 
Click here to read the guide for The God of Small Things.

 
THE LADIES' LENDING LIBRARY by Janice Kulyk Keefer
It is August of 1963. The women of the Kalyna Beach cottage community gather for gin and gossip, trading the current racy bestsellers among themselves as they seek a brief escape from the predictable rhythms of children and chores. But dramatic change is coming this summer as innocence falters and the desire for change reaches a boiling point, threatening to disrupt the warm, sweet, heady days and the lives of parents and children, family and friends, forever.

Click here to read the guide for The Ladies' Lending Library.

 
TWO RIVERS by T. Greenwood
In Two Rivers, Vermont, Harper Montgomery is living a life overshadowed by grief and guilt. Since the death of his wife 12 years earlier, Harper has narrowed his world to working at the local railroad and raising his daughter the best way he knows how. Still wracked with sorrow over the loss of his life-long love and plagued by his role in a brutal, long-ago crime, he wants only to make amends for his past mistakes. Then one fall day, Harper finds an unexpected chance at atonement.

-Click here to see our One to Watch feature for T. Greenwood and Two Rivers on Bookreporter.com.

 
Click here to read the guide for Two Rivers.

 
THE LOST RECIPE FOR HAPPINESS by Barbara O'Neal
It’s the opportunity Elena Alvarez has been waiting for --- the challenge of running her own kitchen in a world-class restaurant. Haunted by an accident of which she was the lone survivor, Elena knows better than anyone how to survive the odds. With her faithful dog, Alvin, and her grandmother’s recipes, Elena arrives in Colorado to find a restaurant in as desperate need of a fresh start as she is --- and a man whose passionate approach to food and life rivals her own.
 
Click here to read the guide for The Lost Recipe for Happiness.

 
Registered Book Club Offers
For January we have THREE very special opportunities for Registered Book Groups. Our featured titles this month are Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah, Matrimony by Joshua Henkin and Still Alice by Lisa Genova. Groups who have registered with us by Friday, January 16th have the chance to win author chats and free books. If your group is not registered, click here to register.

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah --- Author Chat and Book Giveaway: Eight groups will have the opportunity to chat with Kristin Hannah and receive up to 12 copies of the book.

More About Firefly Lane:
Now available in paperback, Kristin Hannah's New York Times bestselling novel explores themes of friendship, the challenges of maintaining long-term friendship, the sacrifices that come with motherhood and the obstacles that women face. Book clubs across the country have said that this book stirs memories and sparks discussion.

The story follows accomplished, independent Tully Hart and loyal, capable Kate Mularkey through three-and-a-half decades of friendship. From the mid-1970s and on into the new millennium, Tully and Kate buoy each other through life. Amid Tully's rise to fame as a television journalist and Kate's dream of raising a family, the two weather the storms of friendship --- jealousy, anger, hurt and resentment --- until a betrayal threatens to tear them apart forever.


We encourage you to visit Kristin's official website, www.KristinHannah.com, where you can share information about your group and become eligible for an opportunity to have Kristin join your book club meeting by phone. Please be sure to also visit HallmarkMagazine.com in February 2009 to enter for a chance to win the "Share Your Sisterhood Story Sweepstakes."

Matrimony by Joshua Henkin --- Author Chat and Book Giveaway: Three Grand Prize winners will have the opportunity to chat with Joshua Henkin and receive up to 12 copies of the book. FIFTY runner-up winners will each receive a copy of Matrimony as well as the opportunity to chat with Joshua Henkin if their group chooses the title for discussion.

More About Matrimony:
Now available in paperback, Joshua Henkin’s novel Matrimony, a New York Times Notable Book of 2007, has been embraced by book clubs across the country (Josh himself has participated in person, by phone, and online in close to 100 book club discussions of Matrimony). Matrimony explores themes of love and friendship, sickness and health, money and ambition, desire and tensions of faith --- the kinds of big issues that make it perfect for a book club discussion.

Matrimony starts in 1987, when Julian Wainwright, an aspiring novelist and the Waspy son of New York old money, meets beautiful, Jewish Mia Mendelsohn in the college laundry room. So begins a love affair that, spurred on by family tragedy, carries the couple to graduation and beyond, through a series of college towns, spanning 20 years. Matrimony is about what it’s like to fall in love when you’re young and to try to stay in love as you reach middle age. As People Magazine said: “Charming.... Henkin keeps you reading with original characters, witty dialogue, and a view that marriage, for all its flaws, is worth the trouble.”

-Click
here to read an article that appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer about Joshua's discussions with book clubs.
-Visit the author's official website,
www.JoshuaHenkin.com.


Still Alice by Lisa Genova --- Author Chat and Book Giveaway: Four groups will have the opportunity to chat with Lisa Genova and receive up to 15 copies of the book. Two other groups will also have the opportunity to receive up to 10 finished copies of the book.

More About Still Alice:
Alice Howland is proud of the life she worked so hard to build. At 50 years old, she's a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard and a world-renowned expert in linguistics with a successful husband and three grown children. When she becomes increasingly disoriented and forgetful, a tragic diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer's disease changes her life.

This is an extraordinary debut novel about an accomplished woman who slowly loses her thoughts and memories to a harrowing disease --- only to discover that each day brings a new way of living and loving.

 
Click here to register your group.

 
ReadingGroupGuides.com Best Guides of 2008
Here are our annual lists of our 15 New Favorite, 15 Ongoing Favorite and 15 Enduring Favorite book titles for book club discussions for 2008, gathered by the editors of ReadingGroupGuides.com. See if your group agrees with our choices, and make your own list of favorites!

-Click here for our New Favorites.
-Click here for our Ongoing Favorites.
-Click here for our Enduring Favorites.


 
What's New on the ReadingGroupGuides.com Blog
Lots of authors have been writing posts for us on the ReadingGroupGuides.com Blog. Among our recent contributors are Tatiana de Rosnay and Joshua Henkin. Many of you are telling us you are making this blog a daily destination. The latest blog can be found here, and here are quick links to some recent posts:

-New Year, New Lists
-Reading Aloud: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

-Alexander McCall Smith's Serial Novel
-Tatiana de Rosnay: The Story Behind SARAH'S KEY
-Book Club Festivities...and Trying Something New
-Au Revoir, 2008
-Six Titles I Wish I Had Read with My Book Club
-Book Clubs in the News

-Joshua Henkin's Book Club Adventures
-Joshua Henkin's Book Club Adventures, Part II

For those of you who use RSS feeds to keep track of your favorite blogs, you can now add the ReadingGroupGuides.com blog to your list by clicking the link on the blog page.
 
Click here to read the ReadingGroupGuides.com Blog.

 
This Month's Book Club and Librarian Interviews
This month we are sharing two new interviews with books clubs on ReadingGroupGuides.com:

Kimberly Bland is the founder and facilitator of Reflections in Columbiana, OH. In this interview, Kimberly talks about the impact that moving the group’s meeting place has had on their discussions and explains how selecting and discussing new titles allow members to gain insight into one another’s thoughts and emotions.

Mary-Lynne Bernald is a member of The Scripteasers in Saratoga, CA, a book club that has existed since the 1980s. In this interview, Mary-Lynne discusses the group’s varied reading list as well as its prerequisites for choosing titles. She also talks about the club’s annual “girls’ getaway” and shares anecdotes about their more memorable discussions.


-Click here to see all our interviews with book clubs.


We also are sharing a new interview with a librarian on ReadingGroupGuides.com:

Karen Beck, who dubs herself the “book club lady,” facilitates four book discussion groups at the Rose Barracks Library, which is located on an American military base in Vilseck, Germany. In this interview, Karen discusses the uniqueness of the groups she works with and offers advice on how to be an effective book club facilitator.

-Click here to see all our interviews with librarians.


 
Book Groups, Librarians and Booksellers --- We Want to Hear from YOU!
Each month we feature interviews with book clubs from around the country on ReadingGroupGuides.com. Interested in having your group spotlighted? Click here to read what to do.

We also like to feature interviews with librarians and booksellers from across the country in much the same way that we interview book groups each month. If you'd like to share your knowledge and opinions about book clubs with our readers, a link to the list of questions we'd like answered is available from the links below.

Please feel free to go beyond these questions and share with us anything about books clubs --- ones that meet in your library, your store, of which you're a member or ones that you've heard about --- that you think might interest our readers. When answering these questions, please keep in mind that our readers love to know what other groups are reading, so the more titles you include, the better!

-Librarians: Click here to see our interview instructions and questions for Librarians.

-Booksellers: Click here to see our interview instructions and questions for Booksellers.


 
New Guides Now Available
The following guides are now available on ReadingGroupGuides.com:

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
The Break-Up Diet: A Memoir by Annette Fix
Finding Iris Chang: Friendship, Ambition, and the Loss of an Extraordinary Mind by Paula Kamen
Firmin by Sam Savage

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Going to See the Elephant by Rodes Fishburne
Houston, We Have a Problema by Gwendolyn Zepeda
How Evan Broke His Head and Other Secrets by Garth Stein
An Incomplete Revenge: A Maisie Dobbs Novel by Jacqueline Winspear
The Ladies' Lending Library by Janice Kulyk Keefer
Lark & Termite by Jayne Anne Phillips
Lima Nights by Marie Arana
The Lost Recipe for Happiness by Barbara O'Neal
Love and Other Natural Disasters by Holly Shumas
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
See You in a Hundred Years: Discover One Young Family's Search for a Simpler Life…Four Seasons of Living in the Year 1900 by Logan Ward
Still Alice by Lisa Genova
The Third Chapter: Passion, Risk, and Adventure in the 25 Years After 50 by Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot
Two Rivers by T. Greenwood
What I Was by Meg Rosoff

Please note that these titles, for which we already had the guides when they appeared in hardcover, are now available in paperback:


The Commoner by John Burnham Schwartz
Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah
Homecoming by Bernhard Schlink
Isabella Moon by Laura Benedict
Life Class by Pat Barker
Memory by Philippe Grimbert
My Revolutions by Hari Kunzru
The Senator's Wife by Sue Miller
Song Yet Sung by James McBride
The Winter Rose by Jennifer Donnelly


We have the following new guides for Christian book groups:

All I Need is Jesus and a Good Pair of Jeans: The Tired Supergirl’s Search for Grace by Susanna Foth Aughtmon
The Edge of Light: At Home in Beldon Grove, Book 1 by Ann Shorey
Fireflies in December by Jennifer Erin Valent
Loving Cee Cee Johnson by Linda Leigh Hargrove
No Place for a Lady: Heart of the West Series, Book 1 by Maggie Brendan
Paper Roses: Texas Dreams Trilogy, Book 1 by Amanda Cabot
Prayer Power: 30 Days to a Stronger Connection with God by Peter Lundell


 
This Month's Poll and Tip
Poll:

Given the present economy, is your book group reading fewer hardcovers than before?

No, we still are reading about the same number of hardcovers that we did before.
We are reading fewer hardcovers.
We never read hardcovers.
I am not in a book group.
I am not sure.


Tip for January:

With the Presidential Inauguration on January 20th, think about reading something historical that talks about a milestone moment in history (i.e., women gaining the right to vote in 1920, the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which guaranteed African Americans their voting rights, and the U.S. lowering the voting age from 21 to 18 in 1970).

 
Click here to answer the poll.

 
This Month's Contest Book: FIREFLY LANE by Kristin Hannah
Win a copy of Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah for your reading group!

To be a group to win 20 free copies of this book, all you have to do is sign up for the ReadingGroupGuides.com newsletter by February 1, 2008. If you are receiving this newsletter in your mailbox, you already are signed up!


More About Firefly Lane:
Now available in paperback, Kristin Hannah's New York Times bestselling novel explores themes of friendship, the challenges of maintaining long-term friendship, the sacrifices that come with motherhood and the obstacles that women face. Book clubs across the country have said that this book stirs memories and sparks discussion.

The story follows accomplished, independent Tully Hart and loyal, capable Kate Mularkey through three-and-a-half decades of friendship. From the mid-1970s and on into the new millennium, Tully and Kate buoy each other through life. Amid Tully's rise to fame as a television journalist and Kate's dream of raising a family, the two weather the storms of friendship --- jealousy, anger, hurt and resentment --- until a betrayal threatens to tear them apart forever.


We encourage you to visit Kristin's official website, www.KristinHannah.com, where you can share information about your group and become eligible for an opportunity to have Kristin join your book club meeting by phone. Please be sure to also visit HallmarkMagazine.com in February 2009 to enter for a chance to win the "Share Your Sisterhood Story Sweepstakes."
 
Click here to read contest details and rules.
 

Do you like what you see here, and want to forward it to a friend? Then click our link on the bottom of the page to do just that!

Happy reading. We'll see you next month.

Don't forget to visit our other websites from TheBookReportNetwork.com:


Bookreporter.com, GraphicNovelReporter.com, FaithfulReader.com,  Teenreads.com,  Kidsreads.com, AuthorsOnTheWeb.com and AuthorYellowPages.com.

Carol Fitzgerald (Carol@bookreporter.com)

The Book Report Network
250 W. 57th Street - Suite 1228
New York, New York 10107