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January 2010 Newsletter January 2010
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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! For this is going to be a special year as we will be celebrating our 10-year anniversary in May.

As we start the new year, I wondered if I could ask you to forward this newsletter to any friends who are in book clubs who you think might enjoy it. Consider it our “annual newsletter drive” to kick off the year/decade and a chance for you to “jumpstart” another book club into learning more about books of interest to them. Thanks in advance for this.

Also, we are putting the finishing touches on our Coming Soon feature on this site where we will be sharing information about upcoming book releases with you up to a year in advance. Titles will be broken out by hardcovers and paperbacks. More to come on this next month. For the moment we have a promo ad linking you to our Coming Soon section on, which is a bit less robust than we have planned, but equally as informative!

I hope your holidays were as fun and festive as mine. It was a lovely blur of family, friends, relaxing, movie watching, reading and making memories. I spent the holidays on the Outer Banks, which already seems like a distant memory as I find myself plunged back into my routine. Once again I forgot to drink the eggnog until the 11th hour. I truly should make a note that says, "Open present, then open eggnog."

We watched DVDs, including Julie & Julia, which inspired an evening of making Bouef Bourguignon a la Julia Child. My husband loves to cook and got a Dutch oven for Christmas, and he was trying to decide what to make with it. I suggested we imitate Julia, and I was lucky enough to find the recipe on her publisher’s website and a store with all the ingredients. For some reason that I still cannot explain, my normally very reserved husband decided to prepare the entire meal speaking with the trill of Julia’s accent. While the dinner was very memorable, the complete show that went on during the prep process really eclipsed the meal. And it was captured by my son, Greg, with my Flip camera. I share this since an evening of cooking like this would be great fun for a book group who perhaps wants to try something different in the cold winter months, maybe for a second gathering during the month together beyond the usual discussion.

I also watched My Sister’s Keeper, and I see why readers were up in arms about how the ending differed from the book; and, in fact, how the entire focal point of the movie was different from the book. But I also see why it worked for the film this way. Again, for groups looking for something different, a Books Into Movies Now on DVD discussion could be an interesting way to handle a meeting or perhaps again add a supplemental one. January through March in the Northeast at least require a bit of creativity, and it seems the cold has been blasting most of the East Coast, so others may want to think warm thoughts as well.

When I was on the Outer Banks, I saw my friend Jamie Layton, who is one of the managers of Duck’s Cottage, a bookstore. She runs the store’s book group and oversees a number of other clubs. We got to talk about how book clubs begin their discussions as she was looking for some fresh ideas, so I am posing the question to you: "How do you usually start your discussions at your meetings?" Please send your replies to Dana Barrett at [email protected]. Dana, as you may remember, has joined us as a Contributing Editor overseeing the Blog and some other features on the site, like compiling your replies to questions like this. Please join me in welcoming her. We will have her bio and photo up soon!

I am happy to share that we have compiled our “Best Of” lists for 2009, with 25 new favorites, 20 ongoing favorites and 20 enduring favorites. It's always a lot of fun --- and yes, a challenge --- to put together these lists. In the past we have had fewer titles, but I confess that this year I opted for longer lists to give you more options. We look forward to hearing your feedback on our selections.

On we asked a poll question about “reading resolutions” and you can see what readers had to say about them here. Also, I wanted to share some of your most popular resolutions beyond what we had as choices: "read 100 books," "not buy until I finish what I have," and "read more classics." Here are some fun replies: "Finish the 30 or so books that I am currently reading before starting any new books," "I will try to addict more people into becoming bookaholics; an addiction that should not be cured" and "I will stop reading books by authors who used to write good books but have stopped trying."

We also took a look at some replies that particularly applied to book groups. They included “I will finish reading my Book Club selections BEFORE our discussions,” “I will read, or at least attempt to read, each book that is picked in my book club” and “My book club of several years just dissolved. I'll not join one for a while just so I can read whatever without any commitments, and I'll send recommendations of books I've enjoyed to my old book club members as a way to stay in touch.”

Our registered contests this month will give you access to two authors whose work I adore --- and who have so much to share with book clubs: Kristin Hannah and Barbara Delinsky. Read on for more details!

Over at we also have launched a One to Watch author feature this week for Beth Hoffman, who has written Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, which was released Tuesday. I loved this book, which will have appeal to those who enjoyed The Help, The Secret Life of Bees and Steel Magnolias, and I am very excited to share it with you. It will be one of my first Bets On picks for 2010 this Friday. You can see a terrific book trailer about it here.

Over the holiday I read The Postmistress by Sarah Blake, which was one of our recent contest books. It's a wonderful and engaging story of three women that is set during 1941 as the war is raging in Europe and America is not yet involved in the conflict, though people are wondering when, not if, we will be. The prose drops readers into the bombing sites of London, and I could hear the rumbles and feel the way people's lives were shattered as I turned the pages and felt the collateral damage of the war. One of the women is a war correspondent in London, the other two are in Massachusetts --- a postmistress and a doctor's wife. The way their lives collide and weave together made me want to read this book without interruption. It's out in February, and I think you will love it.

Last weekend I read Adriana Trigiani’s upcoming book, Brava, Valentine, which will be in stores on February 9th, as I am having dinner with her next weekend when I attend the American Library Association Midwinter Conference in Boston. I loved the first book in the series, Very Valentine, but think the plot and story here is developed even more. I am not a shoe girl (though I have a kickass pair of teal cowboy boots that I love love love), but when I read her Valentine books I want to drive to a shoe store and do some shopping. See how books can be inspiring?

I have spent very little time in Boston, so I am planning to get there Thursday to catch up with some authors, friends and one of our reviewers before the action of the conference begins. My resolution this year is to spend more time in the cities that I travel to. If you have ideas of things you think I should see in Boston, let me know!

In other bookish news from the last weeks, I was quoted in USA Today in a retrospective about the book biz in the past decade, which you can read here.

I am juggling three books right now --- Roses by Leila Meacham, a book I started a bit ago and am enjoying, though my reading of it keeps being interrupted. It was just released last week. It’s a wonderful sweeping story set in Texas. The second is The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow, which is the story of a young girl who is the child of a bi-racial marriage who has come to live with her grandmother. The characters have great voices and there's a wonderful author video that you can see here; it will be in stores February 16th. And I am about halfway through Eternal on the Water by Joseph Monninger, which will be in stores on February 16th, too. It's a beautiful story of love and adventure about a young man and woman who meet on the banks of the Allagash River in Maine and from there chart their lives together. From the moment they meet, they are always facing what they know will be a very special final journey down the river.

Speaking of travel, my Boston ALA trip and an inability to clone as of yet means that I will be missing Kathy Patrick's Girlfriends Weekend in Texas this weekend where she has assembled a terrific lineup of authors. We will have Ad Hudler doing a piece for us about his adventure there as an author. I would love to hear feedback from any of you who are attending the event as well. You can read more about it here.

We have something special going on for teens that we would love you to share with the teens you know. In association with the Children's Book Council (CBC), is giving teen readers a very special opportunity to let their voices be heard in the Teen Choice Book of the Year Award by telling us their five favorite books of 2009. The five titles that receive the most votes will serve as the finalists for the CBC's 2010 Teen Choice Book of the Year. Once the five finalists have been determined, we will tell teens where they can go vote for the winner, which will be announced in May 2010. The deadline is February 1st, and details may be found here.

Here’s wishing you a wonderful January with what we hope are some warmer temperatures. From what I saw looking at the weather map, the only state with warm weather was Arizona and I am fairly sure it’s not big enough for all of us. Happy reading and discussing!

Carol Fitzgerald ([email protected])


Special Contest: Win an Advance Copy of IMPERFECT BIRDS by Anne Lamott for Your Group
We are celebrating the spring release of Imperfect Birds by Anne Lamott --- a timely novel about parents, children and trust --- with a special contest. 100 readers will have the opportunity to each win one advance copy of Imperfect Birds, which will be released on April 6th, for their group.

More about Imperfect Birds:
Seventeen-year-old Rosie Ferguson is smart, athletic and beautiful --- everything her mother, Elizabeth, and stepfather, James, hoped she could be. But there are disturbing signs that the well-adjusted teenage life Rosie claims to be leading is a sham, and that Elizabeth’s hopes for her daughter to remain immune from the world’s darker impulses are dashed. Slowly and painfully, Elizabeth and James are forced to confront the fact that Rosie has been lying to them --- and that her deceptions have profound consequences on them all.

Imperfect Birds is a powerful and redemptive novel of love and family, from the author of the bestselling Blue Shoe, Grace (Eventually) and Operating Instructions.

-Click here for the reading group guide.
Click here to read all the contest details.

NOAH'S COMPASS by Anne Tyler
Anne Tyler, author of Breathing Lessons, has written a wise, compassionate novel about Liam, a retired schoolteacher at 61 who wakes up one day in a hospital unable to remember how he wound up there. Liam, however, is determined to reconstruct the missing hours in his life, both to uncover the truth about what happened and to prove he can’t be written off quite yet. We all know a Liam, who seeks someone with whom to share his memories. In fact, there might be a little of Liam in each of us, which is why Tyler’s lovely novel resonates so deeply.


Click here to read the guide for Noah's Compass.

Now Available in Paperback: VERY VALENTINE by Adriana Trigiani

The Angelini Shoe Company, one of the last family-owned businesses in Greenwich Village, has been making exquisite wedding shoes since 1903 but now teeters on the brink of financial collapse. To save their business from ruin, 33-year-old Valentine Roncalli --- apprentice to and granddaughter of master artisan Teodora Angelini --- must bring the family's old-world craftsmanship into the 21st century. Juggling a budding romance, her duty to her family, and a design challenge presented by a prestigious department store, Valentine returns to Italy with her grandmother, turning her life and the business upside down in ways she never expected.

Click here to read the guide for Very Valentine.

Now Available in Paperback: THE PIANO TEACHER by Janice Y.K. Lee

Set in Hong Kong during the outbreak of World War II, and its aftermath 10 years later, The Piano Teacher alternates between the lives of two vastly different women whose destinies are linked by the events of the war. In 1952, Claire is a provincial newlywed from England, recently arrived in the flourishing colony of Hong Kong. She is hired by the Chens, a wealthy Chinese couple, to give their daughter piano lessons. She soon becomes involved with Will Truesdale, an enigmatic expatriate whose visible and emotional injuries raise questions about his past. Through the Chens and her new love, she discovers a world of colonial decadence that is shadowed by the recent events of the war. This novel is destined to become a book club favorite!

-Click here to see our Women’s Fiction feature for Janice Y. K. Lee and The Piano Teacher on

Click here to read the guide for The Piano Teacher.

36 ARGUMENTS FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein
36 Arguments for the Existence of God is a hilarious, heartbreaking and intellectually captivating novel about the rapture and torments of religious experience in all its variety. After Cass Seltzer’s book becomes a surprise bestseller, he’s dubbed “the atheist with a soul” and becomes a celebrity. He wins over the stunning Lucinda Mandelbaum, “the goddess of game theory,” and loses himself in a spiritually expansive infatuation. A former girlfriend appears: an anthropologist who invites him to join her in her quest for immortality through biochemistry. And he is haunted by two people who ignited his passion to understand religion: his mentor and professor, and a six-year-old mathematical genius, heir to the leadership of a Hasidic sect. Each encounter reinforces Cass’s theory that the religious impulse spills over into life at large.
Click here to read the guide for 36 Arguments for the Existence of God.


The children of a once-brilliant playwright and a struggling actress, the four Haas siblings grew up in chaos --- raised in an environment composed of neglect and glamour in equal measure. When their father dies, they must depend on their intense but fragile bond to remember what it means to be family despite years of anger and hurt. Their painfully human, sometimes selfish, and almost always wrong decisions provide laughter through tears --- something anyone who's ever had a sibling can relate to.

-Click here to read Robin Antalek’s blog post, “A Family Tale.”

Click here to read the guide for The Summer We Fell Apart.

Ken Wheaton’s The First Annual Grand Prairie Rabbit Festival is a debut novel with a fresh Southern edge. Father Steve Sibille has come home to the bayou to take charge of St. Pete’s church. Among his challenges are teenybopper altar girls, insomnia-curing confessions, and alarmingly alluring congregant Vicky Carrier. Then there’s Miss Rita, an irrepressible centenarian with a taste for whiskey, cracklins, and sticking her nose in other people’s business. When an outsider threatens to poach Father Steve’s flock, Miss Rita suggests he fight back by staging an event that will keep St. Pete’s parishioners loyal forever. As The First Annual Grand Prairie Rabbit Festival draws near, help comes from the strangest places.


-Click here to see our One to Watch feature for Ken Wheaton and The First Annual Grand Prairie Rabbit Festival on

Click here to read the guide for The First Annual Grand Prairie Rabbit Festival.

Registered Book Club Promotions

For January we have two very special opportunities for Registered Book Groups. Our featured titles this month are Not My Daughter by Barbara Delinsky and True Colors by Kristin Hannah. Groups who have registered with us by Tuesday, January 19th have the chance to win author chats and/or free books. If your group is not registered, click here to register.

Not My Daughter by Barbara Delinsky --- Book Giveaway: Three groups will have the chance to win up to 12 copies of the book.

More About Not My Daughter:
A pregnancy pact between three teenaged girls puts their mothers' love to the ultimate test in this explosive new novel from bestselling author Barbara Delinsky.When Susan Tate's 17-year-old daughter, Lily, announces she is pregnant, Susan is stunned. A single mother, she has struggled to do everything right. She sees the pregnancy as an unimaginable tragedy for both Lily and herself.

The emotional ties between mothers and daughters are stretched to breaking in this emotionally wrenching story of love and forgiveness. Once again, Barbara Delinsky has given us a powerful novel, one that asks a central question: What does it take to be a good mother?

-Click here to see our Women’s Fiction feature for Barbara Delinsky and Not My Daughter on

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

More about True Colors:
The Grey sisters couldn't be more different. Vivi Ann --- the youngest, and more like her father than all three. An animal lover, extremely hard working, and the only one still living on the family farm off of Puget Sound in Washington State. Winona --- a very successful lawyer at the young age of 28, escaped the rural life to live in the city. And Aurora --- married to a wealthy man, with two children, and obsessed with appearances. But when their family is torn apart by Vivi's love for a dangerous man, all three have to examine their hearts to determine what's important.

Please also note that Kristin Hannah’s latest novel, Winter Garden, is due out February 2nd.

Click here to register your group. Best Guides of 2009
Here are our annual lists of our 25 New Favorite, 20 Ongoing Favorite and 20 Enduring Favorite book titles for book club discussions for 2009, gathered by the editors of 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 Blog

Our Blog continues to be a big hit among our readers. Throughout the month we are sharing postings from regular contributors --- including authors, librarians, book club facilitators, booksellers and experts in the publishing industry --- as well as special guests. The latest blog can be found here, and here are quick links to some recent posts:

-Lori Armstrong: My Favorite Type of People
-Amy Bloom: Bookclubs: The Good, The Bad, The Still Hard to Believe
-Advice for New Book Clubs
-Advice for New Book Clubs, Part 2
-Advice for New Book Clubs, Part 3
-Robin Antalek: A Family Tale
-Gail Godwin: Abiding Haunts
-Happy New Year --- And The New Year Means...
-2009 Highlights: Literary Meandering and More
-Book Lists Galore's Book of the Year: THE HELP


For those of you who use RSS feeds to keep track of your favorite blogs, you can now add the blog to your list by clicking the link on the blog page. Also, receive updates by email here.

Click here to read the Blog.

Become a Fan of on Facebook and Goodreads! has a fan page on Facebook where we now have more than 1,400 fans! Here we feature our daily blogs and put out questions for discussion. We would love you to share pictures of your groups as well as comments on the books that we suggest. We look forward to seeing you as fans of on Facebook. If you're not on Facebook, you can still follow our daily posts, in blog form, here.

We have also created a group page for on Goodreads. Here we are building a virtual bookshelf of the titles we feature on the site. We are looking forward to further developing this page in the months to come.

-Click here to visit's Facebook page.
-Click here to visit's Goodreads page.

New Guides Now Available

The following guides are now available on

36 Arguments for the Existence of God by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein: A satirical look at religion and relationships told through the eyes of a writer deemed “the atheist with a soul.”
The Believers by Zoë Heller: A family reconsiders its value and the ties that bind in this searing satire from the author of Notes on a Scandal.
The Betrayal of the Blood Lily
by Lauren Willig: The heroines of Lauren Willig's bestselling Pink Carnation series have engaged in espionage all over 19th-century Europe. In the sixth stand-alone volume, our fair English heroine travels to India, where she finds freedom --- and risk --- more exciting than she ever imagined.
by Kia DuPree: In the style of urban literary greats Teri Woods and Vicky Stringer, Kia DuPree tells an engrossing and heart-wrenching story about a young woman living on the streets of Washington, D.C.
Deeper Than the Dead
by Tami Hoag: The No. 1 New York Times bestselling author returns with the thriller her millions of fans have been awaiting for two years.
Dream House
by Valerie Laken: This riveting debut novel tells the story of a domestic drama that will irrevocably affect the lives of two families.
The First Annual Grand Prairie Rabbit Festival
by Ken Wheaton: A Southern preacher tends to his eclectic followers and initiates a carnival to help his struggling church.
How to Live: A Search for Wisdom from Old People (While They Are Still on This Earth)
by Henry Alford: One man's amusing and oddly inspirational search for wisdom from a pantheon of old people, who share the lessons they've learned about how to live.
Imperfect Birds
by Anne Lamott: A husband and wife discover that their daughter is not the girl they thought she was in this novel of parents, children and trust.
Lone Star Legend by Gwendolyn Zepeda: An aspiring young journalist stuck blogging for a gossip site stumbles across a story that gives new meaning to the word legendary.
The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet
by Myrlin A. Hermes: A Divinity scholar at Wittenburg University, Horatio prides himself on his ability to argue both sides of any intellectual debate, but as a result is a born skeptic, never able to fully buy into one particular philosophy. That is, until he meets Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark.
Noah’s Compass
by Anne Tyler: A retired schoolteacher awakens in a hospital with no recollection of how he arrived there, and is determined to piece together those missing hours.
Not My Daughter
by Barbara Delinsky: A teenage pregnancy pact shakes up a closeknit community and raises questions about what it truly means to be a mother.
The Piano Teacher
by Janice Y. K. Lee: Set in Hong Kong during the outbreak of World War II, the lives of two very different women intertwine during the next 10 years against the ravages of war and the opulence of high society.
Remarkable Creatures
by Tracy Chevalier: A voyage of discoveries, a meeting of two remarkable women, an extraordinary time and place enrich bestselling author Tracy Chevalier’s enthralling new novel.
Searching for Tina Turner
by Jacqueline E. Luckett: In this breathtaking debut novel reminiscent of early Terry McMillan, Lena Spencer is going through a mid-life crisis and looks to singer Tina Turner for strength.
The Summer We Fell Apart
by Robin Antalek: The four children of a once-brilliant playwright and struggling actress reunite at their father’s deathbed, confronting their troubling, chaotic childhoods.
When Will There Be Good News?
by Kate Atkinson: One of the most exuberantly acclaimed books of 2009 was Atkinson's third novel featuring the beloved private investigator Jackson Brodie.

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

Lark and Termite by Jayne Anne Phillips: This National Book Award finalist 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.
The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker: Tiffany Baker bursts onto the literary scene with her terrific debut, which blends murder, magic and dark family secrets in a larger-than-life story.
A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick: With echoes of Wuthering Heights and Rebecca, Robert Goolrick's intoxicating debut novel delivers a classic tale of suspenseful seduction, set in a world that seems to have gone temporarily off its axis.
Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani: Valentine Roncalli desperately tries to save the family shoemaking business while juggling a budding romance, her family and a challenge from a nearby department store.

The following new guides are now available for Christian book groups:

The Choice: Lancaster County Secrets, Book 1 by Suzanne Woods Fisher: A tender story of love, forgiveness and looking below the surface, The Choice uncovers the sweet simplicity of the Amish world --- and shows that it’s never too late to find your way back to God.
The Courteous Cad: Miss Pickworth, Book 3
by Catherine Palmer: On her tour of the English countryside, a chance encounter in the streets alerts Miss Prudence Watson to the inhumane working conditions at the worsted mill and its boorish owner.
Jenna’s Cowboy: The Callahans of Texas, Book 1
by Sharon Gillenwater: A farmhand helps a former cowboy piece his life back together after a tour in the military.

The Silent Governess
by Julie Klassen: Moving, mysterious and romantic, The Silent Governess takes readers inside the intriguing life of a 19th-century governess in an English manor house where all is not as it appears.

Swinging on a Star: Weddings by Bella, Book Two
by Janice Thompson: Bella is planning a Renaissance-themed wedding that can make her career, except the best man just happens to be Hollywood’s hottest hunk, and he’s staying at her house.

Thicker Than Blood
by C. J. Darlington: Christy Williams is being framed for a crime she didn’t commit and has nowhere to turn except to her estranged younger sister.

Third Time’s a Charm: Sister-to-Sister Series, Book 3
by Virginia Smith: Tori Sanderson has the professional opportunity of a lifetime. If she can prove she’s executive material, she’s in line for a big promotion. But there’s only room for one new account executive, and her co-worker has his eye on the job…and on Tori.

This Month’s Poll

On average, what percentage of your book club typically comes to a meeting?

Not sure
I am not in a book group.


Click here to answer the poll.

This Month's Contest Book: NOAH'S COMPASS by Anne Tyler
Win a copy of Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler 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
newsletter by February 1, 2010. If you are receiving this newsletter in your mailbox, you already are signed up!

More About Noah's Compass:

Liam Pennywell is a man of unexceptional talents, plain demeanor, modest means and curtailed ambition. At age 60, he's been fired from his teaching job at a second-rate private boys' school in Baltimore, a job below his academic training and original expectations. An unsentimental, noncontemplative survivor of two failed marriages and the emotionally detached father of three grown daughters, Liam is jolted into alarm after he's attacked in his apartment and loses all memory of the experience. His search to recover those lost hours leads him into an uneasy exploration of his disappointing life and into an unlikely new relationship with Eunice, a socially inept walking fashion disaster who is half his age. She is also spontaneous and enthusiastic, and Liam longs to cast off his inertia and embrace the joyous recklessness that he feels in her company.
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,,,,, and

Carol Fitzgerald ([email protected])

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