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January 2012

ReadingGroupGuides.com Newsletter January 2012

Quick Links to Features on ReadingGroupGuides.com
 
Here's to Great Book Group Discussions in 2012

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all had a great holiday. After a fun and memorable evening celebrating with my parents and my sister and her family, we headed to North Carolina for a wonderful 10 days on the Outer Banks. The days were sunny (except one that was perfect for hitting the movies and some shopping), and it was nice to kick back a notch or two, and read, knit and hang out as a family doing things like watching "Chopped" marathons on Food Network.

Besides catching up on some reading this holiday break, I also spent time doing what I called “fun homework,” seeing some movies that were based on books. I enjoyed both War Horse and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. (I already had seen the Swedish version of the latter film, but still thoroughly enjoyed this new interpretation of the blockbuster bestseller.)

Then last weekend, I enjoyed both Downton Abbey’s return to PBS’s "Masterpiece Theatre" and the documentary film Hey, Boo, written and produced by Mary Murphy about To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee via Netflix’s streaming option. In the movie, Mary interviews a number of interesting literary and cultural figures, including Tom Brokaw, Wally Lamb, James Patterson, Anna Quindlen and Oprah Winfrey, and Harper Lee’s sister, Louise, about their relationship to the book and delivers a film that will make you want to read the book --- and find someone to talk about it with --- again. Hey, Boo is now on Netflix and will be airing on PBS in April, and hitting select theaters in May as well. Hmmmmmm a classic book-to-movie pairing?

I know many book groups do not meet in December, or you host holiday-themed gatherings instead of your regular meetings, so it’s nice to all be back in the usual groove this month with a VERY full lineup for you.

Before we get to that, I would like you to think “way back” to 2011. (After all, if you are like me, it’s been a VERY busy first 11 days of 2012.) We would like to know WHAT were the three favorite books that you discussed with your book club in 2011. No overthinking required. No right answers. Just think back on the books you discussed and share your favorites in our Share Your 2011 Picks feature. We will compile the results, which will then be a great resource for both you and your fellow ReadingGroupGuides.com visitors, so please weigh in! We want to hear from ALL of you!

We are hosting TWO special contests this month.

The first will get you listening, as it is for the audio edition of Home Front by Kristin Hannah, which will be in stores on January 31st. We featured a BIG contest for Hannah’s Night Road (which just came out in trade paperback on January 3rd) back in November --- and the RAVES are coming in from readers about it. Those who have read Night Road have been sharing that they are looking forward to reading more by Kristin, something I well understand.

In Home Front, she writes about a woman who, in the midst of struggling to hold her family together, gets deployed in Iraq. I read it in a day and thoroughly enjoyed it. Amusing story: I was reading it on my iPad, and my battery drained with 20 pages to go. I was like a madwoman looking for a plug so I could read the ending. We’re happy to give you the opportunity to enjoy this book in a format we have not featured here before on ReadingGroupGuides.com --- the audiobook. We are giving away 100 copies of this audiobook to lucky readers who enter the contest by Friday, February 3rd at noon ET. Want to hear a sample? Then click here. Also, if you would like to catch Kristin on tour, her tour schedule is here.

Our second special contest is for Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal, a memoir by Conor Grennan about his time in Nepal, which is now available in paperback. Conor spent 12 months in the country where, while working at an orphanage, he uncovered the fact that many of these children were not orphans, but rather the victims of traffickers. He began a quest determined to reunite trafficked children to their families.

I have had the pleasure of meeting Conor on more than one occasion, and his story will warm your heart and give you insight into this topic; if you get a chance to see him, while his topic is serious, he is self-deprecatingly witty as well. It all started when he left his corporate job to travel for a year and decided to spend part of it doing something altruistic so it would not look like he was merely taking a big vacation. What came from THAT decision has changed the lives of many children --- and along the way, Conor also met the woman he married. You can read a piece on why he decided to write this book here. 50 readers will have the opportunity to win a copy of this riveting, philanthropic expose if they enter by Friday, February 3rd at noon ET.

We are also featuring two contests for registered book groups this month.

One is for The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak, a book we've been featuring on Bookreporter.com in our Historical Fiction Author Spotlight and that made Oprah's "16 Books to Watch For in January 2012." It tells the story of Catherine the Great's rise to power --- and every scheme, intrigue and deception you can imagine --- from the eyes of one of Catherine's servants. It's a thrilling tale --- and a great way to learn about Imperial Russian history!

We are also featuring a giveaway for The Color of Rain by Michael and Gina Spehn, a memoir about two families that are drawn together when their children, who were childhood friends, each die of cancer only months apart. Though it's a harrowing story, the book reminds us of how tragedy can lead to new life.

Groups that have registered with us by Monday, January 23rd will have the chance to win author chats with Eva Stachniak and Michael and Gina Spehn, as well as free books! If you are not registered with us, click here to do so.

Oh, and for the record, as we move into 2012, here are my thought about books. They are both fiction and nonfiction stories to be shared. Whether you are reading print, eBooks or listening via audio, the heart of what you are enjoying is story. We are platform-agnostic here, meaning we celebrate reading no matter how you choose to enjoy it. No format is “better” than the other. No one format needs to “win.” You may move from one to the other, or stick with one you love. A sample like what we are offering you here with a chance to listen to an audiobook and see what you enjoy. There are NO rules. End of lecture.

Our newsletter contest book this month is "There Are Things I Want You to Know" About Stieg Larsson and Me by Eva Gabrielsson, the long-time girlfriend (after reading this, it’s hard for me to think of her as anything but his wife, though they never married, which, as you may know, has become a huge issue for her) of Stieg Larsson, who wrote the bestselling Millennium Trilogy. In the book, which will be available in paperback on January 24th, Gabrielsson describes in great detail the nature of her relationship with Stieg, their social work, and the influences behind Larsson’s work. I read this after I went to see the movie and loved how this, as well as the films, shares yet another angle and point of view on this bestselling series. Book clubs love backstories, and this provides one with all kinds of snippets on everything from character names to settings to lots of other nuggets you will enjoy.

There’s nothing to do to enter to win if you are reading this newsletter via email. If you are reading online, sign up for the email newsletter here and you are automatically entered.

This month we focus our Book Group Spotlight on the Happy Bookers in Sidney, Ohio. In this interview, Meggan Weaver talks about the one-year old group, how it was founded, and a book exchange they recently hosted. Sounds fun --- maybe something to consider for YOUR group!

We also are featuring a new Book Group Interview with the Novel Ideas Book Club in Gilbert, Arizona. Here, Kathi Hofferth talks about her group, doles out some great advice, and offers a few hilarious anecdotes.

We have 17 new guides for you this month, which means we have lots of ideas for your group to consider as it starts planning for 2012. Be sure to check them out as your browse the site.

In our poll this week, we ask whether your group ever reads more than one book by an author. Do you have favorite authors whose books you read all the time? Does your group make a point of avoiding authors whose books you’ve already read? Let us know!

Other book news you will want to get involved with --- World Book Night is a celebration of books with an evening of book giveaways that is set to take place simultaneously in the U.S., the U.K. and Ireland on April 23rd. During World Book Night, 50,000 people, named as “book givers,” will be giving away 20 books that will be provided to them from a select list with a goal to have 1,000,000 people across the United States alone celebrating reading en masse. There will be 25 adult books and 5 young adult titles given away. You can see the complete list of titles that includes books from authors like Suzanne Collins, Jhumpa Lahiri, Jodi Picoult and Tim O'Brien, among others, here. Many of these authors made our "Best of 2011" this year, which you can view in each of our three categories: New Favorites, Ongoing Favorites and Enduring Favorites.

YOU can enter to be a “Book Giver” on World Book Night. Click here to sign up, and you will hear back if you have been selected after February 1st. Most of our staff has already signed up. And we look forward to having MANY ReadingGroupGuides.com readers participate in this event! From the start, the organizers have been asking us to get our readers on board!

Speaking of best books of 2011, any of you with teenagers in your life should let them know about the opportunity to nominate winners for the Children’s Book Council’s Teen Book Choice of the Year. Right now on Teenreads.com, we are asking teens to list their favorite books of 2011. All their responses will be compiled, and the five most popular titles will be entered into a second round of voting for a finalist.

And in other big news for 2012, we are planning a complete redesign of ReadingGroupGuides.com this spring. As we do so, we want to hear from you! What do you want to see on the new site? These could be new feature ideas, more of something we are already doing, or anything else you can think of. Email Maureen@bookreporter.com with your suggestions.

So here’s to 2012! We are really excited about the plans we have in store for you!

Carol Fitzgerald (Carol@bookreporter.com)
 

Click here to let us know your favorite group reads of 2011 by Tuesday, January 31st.

 
Special Contest: Win a Copy of the Audio Edition of HOME FRONT by Kristin Hannah for Your Group
We are celebrating the upcoming release of Home Front by Kristin Hannah, which will be in stores on January 31st, with a special contest --- a chance to win one of 100 audiobooks and listen to this powerful story. You can hear an excerpt from the audiobook here. The deadline for entries is Friday, February 3rd at noon ET. We are excited about sharing with you a different way to experience a writer whose work we love.

More about Home Front:
From a distance, Michael and Joleen Zarkades seem to have it all: a solid marriage, two exciting careers, and children they adore. But after 12 years together, the couple has lost their way; they are unhappy and edging toward divorce. Then the Iraq war starts. An unexpected deployment will tear their already fragile family apart, sending one of them deep into harm’s way and leaving the other at home, waiting for news. When the worst happens, each must face their darkest fear and fight for the future of their family.

 
Click here to read all the contest details.

 
Special Contest: Win a Paperback Copy of LITTLE PRINCES by Conor Grennan for Your Group
We are celebrating the paperback release of Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal by Conor Grennan --- the powerful story of a young man who traded his day job for a philanthropic quest around the globe --- with a special contest. 50 readers will have the opportunity to each win a copy of the book, which is now available in paperback, for their group. The deadline for entries is Friday, February 3rd at noon ET.

More about Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal:
In search of adventure, 29-year-old Conor Grennan traded his day job for a year-long trip around the globe, a journey that began with a three-month stint volunteering at the Little Princes Orphanage in war-torn Nepal. But what began as a lark became a passionate commitment that would transform the young American and the lives of countless others.

-Click here for the reading group guide.

 
Click here to read all the contest details.

 
THE WORLD WE FOUND by Thrity Umrigar
As university students in late 1970s Bombay, Armaiti, Laleh, Kavita and Nishta were inseparable. Spirited and unconventional, they challenged authority and fought for a better world. But much has changed over the past 30 years. Following different paths, the quartet drifted apart, the day-to-day demands of work and family tempering the revolutionary fervor they once shared. Then comes devastating news: Armaiti, who moved to America, is gravely ill and wants to see the old friends she left behind.

 
Click here for the reading group guide.

 
Now Available in Paperback: THE PEACH KEEPER by Sarah Addison Allen

It’s the dubious distinction of 30-year-old Willa Jackson to hail from a fine old Southern family of means that met with financial ruin generations ago. The Blue Ridge Madam --- built by Willa’s great-great-grandfather and once the finest home in Walls of Water, North Carolina --- has stood for years as a monument to misfortune and scandal. Willa has lately learned that an old classmate --- socialite Paxton Osgood --- has restored the house to its former glory, with plans to turn it into a top-flight inn. But when a skeleton is found buried beneath the property’s lone peach tree, long-kept secrets come to light, accompanied by a spate of strange occurrences throughout the town.
 

Click here for the reading group guide.

 
Available in Paperback January 24th: "THERE ARE THINGS I WANT YOU TO KNOW" ABOUT STIEG LARSSON AND ME" by Eva Gabrielsson with Marie-Françoise Colombani
The keys to the "Stieg Larsson phenomenon" all lie with Stieg Larsson the man. No one knew him like his lifelong companion, Eva Gabrielsson. Here she tells the story of their 30-year romance, of Stieg's lifelong struggle to expose Sweden’s Neo-Nazis, of his struggle to keep the magazine he founded, Expo, alive, his difficult relationships with his immediate family, and the joy and relief he discovered writing the Millennium Trilogy.
 
Click here for the reading group guide.

 
Now Available in Paperback: BATTLE HYMN OF THE TIGER MOTHER by Amy Chua

At once provocative and laugh-out-loud funny, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother set off a global parenting debate with its story of one mother's journey in strict parenting. Amy Chua argues that Western parenting tries to respect and nurture children's individuality, while Chinese parents typically believe that arming children with skills, strong work habits, and inner confidence prepares them best for the future.
 

Click here for the reading group guide.

 
SMUT: Stories by Alan Bennett
The author of The History Boys and The Habit of Art explores the uncomfortable and tragicomic gap between people’s public appearance and their private desires in two tender and surprising stories. In “The Greening of Mrs. Donaldson,” a recently bereaved widow finds interesting ways to supplement her income by performing as a patient for medical students, and renting out her spare room. And in “The Shielding of Mrs. Forbes,” a disappointed middle-aged mother dotes on her only son, Graham, who believes he must shield her from the truth.
 
Click here for the reading group guide.

 
THE MAGIC ROOM: A Story About the Love We Wish for Our Daughters, by Jeffrey Zaslow

Illuminating the poignant aspects of a woman's journey to the altar, The Magic Room tells the stories of memorable women on the brink of commitment. Run by the same family for years, Becker's has witnessed transformations in how America views the institution of marriage; some of the shop's clientele are becoming stepmothers, or starting married life for a second time.
 

Click here for the reading group guide.

 
THE COLOR OF RAIN: How Two Families Found Faith, Hope, and Love in the Midst of Tragedy, by Michael and Gina Spehn
When two childhood friends die of cancer six weeks apart, the shared experience of loss brings their grieving spouses together. After months of late-night phone calls, family dinners, and countless dreams and tears, this unlikely pair builds a trust, a love, and a shared life. Told from alternating points of view, The Color of Rain illuminates the stepping stones of healing that lead to a joyful new beginning for Michael and Gina Spehn and their five children.
 
Click here for the reading group guide.

 
WINE TO WATER: A Bartender's Quest to Bring Clean Water to the World, by Doc Hendley
Doc Hendley never set out to be a hero. In 2004, Hendley --- a small-town bartender --- launched a series of wine-tasting events to raise funds for clean-water projects and to bring awareness to the world's freshwater crisis. He planned to donate the proceeds through traditional channels, but instead found himself traveling to one of the world's most dangerous hot spots: Darfur, Sudan.
 
Click here for the reading group guide.

 
GROWGIRL: How My Life After The Blair Witch Project Went to Pot, by Heather Donahue
After starring in The Blair Witch Project --- the tiny indie film-turned-blockbuster that Roger Ebert named one of the 10 Most Influential Movies of the Century --- Heather Donahue became a household name. But when the afterglow of the movie waned, her acting career stalled. Determined to start a new life, she left most remnants of the old one in the desert, meditated on things for a few days, then followed her brand-new boyfriend to her brand-new life --- growing pot.
 
Click here for the reading group guide.

 
January's Registered Book Group Contests

For January, we have two very special opportunities for Registered Book Groups. Our featured titles this month are The Winter Palace: A Novel of Catherine the Great by Eva Stachniak and The Color of Rain: How Two Families Found Faith, Hope, and Love in the Midst of Tragedy by Michael and Gina Spehn. Groups that have registered with us by Monday, January 23rd will have the chance to win author chats and free books. If your group is not registered with ReadingGroupGuides.com, click here here to register.

The Winter Palace: A Novel of Catherine the Great by Eva Stachniak --- Author Chat and Book Giveaway: Three groups will have the opportunity to chat with Eva Stachniakand receive up to 12 copies of the book.

More about The Winter Palace:
Catherine the Great is one of history’s most fascinating rulers --- a monarch whose 34-year reign brought Russia into the modern industrial world, whose affairs were the scandal of her court, and who truly embodied the ideals of the Enlightenment. Drawing on letters, diaries, and on-the-ground research in St. Petersburg, Peterhof and Tsarskoye Selo, award-winning author Eva Stachniak delivers a passionate novel that illuminates the early life of one of history’s most enigmatic and powerful women. The Winter Palace tells the epic story of Catherine’s improbable rise to power, as seen through the ever-watchful eyes of an all-but-invisible servant close to the throne.

The Color of Rain: How Two Families Found Faith, Hope, and Love in the Midst of Tragedy by Michael and Gina Spehn --- Author Chat and Book Giveaway: Three groups will have the opportunity to chat with Michael and Gina Spehn via phone or Skype and receive up to 12 copies of the book.

More about The Color of Rain:
When two childhood friends die of cancer six weeks apart, the shared experience of loss brings their grieving spouses together. After months of late-night phone calls, family dinners, and countless dreams and tears, this unlikely pair builds a trust, a love, and a shared life.

Told from alternating points of view, The Color of Rain illuminates the stepping stones of healing that lead to a joyful new beginning for Michael and Gina Spehn and their five children. Like many who grieve, Michael and Gina had to choose to hope again. Along the way, they discovered that God can restore the darkest circumstances --- and even from death, He can bring new life. Michael and Gina’s gripping story of “growing new hearts” will inspire readers not only to survive loss but also to receive the new courage, faith and identity that God gives in the midst of tragedy.

 

Click here to register your group.

 
Celebrate World Book Night on April 23rd!

We are pleased to announce World Book Night, an evening of book giveaways that is set to take place simultaneously in the U.S., the U.K. and Ireland on the evening of April 23, 2012.

As a way of connecting with other readers, 50,000 people will head out into their communities that night to hand out free books. Sign up here by February 1, 2012 to apply to be selected to give books away. Everyone who signs up to do so will be given 20 copies of a title of their choosing from the list of 30 featured books (you list three choices in the application). The goal for the evening is to give away a million free books!

The list of featured titles includes some ReadingGroupGuides.com favorites like:

-The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
-Little Bee by Chris Cleave
-The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
-My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
-The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
-A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick

The entire list of 30 titles can be viewed here.

Keep an eye out for more information on World Book Night in the coming weeks. And apply now to be a book giver.

 

Click here to read more about World Book Night and to sign up to give away free books.

 
New Guides Now Available
Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua: Amy Chua argues that Western parenting tries to respect and nurture children's individuality, while Chinese parents typically believe that arming children with skills, strong work habits, and inner confidence prepares them best for the future.
Between a Rock and a Hot Place: Why Fifty Is the New Fifty by Tracey Jackson: Recounting the changes Tracey Jackson went through, the things she learned (and things she didn't) en route to 50, Between a Rock and a Hot Place navigates the confusion and uncertainty of the most significant uncharted transition in our lives.
Faith by Jennifer Haigh: Set in 2002 amid the sexual abuse crisis that has rocked the Catholic Church, and particularly the Boston archdiocese, Jennifer Haigh's novel reaches far beneath the headlines to imagine the impact of allegations on one priest's family.
Growgirl: How My Life After The Blair Witch Project Went to Pot by Heather Donahue: The star of the international cult sensation The Blair Witch Project shares the high points of living on a marijuana farm post-Hollywood.
Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal by Conor Grennan: While volunteering at a Nepal orphanage in 2006, Conor Grennan discovered that the children were not orphans: they were trafficked. Despite the danger, he trekked remarkable distances with photographs of the children, miraculously reuniting dozens of families.
The Magic Room: A Story About the Love We Wish for Our Daughters by Jeffrey Zaslow: For thousands of women, Becker's Bridal in Fowler, Michigan, is the site of some of the most important moments of their lives. Illuminating the poignant aspects of a woman's journey to the altar, The Magic Room tells the stories of a diverse group of memorable women on the brink of commitment.
Smut: Stories by Alan Bennett: The author of The History Boys and The Habit of Art returns with a double novella about the unexpected secrets that lie behind people's public personas.
Take Me Home by Brian Leung: Adele "Addie" Maine is returning to Dire, Wyoming, 40 years after the deadly events that drove her away from her husband without a word.
“There Are Things I Want You to Know” About Stieg Larsson and Me by Eva Gabrielsson with Marie-Françoise Colombani: Only one person in the world knows this story well enough to tell it with authority. Her name is Eva Gabrielsson, and she and Stieg Larsson shared everything, starting when they were both 18 until his untimely death at the age of 50.
Wine to Water: A Bartender’s Quest to Bring Clean Water to the World by Doc Hendley: In 2004, a small-town bartender launched a series of wine-tasting events to raise funds for clean-water projects and to bring awareness to the world's freshwater crisis. He planned to donate the proceeds through traditional channels, but instead found himself traveling to one of the world's most dangerous hot spots: Darfur, Sudan.
The Winter Palace: A Novel of Catherine the Great by Eva Stachniak: The Winter Palace tells the epic story of Catherine the Great’s improbable rise to power --- as seen through the ever-watchful eyes of an all-but-invisible servant close to the throne.
The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar: Thrity Umrigar, acclaimed author of The Space Between Us and The Weight of Heaven, returns with a breathtaking new novel --- a skillfully wrought, emotionally resonant story of four women and the indelible friendship they share.

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

Caribou Island by David Vann: Brilliantly drawn and fiercely honest, Caribou Island captures the drama and pathos of a husband and wife whose bitter love, failed dreams and tragic past push them to the edge of destruction.
Minding Frankie by Maeve Binchy: Maeve Binchy is back with a tale of joy, heartbreak and hope, about a motherless girl collectively raised by a close-knit Dublin community.
The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen: The bestselling author of Garden Spells welcomes readers to Walls of Water, North Carolina, where the secrets are thicker than the fog from the town’s famous waterfalls, and the stuff of superstition is just as real as you want it to be.
The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady by Elizabeth Stuckey-French: Told from the varied perspectives of an incredible cast of endearing oddball characters and written with the flair of a native Floridian, this dark comedy does not disappoint.
You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon: Siobhan Fallon takes readers inside the homes and hearts of army wives anxiously awaiting the return of their husbands in this collection of stories.


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

Chasing Mona Lisa by Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey: With nonstop action and intrigue, Chasing Mona Lisa is sure to get your adrenaline pumping as you join the chase to save the most famous painting in the world.
The Color of Rain: How Two Families Found Faith, Hope, and Love in the Midst of Tragedy by Michael and Gina Spehn: The Color of Rain is a real-life Brady Bunch story about what it means to endure the unthinkable --- and still open our hearts to what’s next.
The Keeper: Stoney Ridge Seasons, Book 1 by Suzanne Woods Fisher: Julia Lapp has planned on marrying Paul Fisher since she was a girl. Now 21, she looks forward to their wedding with giddy anticipation. When Paul tells her he wants to postpone the wedding --- again --- she knows who is to blame.
Summer of Promise: Westward Winds, Book 1 by Amanda Cabot: This first installment in Amanda Cabot’s new Westward Winds series is a tale of following your heart to unexpected places.
Where Wildflowers Bloom: Sisters at Heart Series, Book 1 by Ann Shorey: The War Between the States stole a father and brother from Faith Lindberg --- as well as Royal Baxter, the man she wanted to marry. With only her grandfather left, she dreams of leaving Noble Springs, Missouri, and traveling west to Oregon to start a new life, away from the memories that haunt her.


 

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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
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