[UPDATED] We talked about the following books as possible additions to our reading schedule for 2012. At our November 2011 meeting we decided to add more books to our schedule using a survey. Below are the books that have been suggested.  I have added a few books from other lists of the best novels of 2011 posted by the NY Times (see http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/11/books/10-best-books-of-2011.html) and Amazon.com. For these books, I’ve listed the descriptions from the respective list.

By the way, we also added Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult as the book to discuss at our Thursday, February 9, 2012.

Our next meeting will be on January 12, 2012 at 7 PM at the Leawood Pioneer Library, Leawood, KS. We’ll discuss Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay


11/22/63 by Stephen King. Throughout his career, King has explored fresh ways to blend the ordinary and the supernatural. His new novel imagines a time portal in a Maine diner that lets an English teacher go back to 1958 in an effort to stop Lee Harvey Oswald and — rewardingly for readers — also allows King to reflect on questions of memory, fate and free will as he richly evokes midcentury America. The past guards its secrets, this novel reminds us, and the horror behind the quotidian is time itself.

All Things at Once by Mika Brzezinski, see http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7096037-all-things-at-once.

American Savior by Roland Merullo, see http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3599893-american-savior.

An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England by Brocke Clarke, see http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/733462.An_Arsonist_s_Guide_to_Writers_Homes_in_New_England.

Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson. Every day Christine wakes up not knowing where she is. Her memories disappear every time she falls asleep, and her husband Ben is a stranger to her. Thriller writer Dennis Lehane said of this electrifying debut, “It left my nerves jangling for hours after I finished the last page.”

Destiny of the Republic by Millard, see http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10335318-the-destiny-of-the-republic.

Heaven is For Real : A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back by Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3xItrGOi6Q (Today Show).


Just a Few Sleeps Away by Mike Nichols, see http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12496242-just-a-few-sleeps-away

River of Doubt by Millard, see http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/78508.The_River_of_Doubt.

Saving the World by  Julia Alvarez, see http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/159084.Saving_the_World.

That Used To Be Us by Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dw_msRXEWRo for a 4 minute interview with Charlie Rose.


The Litigators by John Grisham, see http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11600163-the-litigators.

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides, see http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10964693-the-marriage-plot.

The Night Circus by Erin Mortenson, see http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9361589-the-night-circus.

The Price of Civilization by Jeffrey Sachs, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-pcZbqB7n0 for a 10 minute interview with Charlie Rose.


The Secret Kept by Tatiana de Rosnay, see http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7963208-a-secret-kept.

The Tatooed Girl: The Enigma of Stieg Larsson and the Secrets Behind the Most Compelling Thrillers of Our Time, by Dan Burstein, Arne de Keijzer and John-Henri Holmberg, see http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12994407-the-tattooed-girl-the-enigma-of-stieg-larsson-and-the-secrets-behind-the.

The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht. As war returns to the Balkans, a young doctor inflects her grandfather’s folk tales with stories of her own coming of age, creating a vibrant collage of historical testimony that has neither date nor dateline. Obreht, who was born in Belgrade in 1985 but left at the age of 7, has recreated, with startling immediacy and presence, a conflict she herself did not experience.

The Time of Our Lives by Tom Brokaw, see http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11929478-the-time-of-our-lives. A conversation about America; Who we are, where we’ve been, and where we need to go now, to recapture the American dream.

The Woman in the Dunes by Kōbō Abe, see http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9998.The_Woman_in_the_Dunes.  One of the premier Japanese novels of the twentieth century, The Women in the Dunes combines the essence of myth, suspense, and the existential novel. In a remote seaside village, Niki Jumpei, a teacher and amateur entomologist, is held captive with a young woman at the bottom of a vast sand pit where, Sisyphus-like, they are pressed into shoveling off the ever-advancing sand dunes that threaten the village


Notes: some of the suggested books were listed at the back of Breakfast with Buddha. There are a few books listed that might be interesting to read such as American Savior by Merullo, Saving the World by Julia Alvarez and An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England by Brocke Clarke. All of these are fiction.

Jane Stock then emailed me the following recommendations:

I have long wanted to read your Julia Alvarez book Saving the World that you mentioned below.  I used to teach her Butterflies book at Sumner in my AP class and at KCKCC in a Latino Lit course.  The one you mentioned is one I think sounds really good.  I have read The Arsonist’s Guide at the suggestion of one of my friends whose opinions I usually agree with.  It is interestingly eccentric at first, but seemed to get increasingly bizarre as it continues to the point where I felt that overall I hadn’t truly felt rewarded for all of the time I put into it.  That’s just my opinion, however. [Note: I dropped it from the list based on Jane’s comment.]

I know you all may not want a suggestion from a hidden person in the wings, but a book that is high on my list to read is Jeffrey Eugenides The Marriage Plot (a review follows):

Eugenides’s first novel since 2002’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Middlesex so impressively, ambitiously breaks the mold of its predecessor that it calls for the founding of a new prize to recognize its success both as a novel–and as a Jeffrey Eugenides novel. Importantly but unobtrusively set in the early 1980s, this is the tale of Madeleine Hanna, recent Brown University English grad, and her admirer Mitchell Grammaticus, who opts out of Divinity School to walk the earth as an ersatz pilgrim. Madeleine is equally caught up, both with the postmodern vogue (Derrida, Barthes)–conflicting with her love of James, Austen, and Salinger–and with the brilliant Leonard Bankhead, whom she met in semiotics class and whose fits of manic depression jeopardize his suitability as a marriage prospect. Meanwhile, Mitchell winds up in Calcutta working with Mother Theresa’s volunteers, still dreaming of Madeleine. In capturing the heady spirit of youthful intellect on the verge, Eugenides revives the coming-of-age novel for a new generation The book’s fidelity to its young heroes and to a superb supporting cast of enigmatic professors, feminist theorists, neo-Victorians, and concerned mothers, and all of their evolving investment in ideas and ideals is such that the central argument of the book is also its solution: the old stories may be best after all, but there are always new ways to complicate them—Publisher’s Weekly

It’s getting rave reviews.