Fantasy Poll

Hi, readers,

Okay, so I went a little overboard in picking books for this genre, on top of receiving a couple of recommendations. And there are, like, five that I didn’t include but wanted to. In my defense, though, the genre is huge. There are eight options total, from which you may select up to three. I know that not everyone in the group is a big fantasy reader, so I tried to find somewhat lighter books. It’s a little hard to tell if something is such purely based on its summary, so… I may not have succeeded. Observing the voting pattern along with any feedback you can provide will help me decide in which direction the club wants future fantasy polls to go.

There are both young adult and adult titles here, and the wordcounts are pretty variable. I also have included a review for several of the books to help with clarifying or expanding upon the original synopsis. If this is helpful, let me know and I’ll continue doing it in future. I have also included the Goodreads ratings, which matter to some people and don’t for others. If this is something you’d rather not see (because I know it can influence some people’s choices), let me know that as well.

We are meeting this Saturday to discuss the Smoke and Mirrors short story collection. Since this discussion will span the entirety of the collection, our first meeting for our fantasy book will take place on May 22nd. Whether or not we will have a2nd (or… possibly third? Two of those books are pretty long!) meeting will be announced when all the votes are in.

This is a relatively experimental poll, so if you hate how I’ve done it, do say so.

Please note: All synopses are under level 3 headings, all reviews under level 4, and the polls are always under level 2. Hopefully this makes navigation easier.

Arrows of the Queen (Heralds of Valdemar #1) by Mercedes Lackey

88,000 words and 4.09 stars with 38,589 ratings

Follows the adventures of Talia as she trains to become a Herald of Valdemar in the first book in the classic epic fantasy Arrows trilogy

Chosen by the Companion Rolan, a mystical horse-like being with powers beyond imagining, Talia, once a runaway, has now become a trainee Herald, destined to become one of the Queen’s own elite guard. For Talia has certain awakening talents of the mind that only a Companion like Rolan can truly sense.

But as Talia struggles to master her unique abilities, time is running out. For conspiracy is brewing in Valdemar, a deadly treason that could destroy Queen and kingdom. Opposed by unknown enemies capable of both diabolical magic and treacherous assassination, the Queen must turn to Talia and the Heralds for aid in protecting the realm and insuring the future of the Queen’s heir, a child already in danger of becoming bespelled by the Queen’s own foes.

Notable Review by Mark

This book took me by surprise. I picked it up because I wanted to discover more classic fantasy novels written by women. I didn’t really know anything about it other than that it was a coming-of-age tale… and it is, of course, but it’s much more than that. It’s a book about friendship, and found families; it’s about people helping each other out when times get tough, and accepting one another despite differences in age, gender, or sexual orientation.

It’s also what I might call a “small-scale epic fantasy,” although I understand that sounds like an oxymoron. What I mean is, it still feels epic in the sense of the world itself; there are mystical powers, and there is a sense of vast in-world history. There is weapons training, and there is nobility. There are magical animals and rumors of other strange creatures out there somewhere. But it’s small-scale in the sense that there is no world-shattering threat. There are no wars taking place, no monster attacks, and no Dark Lords bent on destruction. None of that – in fact, the bulk of this story takes place in a school (the Collegium) and goes through the daily trials and tribulations of Talia as she finds her place in this newfound situation. That’s not to say the story is bereft of conflict. There are conspiracies and betrayals, there are altercations with other students, and there is loss and heartbreak. I found this story to be rather emotional despite the relatively low key plot.

The characters are also memorable and mostly likeable. The interactions and the dialogues are written in a way that you feel like you’re really getting to know the people in the book. Talia has already earned her place as one of my favorite protagonists in the genre. And speaking of the characters, I found this book to be somewhat progressive for a novel published in 1987 – there are at least two LGBTQIA+ characters in the story (important ones, too), and another two referenced as historical figures. Granted, the representation isn’t quite the same as you might find in a book written in 2021, but nonetheless it is noteworthy and (in my opinion) handled well.

Then there are the Companions! These are horses who form a lifetime bond with their Heralds (kind of a magical civil servant who performs a variety of functions for the kingdom), and who actually choose who will become a Herald based on that person’s qualities. Fans of animal kinship, and especially horses, will enjoy this aspect of the book.

There are admittedly a few eyebrow-raising moments in the area of traditional gender roles (a trap that a lot of pseudo-Medieval fantasy falls into); but I will still say that the good FAR outweighs the bad, and I suspect it may have been written this way to show a before/after contrast. The world Talia is running away from, in which girls must get married at the age of 13 or basically become nuns… is very different from the world of the Heralds, in which women are commonly found in roles of power.

Recommended for fans of The Goblin Emperor for its focus on empathy and kind characters. Also recommended for fans of The Name of the Wind (specifically the University sections) for its Fantasy School drama and emotional moments.

The Bear and the Nightingale (The Winternight Trilogy #1) By Katherine Arden

97,000 words and 4.09 stars with 139,206 ratings ·

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

121,000 words and 4.03 stars with 739,163 ratings

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Notable review by Maggie Stiefvater

Five Things About THE NIGHT CIRCUS.

Ordinarily when I do my recommendations, I do a “five reasons to read _____,” but I think opinions will be so divided on THE NIGHT CIRCUS that I think “things about” will be more useful.

1. This novel is not what it says it is. Well, back page copy is always a weird thing anyway, as it’s not written by the author. And a weirder thing because it is essentially a glamour shot of the novel. It is not a lie. But it isn’t really what the novel looks like when it’s wandering around in its bathrobe getting coffee and trying to figure out if that smell is coming from the kitchen sink disposal or under the table. The resemblance is always a bit sketchy. THE NIGHT CIRCUS’ resemblance to its cover copy is sketchier than most.

2. This novel is about a thing. It has people in it, too, but it is mostly about a thing, the eponymous circus. It’s told in third person omniscient, which means it sounds like God is narrating the thing, if God decided he really loved black and white tents and fancy umbrellas. The voice that narrates this book is interested in humans, too, but mostly about how humans make the circus and the circus’ magic interesting.

3. This is not a romance. There is a love story in it, which is good, because love makes the world go round, but it is not a romance. If you go in imagining to be swept off your feet from page one, you can keep on imagining. The novel starts before our lovebirds have hit puberty, so you’re going to have to imagine for quite awhile.

4. The circus is not really a circus. This is fine by me, because I actually don’t care for circuses. They smell, the animals always have that look of dubious maltreatment, no, I don’t want to win a prize by shooting that thing off that other thing over there, and also, clowns look a little grubby to me. No, the Night Circus is a circus in the respect that there are tents, and there are performers, and some of them are acrobats. Mostly it is a place where pretty, pretty magic is passed off as illusion so that us muggles won’t be scared by it. I’d go to that circus.

5. This is not a thriller. This is a not an action-packed adventure. It’s not even a simmering revenge or bubbling rivalry novel. It is a novel about a thing, with love in it, and it spans over a decade. If you have a problem with that idea, it’s best you walk away now. But if you like Ann Patchett or Audrey Niffeneggar novels, or if you really thought JONATHAN STRANGE & MR. NORRELL was the bee’s knees, well. WELL. You have just found your next read. Enjoy. I did.

A Wizard of Earthsea (Earthsea Cycle #1) by Ursula K. Le Guin

70,000 words and 3.99 stars with 258,117 ratings.

Ged, the greatest sorcerer in all Earthsea, was called Sparrowhawk in his reckless youth.

Hungry for power and knowledge, Sparrowhawk tampered with long-held secrets and loosed a terrible shadow upon the world. This is the tale of his testing, how he mastered the mighty words of power, tamed an ancient dragon, and crossed death’s threshold to restore the balance.

Notable Review by Nataliya

“It is very hard for evil to take hold of the unconsenting soul.”

This seemingly simple statement actually says a lot about the human nature – just as all the Ursula Le Guin’s books that I’ve read so far seem to do.

A Wizard of Earthsea is a simple but beautiful and magical coming-of-age story of a young wizard Ged, who starts out as a brash and cocky boy who in his arrogance unwittingly releases a terrible Shadow upon the world, but who eventually grows up and succeeds in embracing the darker part of himself. A word of caution if you are expecting a traditional fantasy adventure – it is, more than anything, an introspective book, so be warned.
“You thought, as a boy, that a mage is one who can do anything. So I thought, once. So did we all. And the truth is that as a man’s real power grows and his knowledge widens, ever the way he can follow grows narrower: until at last he chooses nothing, but does only and wholly what he must do.
A 1968 book with a non-white hero! LOVE.
There are the traditional coming-of-age fantasy elements – wizarding school, true friend, bitter rival, fighting a dragon, finding love. But there is something that sets this story apart from the newer variations on the similar theme, featuring Kvothe and Harry Potter and the like. Part of it, of course, is the narration. The story is told in the fairy tale tradition, with that particular strangely fascinating, lyrical and melodic fairy tale rhythm. But mostly is because instead of focusing on what is on the surface – the learning and the adventures – A Wizard of Earthsea goes straight for the deeper meaning, for what lies beneath the surface.
“You must not change one thing, one pebble, one grain of sand, until you know what good and evil will follow on that act. The world is in balance, in Equilibrium. A wizard’s power of Changing and Summoning can shake the balance of the world. It is dangerous, that power. It is most perilous. It must follow knowledge, and serve need. To light a candle is to cast a shadow.
In her amazing brilliance, Ursula Le Guin takes what could have been a straightforward tale of the fight of good versus evil, and turns it into something more – a lesson in self-discovery and acceptance of the darkness that lives inside all human beings. This is a story about the fascination with knowledge and the temptation of power and dangers of presuming too much and upsetting the natural balance. It is a story about getting to know your own self, including the darkest corners of your soul. And the resulting epic battle of good versus evil… well, let me tell you that the resolution was brilliant and poetic, and I did not see it coming AT ALL.
“He knew now, and the knowledge was hard, that his task had never been to undo what he had done, but to finish what he had begun.”
Ursula Le Guin takes the elements that would be a dangerous set-up for fail in the hands of most other writers and somehow unexpectedly turns them into the strengths of this book. Take the characters – except for Ged, they exist only as sketches to support the ideas in this story; it’s not supposed to ever work but it does. She brushes over the years of Ged’s life and training in just a few words, not detailing the tedium as many writers are prone to doing. Her worldbuilding is not very detailed, but manages to capture the essence of this world in a few brush pen typewriter strokes. We know Ged is in no danger as from the beginning the book refers to his subsequent adventures as a great mage, but this seeming lack of danger for the protagonist does not diminish neither the suspense nor the enjoyment of the story.

My one criticism goes to the some symbolism overkill (I passionately hated all the high-school teachers’ neverending discussions about symbolism – yawn!), but hey – even Le Guin can’t be always perfect.

Blood Song (Raven’s Shadow #1) by Anthony Ryan

221,000 words and 4.38 stars with 78,125 ratings

The Sixth Order wields the sword of justice and smites the enemies of the Faith and the Realm.”

Vaelin Al Sorna was only a child of ten when his father left him at the iron gate of the Sixth Order. The Brothers of the Sixth Order are devoted to battle, and Vaelin will be trained and hardened to the austere, celibate, and dangerous life of a Warrior of the Faith. He has no family now save the Order.

Vaelin’s father was Battle Lord to King Janus, ruler of the unified realm. Vaelin’s rage at being deprived of his birthright and dropped at the doorstep of the Sixth Order like a foundling knows no bounds. He cherishes the memory of his mother, and what he will come to learn of her at the Order will confound him. His father, too, has motives that Vaelin will come to understand. But one truth overpowers all the rest: Vaelin Al Sorna is destined for a future he has yet to comprehend. A future that will alter not only the realm, but the world.

Notable Review by Mark Lawrence

I won’t lie, some small but undeniable part of me came to this book hoping to find fault. It would take a better man than me to watch Anthony Ryan’s barnstorming success without a twinge of envy.

Sadly I have to report that this is a very good book and deserves the five stars I’ve given it.

Ryan writes well, he brings his world and characters to life with good description. It’s as a story-teller he shines though, and a good story is always the keystone of a bestseller.

Schools in fantasy books are like crack cocaine to readers. The Wizard of Earthsea, Magician, Harry Potter, The Magicians, Name of the Wind (I think), it goes on, and if not a school per se then an extended training period apprenticed to some master (The Lies of Locke Lamora, The Way of Shadows etc). Blood Song has a battle school as its central focus and we watch our protagonist progress from small boy to large young man through arduous training and a series of very dangerous tests, acquiring a group of firm friends with various talents as he goes.

This is all set in a skillfully executed flashback which our protagonist narrates to a historian on his way to a duel. The tale he tells moves past the school to national and then international conspiracy, politicking, and war. Finally it brings us full circle to the historian and the duel.

It’s all good stuff. Don’t come looking for great literature or deep themes, do come looking for a great story and a good time.

I don’t want to damn the book with faint praise – it deserves 5* and (& this is very high praise from me) it has heart, reminding me in many ways of David Gemmell’s work.

The story is very morish, I read this rather fat book in just a couple of weeks, which for me is incredibly fast. Let Vaelin’s tale sink its teeth into you and you’ll be cheering his victories, growling at his set-backs, and having all the feels in between in appropriate measure.

I begrudgingly affirm that Ryan deserves his success and commend Blood Song to your attention.

EDIT – we have the second book! My wife stole it and says it’s as good as the first.

The Poppy War (The Poppy War #1) by R.F. Kuang

160,000 words and 4.04 stars with 69,174 ratings

A brilliantly imaginative talent makes her exciting debut with this epic historical military fantasy, inspired by the bloody history of China’s twentieth century and filled with treachery and magic, in the tradition of Ken Liu’s Grace of Kings and N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy.

When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies—it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard—the most elite military school in Nikan—was even more surprising.

But surprises aren’t always good.

Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.

For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away . . .

Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late.

House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1) by Sarah J. Maas

241,000 words and 4.48 stars with 133,572 ratings ·

Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life—working hard all day and partying all night—until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She’ll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.

Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. His brutal skills and incredible strength have been set to one purpose—to assassinate his boss’s enemies, no questions asked. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he’s offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach.

As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City’s underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear, and they find, in each other, a blazing passion—one that could set them both free, if they’d only let it.

With unforgettable characters, sizzling romance, and page-turning suspense, this richly inventive new fantasy series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas delves into the heartache of loss, the price of freedom—and the power of love.

Notable Review Excerpt by Mary S. R.

Allow me to introduce you to Sarah’s best writing wrapped up in one book.

I could tell you about the devouring, addictive atmosphere building that captures the urban fantasy mashed up with high fantasy and noir world brilliantly, making use of modernised naming, casual expression-and-slang-filled conversations, deftly written descriptions of drug-addled minds, and generally diving into real and gritty notes on the world—from flashing banners to the inane TV shows.

Or, I could tell you about her no-nonsense storytelling that as usual doesn’t shy away from any part of life—be it a female’s cramps or sex or annoying behaviours in the bedroom or depression or cursing (which you’ll never hear me complaining about) and how considerate she is of everything including qualifications of medical experimentations.

I could even tell you about her easy way with words that paints images straightforward while bursting with the occasional apt turn of phrase, staying more mature than her previous works without any overly poetic and dramatic passages constantly popping up yet still expertly trapping yours and the characters’ emotions to do with them as she wishes.

But I won’t.

Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey

91,000 words and 3.64 stars with 12,339 ratings

Ivy Gamble has never wanted to be magical. She is perfectly happy with her life. She has an almost-sustainable career as a private investigator, and an empty apartment, and a slight drinking problem. It’s a great life and she doesn’t wish she was like her estranged sister, the magically gifted professor Tabitha.

But when Ivy is hired to investigate the gruesome murder of a faculty member at Tabitha’s private academy, the stalwart detective starts to lose herself in the case, the life she could have had, and the answer to the mystery that seems just out of her reach. (

Notable Review Excerpt by Elle (ellexamines)

Magic for Liars follows private investigator Ivy Gamble as she investigates a death in the Osthorne Academy for Young Mages, the workplace of her sister and a location she has envied for years. While she’s living a life she thinks of as simple, her sister is a famous and talented teacher. It is a murder mystery wrapped up in an interesting commentary on chosen one tropes and sibling rivalry, and it had me engrossed from start to finish.

The thing I find the most entertaining about this book, in a nutshell, is how it plays with established fantasy tropes. Ivy is a Petunia-Dursley type character, in that she is the sister to a girl with magic, who was the favorite of the family. I really enjoyed how that dynamic was explored and tackled, especially as it is mirrored by others. The sibling dynamic, actually, is a huge focus of this book. The relationship between her and Tabitha reaches a level of complexity I was not expecting. There is a chosen one, too, and his sister, whose relationship with him is a neat parallel to our two sisters. As the book progresses, Ivy has to ask herself: is her sister’s world really quite as blissful as she thinks?

Vote Here (up to 3 choices)

What shall we read next?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Short Story Collection Poll

Hi, readers!

I want to once again express my eternal gratitude for everything that you bring to the club, whether it be your thoughts and opinions, suggestions, friends, or all of the above! We are creeping up on a year since I first decided to start this, and I am so happy that you all are here reading together with me.

This month we will be picking from a list of short story collections. There are a lot more options than usual, so you will be able to vote for up to 6. There is no specific genre or theme in mind for the list, so we will return to the same list (plus any additions anyone wants to include) the next time we want a collection. It’s hard to summarize an entire short story collection, but I tried to find reasonably good synopses or reviews.

Our first meeting for the short story collection will be on May 8th at 9:00 pm Eastern.

I think the only other announcement I have is the existence of our new club on Clubhouse. It is not where meetings will be held; it is simply a medium through which people can hang out and invite any friends to get to know our members. I created it out of boredom during one of my many sleepless nights, and it is intended to be casual and only related to the book club in that it has our current and any prospective members in it. If you want to be invited, let me know! 😊

And on to the books!

The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu

141,000 words

Bestselling author Ken Liu selects his multiple award-winning stories for a groundbreaking collection—including a brand-new piece exclusive to this volume.

With his debut novel, The Grace of Kings, taking the literary world by storm, Ken Liu now shares his finest short fiction in The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories. This mesmerizing collection features many of Ken’s award-winning and award-finalist stories, including: “The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary” (Finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, and Theodore Sturgeon Awards), “Mono No Aware” (Hugo Award winner), “The Waves” (Nebula Award finalist), “The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species” (Nebula and Sturgeon Award finalists), “All the Flavors” (Nebula Award finalist), “The Litigation Master and the Monkey King” (Nebula Award finalist), and the most awarded story in the genre’s history, “The Paper Menagerie” (The only story to win the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards).

Insightful and stunning stories that plumb the struggle against history and betrayal of relationships in pivotal moments, this collection showcases one of our greatest and original voices.

The Complete Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino


The definitive edition of Calvino’s cosmicomics, bringing together all of these enchanting stories—including some never before translated—in one volume for the first time

In Italo Calvino’s cosmicomics, primordial beings cavort on the nearby surface of the moon, play marbles with atoms, and bear ecstatic witness to Earth’s first dawn. Exploring natural phenomena and the origins of the universe, these beloved tales relate complex scientific concepts to our common sensory, emotional, human world.

Now, The Complete Cosmicomics brings together all of the cosmicomic stories for the first time. Containing works previously published in Cosmicomics, t zero, and Numbers in the Dark, this single volume also includes seven previously uncollected stories, four of which have never been published in translation in the United States. This “complete and definitive collection” (Evening Standard) reconfirms the cosmicomics as a crowning literary achievement and makes them available to new generations of readers.

Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fiction and Illusions by Neil Gaiman

100,000 words

In the deft hands of Neil Gaiman, magic is no mere illusion… and anything is possible. In this, Gaiman’s first book of short stories, his imagination and supreme artistry transform a mundane world into a place of terrible wonders — a place where an old woman can purchase the Holy Grail at a thrift store, where assassins advertise their services in the Yellow Pages under “Pest Control,” and where a frightened young boy must barter for his life with a mean-spirited troll living beneath a bridge by the railroad tracks. Explore a new reality — obscured by smoke and darkness, yet brilliantly tangible — in this extraordinary collection of short works by a master prestidigitator. It will dazzle your senses, touch your heart, and haunt your dreams.

The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

65,000 words

Searing and profound, suffused with beauty, sorrow, and longing, the stories in The Thing Around Your Neck map, with Adichie’s signature emotional wisdom, the collision of two cultures and the deeply human struggle to reconcile them.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie burst onto the literary scene with her remarkable debut novel, Purple Hibiscus, which critics hailed as “one of the best novels to come out of Africa in years” (Baltimore Sun), with “prose as lush as the Nigerian landscape that it powerfully evokes” (The Boston Globe); The Washington Post called her “the twenty-first-century daughter of Chinua Achebe.” Her award-winning Half of a Yellow Sun became an instant classic upon its publication three years later, once again putting her tremendous gifts – graceful storytelling, knowing compassion, and fierce insight into her characters’ hearts – on display. Now, in her most intimate and seamlessly crafted work to date, Adichie turns her penetrating eye on not only Nigeria but America, in twelve dazzling stories that explore the ties that bind men and women, parents and children, Africa and the United States.

In “A Private Experience,” a medical student hides from a violent riot with a poor Muslim woman whose dignity and faith force her to confront the realities and fears she’s been pushing away. In “Tomorrow is Too Far,” a woman unlocks the devastating secret that surrounds her brother’s death. The young mother at the center of “Imitation” finds her comfortable life in Philadelphia threatened when she learns that her husband has moved his mistress into their Lagos home. And the title story depicts the choking loneliness of a Nigerian girl who moves to an America that turns out to be nothing like the country she expected; though falling in love brings her desires nearly within reach, a death in her homeland forces her to reexamine them.
Searing and profound, suffused with beauty, sorrow, and longing, these stories map, with Adichie’s signature emotional wisdom, the collision of two cultures and the deeply human struggle to reconcile them. The Thing Around Your Neck is a resounding confirmation of the prodigious literary powers of one of our most essential writers.

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury


The strange and wonderful tale of man’s experiences on Mars, filled with intense images and astonishing visions. Now part of the Voyager Classics collection.

The Martian Chronicles tells the story of humanity’s repeated attempts to colonize the red planet. The first men were few. Most succumbed to a disease they called the Great Loneliness when they saw their home planet dwindle to the size of a fist. They felt they had never been born. Those few that survived found no welcome on Mars. The shape-changing Martians thought they were native lunatics and duly locked them up.

But more rockets arrived from Earth, and more, piercing the hallucinations projected by the Martians. People brought their old prejudices with them – and their desires and fantasies, tainted dreams. These were soon inhabited by the strange native beings, with their caged flowers and birds of flame.

Rocket Summer
The Summer Night
The Earth Men
The Taxpayer
The Third Expedition
-And the Moon Be Still As Bright
The Settlers
The Green Morning
The Locusts
Night Meeting
The Shore
The Musicians
Way in the Middle of the Air
The Naming of Names
Usher II
The Old Ones
The Martian
The Luggage Store
The Off Season
The Watchers
The Silent Towns
The Long Years
There Will Come Soft Rains
The Million Year Picnic

Welcome to the Monkey House by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

100,000 words

This is a master class in the art of short story writing. Every short story is finely crafted. Many have humor, many have heartbreak, many have subtle romance.

Almost all have commentary on society, especially American society, that is as relevant today as it was in the 1950s.

What are these stories missing?

You reader. It’s missing you to unlock their meaning and beauty.
(Review by Daniel Clausen)

Nightmare at 20,000 Feet by Richard Matheson

86,000 words

Remember that monster on the wing of the airplane? William Shatner saw it on The Twilight Zone, John Lithgow saw it in the movie-even Bart Simpson saw it. “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” is just one of many classic horror stories by Richard Matheson that have insinuated themselves into our collective imagination.

Here are more than twenty of Matheson’s most memorable tales of fear and paranoia, including:

“Duel,” the nail-biting tale of man versus machines that inspired Steven Spielberg’s first film;

“Prey,” in which a terrified woman is stalked by a malevolent Tiki doll, as chillingly captured in yet another legendary TV moment;

“Blood Son,” a disturbing portrait of a strange little boy who dreams of being a vampire;

“Dress of White Silk,” a seductively sinister tale of evil and innocence.

Personally selected by Richard Matheson, the bestselling author of I Am Legend and What Dreams May Come, these and many other stories, more than demonstrate why he is rightfully regarded as one of the finest and most influential horror writers of our generation.

The Shell Collector by Anthony Doerr

71,000 words

The exquisitely crafted stories in Anthony Doerr’s acclaimed debut collection take readers from the African coast to the pine forests of Montana to the damp moors of Lapland, charting a vast physical and emotional landscape. Doerr explores the human condition in all its varieties-metamorphosis, grief, fractured relationships, and slowly mending hearts-and conjures nature in both its beautiful abundance and crushing power. Some of his characters contend with tremendous hardship; some discover unique gifts; all are united by their ultimate deference to the mysteries of the universe outside themselves.

Birds of America by Lorrie Moore

90,000 words

A long-awaited collection of stories–twelve in all–by one of the most exciting writers at work today, the acclaimed author of Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? and Self-Help. Stories remarkable in their range, emotional force, and dark laughter, and in the sheer beauty and power of their language.

From the opening story, “Willing”, about a second-rate movie actress in her thirties who has moved back to Chicago, where she makes a seedy motel room her home and becomes involved with a mechanic who has not the least idea of who she is as a human being, Birds of America unfolds a startlingly brilliant series of portraits of the unhinged, the lost, the unsettled of our America.

In the story “Which Is More Than I Can Say About Some People” (“There is nothing as complex in the world–no flower or stone–as a single hello from a human being”), a woman newly separated from her husband is on a long-planned trip through Ireland with her mother. When they set out on an expedition to kiss the Blarney Stone, the image of wisdom and success that her mother has always put forth slips away to reveal the panicky woman she really is.

In “Charades,” a family game at Christmas is transformed into a hilarious and insightful (and fundamentally upsetting) revelation of crumbling family ties.

In “Community Life,”a shy, almost reclusive, librarian, Transylvania-born and Vermont-bred, moves in with her boyfriend, the local anarchist in a small university town, and all hell breaks loose. And in “Four Calling Birds, Three French Hens,” a woman who goes through the stages of grief as she mourns the death of her cat (Anger, Denial, Bargaining, Haagen Dazs, Rage) is seen by her friends as really mourning other issues: the impending death of her parents, the son she never had, Bosnia.

In what may be her most stunning book yet, Lorrie Moore explores the personal and the universal, the idiosyncratic and the mundane, with all the wit, brio, and verve that have made her one of the best storytellers of our time.

How Long ’til Black Future Month? By N.K. Jemisin

115,000 words

In these stories, Jemisin sharply examines modern society, infusing magic into the mundane, and drawing deft parallels in the fantasy realms of her imagination. Dragons and hateful spirits haunt the flooded city of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In a parallel universe, a utopian society watches our world, trying to learn from our mistakes. A black mother in the Jim Crow south must figure out how to save her daughter from a fey offering impossible promises. And in the Hugo award-nominated short story “The City Born Great,” a young street kid fights to give birth to an old metropolis’s soul.

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

92,000 words

Ted Chiang’s first published story, “Tower of Babylon,” won the Nebula Award in 1990. Subsequent stories have won the Asimov’s SF Magazine reader poll, a second Nebula Award, the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, and the Sidewise Award for alternate history. He won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 1992. Story for story, he is the most honored young writer in modern SF.

Now, collected here for the first time are all seven of this extraordinary writer’s stories so far-plus an eighth story written especially for this volume.

What if men built a tower from Earth to Heaven-and broke through to Heaven’s other side? What if we discovered that the fundamentals of mathematics were arbitrary and inconsistent? What if there were a science of naming things that calls life into being from inanimate matter? What if exposure to an alien language forever changed our perception of time? What if all the beliefs of fundamentalist Christianity were literally true, and the sight of sinners being swallowed into fiery pits were a routine event on city streets? These are the kinds of outrageous questions posed by the stories of Ted Chiang. Stories of your life . . . and others.

Vote here!

What shall we read next? (You may vote for up to six titles)

  • Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fiction and Illusions by Neil Gaiman (13%, 6 Votes)
  • The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu (11%, 5 Votes)
  • How Long 'til Black Future Month? By N.K. Jemisin (11%, 5 Votes)
  • Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang (11%, 5 Votes)
  • The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury (11%, 5 Votes)
  • The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi (9%, 4 Votes)
  • Nightmare at 20,000 Feet by Richard Matheson (9%, 4 Votes)
  • Birds of America by Lorrie Moore (7%, 3 Votes)
  • The Complete Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino (7%, 3 Votes)
  • Welcome to the Monkey House by Kurt Vonnegut (7%, 3 Votes)
  • The Shell Collector by Anthony Doerr (4%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 8

Loading ... Loading ...

Dystopian Poll

Hi, readers!

Please find below the poll for our upcoming genre: dystopia. All books are over 100,000 words, so they will be read over the course of a month rather than two weeks. I’m open to genre and book recommendations for when we finish dystopia. I thought a zombie one could be pretty fun, but let me know if you have alternative thoughts!

Happy reading!

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

103,000 words

Two teens must learn the “art of killing” in this Printz Honor–winning book, the first in a chilling new series from Neal Shusterman, author of the New York Times bestselling Unwind dystology.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery: humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now Scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

Scythe is the first novel of a thrilling new series by National Book Award–winning author Neal Shusterman in which Citra and Rowan learn that a perfect world comes only with a heavy price.

The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin

130,000 words

Three-time Hugo Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author N.K. Jemisin crafts her most incredible novel yet, a “glorious” story of culture, identity, magic, and myths in contemporary New York City.

In Manhattan, a young grad student gets off the train and realizes he doesn’t remember who he is, where he’s from, or even his own name. But he can sense the beating heart of the city, see its history, and feel its power.

In the Bronx, a Lenape gallery director discovers strange graffiti scattered throughout the city, so beautiful and powerful it’s as if the paint is literally calling to her.

In Brooklyn, a politician and mother finds she can hear the songs of her city, pulsing to the beat of her Louboutin heels.

And they’re not the only ones.

Every great city has a soul. Some are ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York? She’s got six.

Followers by Megan Angelo

117,000 words

An electrifying story of two ambitious friends and the dark choices they make to become internet famous.

Orla Cadden is a budding novelist stuck in a dead-end job, writing clickbait about movie-star hookups and influencer yoga moves. Then Orla meets Floss—a striving, wannabe A-lister—who comes up with a plan for launching them both into the high-profile lives they dream about. So what if Orla and Floss’s methods are a little shady—and sometimes people get hurt? Their legions of followers can’t be wrong.

Thirty-five years later, in a closed California village where government-appointed celebrities live every moment of the day on camera, a woman named Marlow discovers a shattering secret about her past. Despite her massive popularity—twelve million loyal followers—Marlow dreams of fleeing the corporate sponsors who would do anything to keep her on-screen. When she learns that her whole family history is based on a lie, Marlow finally summons the courage to run in search of the truth, no matter the risks.

Followers traces the paths of Orla, Floss and Marlow as they wind through time toward each other, and toward a cataclysmic event that sends America into lasting upheaval. At turns wry and tender, bleak and hopeful, this darkly funny story reminds us that even if we obsess over famous people we’ll never meet, what we really crave is genuine human connection.

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

103,000 words

In 2025, with the world descending into madness and anarchy, one woman begins a fateful journey toward a better future.

Lauren Olamina and her family live in one of the only safe neighborhoods remaining on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Behind the walls of their defended enclave, Lauren’s father, a preacher, and a handful of other citizens try to salvage what remains of a culture that has been destroyed by drugs, disease, war, and chronic water shortages. While her father tries to lead people on the righteous path, Lauren struggles with hyperempathy, a condition that makes her extraordinarily sensitive to the pain of others.

When fire destroys their compound, Lauren’s family is killed and she is forced out into a world that is fraught with danger. With a handful of other refugees, Lauren must make her way north to safety, along the way conceiving a revolutionary idea that may mean salvation for all mankind.

Vote Here!

What Shall We Read Next?

  • The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin (42%, 5 Votes)
  • Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler (25%, 3 Votes)
  • Scythe by Neal Shusterman (17%, 2 Votes)
  • Followers by Megan Angelo (17%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 12

Loading ... Loading ...

A Few Important Updates

Hi, readers!

I have just a couple of quick updates for you all.

Firstly, we are now introducing Social Saturdays! On weekends where there isn’t an official book club meeting, you are free to join a Zoom call to hang out if you wish. This is for free form conversation, though you of course may use it to discuss books. These will take place on alternating Saturdays at 6pm PST/9pm EDT. The same link as for the official meetings will be used, and as always, do not feel pressured to show up. It is purely casual for anyone who wants it.

We are also introducing a recommendation window! After the book conversation on meeting days has faded out to general conversation, we will have a window where you are free to recommend anything you’ve read lately or would like others to check out. These will not be official book club reads, just something fun for members to look into if interested. I ask for spoilers not to be present during this window, no matter how many people have already read it. Save it for the social day! 😊

Many of you have asked if we can push meeting times back to 6pm PST/9 pm EDT. We will begin this schedule for next meeting (March 27) unless it is not going to work for enough of you. Please message me if this won’t work with your schedule.

Lastly, remember to submit book recommendations for our upcoming genre (dystopia) or any genre in general if you have ideas. The dystopia poll will be up this weekend.

Thank you for all of your suggestions, thoughts, and assistance while we figure out everything. Each of the above points were recommended by several of you, and I’m grateful for your active participation in where this club is going. Reach out if you have any questions or concerns.


We Are Zooming Away from Discord!

Hello my Rather be Readers!

We are switching away from Discord! All future meetings will be over Zoom, and a big thank you to those who have helped me test it out to ensure it meets our needs. Days and times remain the same: Saturdays at 10 pm Eastern.

Announcements will be sent via (free for you) text message and Telegram. Currently, only North Americans may opt into texts, but we will continue searching for an alternative. If you are not in North America or want Telegram announcements as well as or in place of texts, you may join the channel.

I’m also offering a social Telegram group if anyone is interested. If anything important is discussed in it, that information will be put into the announcements channel. Nobody has to join/participate in it if they aren’t up for it.

This is all pretty new, so I hope you will have patients with me while I navigate it and iron out any wrinkles that might come up.

Please find our new join page here, where you may opt in to what modes you would like.

Thank you all!


Is It Almost March Already? And Other Actual Book Related Things

Hi readers!


Sorry for not updating the blog for the last while! We’ve been trying to sort out better structure for our book selections, and in case you weren’t around for the results, they are as follows:


When I put together the polls, wordcount will be listed. If a book is under 100,000 words, we will read the whole thing in two weeks. If the book is over 100,000, we will meet twice as we have for many in the past.


The submission poll has a space for you to identify how many weeks a book should be read, so if you can find the wordcount and put that info it, that’d be great. If not, I don’t mind finding it myself. 😊


Other than that, it would be very helpful to me if you could send me a message or post in the Discord channel what genre(s) you’d like to see next. I don’t mind selecting one, but I want you to have the chance to read the genres you’d like. Doing this in writing is a quicker and more efficient process than doing it during the meetings, so please send any suggestions my way! Even if you don’t care what we read, that is still valuable information that I’d appreciate.


Our genre for next session(s) is nonfiction. I’ve tried to find a variety of books, since I don’t have any of the genre in the submissions. I recognize that there is a wide variety of nonfiction styles, so if you are hoping for a different type, let me know and I’ll consider it for our next meetings.


Without further rambling…


The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales by Oliver Sacks


76,000 words


If a man has lost a leg or an eye, he knows he has lost a leg or an eye; but if he has lost a self—himself—he cannot know it, because he is no longer there to know it. Dr. Oliver Sacks recounts the stories of patients struggling to adapt to often bizarre worlds of neurological disorder. Here are people who can no longer recognize everyday objects or those they love; who are stricken with violent tics or shout involuntary obscenities; who have been dismissed as autistic or retarded, yet are gifted with uncanny artistic or mathematical talents. If inconceivably strange, these brilliant tales illuminate what it means to be human.


Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman


190,000 words


In the highly anticipated Thinking, Fast and Slow, Kahneman takes us on a groundbreaking tour of the mind and explains the two systems that drive the way we think. System 1 is fast, intuitive, and emotional; System 2 is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. Kahneman exposes the extraordinary capabilities—and also the faults and biases—of fast thinking, and reveals the pervasive influence of intuitive impressions on our thoughts and behavior. The impact of loss aversion and overconfidence on corporate strategies, the difficulties of predicting what will make us happy in the future, the challenges of properly framing risks at work and at home, the profound effect of cognitive biases on everything from playing the stock market to planning the next vacation—each of these can be understood only by knowing how the two systems work together to shape our judgments and decisions.


Engaging the reader in a lively conversation about how we think, Kahneman reveals where we can and cannot trust our intuitions and how we can tap into the benefits of slow thinking. He offers practical and enlightening insights into how choices are made in both our business and our personal lives—and how we can use different techniques to guard against the mental glitches that often get us into trouble. Thinking, Fast and Slow will transform the way you think about thinking.


Underland: A Deep Time Journey by Robert Macfarlane


136,000 words


In Underland, Robert Macfarlane delivers an epic exploration of the Earth’s underworlds as they exist in myth, literature, memory, and the land itself. Traveling through the dizzying expanse of geologic time—from prehistoric art in Norwegian sea caves, to the blue depths of the Greenland ice cap, to a deep-sunk “hiding place” where nuclear waste will be stored for 100,000 years to come—Underland takes us on an extraordinary journey into our relationship with darkness, burial, and what lies beneath the surface of both place and mind.



Global in its geography and written with great lyricism, Underland speaks powerfully to our present moment. At once ancient and urgent, this is a book that will change the way you see the world.


(Quiet) by Susan Cain


114,000 words


The book that started the Quiet Revolution


At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over working in teams. It is to introverts—Rosa Parks, Chopin, Dr. Seuss, Steve Wozniak—that we owe many of the great contributions to society.


In Quiet, Susan Cain argues that we dramatically undervalue introverts and shows how much we lose in doing so. She charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal throughout the twentieth century and explores how deeply it has come to permeate our culture. She also introduces us to successful introverts—from a witty, high-octane public speaker who recharges in solitude after his talks, to a record-breaking salesman who quietly taps into the power of questions. Passionately argued, superbly researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet has the power to permanently change how we see introverts and, equally important, how they see themselves.


When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi


45,000 words


I read this book four or five years ago and absolutely loved it. I think it  might be too short and perhaps too sad for the club at this time, but I strongly encourage any of you to read it. I’ll include it in the poll just in case. 🙂


For readers of Atul Gawande, Andrew Solomon, and Anne Lamott, a profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir by a young neurosurgeon faced with a terminal cancer diagnosis who attempts to answer the question ‘What makes a life worth living?’


At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality.


What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when the future, no longer a ladder toward your goals in life, flattens out into a perpetual present? What does it mean to have a child, to nurture a new life as another fades away? These are some of the questions Kalanithi wrestles with in this profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir.


Paul Kalanithi died in March 2015, while working on this book, yet his words live on as a guide and a gift to us all. “I began to realize that coming face to face with my own mortality, in a sense, had changed nothing and everything,” he wrote. “Seven words from Samuel Beckett began to repeat in my head: ‘I can’t go on. I’ll go on.'” When Breath Becomes Air is an unforgettable, life-affirming reflection on the challenge of facing death and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a brilliant writer who became both.


Choose Here


What shall we read next? (pick two)

  • Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (35%, 6 Votes)
  • Quiet by Susan Cain (29%, 5 Votes)
  • Underland by Robert Macfarlane (24%, 4 Votes)
  • The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks (6%, 1 Votes)
  • When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (6%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 9

Loading ... Loading ...

Contemporary Fiction Poll

Hi, readers!


I’ve been pretty busy with school and life in general, so I apologize for the delay in opening this poll. I will leave it open until Sunday night to give everyone a chance to vote. You can also vote for two books, because we have more than usual.


Anxious People by Fredrik Backman


96,000 words


A poignant, charming novel about a crime that never took place, a would-be bank robber who disappears into thin air, and eight extremely anxious strangers who find they have more in common than they ever imagined.


Looking at real estate isn’t usually a life-or-death situation, but an apartment open house becomes just that when a failed bank robber bursts in and takes a group of strangers hostage. The captives include a recently retired couple who relentlessly hunt down fixer-uppers to avoid the painful truth that they can’t fix up their own marriage. There’s a wealthy banker who has been too busy making money to care about anyone else and a young couple who are about to have their first child but can’t seem to agree on anything, from where they want to live to how they met in the first place. Add to the mix an eighty-seven-year-old woman who has lived long enough not to be afraid of someone waving a gun in her face, a flustered but still-ready-to-make-a-deal real estate agent, and a mystery man who has locked himself in the apartment’s only bathroom, and you’ve got the worst group of hostages in the world.


Each of them carries a lifetime of grievances, hurts, secrets, and passions that are ready to boil over. None of them is entirely who they appear to be. And all of them—the bank robber included—desperately crave some sort of rescue. As the authorities and the media surround the premises, these reluctant allies will reveal surprising truths about themselves and set in a motion a chain of events so unexpected that even they can hardly explain what happens next.


Humorous, compassionate, and wise, Anxious People is an ingeniously constructed story about the enduring power of friendship, forgiveness, and hope—the things that save us, even in the most anxious of times.


Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman


100,000 words


No one’s ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine


Meet Eleanor Oliphant: she struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding unnecessary human contact, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.


But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen, the three rescue one another from the lives of isolation that they had been living. Ultimately, it is Raymond’s big heart that will help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one. If she does, she’ll learn that she, too, is capable of finding friendship—and even love—after all.


Smart, warm, uplifting, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes. . .


the only way to survive is to open your heart.


The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon


63,000 words


Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the color yellow.


Although gifted with a superbly logical brain, for fifteen-year-old Christopher everyday interactions and admonishments have little meaning. He lives on patterns, rules, and a diagram kept in his pocket. Then one day, a neighbor’s dog, Wellington, is killed and his carefully constructive universe is threatened. Christopher sets out to solve the murder in the style of his favourite (logical) detective, Sherlock Holmes. What follows makes for a novel that is funny, poignant and fascinating in its portrayal of a person whose curse and blessing are a mind that perceives the world entirely literally.


The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion


75,000 words


An international sensation, this hilarious, feel-good novel is narrated by an oddly charming and socially challenged genetics professor on an unusual quest: to find out if he is capable of true love.


Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.


Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent—and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don’s Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper.


The Rosie Project is a moving and hilarious novel for anyone who has ever tenaciously gone after life or love in the face of overwhelming challenges.


The Secret History by Donna Tartt


201,000 words


Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality they slip gradually from obsession to corruption and betrayal, and at last – inexorably – into evil.


Vote Here!


Please select two books.


What Shall We Read Next?

  • The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (33%, 8 Votes)
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (21%, 5 Votes)
  • Anxious People by Fredrik Backman (17%, 4 Votes)
  • Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (17%, 4 Votes)
  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt (13%, 3 Votes)

Total Voters: 12

Loading ... Loading ...

Memoir Selection and Future Information

Hi, readers!


I really need to create better titles for these blog posts, but considering the files in my documents folder named “untitled”, “untitled2”, and “new untitled thing”, it’s just not going to happen.


Anyway, thank you to those who attended our last meeting. The thriller genre is one with which I am very familiar, and I enjoyed exploring it with you. We were originally planned to read a second thriller since the first was so short, but a couple of you expressed an interest in a lighter read.


We have our next meeting on January 30, and, unless anyone is opposed to it, I think we can read one of our selections fully by then.


While our genre is memoir/biography, I received two types of submissions: lighthearted, short ones and heavier, longer ones. I decided that we can do one of the former now and revisit one of the latter afterword, because both types are absolutely worth reading.


Thank you to those who submitted books; it’s incredibly helpful to have input from you!


Some Important Notes


  • The book submissions form now has a place to say whether you think a book can be read in 2 or 4 weeks. I will put the information with the summary so that everyone can vote accordingly. This does mean that I may need to do some future planning and have books prepared for the next session’s poll, so I encourage you to submit books you’d like to read no matter what genre they are.
  • There is no longer a book submissions Discord channel. Please put all submissions in the Google form! It is much easier for me to keep track this way.
  • Over the next few days, please think about the club and what you would like to see happen its future. I am going to create a survey to get your thoughts and opinions, so this is your chance to tell me what you love and hate.
  • One of our members, Nick, is starting a writing club! You can find the Discord server here.
  • I originally was going to include Hyperbole and a Half in our poll, but it’s extremely short so replaced it with another book. I did accidentally read about half of it, and I highly recommend it. It’s hilarious and relatable.


Book Summaries


A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway


(71,000 words)


Hemingway’s memories of his life as an unknown writer living in Paris in the twenties are deeply personal, warmly affectionate, and full of wit. Looking back not only at his own much younger self, but also at the other writers who shared Paris with him – James Joyce, Wyndham Lewis, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald – he recalls the time when, poor, happy, and writing in cafes, he discovered his vocation. Written during the last years of Hemingway’s life, his memoir is a lively and powerful reflection of his genius that scintillates with the romance of the city.


Yes Please by Amy Poehler


(76,000 words)


In Amy Poehler’s highly anticipated first book, Yes Please, she offers up a big juicy stew of personal stories, funny bits on sex and love and friendship and parenthood and real life advice (some useful, some not so much), like when to be funny and when to be serious. Powered by Amy’s charming and hilarious, biting yet wise voice, Yes Please is a book full of words to live by.


Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson


(88,000 words)


In Furiously Happy, a humor memoir tinged with just enough tragedy and pathos to make it worthwhile, Jenny Lawson examines her own experience with severe depression and a host of other conditions, and explains how it has led her to live life to the fullest:


“I’ve often thought that people with severe depression have developed such a well for experiencing extreme emotion that they might be able to experience extreme joy in a way that ‘normal people’ also might never understand. And that’s what Furiously Happy is all about.”


Jenny’s readings are standing room only, with fans lining up to have Jenny sign their bottles of Xanax or Prozac as often as they are to have her sign their books. Furiously Happy appeals to Jenny’s core fan base but also transcends it. There are so many people out there struggling with depression and mental illness, either themselves or someone in their family—and in Furiously Happy they will find a member of their tribe offering up an uplifting message (via a taxidermied roadkill raccoon). Let’s Pretend This Never Happened ostensibly was about embracing your own weirdness, but deep down it was about family. Furiously Happy is about depression and mental illness, but deep down it’s about joy—and who doesn’t want a bit more of that?


The Answer Is…: Reflections on My Life by Alex Trebek


(51,000 words)


Longtime Jeopardy! host and television icon Alex Trebek reflects on his life and career.


Since debuting as the host of Jeopardy! in 1984, Alex Trebek has been something like a family member to millions of television viewers, bringing entertainment and education into their homes five nights a week. Last year, he made the stunning announcement that he had been diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. What followed was an incredible outpouring of love and kindness. Social media was flooded with messages of support, and the Jeopardy! studio received boxes of cards and letters offering guidance, encouragement, and prayers.


For over three decades, Trebek had resisted countless appeals to write a book about his life. Yet he was moved so much by all the goodwill, he felt compelled to finally share his story. “I want people to know a little more about the person they have been cheering on for the past year,” he writes in The Answer Is…: Reflections on My Life.


The book combines illuminating personal anecdotes with Trebek’s thoughts on a range of topics, including marriage, parenthood, education, success, spirituality, and philanthropy. Trebek also addresses the questions he gets asked most often by Jeopardy! fans, such as what prompted him to shave his signature mustache, his insights on legendary players like Ken Jennings and James Holzhauer, and his opinion of Will Ferrell’s Saturday Night Live impersonation. The book uses a novel structure inspired by Jeopardy!, with each chapter title in the form of a question, and features dozens of never-before-seen photos that candidly capture Trebek over the years.


Book Poll


What shall we read next?

  • Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson (45%, 5 Votes)
  • Yes Please by Amy Poehler (36%, 4 Votes)
  • The Answer Is... by Alex Trebek (18%, 2 Votes)
  • A Movable Feast by Earnest Hemmingway (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 11

Loading ... Loading ...

A New Year and a New Book!

Hi readers, and happy 2020-is-almost-over!


Whether you have had the best year, the worst year, or somewhere in between, I am infinitely grateful for you and hope that this club has brought you some happiness. It certainly has for me.


I know several of us took the last one or two meetings off in favor of spending time with family or focusing on some lighter reads, but I would like to give a big shout-out to those who read and discussed Surface Detail. It was, by far, the longest and most in depth conversation a book has garnered so far. It was a pleasure to observe the passion and curiosity that went into the discussion. Thank you!


I’d like to take this opportunity to reiterate one of the most important parts of the club: nobody is ever under any obligation to read or discuss a book if they are not prepared to do so. You may take as much time off at any point that you need, and you will be welcomed back happily if and when you decide to return. Book clubs have always been a bit iffy for me and many others, because they don’t always read books in which we might have an interest. To put yourself through reading something you don’t want to be reading seems like a big shame to me, considering the goal of the club is to have fun, partake in good conversation, and enjoy learning. If you are not vibing with a book, don’t read it if you’d prefer not to. Reading should not be a chore.


Upcoming Information


Our first book of 2021 will be a psychological thriller. Please note that many books within this genre contain potentially uncomfortable or distressing content. I have only read one of our selection, so I cannot speak to what the others involve. Please take care of yourself first and foremost, and don’t read if a book seems to cause you unwanted feelings.


You will have until the end of January 2nd to vote, and we will have our first meeting on January 16th. You will, as always, find summaries and links below, with the poll at the end.


I Know Where She Is by S.B. Caves


She will do whatever it takes to bring her daughter home.


Ten years ago Francine’s world was destroyed when her daughter was taken. Now, on the anniversary of the abduction, Francine receives an anonymous note containing just five words: I KNOW WHERE SHE IS.


What Francine learns next will horrify her.


She will discover danger in the most unexpected places.


She will do things she never imagined.


And she will stop at nothing to uncover the truth.


An explosive thriller perfect for fans of Karin Slaughter and Linwood Barclay.


The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn


Anna Fox lives alone, a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.


Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother and their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble and its shocking secrets are laid bare.


What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.


Home Before Dark by Riley Sager 


What was it like? Living in that house.


Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a nonfiction book called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon, rivaling The Amityville Horror in popularity—and skepticism.


Today, Maggie is a restorer of old homes and too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father’s book. But she also doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist. When Maggie inherits Baneberry Hall after her father’s death, she returns to renovate the place to prepare it for sale. But her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the past, chronicled in House of Horrors, lurk in the shadows. And locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous thanks to Maggie’s father. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself—a place filled with relics from another era that hint at a history of dark deeds. As Maggie experiences strange occurrences straight out of her father’s book, she starts to believe that what he wrote was more fact than fiction.


In the latest thriller from New York Times bestseller Riley Sager, a woman returns to the house made famous by her father’s bestselling horror memoir. Is the place really haunted by evil forces, as her father claimed? Or are there more earthbound—and dangerous—secrets hidden within its walls?



The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson


On a night flight from London to Boston, Ted Severson meets the stunning and mysterious Lily Kintner. Sharing one too many martinis, the strangers begin to play a game of truth, revealing very intimate details about themselves. Ted talks about his marriage that’s going stale and his wife Miranda, who he’s sure is cheating on him. Ted and his wife were a mismatch from the start—he the rich businessman, she the artistic free spirit—a contrast that once inflamed their passion, but has now become a cliché.


But their game turns a little darker when Ted jokes that he could kill Miranda for what she’s done. Lily, without missing a beat, says calmly, “I’d like to help.” After all, some people are the kind worth killing, like a lying, stinking, cheating spouse. . . .


Back in Boston, Ted and Lily’s twisted bond grows stronger as they begin to plot Miranda’s demise. But there are a few things about Lily’s past that she hasn’t shared with Ted, namely her experience in the art and craft of murder, a journey that began in her very precocious youth.


Suddenly these co-conspirators are embroiled in a chilling game of cat-and-mouse, one they both cannot survive . . . with a shrewd and very determined detective on their tail.


January’s Poll


Please vote for the book which you would most like to read.


What Shall We Read For January?

  • The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson (36%, 5 Votes)
  • I Know Where She Is by S.B. Caves (29%, 4 Votes)
  • The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn (29%, 4 Votes)
  • Home Before Dark by Riley Sager (7%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 14

Loading ... Loading ...

December’s Poll and Genre selection for the Future

Hello, readers!


I don’t know about you all, but this is my favorite time of year. The weather is finally cooler, the rain is coming far more often, and it’s the perfect time to curl up and read with a good book.


Except I was totally one of the only people who didn’t even finish the first half of the book for our last meeting. My bad!


Anyway, I don’t have much to say this time around. Please vote below for our December book. We’ve got a variety of options which span the sci-fi genre in a few directions. Since it’s such a vast genre, we can do two months (either in a row or split, depending on what you’d prefer) so that we can cover more.


Since it’s harder for us to pin down, I’ve I’ve also put up a poll for genres. You can vote for up to three of them, and we will go from there. You will find book summaries and both polls below.


Surface Detail (Culture #9) by Iain M. Banks


These don’t need to be read in order.


It begins in the realm of the Real, where matter still matters. It begins with a murder. It will not end until the Culture has gone to war with death itself. Lededje Y’breq is one of the Intagliated, her marked body bearing witness to a family shame, her life belonging to a man whose lust for power is without limit. Prepared to risk everything for her freedom, her release, when it comes, is at a price. To put things right she will need the help of the Culture. Benevolent, enlightened and almost infinitely resourceful though it may be, the Culture can only do so much for any individual.


With the assistance of one of its most powerful – and arguably deranged – warships, Lededje finds herself heading into a combat zone not even sure which side the Culture is really on.


A brutal, far-reaching war is already raging within the digital realms that store the souls of the dead and it’s about to erupt into reality. It started in the realm of the Real & that is where it will end. It will touch countless lives and affect entire civilizations, but at the center of it all is a young woman whose need for revenge masks another motive altogether.


A Fire Upon the Deep (Zones of Thought #1) by Vernor Vinge


Thousands of years hence, many races inhabit a universe where a mind’s potential is determined by its location in space, from superintelligent entities in the Transcend, to the limited minds of the Unthinking Depths, where only simple creatures and technology can function. Nobody knows what strange force partitioned space into these “regions of thought,” but when the warring Straumli realm use an ancient Transcendent artifact as a weapon, they unwittingly unleash an awesome power that destroys thousands of worlds and enslaves all natural and artificial intelligence.


Fleeing the threat, a family of scientists, including two children, are taken captive by the Tines, an alien race with a harsh medieval culture, and used as pawns in a ruthless power struggle. A rescue mission, not entirely composed of humans, must rescue the children-and a secret that may save the rest of interstellar civilization.


Red Rising (Red Rising Saga #1) by Pierce Brown


“I live for the dream that my children will be born free,” she says. “That they will be what they like. That they will own the land their father gave them.”


“I live for you,” I say sadly.


Eo kisses my cheek. “Then you must live for more.”


Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations.


Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.


But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.


Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies… even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.


The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet  by Becky Chambers


Follow a motley crew on an exciting journey through space-and one adventurous young explorer who discovers the meaning of family in the far reaches of the universe-in this light-hearted debut space opera from a rising sci-fi star.


Rosemary Harper doesn’t expect much when she joins the crew of the aging Wayfarer. While the patched-up ship has seen better days, it offers her a bed, a chance to explore the far-off corners of the galaxy, and most importantly, some distance from her past. An introspective young woman who learned early to keep to herself, she’s never met anyone remotely like the ship’s diverse crew, including Sissix, the exotic reptilian pilot, chatty engineers Kizzy and Jenks who keep the ship running, and Ashby, their noble captain.


Life aboard the Wayfarer is chaotic and crazy—exactly what Rosemary wants. It’s also about to get extremely dangerous when the crew is offered the job of a lifetime. Tunneling wormholes through space to a distant planet is definitely lucrative and will keep them comfortable for years. But risking her life wasn’t part of the plan. In the far reaches of deep space, the tiny Wayfarer crew will confront a host of unexpected mishaps and thrilling adventures that force them to depend on each other. To survive, Rosemary’s got to learn how to rely on this assortment of oddballs—an experience that teaches her about love and trust, and that having a family isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the universe.


Book Poll


What book shall we read for December?

  • Surface Detail (Culture #9) by Iain M. Banks (31%, 5 Votes)
  • Red Rising (Red Rising Saga #1) by Pierce Brown (25%, 4 Votes)
  • The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers #1) by Becky Chambers (25%, 4 Votes)
  • A Fire Upon the Deep (Zones of Thought #1) by Vernor Vinge (19%, 3 Votes)

Total Voters: 16

Loading ... Loading ...


Genre Poll


What genres are you interested in reading over the next few months? (Choose 3)

  • Thriller (18%, 8 Votes)
  • Memoir/Biography/Autobiography (13%, 6 Votes)
  • Paranoid Fiction (13%, 6 Votes)
  • Contemporary Fiction (11%, 5 Votes)
  • Nonfiction (11%, 5 Votes)
  • Sci-Fi (11%, 5 Votes)
  • Romance (9%, 4 Votes)
  • Speculative Fiction (9%, 4 Votes)
  • Self Help (2%, 1 Votes)
  • Other Genre (Put it in the book submissions channel) (2%, 1 Votes)
  • Horror (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 15

Loading ... Loading ...