Another great year in the bag! We made it through year two of the New & Noteworthy book club. We read so many amazing books covering culturally specific and universally understood ideas and emotions.
Three of our selections this year were shortlisted as finalists on several award circuits. The Incarnations by Susan Barker (read in January) was a finalist for the 2015 Kirkus Prize. Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (read in March) was a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award. Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett (read in October) was shortlisted for the 2016 International Dylan Thomas Prize.
Three more of our selections actually went on to win the awards they were nominated for. A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James (read in February) won the 2015 Man Booker Prize. The Vegetarian by Han Kang (read in June) won the 2016 Man Booker International Award. (We are all over this Man Booker thing.) The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (read in November) won the 2016 National Book Award.
Not just critics appreciated these stories. A Brief History of Seven Killings spent five weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Fates and Furies spent eight weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and 15 weeks on the Publishers Weekly bestseller list. The Girls by Emma Cline (read in September) spent 10 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and 11 weeks on the Publishers Weekly bestseller list. The Underground Railroad spent the last 14 weeks on both the New York Times and Publisher’s Weekly bestseller lists.
We also read a book by a former BookPeople bookseller! Mo Daviau launched her novel Every Anxious Wave (read in April) at BookPeople in February. Notable quote from the book launch: “Nobody wants to read an easy love story. I like plot!” An excellent summary of how we feel about our books here at New & Noteworthy, Mo. Well put.
We read Chinese, Jamaican, Indian, and Korean narratives. We learned that Life is one extended tapestry of interwoven energies, both beautiful and terrible; that there is an epic poem in every nation, in every person, through which moves violence and art and emotion; that desperation for refuge is a dimmer of light; and that stories can get harder and darker and bloodier to read with each revisit. We explored a family tragedy from the mind of a disabled narrator and learned that all stories are human stories and peace is a goal universally difficult to attain. We read a Black American slave story and learned that slavery stories are important, relevant, and needed–to many lives were broken in our first American economy–their voices deserve to be heard.
We explored relationships between men and women. We learned that male naiveté and female anger are self-sustaining energies and that free will does not exempt us from being stuck in the mechinations of a system far older than us–but love is our consolation. And relationships between women and women. Craving female connection is natural, but society will tear apart young women who forge strong bonds.
And we even got into some experimental fiction and learned that fiction can make us question our expectations about what a story means and how a narrator gets to tell it.
We finished 2016 with our second annual holiday party and book swap on December 8th. We mingled with members of other BookPeople book clubs: Ludicrous Speed, Happy Hour, Murder in the Afternoon, and 7% Solution. And a moderator of the Authors and Auteurs book club made a brief appearance. Note for next year: we’re going to need a bigger table for the book swap next year.
What New & Noteworthy is looking forward to in 2017:
Zadie Smith! We’re kicking off the year with a discussion of Zadie’s new book Swing Time in January. Demi and I have already read it. This book is not a star: it is a constellation. Additionally, BookPeople will be hosting Zadie at Central Presbyterian on January 12. Reserved seats are already sold out, so get your tickets! Get your tickets! Get your tickets!
International experimental fiction with Samanta Schweblin’s book Fever Dream in February. Short stories (along with my selection for best book jacket art by fabulous photographer Lee Price) by Mary Miller with Almost Happy Hour in March. Pulitzer Prize winner Viet Thanh Nguyen’s second book The Refugees in April. Debut fiction from Canadian screenwriter Elan Mastai in the (we hope) cathartic All Our Wrong Todays in May. And fiction all-star George Saunders’s Lincoln in the Bardo in June.
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What was your favorite book that we read this year?