Book Club Discussion: Wild

Welcome to the Book Club discussion for Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Below is a list of discussion questions to get the conversation started. We are excited to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. Feel free to answer all the questions, or pick and choose a few questions to discuss!

  • When Cheryl discovers the guidebook to the Pacific Crest Trail, she says that the trip “was an idea, vague and outlandish, full of promise and mystery.” Later, her soon-to-be ex-husband suggests she wants to do the hike “to be alone.” What do you think her reasons were for committing to this journey?
  • In the beginning of the book, Cheryl’s prayers are literally curse words—curses for her mother’s dying, curses against her mother for failing. How does her spiritual life change during the course of the book?
  • Cheryl’s pack, also known as Monster, is one of those real-life objects that also makes a perfect literary metaphor: Cheryl has too much carry on her back and in her mind. Are there other objects she takes with her or acquires along the way that take on deeper meanings? How so?
  • “Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves,” Cheryl writes her first day on the trail. She is speaking about her fear of rattlesnakes and mountain lions and serial killers. To defeat that fear, she tells herself a new story, the story that she is brave and safe. What do you think about this approach, which she herself calls “mind control”? What are some of her other ways of overcoming fear?
  • At one point, Cheryl tells herself, “I was not meant to be this way, to live this way, to fail so darkly.” It’s a moment of self-criticism and despair. And yet, some belief in herself exists in that statement. How do the things Cheryl believes about herself throughout the memoir, even during her lowest moments, help or hurt her on the PCT?

Questions from Oprah’s Book Club!

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April Book Reveal: Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she’s a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she’s a disgrace; to design mavens, she’s a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette’s intensifying allergy to Seattle–and people in general–has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence–creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter’s role in an absurd world.

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April Book Reveal: Attachments

Attachments by by Rainbow Rowell

“Hi, I’m the guy who reads your e-mail, and also, I love you . . . ”
From the award-winning author of Eleanor & Park, Fangirl, and Landline comes a hilarious and heartfelt novel about love in the workplace.

Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder know that somebody is monitoring their work e-mail. (Everybody in the newsroom knows. It’s company policy.) But they can’t quite bring themselves to take it seriously. They go on sending each other endless and endlessly hilarious e-mails, discussing every aspect of their personal lives.

Meanwhile, Lincoln O’Neill can’t believe this is his job now- reading other people’s e-mail. When he applied to be “internet security officer,” he pictured himself building firewalls and crushing hackers- not writing up a report every time a sports reporter forwards a dirty joke.

When Lincoln comes across Beth’s and Jennifer’s messages, he knows he should turn them in. But he can’t help being entertained-and captivated-by their stories.

By the time Lincoln realizes he’s falling for Beth, it’s way too late to introduce himself.

What would he say . . . ?

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Book Club Discussion: Modern Romance

Welcome to the Book Club discussion for Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari. Below is a list of discussion questions to get the conversation started. We are excited to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. Feel free to answer all the questions, or pick and choose a few questions to discuss!

How have cell phones changed the conventions of modern dating? Overall, despite some of the drawbacks that Ansari points to in Modern Romance, would you say our instant texting and communications make the dating scene better or worse…or, basically, no different.

Talk about Ansari’s statement that “the whole culture of finding love and a mate has radically changed” in the modern era.” In what way…and why? Or maybe you don’t really agree with him? If so, why not?

What do you think of the millennials’ preference for texting rather than actually talking on the phone?

Toward the end, Ansari says this: “The main thing I’ve learned from this research is that we’re all in it together.” What exactly does he mean? Do you agree…or not?

What advice would you offer those in the dating world?

Questions from Litlovers.

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Book Club Discussion: The Engagements

Welcome to the Book Club discussion for The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan. Below is a list of discussion questions to get the conversation started. We are excited to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. Feel free to answer all the questions, or pick and choose a few questions to discuss!

Feminism and the role of women is a recurring theme in The Engagements. Which character’s attitude did you relate to the most, and why?

Two of the novel’s major characters are anti-marriage, with story lines that are decades apart. How does time change society’s attitude toward intentionally unmarried women?

Why do you think Frances is the only character whose story moves through time?

While the novel is clearly about marriage, parental relationships also play a major role. Discuss and compare the parenting styles of Evelyn, James, and Kate.

Which story line did you enjoy the most? Whose story would you like to keep reading?

 

Questions from Litlovers.

Interview with J. Courtney Sullivan.

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March Book Reveal: The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost

The second book option for our March box is The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost by Rachel Friedman!

Rachel Friedman has always been the consummate good girl who does well in school and plays it safe, so the college grad surprises no one more than herself when, on a whim (and in an effort to escape impending life decisions), she buys a ticket to Ireland, a place she has never visited. There she forms an unlikely bond with a free-spirited Australian girl, a born adventurer who spurs Rachel on to a yearlong odyssey that takes her to three continents, fills her life with newfound friends, and gives birth to a previously unrealized passion for adventure.

As her journey takes her to Australia and South America, Rachel discovers and embraces her love of travel and unlocks more truths about herself than she ever realized she was seeking. Along the way, the erstwhile good girl finally learns to do something she’s never done before: simply live for the moment.

March Book Reveal: Wild

The first book option for our March box is Wild by Cheryl Strayed!

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and she would do it alone. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

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Book Club Discussion: The Life We Bury

Welcome to the Book Club discussion for The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens. Below is a list of discussion questions to get the conversation started. We are excited to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. We’ve added our thoughts for each question as well. Feel free to answer all the questions, or pick and choose a few questions to discuss!

How did you experience the book? Were you immediately drawn into the story—or did it take you a while? Did the book intrigue, amuse, disturb, alienate, irritate, or frighten you?

It definitely took me a while to get into the book. I thought I knew who did it right away and I didn’t find out until near the end that I was wrong. I definitely wasn’t expecting all the crazy kidnapping that happened at the end so that brought me back into the story and made it more interesting.

What aspects of the novel did the author draw from to come up with the title for The Life We Bury?

All three of the main characters had something in their past they were trying to hide and and move on from. Even though they tried so hard to bury the past, all three of them ended up telling their secret and that seemed to help each of them move on.

Which character, if any, did you identify with the most? Why?

I can’t say I really identified with any of the characters. I was rooting for Joe throughout the story though.

How did you feel about the character of Carl Iverson when he was first introduced?

I was pretty sure he didn’t commit the murder right away since there wouldn’t have been much of a book plot if he had so I definitely felt sorry for him.

What would you say are Joe’s strongest character traits?

He valued family and was very committed even sometimes when he shouldn’t have, he was very determined; both to go to school despite his circumstances and exonerate Carl.  

Questions from author’s website.

Book Club Discussion: The Miniaturist

Welcome to the Book Club discussion for The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton. Below is a list of discussion questions to get the conversation started. We are excited to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. We’ve added our thoughts for each question as well. Feel free to answer all the questions, or pick and choose a few questions to discuss!

How would you describe the sense of place in The Miniaturist, and how does the novel present seventeenth century Amsterdam?

In the novel Amsterdam was far more rigid than I pictured it being when I studied the city and its  golden age of commerce during college. I was surprised about how gossipy and rule driven the city felt in the book, at least in Nella’s experience.

What does the gift of the cabinet house symbolise to Nella in terms of her marriage to Johannes and her own status?

While Johannes was trying to be kind, Nella took the gift of the doll house personally as a comment on her own age. She felt the gift was Johannes’s way of implying that she was a child and would enjoy childish things.

The Brandt household is full of secrets. Which made the biggest impression on you and why?

Marin’s room! The reveal of her curiosity filled room  was one of my favorite parts of the whole novel. It made me soften towards her character a bit after realizing she had a thirst for worldly knowledge and collecting. I have always loved the idea of curiosity cabinets, so it was fun that the concept was incorporated into the novel.

Did your attitude to the characters remain consistent throughout the novel, or did your loyalties shift as you kept reading? Which character provoked the strongest reaction from you?

I already mentioned my softening towards Marin as the book went on, but I never fully got on board with her character. It was fun to see Nella come into her own as the book went forward as she gained confidence and then finally, true control of the household.

Do you think the miniaturist is a magical force or a human one? What is the most important thing that Nella learns from her?

This aspect of the story was frustrating for me, as it bordered on magical realism but never truly or fully crossed the line into full on magic. I think the author intended that the magic/human explanation be difficult to figure out. I would lean more towards the human element, as it seems the miniaturist was always watching and Amsterdam is portrayed as a city where gossip travels fast.

Questions from http://www.picador.com/blog/february-2015/the-miniaturist-book-club-questions

February Book Reveal: Modern Romance

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari

A hilarious, thoughtful, and in-depth exploration of the pleasures and perils of modern romance from one of this generation’s sharpest comedic voices

At some point, every one of us embarks on a journey to find love. We meet people, date, get into and out of relationships, all with the hope of finding someone with whom we share a deep connection. This seems standard now, but it’s wildly different from what people did even just decades ago. Single people today have more romantic options than at any point in human history. With technology, our abilities to connect with and sort through these options are staggering. So why are so many people frustrated?

Some of our problems are unique to our time. “Why did this guy just text me an emoji of a pizza?” “Should I go out with this girl even though she listed Combos as one of her favorite snack foods? Combos?!” “My girlfriend just got a message from some dude named Nathan. Who’s Nathan? Did he just send her a photo of his penis? Should I check just to be sure?”

But the transformation of our romantic lives can’t be explained by technology alone. In a short period of time, the whole culture of finding love has changed dramatically. A few decades ago, people would find a decent person who lived in their neighborhood. Their families would meet and, after deciding neither party seemed like a murderer, they would get married and soon have a kid, all by the time they were twenty-four. Today, people marry later than ever and spend years of their lives on a quest to find the perfect person, a soul mate.

For years, Aziz Ansari has been aiming his comic insight at modern romance, but for Modern Romance, the book, he decided he needed to take things to another level. He teamed up with NYU sociologist Eric Klinenberg and designed a massive research project, including hundreds of interviews and focus groups conducted everywhere from Tokyo to Buenos Aires to Wichita. They analyzed behavioral data and surveys and created their own online research forum on Reddit, which drew thousands of messages. They enlisted the world’s leading social scientists, including Andrew Cherlin, Eli Finkel, Helen Fisher, Sheena Iyengar, Barry Schwartz, Sherry Turkle, and Robb Willer. The result is unlike any social science or humor book we’ve seen before.

In Modern Romance, Ansari combines his irreverent humor with cutting-edge social science to give us an unforgettable tour of our new romantic world.

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