Readers' Choice: 200 Book Club Favorites

Overview

Here are two hundred reader-tested answers to the question "What have you read that's good?"  The Readers' Choice is the first book to feature titles based on the recommendations of numerous book clubs.  Victoria McMains has collected two hundred favorites of more than seventy reading groups nationwide, ideal for book group members looking for a "good read," busy people seeking enjoyable books outside the bestseller lists, or anyone who wants to read more but isn't ...

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Overview

Here are two hundred reader-tested answers to the question "What have you read that's good?"  The Readers' Choice is the first book to feature titles based on the recommendations of numerous book clubs.  Victoria McMains has collected two hundred favorites of more than seventy reading groups nationwide, ideal for book group members looking for a "good read," busy people seeking enjoyable books outside the bestseller lists, or anyone who wants to read more but isn't sure where to start.

Combining her skills as a book reveiwer and a veteran book group member, McMains provides brief, captivating profiles of a diverse mix of fiction and nonfiction.  There are love stories and war stories, fantasy and political intrigue, biography and nature-and much more.  Each profile highlights the unique traits of the book and ends with a few questions for group favorites as well as little-known gems that have been discovered and treasured.  Indexes organize the entries by title and subject matter, helping readers find books that appeal to their interest. For anyone wanting to learn the easy essentials of starting a book club, check out McMains's introduction.

Let The Readers Guide help you make the most of the precious time you spend reading?

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
McMains has chaired the Bay Area Book Reviewers Association since 1997, and her column, "Book Club Favorites," is published monthly in the Press Democrat, a New York Times newspaper serving Northern California. Here, she combines her professional expertise with her experiences as a book club member to produce a handy new guide for book lovers everywhere. The 200 favorites included here were culled from the recommendations of more than 70 reading groups in California, Oregon, Colorado, and New York, and the resulting list is a good blend of fiction and nonfiction, classics, relatively unknown regional writers, and the occasional best seller. The collection is designed to start conversations, help form book clubs, and promote reading. The book's strength is that it reminds serious readers of books that they have loved and/or always meant to read. Look for a second volume. Recommended for all public libraries.--Pam Kingsbury, Florence, AL Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Internet Book Watch
The Reader's Choice is a treasury of 200 book club favorites and provides a set of 'top picks' by over 70 reading groups and clubs across the country, from Oprah and NPR to regional book clubs. Selections avoid best-seller top lists and provide 'midlist', thoughtful books in a range of themes and subjects. Recommended for book enthusiasts seeking something other than the Top 10.
—Internet Book Watch
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780688174354
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 7/28/2000
  • Edition description: 1ST PERENN
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.65 (d)

Meet the Author

Combining her skills as a book reviewer and a veteran book group member, McMains provides brief, captivating profiles of a diverse mix of fiction and nonfiction. Since 1997, Victoria Golden McMains has chaired the Bay Area Book Reviewers Association (BABRA). Her popoular "Book Club Favorites" column is published monthly in the Press Democrat, the New York Times--owned daily newspaper serving northern California. Several of her short stories have been publihsed in literary magazines. She lives with her family in Healdsburg, California.
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Read an Excerpt

Fire on the Mountain, by Edward Abbey, University of New Mexico Press (paperback)



Fire on the Mountain is a story of both strength and simplicity, an inspiring tale about a New Mexico rancher trying to hold back the authority of the U.S. government as it lays claim to his land. Told from the point of view of a twelve-year-old grandson who has come to visit for the summer, Abbey's novel traces the actions of John Vogelin as he refuses to allow the neighboring White Sands Missile Range to annex his property.

Abbey's love of the desert and mountains comes through poignantly in his descriptions of cottonwood trees and riverbeds, grama grass and sand dunes. The tender-and-tough relationship between grandfather and grandson lends force to the story, emergingin the give-and-take of very effective dialogue.

The story's power is enhanced by the knowledge that Abbey's fiction was inspired by real events. John Prather, a New Mexico cattleman, waged a similar battle against the federal government when it tried to make his ranch part of White Sands.

Abbey, who died in 1989, has come to be known as a father of the modern environmental movement. Although he didn't like to be labeled an environmentalist, Abbey once called himself an "agrarian anarchist." "If a label is required," he commented, "say that I am one who loved the unfenced country."

Abbey worked for fifteen years as a park ranger and fire lookout for the National Park Service in the Southwest and also taught writing at the University of Arizona. In the early 1950s he was a Fulbright Fellow, and in 1975 he became a Guggenheim Fellow. He authored twenty books, nine ofthem novels. The Monkey Wrench Gang may be his most notorious fiction work: It is an account of an environmental group's attempt to blow up a dam in Arizona.

Abbey expresses deep love and respect for both the land and its older inhabitants. However, he is also clear about the compelling reasons why land might be co-opted for other uses. Does Abbey present any answers to the dilemma posed in the book, of nature versus people and their technology?

The Romance Reader, by Pearl Abraham, Riverhead Books (paperback)



In the novel The Romance Reader, a young girl trapped within the confines of Hasidic Jewish culture tells what it is like to be surrounded by mainstream American life and yet be required to follow the narrowly defined rules of an ultra-Orthodox sect dating from theJewish ghettos of eighteenth-century Poland.

Author Pearl Abraham weaves her own firsthand knowledge of Hasidism into the story of Rachel, a rebellious New York teenager of the 1960s who would like to wear sheer stockings, swim in a bathing suit, and read contemporary novels. Rachel's simple desires are shocking to her rabbi father, her dutiful mother, and their conservative community, who believe that women's heads should be shaved at marriage, that the female body should be hidden, and that the only books worth reading are religious in nature.

Abraham grew up in a Hasidic community and now teaches writing at New York University. She portrays the parameters of Hasidic life in a lively, moving way by detailing what Rachel cannot have rather than by writing a lengthy exposition on Hasidism. Rachel's daring forays to the public library to obtain books of classic American literature or her clandestine pursuit of lifeguard certification endear her to the reader. By our standards, her yearnings are innocent; by her family's standards, they are perfidious.

Abraham is also the author of Giving Up America, a novel that traces the disintegration of a marriage and continues her examination of Orthodox Jewish religion and culture.

Like so many others whose families are new to this country Rachel prefers to leave behind centuries of strict tradition to dive into the American melting pot. In doing so, she is forced to choose between offending her parents and freely embracing a new way of life. Does it seem to you that Abraham's novel presents a criticism of Hasidic life or simply a study of it?

Rachel's rebellion has been compared to Huck Finn's brave journey in Mark Twain's HUCKLEBERRY FINN and Holden Caulfield's struggles in J. D. Salinger's THE CATCHER IN THE RYE. How similar do you think her story is to these classics?

Skirts, by Mimi Albert, Baskerville Publishers (hardcover)



You may have to ask your favorite bookstore to order this book from Baskerville, but it is well worth the effort. Albert has written a mesmerizing story of three young women on their own in New York City's Greenwich Village in the early 1960s, seeking independence and excitement among the Beat Generation rather than following the home-and-motherhood route expected of most girls then.

Albert writes powerfully of the seducer and seduced as she introduces Zalman, the tall, handsome son of a rabbi, who suggests "turning on" to all of life, including drugs. He is both an alluring figure and an ominous one as he leads the particularly innocent Helene deeper and deeper into his exotic world.

Throughout the novel, Albert's language is eloquent, direct, and vividly descriptive. Interspersed through her intense, dramatic narrative are wonderfully playful bits of writing that are often hilarious.

It's surprising that twenty years elapsed between publication of Albert's first book, The Second Story Man, which was praised in a New York Times book review as "perfectly written," and the appearance of Skirts, which was a nominee for the Bay Area Book Reviewers Association Award for fiction in 1994. In the interim, Albert lived and studied in India, published short fiction, and lived and taught in northern California's wine country. Today she teaches creative writing at the University of California Extension at Berkeley and is a California Arts Council artist in residence at the National Institute of Arts and Disabilities. As of this writing, she is finishing a new novel, Through Black Seas.

Helene, Ruth, and Victoria have a common cultural heritage but seem to share little in terms of personality and goals. Do you believe in their friendship? What connects them?

Ruth is a particularly rough-edged character. Mat is it that makes you care about her?

How odd or unusual do the views that were held toward women in the early sixties seem in today's milieu?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2001

    Find Great Books You've Never Heard of!

    'What have you read that's good?' We've all asked that question of our best-read friends. Now, The Readers' Choice lets you find out the answer to that question from a variety of book clubs in California, Oregon, Colorado, and New York. The book is organized to provide around one page (often a little more) on each book. This information includes a brief summary of the book, its appeal, how it differs from the movie (if it is a novel), and the author's background. A section in italics at the end gives you questions to guide a book club discussion or to illuminate your own reading of the book. In a separate section, Ms. McMains also describes how to start and run a book club, in case that appeals to you. As she points out, you like to visit your friends. A book club can give you more chances to do that, and something new to talk about. The book has a helpful index so that you can locate books by subject, in order to more quickly locate titles that match your needs. About three-quarters of the books are novels. Since I read a lot, I assumed that this book would not tell me much. Boy, was I wrong! Of the 200 titles, I had only read 7. I had only heard of another 4 more. So these are books I would never have considered. As the author points out, these are well-written books that seldom reached a broad audience. They are for people who want high quality writing and thinking. I checked out the 7 books that I have read, and found the material on them to be accurate and useful. So I have to assume that it is also for the other books on the list. So I'm looking forward to reading many more outstanding books as a result of this valuable reource. Since the book clubs who contributed these ideas are mostly in the western United States, you'll find many novels with western themes in them. If you are looking for that, you'll find the book all that much more helpful. If you are not, give one a try. You may find that you like western-oriented books. If you are already so backlogged with reading that you won't get to another book for some time, obviously this resource won't do you much good. Do realize that this book was published in mid 2000, and was based on reading that occurred before that. So the offerings will mostly be of books written in 1999 and earlier. After you finish reading this book, I suggest that you think about why you read. Having understood that, are there other reasons to read? For example, can reading people who express themselves well make you a better communicator? Spent your reading time with the best books you can find! Donald Mitchell, co-author of The Irresistible Growth Enterprise and The 2,000 Percent Solution

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