Monday, January 24, 2011

Staff Pick of the Week

Steven's Pick

Read This Next: 500 of the Best Books You'll Ever Read by Sandra Newman and Howard Mittelmark

Book clubs seem to be very popular these days. For those book lovers interested in starting a book discussion group, I have one question for you, "where do you start?" Fiction or non-fiction, best-sellers or classics, highbrow or lowbrow, the literary elite or offbeat, underground classics. With so many books to choose from and so little time, how does one go about organizing and selecting a reading schedule that is exciting and unpredictable, with depth and substance, and that will still appeal to a wide variety of readers?

I recommend picking up Read This Next: 500 of the Best Books You'll Ever Read, which is a wonderful place to discover new books that you have never heard about or to rediscover books that you haven't read in years. A world away from those "Best Books" reading lists you probably had on your bookshelf in college, with such heavy titles as The Lifetime Reading Plan and Good Reading: A Guide for Serious Reads, Newman and Mittelmark have a lot more fun entertaining their readers with delightful and sometimes unexpected recommendations than in telling them what they should read in order to be considered "educated and serious" readers.

Following in the footsteps of Nancy Pearl's Book Lust and More Book Lust, the authors have crafted an entertaining, witty, and smart selection of some of their favorite titles, and more often than not, their tone is very tongue in cheek. The book is divided into ten very general sections such as "Love" and "Memoir" and "Religion" and "Death," with 12 book recommendations for each section- one for each month of the year. In addition to the book suggestions, the hungry reader will find discussion questions that are as funny as they are deconstructive. Also included are "Read These Too," thematically-arranged sections for further reading with such alluring titles as "Books on Transgressive Love" (think Lolita, Giovanni's Room, or Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist's Wife) and "Le Livre de Toilette" (roughly translated: the toilet book...or ideal bathroom reading.)

Whether reading as part of a group or individually, readers will benefit equally from the author's experience, their broad reading interests, and their robust sense of humor. Enjoy!

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