To pick our Best Book Club Reads out of fifty books and five years of reading from an opinionated group can be daunting. We stuck to the task, made lists, noted votes, talked, changed our minds, remembered a great read that we’d omitted, voted again and came to our decision, exhausted and only slightly happy because of the great, great reads that we had to leave out. So here it is then, the Kyleglass Book Worms’ list of Best Book Club Reads:
The Reader by Bernhard Schlink. Clean, elegant writing from a German law professor; deals with the Holocaust for subsequent German generations and immediately reminded me of Uwe Timm’s moving memoir, In My Brother’s Shadow. As for the narrator’s motivation in writing the book, ‘Maybe I did write the story to be free of it.’
The Sea by John Banville. He won the Man Booker Prize in 2005 with it and The Sea is one of Banville’s most accessible books. Max Morden, mourning the death of his wife, returns to the seaside scene of his childhood summers and the sea becomes memory, its surges ‘another of the great world’s shrugs of indifference’.
Englby by Sebastian Faulks. Mike Engleby, a fresher at Cambridge in the 1970s, is an odd, unpleasant, possibly evil, but engaging and funny character who uses his diary to chart his unravelling life. Story turns into a black mystery.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows. An off-beat read by an ex-librarian and bookseller who died months before publication of a book that she finished off with the help of her niece Ann Barrows. A quirky epistolary novel about the war years in Guernsey under Nazi occupation and imbued with a powerful love of books and reading.
Everyman by Philip Roth. A slim read about a Jewish-American confronting old age and death with Roth’s usual strong autobiographical influences. The page-long, one sentence description of a boy riding the ocean waves and running home ‘remembering the mightiness of that immense sea boiling in his own two ears’ is mesmerizing.
A Fine Balance by Rohinson Mistry. A sweeping story of contemporary India from Independence in 1947 to the Emergency of 1977 with a character cast of innocents and outcasts who show the power of the human spirit in adversity.
Hours of shared reading and great chat, not all of it about books. Looking forward to the next fifty reads. (See Joe Duffy and Fiona Looney top reads shared at Ennis Book Festival here.)