Bookclubs

NO PRE-REGISTRATION REQUIRED FOR BOOKCLUBS

JANUARY

++Fri, Jan 12, 7PM — Friday Night Bookclub meets to discuss QUEEN OF SPADES by Michael Shou-Yung Shum

Based on the author’s experience working as a poker dealer, Queen of Spades is a modern re-telling of the classic Pushkin fable of the same name, a highly stylized tale set in a Seattle-area casino that combines elements of a Hong Kong gambling movie with literary language and a lively cast of unforgettable characters. The three main narrative threads follow Barbara, a recovering gambler trapped in a cultish twelve-step program; Mannheim, a pit boss at the Royal Casino who discovers he has just six months to live; and Chan, a dealer obsessed with the playing style of a mysterious customer known as the Countess. Queen of Spades invites readers into the murky realm of taking chances not just as a recreational activity but as a way of life. The beauty and complexity of the novel lies in its unique portmanteau structure, its page-turning plot, and its insider view into the late-night card-dealer’s world, where everyone yearns for more than what they have, and where luck plays a curious, fidgety role that may―given the right card at the right moment―change everything, for better or worse.

++Sun, Jan 14, 2PM — Sunday Salon meets to discuss WE WERE EIGHT YEARS IN POWER: AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY by Ta-Nehisi Coates

“We were eight years in power” was the lament of Reconstruction-era black politicians as the American experiment in multiracial democracy ended with the return of white supremacist rule in the South. In this sweeping collection of new and selected essays, Ta-Nehisi Coates explores the tragic echoes of that history in our own time: the unprecedented election of a black president followed by a vicious backlash that fueled the election of the man Coates argues is America’s “first white president.”

But the story of these present-day eight years is not just about presidential politics. This book also examines the new voices, ideas, and movements for justice that emerged over this period—and the effects of the persistent, haunting shadow of our nation’s old and unreconciled history. Coates powerfully examines the events of the Obama era from his intimate and revealing perspective—the point of view of a young writer who begins the journey in an unemployment office in Harlem and ends it in the Oval Office, interviewing a president.

We Were Eight Years in Power features Coates’s iconic essays first published in The Atlantic, including “Fear of a Black President,” “The Case for Reparations,” and “The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration,” along with eight fresh essays that revisit each year of the Obama administration through Coates’s own experiences, observations, and intellectual development, capped by a bracingly original assessment of the election that fully illuminated the tragedy of the Obama era. We Were Eight Years in Power is a vital account of modern America, from one of the definitive voices of this historic moment.

FEBRUARY

++Fri, Feb 9, 7PM — Friday Night Bookclub meets to discuss THE UNMADE WORLD by Steve Yarbrough

Set against a backdrop of the current political and cultural upheaval in the US and Eastern Europe, The Unmade World is a thoughtful, scope-y literary novel with a dose of suspense that moves from Poland to California to the Hudson Valley and back to Poland. It covers a decade in the lives of an American journalist and a Polish small businessman turned petty criminal and the wrenching aftermath of an accidental, tragic encounter between these two on a snowy night in 2006 on the outskirts of Krakow. The accident costs the lives of the American journalist Richard Brennan’s wife and daughter, an event that colors the rest of his life. It also leads to a downward spiral for Bogdan Baranowsk, leaving emotional scars as he suffers the seemingly inevitable loss of his business, his home, and his wife. The Unmade World is a story of ordinary, otherwise decent people from various backgrounds and circumstances who must learn how to live with the personal grief, sense of guilt, and the emotional consequences of violence. Along the way, the novel grapples with a spectrum of cultural and political issues. It includes a murder mystery wrapped around the corruption of major college sports, the pressures on immigrants and refugees in both the US and Poland, the fallout of political change, economic upheavals and armed conflicts–including the horrific destruction of Luhansk, Ukraine in 2014. It also references the 2016 presidential campaign, cultural politics in the American university, and the demise of print journalism, etc., though never in a dogmatic or overtly partisan way.

++Sun, Feb 11, 2PM — Sunday Salon meets to discuss THE GIRL AT THE BAGGAGE CLAIM: EXPLAINING THE EAST-WEST CULTURE GAP by Gish Jen

Never have East and West come as close as they are today, yet we are still baffled by one another. Is our mantra “To thine own self be true”? Or do we believe we belong to something larger than ourselves–a family, a religion, a troop–that claims our first allegiance? Gish Jen–drawing on a treasure trove of stories and personal anecdotes, as well as cutting-edge research in cultural psychology–reveals how this difference shapes what we perceive and remember, what we say and do and make–how it shapes everything from our ideas about copying and talking in class to the difference between Apple and Alibaba. As engaging as it is illuminating, this is a book that stands to profoundly enrich our understanding of ourselves and of our world.

Our current bookclub selections are available for purchase at 10% off the cover price and earn a stamp card stamp.

For those in your own bookclub, we offer 20% off your bookclub’s title. Books must be ordered all at once and paid for by a bookclub designee.

Contact Mary at mary (at) newtonvillebooks.com for more information.