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Book Club Wed Nov 05 2008

The 2009 Book List

Sound the trumpets. Here are the official selections of the Gapers Block Book Club for 2009. Even if we do say so ourselves, Veronica and I believe we have another strong reading list, which includes a mix of classics, new titles, award winners, bestsellers and lesser-known works. We received a number of excellent book suggestions from our members, and tried to incorporate as many as possible. Special thanks to everyone who submitted ideas for the book club.

A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry (Random House, 1994; 106 p.)
As a work written by a female, African-American playwright, this play was groundbreaking when it was first produced in 1959. A Raisin in the Sun tells the story of the Younger family. Lena Younger's husband has passed away, and as Lena and her family wait for a $10,000 life insurance check, they dream of leaving their tiny Chicago apartment and starting new lives. The play went on to win a New York Drama Critics Circle Award and has been adapted for TV and film several times.

A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean (University of Chicago Press, 2001; 239 p.)
Maclean taught English at the University of Chicago for 45 years, but he didn't publish his first novel until after he retired at age 70. A River Runs Through It was first published in 1976. It gained critical praise and later became an enduring bestseller after Robert Redford's 1992 film adaptation. The story is about two brothers growing up in rural Montana, who share a passion for fly fishing.

The Book of Ralph by John McNally (Free Press, 2005; 287 p.)
This collection of intertwined short stories chronicles the comic misadventures of eighth grader Hank Boyd and his trouble-making friend, Ralph. This coming-of-age tale is set during the late 1970s and early 1980s in southwest suburban Chicago.

Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris (Back Bay, 2008; 385 p.)
The debut novel by Joshua Ferris is set in an unnamed Chicago advertising agency and brilliantly dissects office life as the employees of the firm face the threat of layoffs. Then We Came to the End is a 2008 Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award winner and a National Book Award Finalist.

Passing by Nella Larsen (Random House, 2002; 304 p.)
First published in 1929, Passing tells the story of two light-skinned African-American women who try to pass for white in order to escape racism in 1920s New York. Born in Chicago to Danish mother and African-American father in 1891, author Nella Larsen was the first African-American woman to be awarded a Guggenheim fellowship in creative writing.

Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut (Random House, 1998; 304 p.)
Vonnegut's trademark satire is in full force in this science-fiction tale originally published 1963 about a young writer doing research for a book on the history of the atomic bomb, who discovers the existence of "ice-nine", an even more deadly threat to the planet.

Every Crooked Pot by Renee Rosen (St. Martin's Griffin, 2007; 227 p.)
Nina Goldman was born with a strawberry birthmark that covers one eye. This coming-of-age novel set in 1970s Akron, Ohio, is written in the form of a memoir, revealing Nina's struggles with self-acceptance and her love-hate relationship with her eccentric father. Author Rosen grew up in Akron but currently lives in Chicago.

La Perdida by Jessica Abel (Random House, 2008; 275 p.)
In this highly regarded graphic novel, Carla Olivares, a twenty-something Mexican-American woman, leaves the U.S. and heads to Mexico City in a misguided attempt to get in touch with her roots. Unfortunately, her life goes from bad to worse when she falls in with a group of drug dealers and wannabe revolutionaries.

The Echo Maker by Richard Powers (Picador, 2007; 451 p.)
Twenty-seven-year-old Mark Schluter is in a near fatal car accident that leaves him with a rare brain disorder that causes him to believe his sister is an imposter. As Mark's sense of identity unravels, he becomes determined to discover the truth about his accident. The Echo Maker won the 2006 National Book Award.

Lords of the Levee by Herman Kogan and Lloyd Wendt (Northwestern University Press, 2005; 384 p.)
This engaging nonfiction work tells the story of "Bathhouse" John Coughlin and Mike "Hinky Dink" Kenna, the notorious First Ward aldermen who ruled Chicago at the start of the twentieth century. Originally published in 1943, Lords of the Levee is the perfect complement to our November 2008 selection, Sin in the Second City.

Travel Writing by Peter Ferry (Harcourt, 2008; 294 p.)
In this work of metafiction, Ferry acts as both author and character, telling the story of a high school English teacher named Peter Ferry who witnesses a fatal car accident that he becomes convinced he could have prevented. As a result, Ferry develops an obsession with learning about the life of the victim, the young and beautiful Lisa Kim.

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