Favorite book club selections run the gamut of literary genres
Compiled by Brian Lampkin
We’re often asked here at Scuppernong Books for an updated list of the best book-club books. Every book club is created differently, so it’s difficult to determine what exactly a “book-club book” is. Undaunted, let’s take a crack at creating a relatively contemporary list, a mix of new hardcovers, recent paperbacks and personal favorites.
Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine, by Alan Lightman. (Pantheon, $24.95, 2018). That elusive mix of science and spirituality that so many of us long for. “A lyrical and illuminating inquiry into our dual impulse for belief in the unprovable and for trust in truth affirmed by physical evidence.” — Maria Popova, Brain Pickings
Last Ballad, by Wiley Cash. (HarperCollins, $26.99, 2017). Set in Gastonia, N.C., in 1929, this novel takes the historical fact of labor unrest in the textile mills and turns it into a deeply moving account of one woman’s struggle against the forces of greed, racism and misogyny. Great fiction with a purpose!
The Salt Line, by Holly Goddard Jones. (Putnam, $26, 2017). A UNCG professor, Jones sets this dystopian future in Greensboro and parts west. Lethal ticks, border walls and class segregation are all part of this too-near future.
Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African-American Culinary History in the Old South by Michael Twitty (Amistad, $28.99) & Potlikker Papers, by John T. Edge (Penguin Press, $28, 2017). Two excellent books on the history of food in the South.
There There, by Tommy Orange (Knopf, $25.99, 2018). The hottest book in the literary world. Orange is Cheyenne and Arapaho, and this book explores contemporary Native American life: “Not since Sherman Alexie’s The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven and Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine has such a powerful and urgent Native American voice exploded onto the landscape of contemporary fiction.”
The Secret Token: Myth, Obsession, and the Search for the Lost Colony of Roanoke, by Andrew Lawler, (Doubleday, $29.95, 2018) & The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home, by Denise Kiernan. Histories on the opposite ends of North Carolina, and both fascinating and nationally regarded works.
Florida, by Lauren Groff (Riverhead, $27, 2018). Another contender for all the year-end literary awards. “As fine and beautifully crafted as any fiction she has written, [Groff] is one of the best writers in the United States, and her prize-winning stories reverberate long after they are read.” — LA Review of Books
Sing, Unburied, Sing, by Jessmyn Ward (Scribner, $26, 2017). “Ghosts, literal and literary, haunt nearly every page of Sing, Unburied, Sing — a novel whose boundaries between the living and the dead shift constantly, like smoke or sand. Set on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi (a place rich in oil rigs and atmosphere, if almost nothing else), the book’s Southern gothic aura recalls the dense, head-spinning prose of William Faulkner or Flannery O’Connor.
American Wolf, by Nate Blakeslee (Crown, $28, 2017) “[ American Wolf] is a startlingly intimate portrait of the intricate, loving, human-like interrelationships that govern wolves in the wild, as observed in real time by a cadre of dedicated wolf-watchers — in the end, a drama of lupine love, care, and grief.” — Erik Larson, author of The Devil in the White City and Dead Wake
“Gripping and fascinating! Wolf versus wolf, wolf versus man, man versus man.” — Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale and Hag-Seed
Hard to argue with those two writers!
Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo,” by Zora Neale Hurston (HarperCollins, $24.99, 2018). Barracoon employs Hurston’s skills as both an anthropologist and a writer, and brings to life Cudjo’s singular voice, in his vernacular, in a poignant, powerful tribute to the disremembered and the unaccounted.
And, Finally, let’s mention Scuppernong’s own Steve Mitchell and his novel Cloud Diary (C&R Press, $18, 2018). It is a tender account of young love that predictably falls apart, but somehow sustains a remarkable care that manifests many years later as one of them is dying of cancer. Subtle, moving and writerly. Steve would also be happy to attend your book club. OH
Brian Lampkin is one of the proprietors of Scuppernong Books.