Because my most recent novel is about a mother-daughter book club, my list below consists of Five Book Club picks – books that will spark discussion this summer at the pool or on the porch, when you’re armed with well buttered popcorn and a pitcher of lemonade. I lean toward classics as well as contemporary titles, and – for book club purposes – toward selections that are more controversial. The first two titles are books that my characters read in The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls. –Julie Schumacher
1) Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper”
This is a very quick read – more of a story than a novel. But it’s marvelously creepy. All those eerie, unsettling novels about a young girl who wonders if she’s losing her mind? They got their inspiration here. You’ll never look at wallpaper the same way again
2) Ursula LeGuin, “The Left Hand of Darkness”
LeGuin invents a planet whose inhabitants cycle back and forth from male to female, depending on personal chemistry and the time of the month and the person they’re with. One of the best thought-experiment novels ever written.
3) Pete Hautman, “Godless”
I love this book – it’s funny and provocative and sad, and it’s sure to spark great conversations about belief and religion. Bored and irritated with his parents’ Catholicism, Jason Bock invents “Chutengodianism,” a religion whose god is the local water tower. My fear of heights kicked in, big-time, when I read the climactic scenes.
4) Margaret Atwood, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
Before The Hunger Games and other dystopias became popular, Atwood created the Republic of Gilead, a nightmarish future vision of the US in which the birthrate has plummeted and fertile women – now scarce – become a commodity controlled entirely by men. Totally creepy and full of questions that will stick with you.
5) George Orwell, “Animal Farm”
Yup: all the characters are barnyard animals, and this is a ferocious novel about politics and the way people organize and treat each other. Four legs good; two legs bad. My sixth-grade teacher read this aloud to our class, and it’s stuck with me ever since. Such a short book, and there’s so much beauty and power in it….