BookLovers: See what books your SouthCoast friends and neighbors recommend

·6 min read

Friends, if you missed last Sunday’s column, we met the amazing SouthCoasters who took up my 2021 Century Club challenge.

I need to actually add one more: Kendra St. Aubin of Marion read 61 books. This brings our total to 89 members, with 7,383 books. (Forgive me, Kendra!)

I’ve heard from readers this week asking how to join for 2022. Simple. Keep a list of what you read. If you hit 25, send an email at the end of this year with:

Your full name, hometown, and total book number. Also key: In the subject line write: “CENTURY CLUB 2022.” Boom, done. You're in.

Lauren Daley shares the book recommendations that she receives in the mail.
Lauren Daley shares the book recommendations that she receives in the mail.

Now, I know from reading your emails that other members’ letters are your favorite parts of Century Club. So this week, as part of our occasional feature, “Daley’s Mailbag,” I’ll share a few reader recommendations.

Grab a pen and notebook, or your Kindle — you’ll want to read what the Century Club recommends….

“Thank you, Lauren, for making this happen. A surprising benefit of your reading club is that my husband and I participate together,” writes Club Member Katherine Gaudet. “Your impact on our lives has been tremendously positive and we are eternally grateful.”

Katherine, you brought tears to my eyes. It’s readers like you who make running this Club worthwhile.

Katherine and her husband Philip are both longtime members. Katherine’s favorite non-fiction of 2021: “Caste,” by Isabel Wilkerson, and “The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We can Prosper Together,” by Heather McGhee.

The New York Times No. 1 bestseller “Caste” was one of the most acclaimed books of 2020—an Oprah’s Book Club pick, longlisted for the National Book Award, named the Best Nonfiction of 2020 by TIME.
The New York Times No. 1 bestseller “Caste” was one of the most acclaimed books of 2020—an Oprah’s Book Club pick, longlisted for the National Book Award, named the Best Nonfiction of 2020 by TIME.

The New York Times No. 1 bestseller “Caste” was one of the most acclaimed books of 2020—an Oprah’s Book Club pick, longlisted for the National Book Award, named the Best Nonfiction of 2020 by TIME… I’ll stop there. It’s pure food for thought and a must-read.

Ditto on “The Sum of Us” — another NYT bestseller, longlisted for the National Book Award and hailed by TIME.

For fiction, Katherine's favorites included what turned out to be two overwhelming 2021 Club favorites “Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, and Amor Towles’ “The Lincoln Highway.”

I’ve written about “Highway” before, so I’ll say a word about “Hamnet: A Novel of the Plague,” a New York Times Notable Book of 2020 and National Book Critics Circle Award Winner. According to the publisher’s synopsis:

Set during the Black Plague, in the 1580s, Agnes and her husband have three children: a daughter, Susanna, and twins, Hamnet and Judith. Hamnet dies at age 11. A few years later, her husband writes a play called “Hamlet"...

“As always Lauren, you continue to be a bright spot in my world of books! Thanks for your joy, your enthusiasm, and your love of reading,” writes eight-time Century Club member Judy Gregory.

Thank you, Judy! You’re too kind. [Reaches for Kleenex]

Judy’s Top 5 books of 2021:

“The Girl with the Louding Voice,” by Abi Dare; “Perestrokia in Paris,” by Jane Smiley; “The Woman They Could Not Silence,” by Kate Moore; “Razorblade Tears," by S. A. Cosby, and “Dear Fahrenheit 451,” by Annie Spence, which Judy calls “a fun recap of books for all those who love to read.”

I’ll add here that the bestselling “Perestroika in Paris,” by Pulitzer Prize winning Smiley is a must-read for animal lovers or lovers of feel-good tales. According to the synopsis:

Perestroika is a spirited racehorse in France. One afternoon, her stall open, she wanders all the way to Paris. Soon she meets a German shorthaired pointer named Frida, who knows how to get by without attracting the attention of humans. Paras and Frida keep company with two irrepressible ducks and an opinionated raven. But then Paras meets a human boy, Etienne, and discovers a new, otherworldly part of Paris: the ivy-walled house where the boy and his great-grandmother live in seclusion…

Longtime Club member Robin King writes: “How is it possible that you and your column just keep getting better and better? Maybe someday you’ll share your secret. I loved the addition of the mid-year reading shares and book suggestions; very helpful and another way to keep us all connected.”

Robin, you’re too sweet. [My pile of Kleenex continues to grow here by the laptop.]

Robin loved "The Sentence," by Louise Erdrich, "Bewilderment," by Richard Powers, "The Wonder Test," by Michelle Richmond, "The Dutch House,’"by Ann Patchett, "We Begin at the End," by Chris Whitaker and "The Henna Artist," by Alka Joshua.

Love those picks, Robin.

And “Bewilderment” and “The Dutch House” were on many a Clubber's list, for anyone who hasn’t devoured those yet.

“It was your column that helped me start wanting to read more,” writes first-time Club member Linda Avylla. “It has always been a passion of mine, but now I enjoy participating [in the Club] and looking weekly for new book ideas.”

Linda, I cannot tell you how much that means to hear. The power of a list is real, and we welcome you to the club with open arms.

Linda called “Rabbit Proof Fence,” by Doris Pilkington, and “Beautiful Country,” by Qian Julie Wang “must-reads.”

Wang’s memoir, of arriving in the U.S. as a child immigrant, was a New York Times Notable Book Of 2021, and one of Barack Obama's Favorite Books Of 2021.

“Thank you for doing this club. I look forward to it every year,” writes Club member Tina Gaudette. “It's always fun seeing what others read, as I look forward to reading some of those books in 2022!”

Thank you for the kind words, Tina! And you’re hardly alone in wanting to see what others recommend.

Tina’s 2021 favorites included “The Tea Chest,” by local author Heidi Chiavaroli; “The Paris Library,” by Janet Skeslien Charles; “The Secret Life of Violet Grant,” by Beatriz Williams; “Sold on a Monday," by Kristina McMorris, and “Raft of Stars,” by Andrew J. Graff.

FYI: “The Paris Library” and “Sold on a Monday” were two popular reads. (And I liked them both, especially “Monday.”)

Club member Diane Sylvia writes, “Thank you for doing this and for inspiring us all to read more with your and your readers' great suggestions.”

Thank you for reading, Diane!

Diane's recommendations include “Band of Sisters,” by Lauren Willig, about a band of women who form the Smith College Relief Unit, to volunteer during WWI. Take note, historical fiction fans.

“Thanks for doing the Century Club and all the work it involves,” writes Club Member Janice Lowery-Spark.

Janice discovered Beatriz Williams’ “Her Last Flight” thanks to this Club.

“I had never read Beatriz Williams before I saw Bill Beardsley's notes in 2020 club articles. I made up for that this year,” Janice writes.

This. This is the power of community journalism at work.

We are a SouthCoast reading family here at BookLovers.

And I agree on Williams, Janice. I also was moved by Bill’s endorsement last year, and loved “Her Last Flight.” An absolute must-read.

Speaking of Bill...This year, he writes:

“As you know, I love Beatriz Williams, and I read five this year.… I still think ‘Her Last Flight’ is her best, but ‘A Certain Age’ came very close.”

Take note, readers! I also read that one, and would agree it’s very fun, but no “Flight.”

Bill also enjoyed "The Sea Gate,” by Jane Johnson, and “The Address,” by Fiona Davis.

Bill, I just read "The Address" and loved it.

And with that, I’m out of room. Until next time, BookLovers — start those ’22 lists. Peace, love, and books to you all.

Lauren Daley is a freelance writer. She tweets @laurendaley1. Read more at https://www.facebook.com/daley.writer.

This article originally appeared on Standard-Times: BookLovers: See what books your SouthCoast friends and neighbors recommend

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