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Today Show Book Club

todaysbookclub2A semi-regular national book club was started in 2002 by the NBC morning talk and information series The Today Show. Entries in this book club have primarily been fiction, but have also included poetry and non-fiction titles. Although the Today Show continues to feature books and authors as guests, they appear to have discontinued their “book club” as a regular feature.

2005 Selections

Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden

It is 1919, and Niska, an Oji Cree medicine woman who is the last of her band to live alone in the wild, has received word that one of the two teenage boys she saw off to war has returned. She leaves her home in the bush of northern Ontario to retrieve him, only to discover that the one she expected is actually the other. Xavier Bird, her sole relation, gravely wounded and addicted to the army’s morphine, hovers somewhere between the living world and that of the dead. As Niska paddles him the three days home, she realizes that all she can offer in her attempt to keep him alive is her words, the stories of her life. In turn, he relates the horrifying years of war in Europe: how he and his best friend, Elijah Whiskeyjack, prowled the battlefields of France and Belgium as snipers of enormous skill. As their reputations grew, the two young men, with their hand-sewn moccasins and extraordinary marksmanship, became both the pride and fear of their regiment as they stalked the ripe killing fields of Ypres and the Somme. But what happened to Elijah? As Niska paddles deeper into the wilderness, both she and Xavier confront together the devastation that such great conflict leaves in its wake.

More Book Lust by Nancy Pearl (011 Pea)

This sprightly follow-up to Book Lust includes a quirky array of recommended titles in nearly 150 eclectic categories including: highly unusual storylines, humans falling in love with animals, memoirs about complex lives, and true tales from the front lines of parenting.

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

Leo Gursky is trying to survive a little bit longer, tapping his radiator each evening to let his upstairs neighbor know he’s still alive, drawing attention to himself at the milk counter of Starbucks. But life wasn’t always like this: sixty years ago, in the Polish village where he was born, Leo fell in love and wrote a book. And although he doesn’t know it, that book also survived: it crossed oceans and generations, and changed lives. Fourteen-year-old Alma was named after a character in that book. She has her hands full keeping track of her little brother Bird (who thinks he might be the Messiah) and taking copious notes in her book, How to Survive in the Wild Volume Three. But when a mysterious letter arrives in the mail she undertakes an adventure to find her namesake and save her family.

2004 Selections

GraceLand by Christopher Abani

This novel is set in Maroko, a sprawling, swampy, crazy and colorful ghetto of Lagos, Nigeria, and unfolds against a backdrop of lush reggae and highlife music, American movies and a harsh urban existence. Elvis Oke, a teenage Elvis impersonator spurred on by the triumphs of heroes in the American movies and books he devours, pursues his chosen vocation with ardent single-mindedness. He suffers through hours of practice set to the tinny tunes emanating from the radio in the filthy shack he shares with his alcoholic father, his stepmother and his step-siblings. He applies thick makeup that turns his black skin white, to make his performances more convincing for American tourists and hopefully net him dollars. But still he finds himself constantly broke. Beset by hopelessness and daunted by the squalor and violence of his daily life, he must finally abandon his dream. With job prospects few and far between. Elvis is tempted to a life of crime by the easy money his friend Redemption tells him is to be had in Lago’s underworld. But the King of the Beggars, Elvis’s enigmatic yet faithful adviser, intercedes. And so, torn by the frustration of unrealizable dreams and accompanied by an eclectic chorus of voices, Elvis must find a way to a Graceland of his own making. Graceland is the story of a son and his father, and an examination of postcolonial Nigeria, where the trappings of American culture reign supreme.

Be More Chill by Ned Vezzini

A pill-sized supercomputer called a “squip,” when swallowed, is guaranteed to fulfill every desire. The squip transforms high-schooler Jeremy Heere from Supergeek into one of the most popular guys in class. But Jeremy soon learns of the dark side of having a computer in his brain.

A Window Across the River by Brian Morton

In A Window Across the River, author Brian Morton raises a question most writers ask themselves at some point: is it OK to follow your muse when the artistic result may hurt your loved ones?

Heir to the Glimmering World by Cynthia Ozick

Cynthia Ozick takes us to the outskirts of the Bronx in the 1930s, as New York fills with Europe’s ousted dreamers, turned overnight into refugees.

Fluke by Christopher Moore

Marine behavioral biologist Nate Quinn is in love – with the salt air and sun-drenched waters off Maui and especially with the majestic ocean-dwelling behemoths that have been bleeping and hooting their haunting music for more than twenty million years. But just why do the humpback whales sing? That’s the question that has Nate and his crew poking, charting, recording, and photographing any large marine mammal that crosses their path. Until the extraordinary day when a whale lifts its tail into the air to display a cryptic message spelled out in foot-high letters: Bite me.

Bury the Lead by David Rosenfelt

Northern New Jersey has a new local hero on its cultural crime turf. He’s Andy Carpenter, the Paterson defense attorney who can sling a quip as fast as he can outmaneuver a snarling prosecutor.” “His streak of murder case acquittals made him a regular on cable talk shows. His recent $22 million inheritance bought him a dog rescue operation named the Tara Foundation after his own beloved golden retriever. Yet after turning down cases left and right, Andy Carpenter thinks he’s facing a midlife crisis. He knows he needs to get back to some real work as fast as a felonious world will allow.” “When a friend, a newspaper owner, calls in a favor and asks him to protect his star reporter, Andy is less than thrilled. His new client is Daniel Cummings, a journalist who is being used as a mouthpiece by a brutal serial killer. Things only get worse when Daniel is discovered near the body of the murderer’s latest victim. And after Andy himself starts collecting anonymous death threats, he hears the news every defense lawyer dreads…and moves to within a dangerous keystroke of becoming tomorrow’s obituary.

The Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat

From the universally acclaimed author of Breath, Eyes, Memory and Krik? Krak! a brilliant, deeply moving work of fiction that explores the world of a “dew breaker” – a torturer – a man whose brutal crimes in the country of his birth lie hidden beneath his new American reality.

The Confessions of Max Tivoli by Andrew Sean Greer

“We are each the love of someone’s life.” So begins The Confessions of Max Tivoli, a heartbreaking love story with a narrator like no other. Set against the historical backdrop of San Francisco at the turn of the twentieth century, Max’s life and confessions question the very nature of time, of appearance and reality, and of love itself.

The Photograph by Penelope Lively

Lively is a grande dame of British letters whose novels have attracted readers of Ian McEwan and Iris Murdoch–as well as those enthralled by her insight into relationships and family. The Photograph brings her talents into a whole new page-turning realm, and is Lively at her very best, the dazzling and intriguing climax to all she has written before.

The Sleeping Father by Matthew Sharpe

The Sleeping Father is about the loss of innocence, the disorienting innocence of second childhood, the biochemical mechanics of sanity and love, the nature of language and meaning, and the spirituality of selfhood. But most of all it is about the Schwartzes, a singular yet typical American family, making their way the best way they know how in a small town called Bellwether, Connecticut.

The Breathtaker by Alice Blanchard

When Police Chief Charlie Grover finds three mutilated corpses in a tornado-ravaged farmhouse, his first thought is that the victims were impaled by flying debris. But his instincts tell him something different. Through solid police work, Charlie proves that they were brutally murdered and discovers that their executioner has left a particularly hideous calling card. Yet how could the killer predict exactly when and where a tornado would strike and use it to cover his tracks? Could this psychopath be one of the storm chasers who streak across the plains in pursuit of the ultimate thrill ride?

2003 Selections

The Way the Crow Flies by Ann Marie MacDonald

For Madeleine McCarthy, high-spirited and eight years old, her family’s posting to a quiet air force base near the Canadian-American border is at first welcome, secure as she is in the love of her family and unaware that her father, Jack, is caught up in his own web of secrets. The early sixties, a time of optimism infused with the excitement of the space race and overshadowed by the menace of the Cold war, is filtered through the rich imagination of a child as Madeleine draws us into her world.

The Known World by Edward P. Jones

Henry Townsend, a black farmer, boot-maker, and former slave, has a fondness for Paradise Lost and an unusual mentor – William Robbins, perhaps the most powerful man in antebellum Virginia’s Manchester County. Under Robbins’s tutelage, Henry becomes proprietor of his own plantation – as well as of his own slaves. When he dies, his widow, Caldonia, succumbs to profound grief, and things begin to fall apart at their plantation: slaves take to escaping under the cover of night, and families who had once found love beneath the weight of slavery begin to betray one another. Beyond the Townsend estate, the known world also unravels: low-paid white patrollers stand watch as slave “speculators” sell free black people into slavery, and rumors of slave rebellions set white families against slaves who have served them for years.

The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard

The year is 1947. The great fire of the Second World War has convulsed Europe and Asia. In its wake, Aldred Leith, an acclaimed hero of the conflict, has spent two years in China at work on an account of world-transforming change there. Son of a famed and sexually ruthless novelist, Leith begins to resist his own self-sufficiency, nurtured by war. Peter Exley, another veteran and an art historian by training, is prosecuting war crimes committed by the Japanese. Both men have narrowly escaped death in battle, and Leith saved Exley’s life. The men have maintained long-distance friendship in a postwar loneliness that haunts them both, and which has swallowed Exley whole. Now in their thirties, with their youth behind them and their world in ruins, both must invent the future and retrieve a private humanity.

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

The love story of Henry and Claire whose lives are punctuated by Henry’s disappearance to different points in time–sometimes even back to visit Claire as a young woman. When Henry meets Claire, he is twenty-eight, and she is twenty. He’s a hip, handsome librarian; she is an art student with Botticelli hair. Henry has never met Claire before; Claire has known Henry since she was six…

Shadow Baby by Alison McGhee

Eleven-year-old Clara is struggling to find the truth about her missing father and grandfather and her dead twin sister. When she begins interviewing her elderly neighbor, Mr. Kominsky, she invents versions of his past and makes up lives for the people missing from her own shadowy history.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Despite his overwhelming fear of interacting with people, Christopher, a mathematically-gifted, autistic fifteen-year-old boy, decides to investigate the murder of a neighbor’s dog and uncovers secret information about his mother.

The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst

Paul Iverson’s life changes in an instant. He returns home one day to find that his wife, Lexy, has died under strange circumstances. The only witness was their dog, Lorelei, whose anguished barking brought help to the scene — but too late. Written with a quiet elegance and a profound knowledge of love’s hidden places, The Dogs of Babel is a novel of astonishing and lasting power — a story of marriage, survival, and devotion that lies too deep for words.

Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by ZZ Packer

With penetrating insight that belies her youth — she was only nineteen years old when Seventeen magazine printed her first published story — ZZ Packer helps us see the world with a clearer vision. Drinking Coffee Elsewhere is a striking performance — fresh, versatile, and captivating. It introduces us to an arresting and unforgettable new voice.

Nine Horses: Poems by Billy Collins

This is poet Billy Collins first collection of new poems in four years, and it follows on the heels of the runaway success of Sailing Alone Around the Room.

Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros

The celebrated author of The House on Mango Street delivers an extraordinary bestseller, told in language of blazing originality: a multi-generational story of a Mexican-American family whose voices create a dazzling weave of humor, passion, and poignancy–the very stuff of life.

No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

Combining a wonderfully satisfying reimagination of the mystery with a classic novel of Africa in the tradition of Isak Dinesen, No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency tells the story of Precious Ramotswe, a delightfully cunning and a profoundly moral woman who is drawn to her profession to “help people with problems in their lives.” Immediately upon setting up shop in a small storefront in Gaborone, she is hired to track down a missing husband, uncover a con man, and follow a wayward daughter. But the case that tugs at her heart is a missing eleven-year-old boy, who may have been snatched by evil witchdoctors.

Crow Lake by Mary Lawson

For the farming Pye family of northern Ontario, life is a Greek tragedy where the sins of the fathers are visited on the sons, and terrible events occur offstage. In this universal drama of family love and misunderstandings, Lawson ratchets up the tension with heartbreaking humor and consummate control.

2002 Selections

Paradise Alley by Kevin Baker

Three Irish immigrant women become trapped together in New York City during the Draft Riots of the Civil War. Paradise Alley is a story of the intersection of the Irish- and African-American experiences in the crucible of 19th century New York–a story of race and hatred, love and war, of risk and dauntless courage.

The Clothes They Stood Up In and The Lady in the Van by Alan Bennett

From Alan Bennett, the author of The Madness of King George, come two stories about the strange nature of possessions…or the lack of them. In the nationally bestselling novel The Clothes They Stood Up In, the staid Ransomes return from the opera to find their Regent’s Park flat stripped bare–right down to the toilet-paper roll. Free of all their earthly belongings, the couple faces a perplexing question: Who are they without the things they’ve spent a lifetime accumulating? Suddenly a world of unlimited, frightening possibility opens up before them. In The Lady in the Van, which The Village Voice called “one of the finest bursts of comic writing the twentieth century has produced,” Bennett recounts the strange life of Miss Shepherd, a London eccentric who parked her van (overstuffed with decades’ worth of old clothes, oozing batteries, and kitchen utensils still in their original packaging) in the author’s driveway for more than fifteen years. A mesmerizing portrait of an outsider with an acquisitive taste and an indomitable spirit, this biographical essay is drawn with equal parts fascination and compassion.

Raising Fences by Michael Datcher

Through his own riveting story, Datcher offers a view of young black men who long for loving, stable marriages, fatherhood, and homes in safe neighborhoods. He also writes of his desires and those of other black men to escape a cycle that deprives children of what they need most and creates empty shells of grown men.

A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel

When Haven Kimmel was born in 1965, Mooreland, Indiana, was a sleepy little hamlet. Nicknamed “Zippy”, she possessed big eyes and even bigger ears. In this loving memoir, Kimmel takes readers back in time to when small-town America was still in the innocent postwar period and treats readers to an appealing, and knowing, heroine.

You Are Not a Stranger Here by Adam Haslett

Carrying the reader into the lives of people confronting the concerns of both classic literature and contemporary life, the nine stories of this collection are written with an arresting combination of finely wrought prose and strong feeling.

The Emperor of Ocean Park by Stephen L. Carter

Set in the privileged world of New York-Washington-Martha’s Vineyard upper-crust African-American society and the inner circle of an Ivy League law school, Carter tells the story of a complex family with a single seductive and dangerous link to the shadow lands of crime.

last updated April 2020 sdc