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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Well, if you're dusting off some of your well-worn New Year's resolutions, one of them might be to get a little bit more reading done this year. And if you're feeling ambitious, perhaps you're eyeing a book club, there are, of course, as many kinds of book clubs as there are books. And choosing books that will please enough people to have a rousing debate is a tricky business.

So, as you begin to cull the lists for your own book club, we've invited NPR's Lynn Neary to help out. She covers all things books for NPR. Welcome, Lynn.

LYNN NEARY, BYLINE: Good to be here.

CORNISH: So, first let's set the ground rules. What makes a good book club book?

NEARY: I don't think there's any one rule for that, and I think it depends completely on the group of people who get together and decide to call themselves a book club, because it will be their tastes coming together. For instance, I love fiction, so I'm in a book club that mostly reads fiction - literary fiction as opposed to genre fiction. I guess the one rule might be you want a book that will provoke some discussion.

Usually when everybody totally agrees on the book, sometimes those may be are the least interesting sessions that you have, even though the book is great. Doesn't mean the book is not great. Just means perhaps they're not great books for provoking discussion.

CORNISH: Now, let's get down to business for 2012. What are some of your suggestions for books that'll be good for debate or will be good for wine drinking...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CORNISH: ...or whatever you do in your book club?

NEARY: Well, of course, Ann Patchett's newest book, her latest novel "State of Wonder," it's almost a perfect book club book because it's beautifully written. It takes the reader on a journey into the Amazon. But at the same time, it raises some really interesting ethical issues about how far does one go with the medical research. Because at the heart of this book, and at the heart of the mystery of this book, is a medical research project that's going on in the Amazon.

And it only given away, but the two central figures are very interesting women. And I'll just leave it at that.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CORNISH: You don't want to say more. But yet women, a drug company, the Amazon, you have me...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CORNISH: ...basically with that. Another book that you've got is a work of historical fiction. And this one is by Geraldine Brooks. It's called "Caleb's Crossing."

NEARY: This is a book that's about the early years of Harvard. And I thought, do I really care about the early years of Harvard.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CORNISH: It's about the first Native American scholar at Harvard. Correct?

NEARY: Right, that's what it's about and how that person got there. And also, Geraldine Brooks is Australian. She, as a young girl in Australia, had a pen-pal in Martha's Vineyard. So she has this really strong connection to Martha's Vineyard, and I think it really comes out in the writing of this book; how much he loves the island and is fascinated by the history. And there's this great relationship between this young Colonial girl - this wild Colonial girl and this young Native American who she calls Caleb.

They had this great friendship and they grow up together. And eventually they both end up in Cambridge doing very different things. She is an indentured servant and he is a student at Harvard. And it's very sad.

CORNISH: Lastly, you have a book about a young sniper in World War I called "The Sojourn." Tell me about it.

NEARY: Yeah. This is this young sniper goes through terrible experiences, starting with being pretty cold about point-blank killing people. And then eventually ends up in the infantry and really gets caught up in the muck of the war. This is, again, another great historical novel. It gives your a really great sense of what Europe and particularly the Balkans were like before World War I, and how everything changed after that. This young man's life changes completely. And it's really wonderfully written. It was nominated for a National Book Award.

CORNISH: Oh, OK. Well, you've given us a lot of good stuff to work with the start then.

NEARY: Well, happy reading.

CORNISH: Lynn Neary is NPR's book correspondent. Thanks so much Lynn.

NEARY: Oh, you're welcome.

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