Book Club Picks: Give 'Em Something To Talk About Making suggestions for your book club can be risky business. If everyone loves the book, you're a hero. If they hate it, it takes a while to live it down. NPR's Lynn Neary comes to the rescue with five book club recommendations that are sure to make for good conversation.

Book Club Picks: Give 'Em Something To Talk About

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Hi, Lynn.

LYNN NEARY: Hi. Good to be here.

LUDDEN: So you have a list. You whittled it down to five top picks. How did you do that?

NEARY: Just the idea of what that means for the slaves, because they're so close to freedom. So what...

LUDDEN: Up there in the North.

NEARY: Yes, and the problems that it causes because in fact, one of these young women, in fact, sees this as an opportunity for escape.

LUDDEN: Wow. So two historical novels. What else is on your list?

NEARY: So this one is Detective Frank Mackey, and he goes back to his old neighborhood to investigate a crime and gets embroiled in - with his family, who he thought he had left behind forever. And this is the story - as much about a dysfunctional family as it is about crime.


NEARY: Which, I think people always like to discuss dysfunctional families.


NEARY: So that's my crime novel choice.

LUDDEN: All right, and the others?

NEARY: And then I also think that like a lot of times - I don't know if you find this, Jennifer; I know you're in a book club - that sometimes you just want a pretty quick read.


NEARY: Right?

LUDDEN: So we hit that patch. Yes, absolutely.

NEARY: What Paul Auster does in "Sunset Park" that I think is interesting is, it's kind of a meditation on what home means and what it means to be homeless, what it means to come home after you've been in self-imposed exile. And he sets up, in a very - sort of gentle way, the backdrop of what's really going in this country around housing and the housing crisis.

LUDDEN: Is it set in contemporary times, then...

NEARY: Yes, it is.

LUDDEN: ...since 2008?

NEARY: It's set in contemporary times. It is not about the housing crisis - I don't want to lead people astray - but he sets that up as the backdrop for this story about what home means.

LUDDEN: So there are so many groups out there recommending book club books. I mean, it feels like, you know, publishers must - and bookstores must really be counting on this whole genre it's become.

NEARY: I think it has become something of an industry. And yes, publishers - when you get press releases from publishers on different books, they might even say, this is a great book club pick. And sometimes, I think they have almost stereotyped a certain kind of book that they think book clubs might like - very often. Because I think they think of book clubs as being mostly women, and I think that's a possibility that they are. "The Help" might be an example of that, which has been a perennial best-seller now for a couple of years. And I think, probably, a lot of book clubs are picking up on "The Help."

LUDDEN: A very fun read.

NEARY: As a matter of fact, Paul Harding, who wrote "Tinkers," which won the Pulitzer Prize last year, when I interviewed him, he told me that he got the buzz going on that book by going to book clubs and...

LUDDEN: Really?

NEARY: Yeah. Mm-hmm. And eventually, the buzz got loud enough that the Pulitzer Prize committee heard about it. So now, he's got a best-seller on his hands.


LUDDEN: So Lynn, has your book club made some picks for the coming year?

NEARY: Yes, and one of the books that we're going to read early in the year is a book that's gotten a whole lot of attention this past year, and that is "Freedom," by Jonathan Franzen. And I have to tell you, it was a controversial pick because some people just felt like they'd heard too much about it. Some people are not crazy about Jonathan Franzen. But I think in the end, the group decided we have heard so much about it, let's read it, and let's decide for ourselves what this - whether this is a good book or not.

LUDDEN: NPR's Lynn Leary.

NEARY: Good to be here.

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