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Which Angolan Book Should We Read?

While few books & poems from Angola are published online as well as translated into English, the Angolan authors that can be found are hypnotic as you can see from this description of a thunderstorm breaking over a musseque (i.e., a sprawling slum or shantytown):

“When the first big thunderclap burst above the musseque, shivering the weak walls of mud and wattle and loosening boards, cardboard, and straw mats, everyone closed their eyes, frightened by the blue brilliance of the lightning born in the sky, a great spider web of fire.“ - From Luuanda by José Luandino Vieira

You’ll notice this month that we only have included 5 books on which to vote instead of our customary 6 & that all the books are written by just 2 authors. This is because after days of intense searching, we only found 2 authors with those 5 books which meet our club requirements (i.e., native Angolan authors, books about Angola, & available as both ebooks/paperbacks). Well, to be fair, we actually found a 6th book which is likely written by an Angolan since the author is a general in the Angolan army. However, reviews have noted that instead of it being an Angolan historical book, it’s actually Angolan army propaganda which is not something we feel comfortable suggesting to the book club. But we’re happy to have the 5 books we have included especially since they all have great reviews. Special thanks to Leslie Tchaikovsky & Carol Weldon for suggesting 2 of the books included in the final list. Before we get to the vote, first…

A Musical Interlude

While researching Angola, I was astonished to find some fantastic, upbeat music from Angola during a particularly bloody time in the country’s war for independence. This collection of Angolan music included here from Luanda (the capital of the country) is so engagingly funky that I’ve been listening (& shimmying) to it every day while I cook. I highly recommend it! And since it’s available to stream online for free if you’re an Amazon Prime member, why not try it? Tracks #13 Fuma (Smokes), #14 Passeio por Luanda (Stroll through Luanda), & #17 Pica O Dedo (Scratch Your Finger) are my favorites.

THE VOTING

You can vote from now until Sat., March. 23 11PM ET. (That's NYC time. See this converted to your local time below.)

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To participate:

1. Review the books.

2. Then, click here to vote.

We'll publish the anonymous results afterwards so you can get the book in advance.

Time to Vote for Your Blind Date with a Book!

As we noted in an earlier post, this month we are doing an online version of blind date with a book where you literally won’t be able to judge any of the books by their covers.

First, we compiled a list of 6 books using suggestions from club members, Mia, & me. Then, we spent countless hours choosing the best 6 words & short phrases to describe each book. It sounds deceptively easy, but it was one of the most difficult things we’ve ever had to do for the book club! It stretched our capabilities to select descriptors that evoke a book without choosing items that in combination would allow the book to be easily found via a Google search. This was even more complex for the books we hadn’t read where we had to sift through hundreds & hundreds of reviews to ensure we chose equivalent terms on which the majority of reviewers agreed. But we’re happy with the results & think you will be as well.

Our greatest hope is that you’ll end up discovering a book you adore that you might not have otherwise given a chance under normal circumstances.

A Short Interlude to showcase a 4.5 star RUssian-american book

I was thrilled to find a really interesting book written by an author born in Russia, but then saddened to realize it wouldn’t work for our book club. (The author moved to the US at age 10 & therefore, hadn’t spent a good portion of her life in Russia.) However, I figured I could still showcase it here to share it with others who might be just as excited about it as I am. After all, this read is rated 4.5 stars by 459 Amazon reviewers!

A James Beard Award-winning writer captures life under the Red socialist banner in this wildly inventive, tragicomic memoir of feasts, famines, and three generations  

Born in 1963, in an era of bread shortages, Anya grew up in a communal Moscow apartment where 18 families shared one kitchen. She sang odes to Lenin, black-marketeered Juicy Fruit gum at school, watched her father brew moonshine, and, like most Soviet citizens, longed for a taste of the mythical West. It was a life by turns absurd, naively joyous, and melancholy—and ultimately intolerable to her anti-Soviet mother, Larisa. When Anya was 10, she and Larisa fled the political repression of Brezhnev-era Russia, arriving in Philadelphia with no winter coats and no right of return. 

Now, Anya occupies two parallel food universes: one where she writes about four-star restaurants, the other where a taste of humble kolbasa transports her back to her scarlet-blazed socialist past. To bring that past to life, Anya and her mother decide to eat and cook their way through every decade of the Soviet experience. Through these meals, and through the tales of three generations of her family, Anya tells the intimate yet epic story of life in the USSR.

Wildly inventive and slyly witty, this is that rare book that stirs our souls and our senses.”

View on Amazon (US) | (UK)

I’d love to know if this memoir piqued your interest as much as mine. But now onto the voting for our blind date with a book!

THE VOTING

You can vote from now until XXXXXX. EDIT: By member request & due to the recent influx of new members, we’re extending the timeline to vote to Fri., Mar 1 8PM ET (That's NYC time. See this converted to your local time below.)

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Once the survey is complete, we'll publish the anonymous results as well as the individual books & their associated 6 descriptors.

What Book Shall We Read from Turkey?

We’re happy to say that we received 7 suggestions from book club members this month 2 of which were randomly chosen to be included in the final list we’ll be voting on this month. Special thanks to all those who provided suggestions!

But before we get to the vote, let’s talk about Turkish food. I always love exploring a city through its cuisine & was thrilled to find a couple of enticing cookbooks this month one of which inspired me so much that I’ve already made some of its recipes.

“Take your pick of lively Turkish breakfasts; linger over delectable little plates of meze; try your hand at making breads and kebabs sold from the city's food carts, and master the art of making sweets such as baklava, helva and, of course, the unctuous Turkish delight.” The included meze is what really made me drool & the recipes I made were the Bulgurlu Köfte (a delicious veg version of a köfte—or ball—seasoned with spring onions & herbs) as well as Acılı Ezme (a spicy condiment flavored with pomegranate molasses & sumac) mopped up with toasted bread.

If you’re looking to explore Istanbul through its food, I highly recommend this cookbook!

THE VOTING

You can vote from now until Tues., Jan. 22 11PM ET. (That's NYC time. See this converted to your local time below.)

Time converter at worldtimebuddy.com

To participate:

1. Review the books.

2. Then, click here to vote.

We'll publish the anonymous results afterwards so you can get the book in advance.

Time to Vote...& Use Something New

If you’ve been keeping up with book club news, you’ll know Ivor joined us as a moderator & that he gets to include 2 suggestions during the months he picks the country. Since he chose Germany, you’ll be seeing 2 book suggestions from him this month. Usually, you’d also see 1 suggestion from me, 1 from Mia, & 2 from book club members. However, Mia decided to offer up a special holiday present & is gifting her only suggestion to book club members this month! Since 3 qualified suggestions were sent from members, that means all 3 are now included in the final list. But these aren’t the only changes this month.

SO WHat Else is New?

Last month, we announced that we were going to test out a new method for choosing the monthly book. This method called a Likert Scale allows for individual degrees of opinion for each book which is very different from our previous ranking method. We thought it could produce an even better result while also helping us capture whether someone has already read a book, & whether they recommend it or not after reading.

[The Likert Scale] made me think more. It wasn’t any harder to understand or rate than the older method. I think this new method is better because it made me really look at the book’s description.

Testing went well.

We asked the people who had voted on the Jamaica books to vote again using the new Likert Scale methodology. This allowed us to compare the results using real data from the same people about the same books. We also asked that they provide comments about the new survey.

We’re thrilled to say that the testing clearly showed that the Likert Scale was a better method to use. Book club members also agreed with an astounding 83% of comments supporting the use of the LIkert Scale instead of the old method!

So this month, we’re officially launching this new methodology & we hope you like it as much as the testers (& we) do.

THE VOTING

You can vote from now until Sun., Dec. 23 11PM ET. (That's NYC time. See this converted to your local time below.)

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To participate:

1. Review the books.

2. Then, click here to vote.

We'll publish the anonymous results afterwards so you can get the book in advance.

Which book should we read in December?

Many of you were excited to see that we choose India as our country to read in December. We are excited too!

We were also pleased to receive 6 book suggestions from you noting books which piqued your interest or ones you've loved. Because of the large number of suggestions sent in, we randomly selected which 2 to include in the final list of 6. (See the screencast with audio which shows the automated selection here.) Thanks to all who suggested books, & special thanks to Ester Elbert & Jo Jackson whose suggestions were included in the final list of books! Note: Another book suggestion from Julie Jacobs is in the final line up as well because it topped my long list of India books & is now 1 of my 2 book suggestions included. 

This month, you'll be choosing from the following genres: history, satirical fiction, literature, biography, autobiography & a fantasy myth/legend novel which also happens to be an LGBTQIA selection. This latter point becomes even more amazing when you realize that Indian law makes being gay punishable by up to 10 years in prison. 

You can vote until Mon., Nov. 20 11PM ET. (That's NYC time. See this converted to your local time below.)

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 To participate:

1. Review the books.

2. Then, click here to vote.

We'll publish the anonymous results afterwards so you can get the book in advance.