Time to vote on which book you want the club to read in May!
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.
You can vote from now until Sat., March. 23 11PM ET. (That's NYC time. See this converted to your local time below.)
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.”
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!
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.)
Once the survey is complete, we'll publish the anonymous results as well as the individual books & their associated 6 descriptors.
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!
You can vote from now until Tues., Jan. 22 11PM ET. (That's NYC time. See this converted to your local time below.)
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.
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.
You can vote from now until Sun., Dec. 23 11PM ET. (That's NYC time. See this converted to your local time below.)
Time to choose which book we should read in November!
Time to choose which book we should read in October!
Should we read literature, surrealism, a memoir, a detective novel, or a volume of poetry from Ghana?
Time to vote on which book the club should read next!
July is the perfect time for a great read from Mexico. Time to vote!
Time to vote on which book we should read next. Which Sudanese book calls to you most?
Time to vote on which book you want to read next!
Interesting selection of Saudi books this month. Time to vote on which one you want to read in April.
Which book should we read from Colombia? This month you can choose from 2 works of literature, a satire, 2 memoirs & magical realism.
Together, January's Palestinian book & February's Israeli book are an interesting duo. While you're reading the Palestinian book of short stories, which Israeli book should we read next month?
Together, January's Palestinian book & February's Israeli book are going to be quite the juxtaposition. But you have the power to decide...which Palestinian book should we read next month?
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.)
Though a small country, Croatia has quite a tumultuous history which continues into today. In order to comprehend the mindset of modern Croat authors, it's important to understand 6 key historical facts. As the BBC notes:*
- The lands that comprise Croatia were a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until WWI's end.
- In the early 1900s, the Croats, Serbs & Slovenes formed Yugoslavia.
- Then, the Nazis invaded & a Greater Croatia was formed including most of Bosnia & western Serbia. The regime killed hundreds of thousands of Serbs & Jews trying to create a Catholic, all-Croat republic.
- After a bitter resistance campaign by Communist partisans soon after WWII, Croatia became 1 of the 6 republics of the Yugoslav socialist federation.
- In the 1970s, protesters unsuccessfully tried to assert Croat autonomy.
- In 1991, Croatia declared its independence from Yugoslavia. However, it took 4 years of bitter, fighting in the Balkans before Serb armies were mostly cleared from Croatian lands, along with a majority of Croatia's ethnic Serb population. Under UN supervision, the last Serb-held enclave was returned to Croatia in 1998.
More recently, as detailed by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia,** the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague began trying over 160 people for mass atrocities, genocide & crimes against humanity which took place in Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina committed during the 1990s war in the Balkans. While the most significant number of cases have dealt with crimes committed by Serbs & Bosnian Serbs, the Tribunal has investigated & brought charges against a variety of people including some Croats. As the last major trial is set deliver a verdict next month, these war crimes are still at the forefront of Croat minds.
Now, Onto the Voting
This month, you'll choose among works of history, noir crime fiction, war, literature, essays & a new genre for our book club, psychological horror. Special thanks to Neha Mehta for her suggestion of essays included in this list!
Since this post was delayed due to a family emergency & then technical difficulties, voting will be extended until Sun., Oct. 22 11PM ET in order to provide book club members the full 5 days for voting. (That's NYC time. See this converted to your local time below.)
As a scuba diver who longs to dive the Red Sea, I'm familiar with the political situation in Egypt, but the wannabe Egyptologist in me somehow assumed we'd read novels of Ancient Egypt filled with Pharaohs, pyramids & mummies. I was surprised to find that those stories were mainly written by authors from the US & the UK. And that is what's magical about reading books written by native authors—your perceptions change about the country.
This month, you'll choose among works of literature, a quirky mystery, science fiction & what appears to be an autobiography written as fiction. Special thanks to Aisha Esbhani & Julie Jacobs for their suggestions included in this list!
You can vote until Wed., Sept. 20 11PM ET. (That's NYC time. See this converted to your local time below.)
North Korea has always fascinated me because of it's isolation & the scary articles/photos I've seen about escapees. But inflammatory news articles can be very different from books.
We were only able to find memoirs from North Korea which exactly match our requirements for the types of books we read. However, we made an exception & included a single work of fiction in the list of books. The reasoning as to why is noted in this particular book's description.
A special thank you to book club members, Elke Richelsen & Aisha Esbhani for making North Korean suggestions as well as Yeonsang Cho (who lives in South Korea) for her impassioned plea to include a specific book. I'd also like to give a shout out to gold star member, Ivor Watkins who was kind enough to test a large number of back-end changes on our web site.
You can vote until Thurs., July 20. To participate:
1. Review the books.
We'll publish the anonymous results afterwards so you can get the book in advance.