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Archive for the ‘Book Club’ Category

The Book Thief

Title: The Book Thief

Author: Markus Zusak

Published: 2005

Genre: Historical Fiction, Young Adult

Rating: 5 of 5 (re-read)

The Book Thief is, hands down, one of my favorite reads.  Ever.  I have been a Book Thief evangelist for the past year, trying to tell everyone I know that they must drop everything and go read it immediately.  Either my book club took pity on me or my sales tactics are improving, because they chose it as our July book.

I imagine most people have already at least seen this book around – for goodness sake, there was a full-page New York Times ad for it several months ago.  I won’t give a full synopsis here, but suffice it to say:

It’s just a small story really, about among other things:

A girl

Some words

An accordionist

Some fanatical Germans

A Jewish fist fighter

And quite a lot of thievery.

All the women in the book group really enjoyed this book.  Each person admitted to crying (many to sobbing), and all had much to say about the book and its characters, themes, messages, and narrator (Death was very popular amongst us).  It was an excellent discussion – if you are looking for your next book club pick, we highly recommend this one!

To avoid spoilers, I’m not going to give too many specifics about what we discussed.  I will note that we launched into a very interesting side conversation about how culpable the German citizens were for the horror done in their own backyard.  Things got slightly heated over this issue, with some people wondering if living in post-World War I Germany was like being an unsuspecting lobster in slowly heating water.  Others argued that enough people knew what was happening early enough to put a stop to things.  Obviously, this is a question that will never be satisfactorily answered.  Along those lines, though, when asked if Hans Hubermann and the other characters were culpable, people were a lot less willing to answer affirmatively.

Perhaps Markus Zusak was so successful with this book because he was able to place the recognizable face of humanity into a truly heinous period in our history.

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Don’t take my word for it.  Check out what others are saying about The Book Thief:

5 Minutes for Books – The Book Thief

At Home with Books – The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – Review

The Book Lady’s Blog – The Book Lady and The Book Thief

Devourer of Books – The Book Thief – Book Review

Fizzy Thoughts – Days of Remembrance and The Book Thief

The New York Times – Stealing to Settle a Score with Life

Out of the Blue – Book Review: The Book Thief

Rhapsody in Books – Sunday Salon – Review of “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak

USA Today – ‘The Book Thief’ rises above horrors of war

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The Alchemist

Title: The Alchemist

Author: Paulo Coelho

Published: 1988

Genre: Fiction, Fable

Rating: 2 of 5

Finally, after years of listening jealously to my mother-in-law’s book club experiences, I pulled a group of girlfriends together for our own modest little book club.  Our inaugural meeting was in June and the first book for discussion was The Alchemist.  None of us knew much about it, but had seen it everywhere and figured it would be a good place to start.

The Alchemist is a fable about a young shepherd boy who goes on a journey across Northern Africa in search of his Personal Legend.  During his journey, he encounters a variety of characters, including an alchemist, who impart various words of wisdom about seeking a Personal Legend.

Well, we were wrong.  This was not a good place to start for our book club.  All of the women in our group disliked the book, some quite strongly.  Maybe we were expecting something different or more enlightening, but the universal consensus was that the book was repetitive and rather boring.  Several women commented that the book felt condescending – rather than allowing the reader to ponder through some of the ‘wisdom’ in the book, everything was presented in such a simple and basic manner that the reader feels denied her own opportunity to journey with the book.

The overall message – seek out your Personal Legend and let nothing get in your way – was a nice one, but we had a good discussion around whether the message was also a selfish one.  There were multiple points in the book where the shepherd boy was encouraged to think about Number One and not others who would be affected by his actions.  It was also inevitable that a room full of female attorneys would be concerned about the depiction of women in the book as meek and perpetually waiting for their men.

Despite our disappointment in the book, we did manage to pull some good discussion out of it.  And we learned our lesson – do a bit more research into a book before selecting it!  But hey, all new book clubs have their growing pains, right?

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Don’t take my word for it.  Check out what others are saying about The Alchemist:

Adventures in Reading – Revisited: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Books Love Me – The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Maw Books Blog – The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and a Confession

Old Musty Books – Paulo Coelho: The Alchemist

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