Books on tap for the new year


Published: Sunday, January 2, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 1, 2005 at 11:03 p.m.

It's only proper to open up this column at the beginning of a brand new year to invite in those who might have been peering in from the margins. You see, not just anybody can get into this newspaper-based book club. You have to have the right stuff.

Facts

Join the club

We are beginning a new year of reading with the recent Pulitzer Prize winner, "The Known World" by Edward P. Jones. We'll also read the novel "Fever, 1793" by Laurie Anderson, which is listed on the Sunshine State Reading List for Middle School. Send your comments to Shelleyfm@aol.com or PO Box 1408, Alachua, FL 32616.

So, at the beginning of every year, I set out our list of don'ts:

1) You don't have to show up. Reading and sending in a comment at any time during the week or month is good enough for us. 2) You don't have to comb your hair. Heck, we don't care if you don't even take a bath. 3) You don't have to live close. Follow us online when you go on vacation or move away. Our conversation here is available through my Web site at www.shelleymickle.com by subscribing to my newsletter, which goes out each Monday morning after I've fed my livestock. 4) You don't have to be of any specific age. And you don't have to floss. We don't even give a flying flip if you don't have a computer to e-mail from. We have a P.O. box, and if your handwriting can't equal John Hancock's, we won't tell.

Here's the only Do: Do get us your thoughts through snail-mail, paper airplane, or whispering them to me in a grocery-store aisle. I've gotten some of my best comments this way.

You can send in your responses anonymously or with an explanation point. You can organize your business, neighborhood or club into a group and have them featured here. Just select a book and let me know.

Here's the bottom line: Connecting reading with writing, and having grown-ups model for younger readers, is worth more than five free tickets to the state fair. Isn't it super valuable for young citizens to see that we don't stop reading once we graduate from somewhere?

Reading literary art is one of the best ways I know to change our personal emotional landscapes. By that I mean, we learn a variety of ways to react to various life experiences. Joseph Campbell, who wrote "The Power of Myth," pointed out that we don't look to stories to tell us the meaning of life. We need stories to tell us how to live in the world. And that's exactly what we're doing here - "practicing" through our imaginations for a range of life experiences.

Here's my list for a yearlong conversation. Of course, there will be changes in the rhythm to make way for a One City, One Story project. But here's what's on tap:

  • January and February: "The Known World" by Edward P. Jones. This is a serious, important novel. However, I've got a few borderline inappropriate jokes to make from my recent reading. And if the literary police throw me in the slammer, please send me cookies. "Fever 1793," by renowned children's author Laurie Anderson, will make flu season seems like a case of the sniffles.

  • March, April, maybe a little of May: An all-Florida read: "The Schooling of Claybird Catts" by local author Janis Owens, and "Lay That Trumpet In Our Hands" by Susan Carol McCarthy, recommended by Mary Anne Wagner, language arts supervisor of Alachua County. For younger readers, "The Barefoot Mailman" by Theodore Pratt. And I'll invite comments from anyone reading "Sand Mansions," the novel set right here in our own stomping grounds, by Norman Gilliland.

  • May, June and July: "The Namesake," by Jhumpa Lahiri, and the middle-grade novel, "Flight to Freedom by Ana Veciana-Suarez.

  • July and August: "Persepolis" by Marjane Satrapi. This is a cutting-edge book, actually a memoir, presented in a comic-book form about growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. We'll also discuss a work by one of our most eminent American authors, Shelby Foote - "Follow Me Down," a novel he wrote in the l950s in the best of the Southern literary tradition. Add on the middle-grade novel, "Esperanza Rising" by Pam Munoz Ryan and the first Lemony Snicket novel, "The Bad Beginning."

  • September and October: "The Life of Pi" by Yann Martel. We'll also read a middle-grade novel from the latest Sunshine Reading List.

  • November and December: "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini about two friends from Afghanistan, as well as a middle-grade novel.

    There you have it. Any bookstore can order these. They are also available online. I wish you a hearty new year and 365 days of vigorous reading.

    Put joining Novel Conversations on your resolutions list. We'll be glad to have you.

  • Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

    Comments are currently unavailable on this article

    ▲ Return to Top