From parties to prisons, narratives of a single place or remarkable journeys, the past year at our Twitter book club, @1book140, has sparked great conversations. Yet every book we choose to read closes the door on conversations that might have been.
This month, let's bring back runners-up from 2013. Read about this month's picks, scroll to the bottom of the article, and make your selection. Voting ends Sunday at noon ET. I'll post a reading schedule soon after.
If you're still reading November's book, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's In The First Circle, don't worry! I think many of us will be catching up on this 96 chapter masterpiece over the weekend. Follow the reading schedule here and join the conversation on our hashtag, #1book140.
Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo (January Vote). In the New York Times review, Janet Maslin writes that Boo "is one of those rare, deep-digging journalists who can make truth surpass fiction, a documentarian with a superb sense of human drama." Writing in the Times Literary Supplement, Martha Nussbaum argues that Boo is inattentive to the social context. Who's right? If you choose this book, we'll ask bloggers from the Indian Twittersphere to be our guides.
In February, an adventurous group of readers went ahead and read the runner-up, Cory Doctorow's Little Brother. The rest of us read The Fault in our Stars by John Green. Since we already read the runner-up, I'm omitting this month.
Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell (March Vote). In the New York Times Book Review, Joy Williams wrote of Vampires: "Fiction is by definition unreal, and Russell takes this coldly awesome truth and enjoys fully the rebel freedom it confers." Russell's novel Swamplandia! was a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, though no prize was ultimately awarded. Vampires, Russell's latest collection of absurdist fiction, has made quite a splash since its release in January.
In April, we read The Great Gatsby. In May, we read poetry and followed up on Twitter with Susan Harris, director of Words Without Borders. When Chimamanda Adichie's Half a Yellow Sun didn't get selected in June, a group of readers split off and spent the month discussing it. I'm omitting these months.
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander was suggested by Katelin Hansen (October Vote). This book argues that the criminal justice system in the United States has created the equivalent of a caste system. NPR's Fresh Air summarizes the book: "millions of blacks arrested for minor crimes remain marginalized and disfranchised, trapped by a criminal justice system that has forever branded them as felons and denied them basic rights and opportunities." A strongly argued book, it's not all intellect; Alexander keeps the style lively with stories and personal anecdotes.
The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, a classic spy novel by John le Carré (November Vote), shocked Western audiences with its cold portrayal of the calculating business of espionage. When British intelligence officer Alec Leamas's last operative is shot, he's brought home for one last desperate job: a fake defection to East Germany. Richard Burton, Claire Bloom, and Oskar Werner star in the excellent 1965 film.