Over the last few weeks, we’ve heard from a slew of Minnesota book clubs about their recent reading choices.
Here are synopses of five of the most popular — or most intriguing — titles from 2009 and early 2010.
1. Tatiana de Rosnay’s historical novel “Sarah’s Key” (2007, St. Martin’s Press) appeared most frequently on book lists sent in by our readers.
The story follows the investigation of Julia Jarmond — an American journalist living in Paris in 2002 — into the July 1942 Paris roundups and deportations, in which thousands of Jewish families were arrested, held at the Vélodrome d’Hiver outside the city, and later transported to Auschwitz.
Through her dark and compelling portrait of occupied Paris, de Rosnay exposes a little-known, deliberately hidden episode in French history.
2. A novel comprised of letters dating back to 1946, “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” (2008, Dial Press/Random House) is a celebration of the written word and the power of books to pull people through the bleakest of times.
As London is emerging from the shadow of World War II, writer Juliet Ashton discovers her next subject in a book club on the island of Guernsey.
Created as an alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying the island, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society exchanges correspondence with Juliet, sharing their wartime tribulations and stories of everyday heroes.
With humor and optimism, authors Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows chronicle Juliet’s successful search for inspiration.
3. “Out Stealing Horses” (2007, Graywolf Press) is a compact page-turner marked by Norwegian novelist Per Petterson’s spare and deliberate prose.
The story depicts the meditations of Trond Sander, a man nearing seventy and living in self-imposed exile on the eastern edge of Norway.
Trond’s peaceful existence is disrupted by a meeting with his only neighbor.
The meeting calls Trond back to 1948 — when his friend Jon suggested they steal horses — and leads him to reflect on youth, memory, and coming to terms with the past.
4. A serious yet entertaining cultural history of geeks, Benjamin Nugent’s “The American Nerd” (2008, Scribner) chronicles the many facets of nerd-dom, from science fiction to online gaming to Japanese Manga.
Nugent boldly addresses unexpected sociological issues such as the ethnic implications of the nerd categorization, particularly regarding Jewish and Asian stereotypes.
5. “The Botany of Desire” (2001, Random House) is Michael Pollan’s unconventional investigation into whether plants use people as much as people use them.
Examining the natural world from the unique viewpoint of plants, Pollan focuses on the coevolution of four common plants — apples, tulips, marijuana, and potatoes — with human society.
Through his exploration of the complex, reciprocal relationship between people and nature, Pollan argues that these four species have successfully exploited human desires in order to flourish.
Monday: BCC members pass along their book recommendations.