By Collection Management Librarian Kathy
Did you know the library has a curated section of Book Club Kits? These are pre-assembled bags with 10 copies of the same popular title, discussion questions curated by Oak Park librarians, and lists of similar titles for book groups.
Each bag can be placed on hold by an individual Oak Park cardholder and is checked out as a single item. Here is a selection of some of our favorites, but you can find other titles in the library’s catalog.
Titles to discuss
Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead
Why your group should try it: Now is the perfect time to read and discuss this book as the second book in the Harlem Trilogy, Crook Manifesto, was just released.
Description: Few people know Ray Carney descends from a line of uptown hoods and crooks, and that his façade of normalcy has more than a few cracks in it. See, cash is tight so if his cousin Freddie occasionally drops off the odd ring or necklace at the furniture store, Ray doesn't see the need to ask where it comes from. He knows a discreet jeweler downtown who also doesn't ask questions. But when a larger heist doesn't go as planned, Ray has to cater to a new clientele, one made up of shady cops on the take, vicious minions of the local crime lord, and numerous other Harlem lowlifes. Thus begins the internal tussle between Ray the striver and Ray the crook.
The Sentence by Louise Erdrich
Why your group should try it: Louise Erdrich is perfect for discussion because she hits on so many big themes—systemic racism, justice, and in this case, the effects of a global pandemic.
Description: After serving part of an outrageously long sentence, Tookie, who "learned to read with murderous attention" while in prison, naturally gravitates toward working at a bookstore. When Flora, the store's most persistent customer, suddenly dies, her ghost refuses to leave. Flora returns on All Soul's Day to haunt the bookstore and in particular, Tookie. Why? The mystery of this revenant's appearance leads Asema, a fellow Ojibwe bookseller, and Tookie to a shocking personal discovery with historical reverberations.
Three Girls From Bronzeville by Dawn Turner
Why your group should try it: An excellent read ripe for discussion, especially as it takes place in Chicago.
Description: The girls spent countless afternoons together, ice skating in the nearby Lake Meadows apartment complex, swimming in the pool at the Ida B. Wells housing project, and daydreaming of their futures: Dawn a writer, Debra a doctor, Kim a teacher. Then they came to a precipice, a fraught rite of passage for all girls when the dangers and the harsh realities of the world burst the innocent bubble of childhood, when the choices they made could—and would—have devastating consequences.
The Yield by Tara June Winch
Why your group should try it: You might win book club by picking this under-the-radar title that won multiple Australian literary awards.
Description: Knowing that he will soon die, Albert "Poppy" Gondiwindi takes pen to paper. Albert is determined to pass on the language of his people, the indigenous Wiradjuri tribe, and everything that was ever remembered by the ancestors. August Gondiwindi has been living in Europe for ten years when she learns of her grandfather's death. She returns home to Australia for his burial, wracked with grief and burdened with the memories of life in poverty before her mother's incarceration, her hometown's racism against her people, and the mysterious disappearance of her sister when they were kids that changed August's life forever.
If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha
Why your group should try it: If your group especially loves discussing characters, this is for you.
Description: Kyuri is a heartbreakingly beautiful woman with a hard-won job at a "room salon," an exclusive bar where she entertains businessmen while they drink. Her roommate, Miho, is a talented artist who finds herself in a precarious relationship with the super-wealthy heir to one of Korea's biggest companies. Down the hall in their apartment building lives Ara, a hair stylist for whom two preoccupations sustain her: obsession with a boy-band pop star, and a best friend who is saving up for the extreme plastic surgery that is commonplace. And Wonna, one floor below, is a newlywed trying to get pregnant with a child that she and her husband have no idea how they can afford to raise and educate in the cutthroat economy. Together, their stories tell a gripping tale that's seemingly unfamiliar, yet unmistakably universal in the way that their tentative friendships may have to be their saving grace.
The Sum of Us by Heather McGhee
Why your group should try it: If your club includes younger folk, this is a great option because there is also an adapted version for young readers.
Description: McGhee marshals economic and sociological research to paint an irrefutable story of racism’s costs, but at the heart of the book are the humble stories of people yearning to be part of a better America, including white supremacy’s collateral victims: white people themselves.
Kathy is a Collection Management Librarian who loves reading, sharing, and talking about books. Her missions in life are to: create communities of readers, convince folks that her official title should be "Book Pusher," and refute that "disco" is a dirty word.