Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982
by Cho Nam-Joo
Meeting: Tuesday, 7pm, January 11, 2022
One of the most notable novels of the year, hailed by both critics and K-pop stars alike, Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 follows one woman’s psychic deterioration in the face of rampant misogyny. In a tidy apartment on the outskirts of Seoul, millennial “everywoman” Kim Jiyoung spends her days caring for her infant daughter. But strange symptoms appear: Jiyoung begins to impersonate the voices of other women, dead and alive. As she plunges deeper into this psychosis, her concerned husband sends her to a psychiatrist. Jiyoung narrates her story to this doctor – from her birth to parents who expected a son to elementary school teachers who policed girls’ outfits to male coworkers who installed hidden cameras in women’s restrooms. But can her psychiatrist cure her, or even discover what truly ails her? “A social treatise as well as a work of art” (Alexandra Alter, New York Times), Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 heralds the arrival of international powerhouse Cho Nam-Joo.
Land of Big Numbers: Stories
by Te-Ping Chen
Meeting: Tuesday, 7pm, February 15, 2022
About the book
Gripping and compassionate, Land of Big Numbers traces the journeys of the diverse and legion Chinese people, their history, their government, and how all of that has tumbled – messily, violently, but still beautifully – into the present.
Cutting between clear-eyed realism and tongue-in-cheek magical realism, Chen’s stories coalesce into a portrait of a people striving for openings where mobility is limited. Twins take radically different paths: one becomes a professional gamer, the other a political activist. A woman moves to the city to work at a government call center and is followed by her violent ex-boyfriend. A man is swept into the high-risk, high-reward temptations of China’s volatile stock exchange. And a group of people sit, trapped for no reason, on a subway platform for months, waiting for official permission to leave.
With acute social insight, Te-Ping Chen layers years of experience reporting on the ground in China with incantatory prose in this taut, surprising debut, proving herself both a remarkable cultural critic and an astonishingly accomplished new literary voice.
Anxious People: A Novel
by Fredrik Backman
Meeting: Tuesday, 7pm, March 8, 2022
About the book
A charming, poignant novel about a crime that never took place, a would-be bank robber who disappears into thin air, and eight extremely anxious strangers who find they have more in common than they ever imagined.
Looking at real estate isn’t usually a life-or-death situation, but an apartment open house becomes just that when a failed bank robber bursts in and takes a group of strangers hostage. The captives include a recently retired couple who relentlessly hunt down fixer-uppers to avoid the painful truth that they can’t fix their own marriage. There’s a wealthy bank director who has been too busy to care about anyone else and a young couple who are about to have their first child but can’t seem to agree on anything, from where they want to live to how they met in the first place. Add to the mix an eighty-seven-year-old woman who has lived long enough not to be afraid of someone waving a gun in her face, a flustered but still-ready-to-make-a-deal real estate agent, and a mystery man who has locked himself in the apartment’s only bathroom, and you’ve got the worst group of hostages in the world.
Each of them carries a lifetime of grievances, hurts, secrets, and passions that are ready to boil over. None of them is entirely who they appear to be. And all of them – the bank robber included – desperately crave some sort of rescue. As the authorities and the media surround the premises these reluctant allies will reveal surprising truths about themselves and set in motion a chain of events so unexpected that even they can hardly explain what happens next.
Rich with Fredrik Backman’s “pitch-perfect dialogue and an unparalleled understanding of human nature” (Shelf Awareness), Anxious People is an ingeniously constructed story about the enduring power of friendship, forgiveness, and hope – the things that save us, even in the most anxious times.
by Alex Wheatle
Meeting: Tuesday, 7pm, April 12, 2022
Nobody free till everybody free.
Moa, a fourteen-year-old slave, gets caught up in the most significant slave rebellion in Jamaican history, paying homage to freedom fighters all over the world.
The only life he has ever known is toiling on the Frontier sugarcane plantation for endless hot days, fearing the vicious whips of the overseers. Then one night he learns of an uprising, led by the charismatic Tacky. Moa is to be a cane warrior, and fight for the freedom of all the enslaved people in the nearby plantations. But before they can escape, Moa and his friend Keverton must face their first great task: to kill their overseer, Misser Donaldson. Time is ticking as the day of the uprising approaches…
Irresistible, gripping, and unforgettable, Cane Warriors follows the true story of Tacky’s War in Jamaica, 1760.
The Salt Path: A Memoir
by Raynor Winn
Meeting: Tuesday, 7pm, May 10, 2022
About the book
The true story of a couple who lost everything and embarked on a transformative journey walking the South West Coast Path in England.
Just days after Raynor Winn learns that Moth, her husband of thirty-two years, is terminally ill, their house and farm are taken away, along with their livelihood. With nothing left and little time, they make the brave and impulsive decision to walk the 630 miles of the sea-swept South West Coast Path, from Somerset to Dorset, through Devon and Cornwall.
Carrying only the essentials for survival on their backs, they live wild in the ancient, weathered landscape of cliffs, sea, and sky. Yet through every step, every encounter, and every test along the way, their walk becomes a remarkable and life-affirming journey. Powerfully written and unflinchingly honest, The Salt Path is ultimately a portrayal of home – how it can be lost, rebuilt, and rediscovered in the most unexpected ways.
Detransition, Baby: A Novel
by Torrey Peters
Meeting: Tuesday, 7pm, June 14, 2022
About the book
The lives of three women – transgender and cisgender – collide after an unexpected pregnancy forces them to confront their deepest desires in “one of the most celebrated novels of the year” (Time)
Reese almost had it all: a loving relationship with Amy, an apartment in New York City, a job she didn’t hate. She had scraped together what previous generations of trans women could only dream of: a life of mundane, bourgeois comforts. The only thing missing was a child. But then her girlfriend, Amy, detransitioned and became Ames, and everything fell apart. Now Reese is caught in a self-destructive pattern: avoiding her loneliness by sleeping with married men.
Ames isn’t happy either. He thought detransitioning to live as a man would make life easier, but that decision cost him his relationship with Reese – and losing her meant losing his only family. Even though their romance is over, he longs to find a way back to her. When Ames’s boss and lover, Katrina, reveals that she’s pregnant with his baby – and that she’s not sure whether she wants to keep it – Ames wonders if this is the chance he’s been waiting for. Could the three of them form some kind of unconventional family – and raise the baby together?
This provocative debut is about what happens at the emotional, messy, vulnerable corners of womanhood that platitudes and good intentions can’t reach. Torrey Peters brilliantly and fearlessly navigates the most dangerous taboos around gender, sex, and relationships, gifting us a thrillingly original, witty, and deeply moving novel.
When We Were Orphans
by Kazuo Ishiguro
Meeting: Tuesday, 7pm, July 12, 2022
From the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature and author of the Booker Prize–winning novel The Remains of the Day comes this stunning work of soaring imagination.
Born in early-twentieth-century Shanghai, Banks was orphaned at the age of nine after the separate disappearances of his parents. Now, more than twenty years later, he is a celebrated figure in London society; yet the investigative expertise that has garnered him fame has done little to illuminate the circumstances of his parents’ alleged kidnappings. Banks travels to the seething, labyrinthine city of his memory in hopes of solving the mystery of his own, painful past, only to find that war is ravaging Shanghai beyond recognition-and that his own recollections are proving as difficult to trust as the people around him.
Masterful, suspenseful and psychologically acute, When We Were Orphans offers a profound meditation on the shifting quality of memory, and the possibility of avenging one’s past.
by Jenny Lawson
Meeting: Tuesday, 7pm, August 9, 2022
About the book
In Furiously Happy, a humor memoir tinged with just enough tragedy and pathos to make it worthwhile, Jenny Lawson examines her own experience with severe depression and a host of other conditions, and explains how it has led her to live life to the fullest:
“I’ve often thought that people with severe depression have developed such a well for experiencing extreme emotion that they might be able to experience extreme joy in a way that ‘normal people’ also might never understand. And that’s what Furiously Happy is all about.”
Jenny’s readings are standing room only, with fans lining up to have Jenny sign their bottles of Xanax or Prozac as often as they are to have her sign their books. Furiously Happy appeals to Jenny’s core fan base but also transcends it. There are so many people out there struggling with depression and mental illness, either themselves or someone in their family – and in Furiously Happy they will find a member of their tribe offering up an uplifting message (via a taxidermied roadkill raccoon). Let’s Pretend This Never Happened ostensibly was about embracing your own weirdness, but deep down it was about family. Furiously Happy is about depression and mental illness, but deep down it’s about joy―and who doesn’t want a bit more of that?
The Dictionary of Lost Words
by Pip Williams
Meeting: Tuesday, 7pm, September 13, 2022
About the book
Esme is born into a world of words. Motherless and irrepressibly curious, she spends her childhood in the Scriptorium, an Oxford garden shed in which her father and a team of dedicated lexicographers are collecting words for the very first Oxford English Dictionary. Young Esme’s place is beneath the sorting table, unseen and unheard. One day a slip of paper containing the word bondmaid flutters beneath the table. She rescues the slip and, learning that the word means “slave girl,” begins to collect other words that have been discarded or neglected by the dictionary men.
As she grows up, Esme realizes that words and meanings relating to women’s and common folks’ experiences often go unrecorded. And so she begins in earnest to search out words for her own dictionary: the Dictionary of Lost Words. To do so she must leave the sheltered world of the university and venture out to meet the people whose words will fill those pages.
Set during the height of the women’s suffrage movement and with the Great War looming, The Dictionary of Lost Words reveals a lost narrative, hidden between the lines of a history written by men. Inspired by actual events, author Pip Williams has delved into the archives of the Oxford English Dictionary to tell this highly original story. The Dictionary of Lost Words is a delightful, lyrical, and deeply thought-provoking celebration of words and the power of language to shape the world.
The Psychology of Time Travel
by Kate Mascarenhas
Meeting: Tuesday, 7pm, October 11, 2022
About the book
Four female scientists invent a time travel machine. But then one of them suffers a breakdown and puts the whole project in peril…
Ruby knows her Granny Bee was the scientist who went mad, but they never talk about it. Until they receive a message from the future, warning of an elderly woman’s violent death…
Odette found the dead women at work – shot in the head, door bolted from the inside. Now she can’t get her out of her mind. Who was she? And why is everyone determined to cover up her murder?
“A page-turning temporal safari. Part murder mystery, part extrapolation of a world in which time travel has become a commercial reality, it is written with an acute sense of psychological nuance” (GUARDIAN)
Crying in H Mart
by Michelle Zauner
Meeting: Tuesday, 7pm, November 8, 2022
About the book
In this exquisite story of family, food, grief, and endurance, Michelle Zauner proves herself far more than a dazzling singer, songwriter, and guitarist. With humour and heart, she tells of growing up the only Asian-American kid at her school in Eugene, Oregon; of struggling with her mother’s particular, high expectations of her; of a painful adolescence; of treasured months spent in her grandmother’s tiny apartment in Seoul, where she and her mother would bond, late at night, over heaping plates of food. As she grew up, moving to the east coast for college, finding work in the restaurant industry, performing gigs with her fledgling band – and meeting the man who would become her husband – her Koreanness began to feel ever more distant, even as she found the life she wanted to live. It was her mother’s diagnosis of terminal pancreatic cancer, when Michelle was twenty-five, that forced a reckoning with her identity and brought her to reclaim the gifts of taste, language, and history her mother had given her.
Vivacious, lyrical and honest, Michelle Zauner’s voice is as radiantly alive on the page as it is onstage. Rich with intimate anecdotes that will resonate widely, Crying in H Mart is a book to cherish, share, and reread.
The Bad Muslim Discount
by Syed M Masood
Meeting: Tuesday, 7pm, December 13, 2022
About the book
Following two families from Pakistan and Iraq in the 1990s to San Francisco in 2016, The Bad Muslim Discount is an inclusive, comic novel about Muslim immigrants finding their way in modern America.
“Masood’s novel presents a stereoscopic, three-dimensional view of contemporary Muslim America: the way historical conflict in the Middle East lingers in individual lives, the way gossip travels in a close-knit immigrant community.” –The New York Times Book Review