One of the great things about being part of a reading group is that you may read a book you might not ordinarily pick up. Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes not, but sometimes the best discussions happen when a group didn’t like a book!
With over two hundred titles to choose from in our collection, some of our books don’t fly off the shelves as often as the latest Kate Atkinson or Ian McEwan. Lots of people want to know if Eleanor Oliphant is indeed completely fine or who really killed the Hadler family in Jane Harper’s debut The Dry, but some books need a little more help.
With that in mind, here are some of our hidden treasures. Perhaps you’ll find your next reading group pick among them!
The Tobacconist by Robert Seethaler
When 17-year-old Franz exchanges his home in the idyllic beauty of the Austrian lake district for the bustle of Vienna, his homesickness quickly dissolves amidst the thrum of the city. In his role as an apprentice to the elderly tobacconist Otto Trsnyek, he will soon be supplying the great and good of Vienna with their newspapers and cigarettes. Among the regulars is a Professor Freud, whose predilection for cigars and occasional willingness to dispense romantic advice will forge a bond between him and young Franz.
It is 1937. In a matter of months Germany will annex Austria and the storm that has been threatening to engulf the little tobacconist will descend, leaving the lives of Franz, Otto and Professor Freud irredeemably changed.
Told with a dry wit that enhances, rather than disguises, the sadness of its story, it is a touching miniature of an ordinary life irrevocably altered by the larger forces of history. (The Sunday Times)
Noon In Paris, Eight In Chicago by Douglas Cowie
Sharp and intimate, Douglas Cowie’s reimagining of the turbulent love affair between Simone de Beauvoir and Nelson Algren asks what it means to love and be loved by the right person at the wrong time.
Chicago, 1947: On a freezing February night, France’s feminist icon Simone de Beauvoir calls up radical resident novelist Nelson Algren, asking him to show her around. After a whirlwind tour of dive bars, cabarets and the police lockup, the pair return to his apartment on Wabansia Avenue. Here, a passion is sparked that will last for the next two decades.
Their relationship intensifies during intoxicating months spent together in Paris and Chicago. But in between are long, anguished periods apart filled with competing desires – lovers, old and new, writing, politics, gambling – which ultimately expose the fragility of their unconventional marriage and put their devotion to the test.
The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff
It starts with a question, a simple favour asked by a wife of her husband while both are painting in their studio, setting off a transformation neither can anticipate. Uniting fact and fiction into an original romantic vision, The Danish Girl eloquently portrays the unique intimacy that defines every marriage and the remarkable story of Lili Elbe, a pioneer in transgender history, and the woman torn between loyalty to her marriage and her own ambitions and desires.
The Danish Girl is an evocative and deeply moving novel about one of the most passionate and unusual love stories of the 20th century.
Anatomy of a Soldier by Harry Parker
Captain Tom Barnes is leading British troops into a war zone when he is gravely injured by an exploding IED. This devastating moment and the transformative months that follow are narrated here by forty-five objects, telling one unforgettable story.
Alan Bennett said of this novel, whose author joined the British Army when he was 23 and served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, “It’s marvellously told and this way of telling it … giving the inanimate a voice … is both engrossing and distancing and I know of nothing quite like it.”
The Truth According To Us by Annie Barrows
After refusing to marry the man her rich father has picked for her, Layla is banished to the remote town of Macedonia, West Virginia, a place where nothing important ever happens – or so she thinks.
Tasked to write down the history of the town, Layla meets the seductive Romeyn clan. As she peels back the layers of family feuds and deceit, she discovers to her cost an unknown story far darker than she could ever have imagined.
The smallest towns have the biggest secrets.
This is written by the co-author of The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society, previously a favourite in our reading group collection.
The Outrun by Amy Liptrot
At the age of thirty, Amy Liptrot finds herself washed up back home on Orkney. Standing unstable on the island, she tries to come to terms with the addiction that has swallowed the last decade of her life. As she spends her mornings swimming in the bracingly cold sea, her days tracking Orkney’s wildlife, and her nights searching the sky for the Merry Dancers, Amy discovers how the wild can restore life and renew hope.
Amy Liptrot has lived her life on the edge of things, both literally and metaphorically. Her beautiful first book gives a wonderfully evocative account of both, blending searing memoir with sublime nature writing, and coming up with a unique piece of prose that amounts to a stirring personal philosophy of how to live. (Independent on Sunday)
Have you read any of these books? Let us know what you thought!