Monday, March 26, 2018

SOL 26/31: Twenty Years of Great Books!

Today I join my fellow bloggers in "serving up a slice" 
Thanks to Stacey, Betsy, Beth, Kathleen, Deb, Melanie, and Lanny
 for hosting this meeting place each day in March
and for nurturing our writing lives.

I've been in the same book club for twenty years. We have a yearly retreat that includes getting away for an overnight together, lots of laughter and good food, never enough sleep, and the selecting of our slate of books for the upcoming year. 

We decided it would be fun to vote on our top twenty favorite books since it was our twentieth anniversary year.  It was harder than we thought. The first ten were easy to choose. After that, it was harder. Which makes me wonder, do we really just have a few top favorite books? 

As I went through the list, I discovered quite a few titles that I had missed reading. Time to make another list - "Book club books that I missed reading, but still want to read." 

Not everyone has been in our book club for twenty years, but we invited all members to participate which may have skewed the results to books from more recent years. Without any further ado, here are the top twenty books chosen by current members of the Bookwomen book club!

 1. Pride and Prejudice - 1999
 2. Count of Monte Cristo - 2000
     (#s 2 - 4 tied with the same # of votes)
 3. Ready Player One - 2016
 4. The Boys in the Boat - 2014
 5. Poisonwood Bible - 2000
     (#s 5 & 6 tied with the same # of  votes)
 6. The Night Circus - 2013
 7. The Book Thief - 2009
     (#s 7-11 tied with the same # of votes)
 8. To Kill a Mockingbird - 2010 
     (not sure how I missed including this beloved classic on my list)
 9. The Nightingale - 2016
10. The Last Days of Night - 2017
11. The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society - 2009
12. East of Eden - 2013
     (#s 12-20 tied with the same # of votes) 
13. Ender's Game - 2000
14. Peace Like a River - 2004
15. The Glass Castle - 2008
16. The Help - 2010
17. Born to Run - 2011
18. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - 2011
19. A Man Called Ove - 2016
20. Hillbilly Elegy - 2017 

Underlined books in the above list indicate books that made my top 20. I have actually read all the books in the top twenty list except two (East of Eden and Born to Run).

Interesting observation - Members of my book club love nonfiction (a preference I do not share with them). Over the years, our yearly lists have grown to include more and more nonfiction (this year's list has seven nonfiction titles). However, only four nonfiction books made our top 20 list!

Breakdown of favorite books by the year read:
1999 - 1 book
2000 - 3 books
2004 - 1 book
2008 - 1 book
2009 - 2 books
2010 - 2 books
2011 - 2 books
2013 - 2 books
2014 - 1 book
2016 - 3 books
2017 - 2 books

Just in case you're interested, here are the books from my top twenty that didn't make the book club's top twenty list:
Gift from the Sea - 1998 
(I don't generally reread books, but this is a book that deserves rereading during every decade of a woman's life.)
Great Expectations - 2001
(This is one of our family's favorite books. We listened to a BBC  audio unabridged production of this book on a road trip to Colorado when our kids were still in elementary school.)
Bel Canto - 2003
(A haunting story of a terrorist situation & the relationships that form between terrorists and their captors)
84, Charing Cross Road - 2005
(A charming, twenty year correspondence between a writer in NYC and a used-book dealer in London.)
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn - 2006
(Another personal all-time favorite)
A Christmas Carol - 2009
(Probably the book that I've reread the most times)
My Name is Mary Sutter - 2012
(I love historical fiction. This one is set in the Civil War.)
Light Between Oceans - 2014
(A heart-wrenching novel about decisions & their consequences)
The Grapes of Wrath - 2015
(I can't believe that I was 60 years old before I read this book for the first time.)
All The Light We Cannot See - 2016
(Historical fiction set in a favorite time period, World War II) 
The Story of a Happy Marriage - 2016
(I was elated when I finally convinced our book club to choose a book of essays, one of my favorite genres.)
The Underground Railroad - 2017
(Difficult for me to describe this book, so I'll borrow these words from one of my favorite authors, Anne Patchett:  “Colson Whitehead’s book blends the fanciful and the horrific, the deeply emotional and the coolly intellectual. What he comes up with is an American masterpiece.")


  1. What a great list of books! So many I have not read or we have not read in our group. We have not been reading for this long. Our group is really a pretty new group but I think I might ask them to do this in April and see what happens - we could do our top 5 or 10 books. Thanks for sharing the lists.

  2. This is an incredible list of books. SO I downloaded it as a guide for my own reading! Thank you
    PS 20 years in a book club is an amazing journey!

  3. Great list of books, some I've read and others I'll add to my list. Twenty years - and amazing accomplishment for your book club.

  4. 20 years of book club is super awesome. I was happy to find several books I had read on the list.

  5. I truly admire your book club and appreciate the book stats!! Who said March Madness is only about basketball?

  6. Out of all the books you listed, I have read eight of them. You are one well-read lady! What an amazing group!

  7. Just the description of your post at Two Writing Teachers had me smiling. What an amazing reading adventure--to be in the same book club for 20 years. I've moved too many times to be a consistent book club member, but the group my mom started 20 years ago that I used to belong to is still going strong. I'm sure it was a lively discussion as you chose your top 20, and I am thrilled that P&P was the top choice.

  8. Many ideas here for my TBR list, even though I have read a lot of them. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is one of my personal favorites, too.

  9. You had me at "book list." I loved reading both your group's top 20 and your top 20. Both contain many of my favorite titles, including Bel Canto, The Underground Railroad, East of Eden (better than The Grapes of Wrath, I think). I laughed a lot reading A Man Called Ove. The audiobook is fabulous. Love seeing some classics on your list; so often they get little respect among many loud voices in our profession, which I think is a shame.

  10. I've given out so many copies of 84 Charing Cross Road over the years. Love that book! Have you read the follow ups, Q's Legacy and The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street? Love them, too! Can't WAIT for the Guernsey movie to come out soon. Adored that book, too! Thanks for helping me build my Goodreads "I want to read" list!

  11. Thank you for sharing both lists of books. I am really impressed that you have been in the same book club for twenty years! That is quite a commitment. As a decidedly fiction preferring reader myself, I also find it interesting that your fellow club members work in more and more nonfiction works, but the books that stand out for them and that they love are overwhelmingly fiction. I'm sure there is some significant point hidden somewhere in that fact.