I find it always helps to narrow things down a bit in order to gain a sense of clarity and while some might find celebrity book club selections to be a bit too mainstream, often times that dose of star power can really highlight a promising book by a perhaps not as well known as they should be author.
A prime example of this is the latest Oprah Book Club 2.0 selection, Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue. This is a debut novel that talks about immigration and the American Dream, giving a human face to those very topics that are high on the current events list at the moment.
The story begins in 2007, where a recent immigrant from Cameroon, Jende Jenga, considers himself lucky to have been hired as a chauffeur to Clark Edwards, a wealthy Wall Street executive. Jende lives in Harlem with his wife Neni and their young son and eager to make a better life for them all, including Neni taking a job in the Edwards household.
By tying their future to the Edwards family, however, Jende and Neni find themselves becoming more involved that they wish to with their employers' lives and fortunes, particularly when the financial crash of 2008 occurs. I've heard wonderful things about this thoughtful and emotionally engaging book and having someone like Oprah highlight it on the shelves is a true bonus for any new author indeed:
Nowadays, she has her own book club(featured on Instagram) and her new featured selection is The Alice Network by Kate Quinn. The title refers to a spy ring that began in France during WWI, with all of the female operatives going by the name of Alice.
We follow a new recruit to the network,Eve, as she undergoes espionage training in 1915, hoping to do her part against the German forces. Under the tutelage of Lili, the renowned "Queen of Spies", she is able to achieve her goals but suffers for decades afterward, due to a betrayal that destroyed the network.
In 1947, Eve is now alone in her despair and drinking heavily when a young American named Charlie St. Clair comes barging into her life. Charlie has been sent to Europe in disgrace, due to her out of wedlock pregnancy, and hopes to find her cousin Rose who disappeared during the height of the Second World War. Since Rose had connections to the French Resistance, Eve may know of a way to find her and possibly find some sort of redemption as well.
This certainly sounds like it would make a great movie/miniseries and even if Witherspoon doesn't option it, The Alice Network should make for a grand summer adventure in reading:
Book Club Central and her first pick is Stephanie Powell Watts' No One is Coming to Save Us.
The story is a modern take on the classic themes of The Great Gatsby, as JJ Robinson returns to his home town of Pinewood in South Carolina with plenty of money and plans to build an elaborate mansion, the better to court his former high school sweetheart Ava with.
However, those plans are not as easy to pull off as time has changed many things and many people in Pinewood, especially Ava, who is married to Henry, a man whose furniture business is failing and her mother Sylvia, seeking comfort for her lost son Devon via regular phone calls to a young man in prison.
By marrying an All American book like Gatsby to a present day look at how those American dreams are affecting the African-American community, Powell Watts appears to have created a new classic for generations to come.
This novel has gotten considerable praise already and it's author has won several awards for her previous short story collection,We Are Taking Only What We Need. This extra promotion,however, is quite an honor and not just because of Sarah Jessica Parker(who is also running a literary imprint for a major publisher as well). Having the ALA place your work in such a spotlight is something that most library patrons can only dream of and no doubt being the first one chosen is the cherry on top of the sweet successful sundae:
You don't need to look to celebrities for good reading ideas, of course, but they do attract more attention to newer works that could use some extra media love. If you prefer someplace a little more bookish for fresh suggestions, there are a good number of them around such as Book Reporter, Book Page and naturally, Book Riot to seek out those literary treasures that may be buried on a shelf near you.
In the end, it may not matter where you heard about a potentially good book just as long as you find it or it finds you for a wonderful experience together: