by Julie HaleNovember 2010
Best new paperbacks for reading groups
Our top selections for November include a memorable debut from a Southern storyteller, the latest from Malcolm Gladwell and a historical fiction jem.
Beth Hoffman’s delightful debut novel, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, is a sweet Southern tale with an unforgettable heroine at its center. Set in 1967, the book skillfully depicts the social dynamics of a South that’s still coming of age. After her high-strung mother—a former beauty queen named Camille—is killed by an ice cream truck, 12-year-old CeeCee Honeycutt leaves her home in Ohio to live with her great aunt, Tootie, in Savannah, Georgia. CeeCee soon finds herself surrounded by a group of surrogate mothers, all of whom teach her different lessons about life. She bonds quickly with the smart, insightful Oletta, Tootie’s black housekeeper. Tootie’s friend Violene, a racist, thrives on gossip, while Thelma Rae, another member of Tootie’s crowd, proves deceitful. Life among these vivacious women, as CeeCee quickly learns, is never dull. With its vividly drawn characters and old-fashioned charm, Hoffman’s novel will appeal to fans of Fannie Flagg and Sue Monk Kidd. Her portrayal of a still-evolving South is richly detailed and wonderfully authentic. Click here for a reading guide.
TOP OF THE HEAP
In Outliers: The Story of Success, best-selling writer Malcolm Gladwell examines the secrets of modern-day success, questioning typical assumptions about business moguls, athletic stars and others who achieve peak performance. What do they have that the rest of us don’t? Gladwell looks at examples from history and pop culture—the Beatles, Mozart and Bill Gates—and asserts that singular talent and personal skill don’t necessarily ensure success. Factors like opportunity, timing and luck also play important roles in the ascent of a star. Gladwell’s remarkable ability to synthesize diverse material, his talent for presenting historical anecdotes and his knack for unearthing little-known nuggets of trivia make this a wonderfully readable book. In this in-depth look at the mystery that enshrines success, he draws important conclusions about human nature, the motivations that drive us and the power of ambition. A staff writer at The New Yorker and author of The Tipping Point, Gladwell proves yet again that he’s a master of probing, investigative nonfiction. Discussion questions can be found here.
TOP PICK FOR BOOK CLUBS
Set during the 19th century and rooted in fact, Tracy Chevalier’s sharply crafted novel Remarkable Creatures tells the story of two inspiring women who take on the scientific establishment at a time when females had no place there. Poor and uneducated, young Mary Anning has a keen mind and an observant eye. During her rambles along England’s Lyme Regis coast, she picks out unusual specimens among the rocks—fossils, as it turns out, that change the course of science. Initially met with skepticism by the pre-eminent scientific minds of her day, Mary finds a friend in Elizabeth Philpot, an independent spinster with a thirst for knowledge. Chevalier creates a vivid portrait of intellectual inquiry in the 1800s while spinning a thrilling tale of two unlikely heroines whose contributions to science and history are immeasurable. This winning book is a fascinating exploration of gender, history and female friendship. Click here for discussion questions.