booksmith book club


The next book club meeting is
Monday, December 14th @ 7:30pm

How to Be Both
Ali Smith

No need to sign up, just show up!

The Brookline Booksmith Book Club meets the second Monday of every month, at 7:30 pm down in our Writers and Readers Room.
No need to sign up, just show up.
To contact our moderator, email


  picks of the past    
The Sisters Brothers
Patrick DeWitt

November 2015
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki
and His Years of Pilgrimage

By Haruki Murakami

October 2015
Loving Frank
Nancy Horan
September 2015
Station Eleven
Emily St. John Mandel
August 2015
The Goldfinch
Donna Tartt
July 2015
Lily King
June 2015
Preparation for the Next Life
Atticus Lish

May 2015
My Struggle
Karl Ove Knausgaard

April 2015
Family Life
Akhil Sharma
March 2015
The Cold Song
Linn Ullmann

February 2015
Suspended Sentences
Patrick Modiano

January 2015
The Hired Man
Aminatta Forna

December 2014
Snow Hunters
Paul Yoon

October 2014
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena
Anthony Marra

September 2014

The Lowland
Jhumpa Lahiri
August 2014
Open City
Teju Cole

July 2014
The Infatuations
Javier Marías

June 2014
A Hologram for the King
Dave Eggers

May 2012
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

April 2014
Colm Tóibín
March 2014
Life After Life
Kate Atkinson

February 2014
J.M. Coetzee

January 2014
Too Much Happiness
Alice Munro

December 2013
The Buddha in the Attic
Julie Otsuka

October 2013
The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Mohsin Hamid
September 2013
José Saramago

August 2013
Lance Weller

July 2013
The Marriage Plot
by Jeffrey Eugenides

June 2013
Things Fall Apart
Chinua Achebe

May 2013
The Baron in the Trees
Italo Calvino

April 2013
I, Robot
Isaac Asimov

March 2013
Philip Roth

February 2013
The Winter of Our Discontent
John Steinbeck

January 2013
Natsume Soseki

December 2012
David Mitchell

November 2012
Pigeon English
Stephen Kelman

October 2012
The True Deceiver
Tove Jansson

September 2012
The Sense of an Ending
Julian Barnes

August 2012
Fahrenheit 451
Ray Bradbury

July 2012
State of Wonder
Ann Patchett

June 2012
E.O. Wilson
May 2012
The Lacuna
Barbara Kingsolver

April 2012
The Tiger's Wife
Téa Obreht
March, 2012
To Have and Have Not
Ernest Hemingway
February, 2012
Foreign Bodies
Cynthia Ozick
January 2012
The Imperfectionists
Tom Rachman

December 2011
True Grit
Charles Portis
November 2011
Karen Russell
October 2011
A Pale View of Hills
Kazuo Ishiguro

September 2011
The Moviegoer
Walker Percy
August 2011
Slaughterhouse 5
Kurt Vonnegut
July 2011
A Visit From the Goon Squad
Jennifer Egan
June 2011
In the Country of Men
Hisham Matar

May 2011
Cutting For Stone
Abraham Verghese
April 2011
Sarah's Key
Tatiana de Rosnay
March 2011
To Siberia
Per Petterson
February 2011

A Gate at the Stairs
Lorrie Moore

January 2011
Winter's Bone
Daniel Woodruff
December 2010

Philip Roth
November 2010

Marilynne Robinson
September 2010
The Return
Victoria Hislop
August 2010
The Dante Club
Matthew Pearl
July 2010

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
Jamie Ford
June 2010

The Given Day
Dennis Lehane
May  2010

Rudyard Kipling
April 2010
Nine Stories
J.D. Salinger
March 2010
Let The Great World Spin
Colum McCann
February 2010

Wise Blood
Flannery O'Connor

January 2010

A Day In The Life Of Ancient Rome
Albertos Angela
December 2009
Say You're One Of Them
Uwen Akpan

November 2009
In Defense Of Food
Michael Pollan
October 2009
The Plague Of Doves
Louise Erdrich
September 2009
The Guernsey Literary And
Potato Peel Society

Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

August 2009
Three Cups of Tea
Greg Mortenson

July 2009
Olive Kitteridge
Elizabeth Strout
June 2009
The Elegance Of The Hedgehog
Muriel Barbery
May 2009
The Housekeeper And The Professor
Yoko Ogawa
April 2009
The Reader
Bernhard Schlink
March 2009
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Milan Kundera
February 2009
Wandering Star
J.M.G. Le Clezio

January 2009
Assassination Vacation
Sarah Vowell

December 2008
News of a Kidnapping
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
November 2008
Tree of Smoke
Denis Johnson
October 2008

Overall the book received 4.1 stars out of possible 5. We talked about what makes a war good or necessary. There was no good answer that we could come up with on Monday night. Some attendees thought the book was bulky, while others thought Denis Johnson has done a great job of defining his characters and bringing them to life. We briefly talked about Tim O'Brien's Vietnam book: The Things They Carried, and Michael Herr's Dispatches, also about Vietnam. Then our discussion turned back on whether war is good or bad, and the casualties of it. Our conversation was both deep and thought provoking. A very good read and a very good discussion.
The brookline booksmith book club meets the second Monday of every month, at 7:30 pm down in our Writer's and Reader's Room.
No need to sign up, just show up.
To contact our moderator, Sae, email

Ian McEwan
September 2008

Overall the book received 3.6 stars out of possible 5. The attendees liked the wry/dark humor, good writing, and the author's understanding of the human nature. Our discussion covered euthanasia, the weak and strong fictional characters, narcissism, and ethical dilemmas.  A good read.

Out Stealing Horses
Per Petterson
August 2008

Overall the book received 4.2 stars out of 5. The attendees loved the descriptive language and the timeless coming of age and sexual awakening story. Our discussion encompassed WWII, PTSD, loss of loved ones, aloneness and age, emotional and physical pain, and our human abilities to deal with life-changing circumstances. The book presented many opportunities for discussion of very difficult topics. A very good read.
Michael Ondaatje
July 2008

It was a full house. The book received 3.6 stars out of 5, with two 5's. Our discussion started on the writing which some readers found "floral, poetic, and well written." One attendee had read the book after listening to it on the audio CD, and found the written version far more moving. Another attendee felt that Ondaatje has revisited his earlier works here with a more tuned and fluent pen. We also discussed the role of plot versus character development in novels. Is a good plot enough? Here some readers thought that the book did not give them enough plot. Still one attendee felt that what makes this book work is the "mysticism" and not the "mystery." 
Overall a wonderful read.

Then We Came to the End
Joshua Ferris
June 2008

The book club met on Monday to discuss Joshua Ferris' Then We Came to the End . The book scored 3.5 out of 5. The majority of the attendees liked the book. Our discussion centered on the work place and the way things are in the Dilbert world of office politics: frustration, dissatisfaction, envy, gossip, sloth, back stabbing, fear of having to "walk spanish", and the joy of spending most of one's days inside a cubicle. Some attendees found Ferris' take a bit superficial, while others felt it reflected so realistically on the happenings of an actual office that it failed to be an interesting novel. Still we agreed that there was humor in the book and many page turners centered around the water cooler and the copy machine. One or two attendees present compared the book to their own real life experience of being pink-slipped. We also talked about the American work culture versus those in other parts of the world, the changing face of the work world, and the impermanence of jobs today. A good evening and good company.


Half of a Yellow Sun
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
May 2008
The Welsh Girl
by Peter Ho Davies
April 2008
The Bastard of Istanbul
by Elif Shafak
March 2008

The book club met to discuss Elif Shafak's The Bastard of Istanbul. Overall the book received 3.7 stars out of 5. Our discussion started by comparing Armenian and Turkish views of the history of Turkey. Why does the historical genocide of ethnic Armenians in the early 20th century stoke such sensitive Turkish nationalist response? How does this history compare to other historical controversies, such as northern and southern views about the American civil war? Shafak has chosen a very interesting subject matter, but some attendees felt that her attempts at magical realism, and "too much" detail, took away from the book. Some readers chose to applaud the author for examining such a difficult issue. We had two attendees who had recently visited Istanbul, and their accounts added a welcome personal dimension. Once again a very instructive evening.

The brookline booksmith book club meets the second Monday of every month, at 7:30 pm down in our Writer's and Reader's Room.
No need to sign up, just show up.
To contact our moderator, Sae, email
Enemies: A Love Story
by Isaac Bashevis Singer
February 2008

Our conversation of this moving, prescient, often zany novel delved straight into the questions around which the novel revolves.  Is it possible to love after having survived the Holocaust?  Is it possible to move on, to recreate a community, or to seek relief in the pursuit of middle class comforts?  Was Herman, the novel's  protagonist, a schlub or an outsider  philosopher/hero doing his best to live honestly, honoring the brokenness and loss his people had incurred by not trying to cover over or even to heal the wounds, and in his own peculiar way trying to keep alive the long rabbinical tradition from which he came?   The big question of the night was whether Singer was a fatalist or if there was a deeper faith, or a more active struggle at work in his novels.  People wondered whether Herman, the philanderer, was a good man, a compassionate man, strangely mystical, or simply a user, a spineless person incapable of choosing, or of loving anyone, and maybe he had been born this way and not made this way through what he had experienced in Europe of 1930's and 40's. Everyone wanted to know what made women love him so?  Only a few people adored the book but all seemed to like it.  It scored 4 stars out of 5.  It was noted that Singer was much like Dostoevsky with whom he has often been compared but that where Dostoevsky famously preferred faith over truth, Singer preferred truth-- awkward, sometimes beautiful, often ugly, almost always disorderly. Singer's genius comes through his conviction that if faith is authentic it must be able to withstand the truth of history. A good night and a good read.
Love in the Time of Cholera
by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez
January 2008

The Brookline Booksmith Book Club met on Monday to discuss Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Love in the Time of Cholera. The book received 4 stars out of 5, with one attendee giving it a perfect 5. Many attendees liked the book and described it as "magical" and "beautiful." One attendee thought that Florentino was not credible as a man completely obsessed with one woman's love while having 622 affairs over the course of five decades. Others ascribed his extreme patience to his being a "romantic" and/or "narsissitic."   In a way Marquez's Florentino is a creation that exmplifies the forever love that Romeo and Juliet promised each other. However, unlike Romeo, Florentino keeps his love going in spite of otherwise discouraging circumstances and does not give up. We then discussed the "married" vs. the variety of other kinds of "love" in relationships. The love for one's parents, sibilings, children, or friends. Is Fermina in love with her husband or was hers a marriage of material security? Some attendees thought that Fermina chose Juvenal over Florentino out of pragmatism and things worked out for her. Is it realistic that Fermina, the widow, ends up back with Florentino whom she had rejected decades earlier? Is her love for Florentino transformative? Or does age change our expectations? Mountains of our youth seem small in the distance of our later years. Another topic that we discussed was the title of the book and specifically cholera. Is Marquez using the yellow flag of cholera as a metaphor for love?
Overall this was a wonderful read and the discussion was truly lovely.

The brookline booksmith book club meets the second Monday of every month, at 7:30 pm down in our Writer's and Reader's Room.
No need to sign up, just show up.
To contact our moderator, Sae, email
The Gathering
by Anne Enright
December 2007

A Farewell to Arms
by Ernest Hemingway
November 2007

Many familiar faces and some new faces were in attendance tonight. Our discussion started with the writer and his work, and then we discussed style, the depth of characters or lack thereof, possible misogyny, WWI, love, atheism, male/female relationship of eight decades ago, marriage, pregnancy out of wedlock, representative shifts in the male and female archetypes in literature, and the connection of the narrative to our times. Is Fredric Henry a typical male of his age and times? Is Rinaldi? Is Catherine Barkley a typical British femme de guerre of 1918? How does war affect character then and now? We may be tempted to take it for granted that those who are not killed or maimed in combat will somehow come home, heal, and live normal lives, but Hemingway captured the sense, very precisely, of the contrary. Nothing is ever the same while the fighting is fresh, or after it is over and one has to quit. Nothing is lasting - including true love. As someone in the groupmentioned : "maybe the characters are shallow," either because war requires it of its survivors and witnesses or perhaps that is just how some people are in real life. Maybe this uncertainty was intentional. Another book club attendee summarized her reaction to the book: "Hemingway leaves a lot to imagination." This could be a good thing or equally not such a good thing. Rain plays a major role as metaphor in this book and the discussion hovered around rain and its symbolic significance in the novel. Our conversation also touched on the autobiographical nature of this work. Among the attendees we were honored to have the curator of the Hemingway exhibit at the JFK library in Boston. She shed light on many of the questions we had and invited those interested to make an appointment to see the exhibit.  As usual it was enlightening to be present and hear the different voices. A good evening and a wonderful read.
The New York Trilogy
by Paul Auster
October 2007
Overall star score: 3.8

The club's impression of this read was a good one, with three giving it a perfect 5 star score. Some attendees disliked the "ambiguities", characters that are "stripped" to the bone, and lack of overall  coherence. However, other attendees loved the "crisp" style and the reality-checked self-study narrative that naturally holds together like "life" itself. Given the reviews we had read about the book prior to reading it; about postmodernist "anti-narrative" and "metaphysical mystery," we had honed our senses to be numbed or enlightened, but were serendipitously  or unfortunately let down in this regard. Instead the attendees found The New York Trilogy to be a captivating human-scale look at complex issues such as: identity, obsession, self-analysis, the relationship between the author and the work, and the human condition. The discussion moved on in the direction of art and the artist. How does cinematic art differ from printed work? What is identity? and how does one acquire it?  A complex, unusual read that is nevertheless a good read and one that some attendees will read again.
Special Topics in Calamity Physics
by Marisha Pessl
September 2007
Overall star score: 3.9/5

The book club met on Monday to discuss Marisha Pessl's Special Topics in Calamity Physics. The attendees gave the book 3.9 stars out of 5, with one 5. Many attendees noted the "clever" bibliographical plot and the multiple implied "conspiracies" throughout. One attendee loved the ending.  We discussed the isolation and wanderings of teenage life and comparisons to the movie Heathers.  We left our discussion musing about Blue and her future.

Slow Man
by J.M. Coetzee
August 2007
Overall star score: 2.8/5

Sae reports:
Some attendees liked the main character but felt that Coetzee did not do enough with him, while others saw reality represented repeatedly, redundantly, and accurately. One attendee felt that there were no good choices or redemptive avenues explored in the book and perhaps Coetzee meant this to be so. Are we able to see or can we hope to see, or be prodded  to understand what our circumstantial selves obscure from view? Can one hope to achieve true goodness from habitual, negligent,existential servitude? Another attendee mentioned age and its interpretive value; one's response to life shifts with age. The discussion was wonderful and as usual I was left with more questions than answers.

The brookline booksmith book club meets the second Monday of every month, at 7:30 pm down in our Writer's and Reader's Room.
No need to sign up, just show up.
To contact our moderator, Sae, email

Suite Francaise
by Irene Nemirovsky
July 2007
Overall star score: 4.8/5

Of the close to fifty people in attendance 12 gave this book five out of five which puts the book in first place  on our starred list  of reads. Almost everyone in the audience last night loved the book. For one or two atttendees it was a "life changing" read. The attendees were in awe of the nuances of the characters and the unusual treatment of persons on both sides of a war. Some of those present had first hand experience of WWII and felt that the book touched areas of reality with profound clarity. Much of the discussion centered around the question "how much is our reading of a work influenced by our knowledge of the author's life?" One member of the book club mentioned that there is a "disconnect" between the war, the occupation, and its consequences as experienced by those at home and those who are "living through it." The discussion touched on the present day manifestation of this sort of disconnect.

The Road
by Cormac McCarthy
June 2007


The History of Love
by Nicole Krauss

May 2007

We were thrilled to host our largest group ever. This may be a testament to the quality of the book, but perhaps it's because our moderator Sae is so handsome and intelligent. The book gained 4.7 out of 5 stars, which makes it the most universally acclaimed book club pick yet, and while some readers found the book to be an intricate maze that was hard to navigate, they reported that it nevertheless left them with a "sense of reality." All agreed it was a moving and wonderful read.

Old Filth
by Jane Gardam
April 2007
The brookline booksmith book club meets the second Monday of every month, at 7:30 pm down in our Writer's and Reader's Room.
No need to sign up, just show up.
To contact our moderator, Sae, email

The Places in Between
by Rory Stewart
March 07
Overall star score: 4.2/5

We had a long discussion that lasted well beyond our one hour allotted time. Most attendees liked the book. Our conversation covered many topics: Afghanistan, travel-writing, canine companionship, hazards of traveling on foot in the middle of winter in deep snow, war, warlords, opium, democracy,  the Taliban, and religion. The overall book club impression of this work was that it is a well written "travelogue"  about an inaccessible culture and inhospitable location by someone both adventurous and lucky . The disappointment in the work was its lack of historical, cultural, and geographical depth. The book club gave this book 4.2 stars out of 5, with one 5 and two 2s. A good night was had by all."


Case Histories
by Kate Atkinson
February 07
Overall star score: 4.2/5

Sae reported: It was a full house and we had a lively discussion. Most attendees loved the book and found the characters and the plot well developed. Some attendees, however, found disturbing the disappearance without a trace of a few characters. Overall the book got 4.2 stars out of five, with at least two attendees giving it 5 stars! One attendee brought up the fact that author writes very well from the male point of view, and that in itself is quite a feat. Another attendee spoke on the rare aspect of Kate Atkinson's mystery writing: "what happens to people, their grief, their healing, and their personalities, in the aftermath of violence." Does anyone become free with truth? Is there such thing as certain safety? As often happens we are left with more profound questions at the end of the evening. Surely a good group and a wonderful experience. Someone mentioned that soon there will be a sequel to Case Histories and we cannot wait!


The Inheritance of Loss
by Kiran Desai
January 07

Book club moderator Sae reports: Most attendees found the writing in the book "beautiful." Some thought the characters were “not fully developed" or "vague," while others thought the vagueness was intended as literary device in a "reality" based narrative. So it was not considered Tolstoy, but nevertheless scored 3.5 out of 5 stars in our most accurate show of hands book club reader rating. The evening ended with the longing for more thoughts and more discussion and with the Borges' poem Boast of Quietness,  which encapsulated the Desai narrative with its provocative entanglement: "My humanity is in feeling we are all voices of the same poverty."


by Ian McEwan
December 06

It was a full house. Most everyone in attendance loved the book, although some felt that the plot and character development were "over-the-top" in some places in the book. This book was one of the few books we have read written after 9/11 and addressing some of the issues we have had to grapple with or avoid grappling with since. "Loss of innocence," as one thoughtful attendee put it. Many of the attendees expressed the skil lful way McEwan captures lives based on and shaped by "fear."  Perhaps not a Crime and Punishment caliber, but contemporaneously persuasive nevertheless. A lot to reflect on as usual. I guess part of the reason for the bookclub is that the more minds the richer the tapestry, and the crowd this night wove a pretty magnificent one. 


The Shadow of the Wind
Carlos Ruiz Zafon
November 06

Most of the attendees loved the book. One attendee summed it up as: "a mystery Gothic plot-driven romance" novel. Another noted Zafon's use of female "secondary characters" as an intentional literary device and not misogyny. A  perceptive attendee found the novel "at times over the top," but thought that it was intentional. Many readers thought that this book was going to be a movie. Another attendee noted that the book had "multiple levels" and it was intriguing. The discussion then took a turn to the question of translation. What is lost in translation? Some attendees brought up the important point of "culturally relevant stylistic interpretation." Do "melodrama and flamboyance" in literature play the same role in American literature as they do in Spanish? Our discussion then moved to our first literary "intrigue." At this point some attendees reminisced about the books they read  as youngsters over and over again some in secret "under the sheets" late at night. Once again the night's discussion left me with many good thoughts and many more questions.



Never Let Me Go
by Kazuo Ishiguru
October 06

Sae reports, "Many old and new members were present as were many opinions and likes and dislikes. The conversation began around the topic of ethics and morality in matters of "clones" and "cloning." One member brought up the case of parents who had a child afflicted by a disease that required a genetically matched organ donor. To "procure" such organ, they got pregnant and created a sibling that "donated" the aforementioned organ. Is this morally justified? Some pretty weighty stuff made the rounds.  One new member  suggested that the  Ishiguro clones were in some ways "more human," and that they make ourselves look inward to how we are living and loving. A few attendees said that the book brought tears to their eyes. The book left most of us in deep thought and gave the bookclub meeting an air of love and reverence for all life-including the teenage clone kind!"


White Teeth
by Zadie Smith
September 06

Sae reported: We had a wonderful White Teeth book night. Most of the attendees loved Zadie Smith's masterpiece. She wrote the book in her early twenties and naturally our book group discussed why and how she could have written so well so young. Some people thought our schools do not do a good job of teaching young people to read well or write well. There was no definitive answer. One attendee mentioned that she had met a man who was the inspiration for one of the characters in the book. Another attendee mentioned Gunter Grass and his recent revelation about his youth (the discussion at this point was circling on the pre-911 "innocence"  of  Jihad and Islam). Many spoke of youth, circumstance,  and human follies, while one person rejected the idea of giving a "reason" for Grass's misdeed. I, for one, was completely moved and enlightened by what different attendees brought into our evening discussion.  A must read.


The Known World
by Edward P. Jones
August 06

Co-leader Sae reported, "We discussed The Known World by Edward P. Jones. It was a majority thumbs up for a wonderfully written novel on a topic about which most of us claimed  ignorance. The discussion covered a range of issues: slavery, the slave trade, Africa, and post-revolutionary America. Marylin, a faithful book club attendee, brought up the fascinating history of the banjo and the role of our African American heritage in its development. The memorable quote of the night for me was: 'each of us lives in their own known world.'"


Leaves of Grass
by Walt Whitman
July 06

Club leader Sae reports, "When we had picked this title, there had been much uncertainty surrounding discussing poetry-our very first! But within the first five minutes the book club attendees cast aside any and all doubts. For most this was a revisit, but the majority felt moved by the 'living Whitman.' Some read verses from the book aloud, and some listened. Religion, politics, Lincoln, Madison, Hamilton, Slavery,  government, and etc., were brought into our evening. Some drew comparisons between Lincoln's second inaugural speech and Whitman's 'affirmative' vision for and of the USA and our present circumstances. 'What would Whitman think if he were here now?' It was a great gathering and a moving discussion."


The Days of Abandonment
by Elena Ferrante
June 06

Book club leader Sae reported: It was a good heated discussion with many pros and cons. Some attendees found the writing "raw," but very "real." There were poignant points made on break-ups and how people respond when a partner leaves. Ferrante has managed to capture one such not-so-pretty response accurately and many attendees agreed and identified with her protagonist. A good discussion and a good time was had by all!


by Marilynne Robinson
May 06

According to Sae, "Most attendees enjoyed the book very much. As is usual for a good book the conversation soon drifted to all sorts of other topics. Among these, there was a lively discussion on the nature of life and whether some lives are more spectacular and why.   Not only does the book club recommend this book, two members highly recommend M. Robinson's earlier work: Housekeeping."  The book club meets about 10 feet from the door of my office, so I'm lucky enough to be able to eavesdrop on their discussions while I'm doing paperwork, and I'm always surprised and intrigued by the wide variety of opinions people can hold about the same book.


by Imre Kertesz
April 06

Book Club co-leader Sae reported, "The book club response to Fatelessness was positive and engaging. Many of the attendees found the narrative 'weird' and 'unusual' compared to other holocaust literary works, but nevertheless important, 'significant,' and 'profound.' Part of the Nobel address by Kertesz was read to us by one of the club attendees and it shed some light on the author's state of mind and art."

Tortilla Flat
by John Steinbeck
March 06

Book Club co-leader Sae said, "It was one of the most interested crowds discussing Tortilla Flat. People had lots to say and they did. We had a hard time ending the meeting! Book club readers had enjoyed reading this book. They found the characters on the one hand 'mythical,' and on the other hand fascinating and alive."

Under the Banner of Heaven
by John Krakauer
February 06
Tin Drum
by Gunter Grass
January 06