Thousands of books hit the stands every year; with so many beguiling ones out there, how's a bookworm to pick and choose? Sarasota News and Books' Hester Jeswald gives us her top picks for book clubs to tackle this year.
1) Don't Lets Go To the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller.
A searing eye-opener, this is a powerfully-written account of the author's childhood in Africa that will have you laughing one minute and swallowing down a lump in your throat the next.
2) Child of My Heart by Alice McDermott
A coming of age story that's elevated to something more profound by Macdermott's incredible way with language, and the hidden messages in the plot.
3) The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
The debut novel by last year's Pulitzer Prize recipient has critics raving about the wise and lyrical way in which Lahiri depicts the growing up of an Indian boy in America.
4) The Emperor of Ocean Park by Stephen Carter
"It's a not often told story about the black middle class," says Jeswald. The quasi-mystery is Carter's first piece of fiction.
5) City of Your Final Destination by Peter Cameron
A character-driven story about a man on a journey to South America and the voyage of self-discovery that's a part of his quest.
6) She's Not There by Jennifer Boylan
"This is not a book for everyone, but should be read by everyone if you want to know what being transgendered is like," says Jeswald. Jennifer was James Boylan until the age of 40, when he became a woman.
7) Last Train to Paradise by Les Staniford
This piece of non-fiction by local author Staniford tells the fascinating tale of building the railroad to Key West. Great characters, and great facts about the engineering marvel the railroad was, says Jeswald.
8) Bringing Down the House by Ben Mezrich
True story about how a group of MIT students figure out how to beat the casinos in Vegas by playing blackjack. "It opens your eyes to the world of nerdy math whizzes," says Jeswald.
9) Book of Illusions by Paul Oster
Generally a pretty difficult writer, this is one of Oster's most accessible books, says Jeswald. It's about a man in search of a silent film star, and is as interesting for its twisty plot as its tidbits about the silent film heyday.
10) Disgrace by JM Coetzee
Not exactly light reading: the 2003 Nobel Prize winner's novel about the rape of a South African girl and its aftermath.
To find out more about how to start and maintain a bookclub, and how to pick books, catch Jeswald's presentation at the Sarasota Reading Festival.