This is how I feel about Harper Lee publishing a new novel. Atticus 4 Lyfe.

This is how I feel about Harper Lee publishing a new novel. Atticus 4 Lyfe.

As I announced on Facebook last night, it has been suggested that Reading With Hippos host a reading challenge to coincide with this summer's release of Harper Lee's second novel. (Shout-out to Ashley for the great idea!) 

So yeah, we're definitely going to do that--maybe a collective re-read of To Kill a Mockingbirdfollowed by a group reading and discussion of the new book, Go Set a Watchman. I can already tell it's going to be a ton of fun.

But GSAW isn't going to be released until July 14th, and that just feels too far away. Why wait until July to read and discuss a great book together?

Thus, this March will be the inaugural month of the Reading With Hippos Book Club. You might recall that last March, we read George Eliot's massive classic Middlemarch. That was a broadening experience for sure, and I'm still proud of myself for getting through it, but I'm hoping we can make March 2015 a little lighter, a little less academic...and yes, maybe a little more fun.

This is where YOU come in. I need your input! I haven't been a teacher for four years now, but old habits die hard, and if I choose a book for us all on my own, you know it will end up being Ulysses or Infinite Jest. (You know it will.) And nobody needs that. Least of all me. I just have a hard time turning off the compulsion to force myself to read famous/difficult/highbrow literature. It's actually pretty twisted, because typically I don't even enjoy reading books like that--I just feel like I should.

Anyway, I did my best to ignore that annoying voice in my head and put together some ideas for titles we can read together next month. Take a look, see what you think, and let me know in the comments what you might be interested in reading.

Keep in mind, this list is just a starting point--if you have a great book in mind you think we'll like, by all means, put it in the comments too.

There are a few ways we can go with a book club selection: we could read a novel, a collection of short stories, or non-fiction. I can see benefits to each one, so let me know your preference.


A novel would probably be the most straightforward choice, because it's what I normally read anyway and there are so dang many out there. Here are some possibilities I came up with:

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

I loved The Paying Guests this past year, so I'm excited to go back and read other books by Waters. This one is her most popular--the blurb describes it as a "Dickensian novel of thrills and reversals." It would also help fulfill my goal of reading more LGBTQ literature this year.

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James

This one sounds amazing, but I've been putting it off because it's almost 700 pages. I've seen some great reviews of it, though, and it explores a culture and topic I'm not already familiar with, specifically Jamaica in the 1970s. The story centers around the attempted assassination of Bob Marley, but it boasts a huge cast of characters and has been called a "modern epic."

The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings

This one was made into a movie starring George Clooney. It's set in Hawaii and is about a family in crisis: the mom is in a coma and the daughters are out of control. I'm thinking with this one, there would be plenty to talk about as far as family and marriage dynamics.

Short Stories

A short story collection would lend itself well to an online book club, since we could discuss just a few stories a week over the course of a month. Here are some I've been meaning to read:

Almost Famous Women by Megan Mayhew Bergman

These are fictional stories based on the lives of real women who all achieved some level of fame or notoriety during their lifetimes, but who have been largely forgotten today. This book has been getting quite a bit of hype, and would probably provide plenty of talking points related to feminism and women's issues (plus I've heard the writing is superb).

Get in Trouble by Kelly Link

This short story collection sounds like a wild and wacky ride, and Margaret Atwood mentioned it specifically during the lecture I attended last week. That's really all the endorsement I need, how about you?

Non-Fiction and Essays

I've been encouraged by some of my longtime friends to branch out more often into non-fiction, and while I don't always take my friends' advice, every time I give in and read some non-fiction, I'm always happy I did. Here are some non-fiction books that piqued my interest:

The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison

These essays explore essential questions about what it means to be human, in particular how we go about feeling our own pain and the pain of others. Some of the topics Jamison explores include poverty tourism (that's a hot-button one with me), street violence, reality TV, illness, and incarceration.

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

I know, I still haven't read this book! How is that possible? This is quite possibly the most-hyped non-fiction book of 2014, at least in the circles I run in. Roxane Gay is an incredibly interesting person, and as someone who's called herself a feminist since about the age of 10, I think I'd really enjoy delving into her thoughts on what it means to be a feminist these days.

(Note: All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links--if you're in the market for one of the books mentioned here, click through using one of our links and send RWH some love!)

Okay, so those are some of my ideas. Now it's your turn! What book would you love to read with a group of like-minded nerds? I can't wait to hear your ideas. 

Let's make March an awesome month of reading!

CategoriesBook Club