Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Essential Reading: Books We’re Talking About

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This month, our editors and columnists are talking about... (wait for it)...books! Perhaps this is not a surprise and it shouldn't be. We talk (and write) about books a lot around here. What's different this month is that we're sharing about talking about books. In other words, our editors and columnists offer up their suggestions for your book clubs. Because sometimes the best thing about reading is talking about it.

Download the list to find it fast at your local bookstore or library.

Fiction Co-Editor, Suzanne Kamata writes, "We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver touches upon hot button topics such as school shooting sprees and reluctant motherhood. Her main characters are arguably unlikeable, and the story itself is highly disturbing, but I found this book to be compelling from start to finish. It's the kind of book that provokes a strong reaction. It's been years since I've read it, but I still think about it."

Four Worlds Columnist, Avery Fischer Udagawa, shares, "I did not join a formal discussion of Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, but it is the first book that has so impressed me with its format--alphabetized, quirky entries from one sentence to a few pages in length, about aspects of the author's life from Fears to Q-Tips to Wallet, Forgotten--that I attempted to write some pages in the format myself, to give to the librarian friend who loaned it to me. Of as much interest as the 'encyclopedia' approach is a section about discovering it, which lists influences ranging from Sei Shonagon to Agathie Christie. Rosenthal's creative use of many parts of the book, including spine, back cover, and copyright page, provides additional commentary on the bookmaking enterprise and life as a writer-reader in the early 2000s. The book ends with a refreshingly unconventional guide for book groups."

Kristina Riggle, Fiction Co-Editor, suggests: "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua is one worth talking about. Whether you're appalled by Chua's intense super-parenting or inspired to rally your kids to greater success with higher expectations, this book can't help but foster strong reactions, which make you examine your own feelings about parenting: hers, yours, and that of your peer group."

Christina Marie Speed, Literary Reflections Co-Editor, recommends: "I selected Blueprints for Building Better Girls by Elissa Schappell for a recent literary salon after attending a reading by the author. Every woman in our group had vocal and detailed responses to Schappell's chronically flawed female characters. The short story collection is loosely tied together thematically and creates space for women to consider sexuality, power (and powerlessness), the limitations of language, and how we treat ourselves when we make mistakes. This book had us considering ourselves, our gender, and some hypothetical what-ifs late into the night."

Rhena Tantisunthorn received her MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University in 2007. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and daughter and is currently working on a book about her experiences working with Karenni refugees on the Thai-Burma border. You can find her blog here: Rhena Tan.

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Thank you, Avery Udagawa! Thank you for reviewing Rosenthal's book! Some women look sophisticated wearing a shawl, others foolish. How many of us think this and how many of us write it? Amy Rosenthal does the latter, to the delight of the former. Stunningly apt, Rosenthal describes normalcy and makes it hilarious and fresh while still close to home. I read this book years ago, and would definitely call it a game changer. I loved the topic- herself. I loved the format- organized and unique. I loved the wit and the sincerity and found her blending of the two to be the source of her insight and poignancy. Her book inspired me to be living, talking, walking art. Thanks for reminding me of it and I wholeheartedly recommend it!
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