I think I forgot to mention that my book group met a while back to discuss Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple. It's a very funny book that pretty accurately skewers suburban life (specifically, in Seattle). If you read "Dear Mountain Room Parents," Semple's hilarious piece in the New Yorker a while back about, you will know what you're getting into. This book is told mostly through emails, journal entries, faxes, and so on, and mostly by the teenage daughter of Bernadette, a wacky genius architect and her Microsoft bigwig husband. I can't say you must read this book, but it was certainly entertaining and clever.
After that I read one of the best books I've read in, like, forever: The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout. It's the story of a family from small-town Maine; the Burgess sister stays in Maine but both Burgess brothers end up in Manhattan. Then the sister's teenage son gets into some trouble, and his uncles have to get involved. The family dynamics are painfully dysfunctional, but the characters are all portrayed realistically and (mostly) lovingly. There was so much to think about regarding family loyalty and shared guilt and the difference between staying put and moving on. I liked the book so much that I suggested it for next month's book group meeting. I'm really looking forward to the discussion!
The last book I read was Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter, which I also loved. This was a brilliant, crazy story that starts on the Italian coast in 1962 and then jumps to present-day Hollywood (and back and forth a few times, with stops along the way in Idaho, London, and elsewhere). It's mostly a beautiful love story, but also really funny and really touching and just about the most creative thing I've read in ages. As Richard Russo said about it, "Why mince words? Beautiful Ruins is an absolute masterpiece.” And Maureen Corrigan called it "a literary miracle." Really, read it.
Oh, one more thing: I had forgotten about Better World Books, where you can buy used books really cheap and get free shipping—and for every book you buy, they donate one to a needy school or literacy program. I just ordered four books that had been languishing on my Amazon Wish List, all for under $14, shipped. Stay tuned....