I’m part of Zoom book club with my mom, her sisters, a daughter-in-law, and occasionally some cousins. It’s truly lovely to talk literature while weaving in stories of our shared history. This month, we’re each proposing some options for next year. If you have any recommendation, particularly historical fiction or historical nonfiction, I am all ears!
I need to select 5 recommendations by the end of the year. Here are a few that have caught my interest:
1. The Island of Sea Women
Set on the Korean island of Jeju, The Island of Sea Women follows two girls from very different backgrounds as they begin working in the sea with their village’s all-female diving collective. Over many decades—through the Japanese colonialism of the 1930s and 1940s, World War II, the Korean War, and the era of cellphones and wet suits for the women divers—the women develop the closest of bonds. Nevertheless, their differences are impossible to ignore: one is the daughter of a Japanese collaborator, forever marking her, and the other was born into a long line of haenyeo and will inherit her mother’s position leading the divers. After hundreds of dives and years of friendship, forces outside their control will push their relationship to the breaking point.
Why this book, you ask? I’ve been on a Korean content kick lately. I have been fascinated by the culture and history, thanks to the show Mr. Sunshine.
2. East of Eden
First published in 1952, East of Eden is the work in which Steinbeck created his most mesmerizing characters and explored his most enduring themes: the mystery of identity, the inexplicability of love, and the murderous consequences of love’s absence. A masterpiece of Steinbeck’s later years, East of Eden is a powerful and vastly ambitious novel that is at once a family saga and a modern retelling of the Book of Genesis.
Why this one? Steinbeck holds a special place in my heart, alongside Bradbury, Orwell, and Bolano. Truly exceptional, classic writing.
3. Remarkably Bright Creatures
A woman begins working the night shift at the aquarium after her husband’s death. Keeping busy has always helped her cope, which she’s been doing since her eighteen-year-old son mysteriously vanished on a boat in Puget Sound over thirty years ago. The woman becomes acquainted with a giant Pacific octopus living at the aquarium, and they develop a special friendship. The octopus somehow deduces what happened the night of the son’s disappearance and does everything he can to communicate what he knows to the woman.
Why this one? I have a soft spot for human-animal relationships, and I’m quite intrigue by how this story may unfold.
What books would you recommend for a book club?
I’m at a loss! For the last decade, I’ve been gravely disappointed with suggestions from the New York Times and other bestsellers lists. What books have you read and loved? Where do you go to find recommendations? Have you read any of the above?
Some group favorites so far have been This Tender Land, The Alice Network, and The Atomic Weight of Love.