Books with Reading Group Guides


The guides are arranged alphabetically by author's last name

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    The Enchanted April

    Four women who share only their unhappiness and a love of wisteria flee 1920s London and converge on a magical villa in Portofino Italy in this charming comedy of manners that has been called “a feast of flowers”—Times Literary Supplement.

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    Cassandra at the Wedding

    Dorothy Baker’s fascinating tragicomic novel follows an unpredictable course of events in which Cassandra appears variously as conniving, self-aware, pitiful, frenzied, absurd, and heartbroken—at once utterly impossible and surprisingly sympathetic.

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    Wish Her Safe At Home

    Stephen Benatar, introduction by John Carey
    An unexpected inheritance frees Rachel Waring from her dreary life. But will her newfound joie de vivre free her from her grasp on reality as well? Benatar’s brilliantly subjective storytelling keeps the reader guessing till the very end.

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    The Outward Room

    Millen Brand, afterword by Peter Cameron
    The Outward Room was a sensation when first published in 1937. It is the story of a young woman’s path from suffering to deep fulfillment, set in Depression-era New York City. “One of those firmly painted, exquisite miniatures of life…that contrive to be unsparing and honest, and at the same time refreshing and lovely.” —Theodore Dreiser

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    A Meaningful Life

    L. J. Davis, introduction by Jonathan Lethem
    A black comedy about real estate and redemption and the pitfalls of using the one to get the other. Lowell Lake (from Idaho) thinks that he has found the cure for the quarter-life doldrums in the form of a fixer-upper in Brooklyn, but soon discovers that he has lost his livelihood, his wife, and possibly his sanity.

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    The Dud Avocado

    Elaine Dundy, introduction by Terry Teachout
    Elaine Dundy’s hilarious novel follows the misadventures of an American girl who impulsively quits college and heads off to conquer Paris in the 1950s. “A delightful few hours of sparkling reading entertainment. Summing up: Froth and frolic.” —Newsweek

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    The Old Man and Me

    In Elaine Dundy’s follow-up to her best-selling The Dud Avocado, a young American named Honey Flood arrives in London with the goal of seducing its brightest literary star. “A witty black comedy of errors.”—Gore Vidal

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    The Book of Ebenezer Le Page

    G.B. Edwards, introduction by John Fowles
    Curmudgeonly and wise, Ebenezer le Page recounts his eighty years on the small island of Guernsey. “A true epic, as sexy as it is hilarious.” — Allan Gurganus, O, The Oprah Magazine

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    The Siege of Krishnapur

    J.G. Farrell, introduction by Pankaj Mishra
    The Siege of Krishnapur— thought by many to be Farrell’s finest novel—chronicles the year of the Great Mutiny in India, when the sepoys turned in bloody rebellion against their complacent British overlords.

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    A Time of Gifts: On Foot to Constantinople:From the Hook of Holland to the Middle Danube

    Patrick Leigh Fermor, introduction by Jan Morris
    At once a memoir of coming-of-age, an account of a journey, and a dazzling exposition of the English language, A Time of Gifts is also a portrait of a continent already showing ominous signs of the holocaust to come.

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    The Mirador: Dreamed Memories of Irène Némirovsky by Her Daughter

    Élisabeth Gille, translated from the French by Marina Harss
    Élisabeth Gille was five years old when her mother, Irène Némirovsky, (whose Suite Française would be a surprise best-seller six decades later) died in Auschwitz. The Mirador is a lookout from which Gille reconstructs the story of her mother’s life, from child of privilege in Kiev, to renowned novelist, to fugitive in rural France. “[Gille] sets out to live in her mother’s head.” —The Nation

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    Nightmare Alley

    Nightmare Alley begins with an extraordinary description of a freak-show geek— the object of the voyeuristic crowd’s gleeful disgust—going about his work at a county fair. Young Stan Carlisle is working as a carny, and he wonders how a man could fall so low. There’s no way that anything like that will ever happen to him.

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    A High Wind in Jamaica

    Richard Hughes, introduction by Francine Prose
    A tale of seduction and betrayal, of accommodation and manipulation, of weird humor and unforeseen violence, this classic of twentieth-century literature is above all an extraordinary reckoning with the secret reasons and otherworldly realities of childhood.

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    The Summer Book

    Tove Jansson, introduction by Kathryn Davis, translated from the Swedish by Thomas Teal
    A grandmother and her granddaughter live out a summer of play, talk, love, and exploration on a tiny island in the Gulf of Finland (also the setting for some of the author’s Moomintroll tales). “A marvelous, beautiful, wise novel, which is also very funny.” —Philip Pullman

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    The True Deceiver

    Tove Jansson, introduction by Ali Smith, translated from the Swedish by Thomas Teal
    A story of manipulation and deceit set in the depths of the Swedish winter, The True Deceiver is unlike anything else Tove Jansson wrote. “I loved this book. It’s cool in both senses of the word, understated yet exciting, and with a tension that keeps you reading.” —Ruth Rendell

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    Skylark

    Dezso Kosztolányi, introduction by Péter Esterházy, translated from the Hungarian by Richard Aczel
    This short, perfect novel seems to encapsulate all the world’s pain in a soap bubble. Its surface is as smooth as a fable, its setting and characters are unremarkable, its tone is blithe, and its effect is shattering.” —Deborah Eisenberg, The New York Review of Books

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    Walkabout

    James Vance Marshall, introduction by Lee Siegel
    “A haunting little idyll in the same vein as A High Wind in Jamaica…tells of two children, a boy and a girl, sole survivors of a plane crash in the Australian bush. Their fragile veneer of modern culture clashes with the primitive soul of a boy who is making his tribal ‘walkabout.’” —Time

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    The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne

    Brian Moore, afterword by Mary Gordon
    A deeply sympathetic portrait of a Belfast woman, come down in the world and denied the comforts once granted to her sort (from the Catholic Church, from her genteel friends), who has a shameful secret. This is the book that launched Brian Moore’s career.

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    The Mangan Inheritance

    Brian Moore, introduction by Christopher Ricks
    After his movie-star wife dispenses with him, Jamey Mangan decamps to Ireland in search of his roots. After all, he bears an uncanny resemblance to the only known photograph of the famous Irish poète maudit James Clarence Mangan. Filled with pathos and humor, The Mangan Inheritance is a cautionary tale for those seeking their presents in their pasts.

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    Contempt

    Alberto Moravia, introduction by Tim Parks, translated from the Italian by Angus Davidson
    All the qualities for which Alberto Moravia is justly famous—his cool clarity of expression, his exacting attention to psychological complexity and social pretension, his still-striking openness about sex—are evident in this story of a failing marriage.

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    The Pumpkin Eater

    Penelope Mortimer, introduction by Daphne Merkin
    An exquisitely surreal black comedy about marriage, motherhood, and the madness of modern life. “(Mortimer) is the family historian of the smart, go ahead, two-car household which has a double load of private misery packed in each boot.” —Robert Pitman, Sunday Express

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    The Family Mashber

    Der Nister, introduction by David Malouf, translated by Leonard Wolf
    The story of three brothers—a businessman, a mystic, and a savant—that is a brilliantly innovative fusion of modernist art and traditional storytelling. “The restitution of this Yiddish masterwork—as life-saturated as the other great Russian novels—is an augmentation of world literature.” —Cynthia Ozick

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    After Claude

    Iris Owens, introduction by Emily Prager
    Funny and foulmouthed, Harriet tears around Greenwich Village insulting friend and foe alike. But when “the French rat” Claude leaves her (or did she leave Claude?), Harriet is adrift. That is, until she discovers an unlikely savior in a dark room at the Chelsea Hotel. “Spikey with mockery, carbon steel wit and mature observation.” —The Village Voice

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    The Judges of the Secret Court

    David Stacton, introduction by John Crowley
    Stacton’s historical recreation of John Wilkes Booth’s plot to assassinate Lincoln, its execution, and its aftermath (including the trials of the conspirators, Mary Surratt among them) is among the finest books ever written about the Civil War. “David Stacton is an original, finely pitched voice in American fiction.” —Larry McMurtry

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    A Game of Hide and Seek

    Elizabeth Taylor, introduction by Caleb Crain
    Harriet comes of age between the wars. She’s not especially charming or attractive, but she has one passion in her life: Vesey. Nothing, not marriage to another man, or motherhood, will change that. “Taylor is finally being recognised as an important British author: an author of great subtlety, great compassion and great depth.”—Sarah Waters

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    Angel

    Elizabeth Taylor, introduction by Hilary Mantel
    Liar, fantasist, monster, writer: Taylor’s title character, who rises from working-class girl to wildly famous sentimental novelist, is all of these things. She is also Taylor’s greatest creation, a character who is terrible, poignantly sympathetic, and unforgettable.

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    The Pilgrim Hawk: A Love Story

    A work of classical elegance and concision, The Pilgrim Hawk stands with Faulkner’s The Bear as one of the finest American short novels: a beautifully crafted story that is also a poignant evocation of the implacable power of love.

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    Stoner

    John Williams, introduction by John McGahern
    John Williams’s Stoner is something rarer than a great novel — it is a perfect novel, so well told and beautifully written, so deeply moving, that it takes your breath away. — Morris Dickstein, The New York Times Book Review

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    The Chrysalids

    John Wyndham, introduction by Christopher Priest
    Like everyone else in the nuclear-wasted world he lives in, David is loyal to his kind and on the watch for anyone who deviates from the ideological or genetic norm. But what would happen if it were revealed that David himself was a mutant? Wyndham’s novel is a thrilling science fiction classic for teens and adults alike.

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    The Post-Office Girl

    Stefan Zweig, translated from the German by Joel Rotenberg
    Zweig’s posthumously discovered novel, about the rise and fall of a provincial Austrian girl invited to the Swiss Alps by her wealthy American aunt, is available in English for the first time.

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