The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. My first book by this author, and it won't be my last. Anyone who can get me interested in the birth of the comic book superhero has got to be good. Lucky for me, though comic books were definitely the main theme of the book, there's so much more to it. The writing is excellent, the characters are vivid, the plot flows swiftly, and it's a memorable and believable portrayal of 1940s New York City. I'm looking forward to reading Chabon's The Wonder Boys one of these days.
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. This is the story of a small gang of young thugs who wreak havoc to their hearts' content until the authorities decide to do something about it. I'd seen the movie years ago, but only vaguely remembered the general idea (as well as a few indelible moments that I wouldn't have minded forgetting). What stands out most in my memory from reading the book is Nadsat, the slang vocabulary spoken by the main characters. I'd been forewarned about it, and (maybe largely because I was prepared?) I found it relatively painless to grow accustomed to. The version I read had a weirdly didactic final chapter. I think the book would be better without it.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Surely it's not a spoiler to tell you that this book is about two teenagers who fall in love . . . after they meet at their cancer survivor's support group. (After all, the huge movie adaptation just came out two weeks ago, and even I've seen ads for it everywhere I've looked. If you don't already know the premise, it's your own problem.) I never, ever would have chosen to read this book if not under duress from Book Club. Love? And cancer?? I smell horrifying tearjerker. Not My Thing. But, you know, John Green can do things I never would put up with from the likes of Nicholas Sparks (I'm looking at YOU, A Walk to Remember). And--not that I'm calling him Shakespeare or anything--I have a bit more respect for teenage lovers dealing with cancer than those who end up killing themselves over a big, stupid misunderstanding.
So, as far as I can remember, that's it for books read with my sad old defunct book club. Your special surprise? Two books that were rejected by said book club--but I read them anyway.
A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel. This is an incredibly detailed account of the French Revolution and its three major leaders (Danton, Robespierre and Desmoulins). It's an extraordinary work, more history than fiction, about a fascinating time and place. I wish I could have retained more of what I learned from it.
Despite the fact that this one is definitely worth reading, I think Old Book Club was right to turn it down. I imagine they would have hated it.
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters. It's Victorian, it's gothic, it's naughty, it's full of mysteries and secrets, and deception is heaped upon deception. It's the story of a pickpocket (hence the title) who agrees to trick an heiress out of her inheritance. If Book Club could have overlooked the naughty bits, I think they would have had just as much fun with this one as anything by Kate Morton.
Five down, 25 to go!