Utne Book Club 2004

A year's worth of books worth talking about


| Indie Culture 2004


Readers who joined last year's Utne Book Club in the Caf? Utne online community know that these wide-ranging discussions featuring Utne staffers and many enthusiastic book lovers -- sometimes with the book's author putting in a cameo appearance -- take the excitement of reading to a whole new level. Starting in January, a new round of discussions of great new books begins.

January
You Shall Know Our Velocity!
by Dave Eggers (Vintage)
Is he a staggering, heartbreaking genius? Whatever you think of America's hottest young writer, Eggers' combination of irony and seriousness, done up in colorful prose, generates debate. In his latest, a couple of friends travel the world giving away money.

February
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
by Dai Sijie (Anchor)
This story follows two boys who relive the rigors of Maoist re-education in the Chinese countryside by secretly reading a cache of forbidden Western classics. Dai, a filmmaker who experienced brutal Communist re-education firsthand, writes in a breezy, cinematic style that has helped propel this first novel to international acclaim.

March
The Razor's Edge
by Somerset Maugham (Vintage)
First published in 1943, The Razor's Edge was an immensely popular novel by an immensely popular writer. Maugham's main character, Larry Darrell, is a 'Dharma bum' years before Kerouac -- a young seeker who rejects his past in search of spiritual meaning on travels around the world.

April
Crescent
by Diana Abu-Jabar (Norton)
Centered on the love affair between Sirine, a beautiful Arab-American chef, and Hanif, a college professor exiled from Iraq, Crescent shows Arabs as human beings rather than symbols of American fear. Far from being didactic, however, Abu-Jabar's novel is charming and romantic, with themes of food, love, and longing entwined in a sensuous narrative.

May
Break Any Woman Down
by Dana Johnson (Anchor Books)
Johnson's outsider characters -- porn stars, punkers, alienated nerds -- all struggle with the contradictions between who they are, who they want to be, and who others want them to be. This collection of short stories -- Johnson's first book -- reflects her journey from black, blue-collar Los Angeles to the literary life.