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The victim of a miscarriage of justice, the Count of Monte Cristo is fired by a desire for retribution and empowered by a stroke of providence. In his campaign of vengeance, he becomes an anonymous agent of fate. The sensational narrative of intrigue, betrayal, escape, and triumphant revenge moves at a cracking pace. Alexandre Dumas’ novel presents a powerful conflict between good and evil embodied in an epic saga of rich diversity that is complicated by the hero’s ultimate discomfort with the hubristic implication of his own actions.
Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed. I’m over here simultaneously giddy with love over my nephew and week-old niece and bleary-eyed with exhaustion due to a health emergency with my dad. I made sure to take a power nap before composing this newsletter to avoid it going completely off the rails. Then again, I do that on a good day, so….to the club!!
Nibbles and Sips
There’s been a lot of takeout round these parts due to all the hubbub of having a newborn in the family and a family member in and out of the emergency room. I hope to whip up some homemade meals soon and this pasta from (you guessed it) Half Baked Harvest is at the top of my list: a 20-minute orzo carbonara with burrata and crispy prosciutto. Looks like a book club crowd pleaser if you ask me!
No Theme, Just Good.
I’m coherent enough to write a newsletter with words that make sense but not enough to come up with a fun or quippy theme. So today I’m hitting you with a few of my recent reads that have nothing in common besides being excellent picks for book clubs. Let us proceed!
The Imposter Cure: How To Stop Feeling Like a Fraud and Escape the Mind Trap of Imposter Syndrome by Dr. Jessamy Hibberd
Book Riot staff recently read this book together and it was truly a surprising read. I thought I knew plenty about imposter syndrome, and you might think you do too! But this book was full of aha moments and connections that I for one had never made before, from the way I was parented to the way my workplace surroundings themselves shaped how I often process/view/undermine my abilities and accomplishments. In short: it dragged me, but it needed to be done.
Book Club Bonus: I think you’ll watch the convo flow pretty organically here since I’d be willing to bet almost all of us have experience with imposter syndrome (that’s another thing: imposter syndrome casts a much wider net than you might think of in your current definition). An added layer I suggest you discuss is how some workplace environments force us to reinforce the behaviors of imposter syndrome.
The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
An actual message I sent to my friend (and Book Riot Contributing Editor) Nusrah Javed while reading this book: “I was not prepared for ‘granny eating raccoon guts straight from the source’ but I persevered.” Billed (most correctly) as Steel Magnolias meets Dracula, this book follows a women’s book club in Charleston that reads grizzly true crime books almost exclusively (but their husbands all think think they’re studying the Bible, lol). After a series of mysterious events in their neighborhood, the women find themselves fighting to protect their little community from a pale-skinned stranger with an appetite for blood. It’s mostly pretty campy horror and so much fun, though I cringed a lot because I am a weenie and terrified of <redacted to avoid spoilers. Hint: it’s in the attic scene>.
Book Club Bonus: So much to discuss! The main character Patricia Campbell is a white woman feeling bored with her life (she has a workaholic husband, teenage kids going through that “I hate you!” stage, and a senile mother-in-law whose condition is worsening by the minute). So when the unspeakable happens in her neighborhood and she tries to do something about it, she’s gaslit repeatedly and written off as just a bored housewife. Discuss that pattern of gaslighting, but also dive into the idea of “nice Southern ladies,” both the good and the bad. Also unpack the root of the real horror in this book and the ways in which communities of color continually get left behind.
Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby
This phenomenal book comes with some bonus content: white knuckles, blood pressure spikes, and fits of panic, all free of charge! Beauregard “Bug” Montage is an honest mechanic and shop owner, a devoted husband, and a loving father who’s just trying to stay out of trouble and do right by the people he loves. He’s also known as the best wheelman on the East Coast, but that life is behind him—or so it was, until a new auto shop moved into town and ate up his clientele. Now Bug is drowning in debt and the bills keep piling up. So when he’s approached by a shady character who did him real dirty on a past job, Bug knows he shouldn’t trust him and the big, shiny payout he’s promising once again. He should say no, but he can’t. So he agrees: one last job and then he’ll be out of the game for good.
Book Club Bonus: Discuss Bug as a character. You’ll find yourself rooting for Bug, but he’s a complicated man. He’s flawed and makes a lot of poor choices, some that feel avoidable and others made with his back against a wall. You feel for him even when he goes down the path we as readers know will not end well, and you also have to leave space to consider that so much of his experience as a Black man in the south plays into the choices made available to him in the first place. Whew. Such a good book.
This week on When in Romance, Jess and Trisha announce the next installment of the WIR Book Club.
The latest episode of NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour features Book Concierge top picks for book clubs.
Thanks for hanging with me today! Shoot me an email at email@example.com with your burning book club questions or find me on Twitter and the gram @buenosdiazsd. Sign up for the Audiobooks newsletter and catch me once a month on the All the Books podcast.
Stay bad & bookish, my friends.