A Cape Eye On Books: Ann Hood Discusses Book Clubs and Her Books

Hood, Ann (c) Catherine Sebastian_300dpiWhat is the book you’ve read that matters most to you? That is the question at the heart of Providence writer Ann Hood’s most recent work, aptly titled THE BOOK THAT MATTERS MOST, a novel that at its heart is a valentine to book clubs and books and is a natural pick for readers’ groups.

There were six book club tables at a recent Literary Luncheon hosted by Where the Sidewalk Ends book store at the Wequassett Inn in Harwich which Ann learned when she arrived to speak. When she took the podium, she asked them to stand and then snapped their pictures. “I promised my publisher I’d speak to fifty book clubs in the next few months and I need to document it with photos. Forty-four more to go.”

The book, Ann’s seventh novel (she is also the editor of two anthologies, KNITTING YARNS and KNITTING PERLS) is about “love, loss, secrets, friendship and the healing power of literature,” all topics that she explores in her recent works.

Here follows our conversation.

AL:. Have you ever belonged to a book club?

AH: I did, back in the 80s when I lived in Brooklyn. This was before anyone lived in Brooklyn and all of my friends in Manhattan refused to come to see me. In an effort to make friends in my neighborhood, park slope, I took the phone number of a sign I saw in my ATM area that advertised a neighborhood bookclub forming. I joined and stayed with those wonderful people for two years, until life sent a scattering around the country.

AL: What was the germ that took root for “The Book that Matters Most”?

AH: I have been wanting to write a book that celebrates reading and books and the magical power of literature for a long long time. As you know, in 2002 after I lost my five-year-old daughter Grace suddenly to a virulent form of strep, my brain lost its ability to read or write. When finally that gift was returned to me a year and a half later I felt so joyful that I wanted to remind everyone out there how literature can save our lives. It took me all these years to figure out the best way to do that, which was to put my protagonist in crisis and have her join a book club.

AL:. If you were going to start a book club, what six people (living or not, fictional or real) would you want to invite and why did you choose them?

AH: Marjorie MorningStar. Jerry Seinfeld. William Shakespeare. Andre Dubus lll. Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald. That would give me intellectual stimulation, literary inspiration, a great evening of drinking and eating, soulmates, and overall such a great book club that I would readily get many many more members.

AL: What book would read at the first meeting?

AH: The great Gatsby. I would love to ask Fitzgerald some of the questions I’ve always had about that book.

I asked Ann what five books she would recommend for readers right now and why? Here are her answers.

  1. MY NAME IS LUCY BARTON by Elizabeth Strout, who is certainly one of the best living writers we have today. The novel is spare and elegant and one of the most moving books I’ve ever read.
  1. THE EXCELLENT LOMBARDS by Jane Hamilton. If you love Carson McCullers and you love Jane Hamilton you will love this book.
  1. ENDLESS LOVE by Scott Spencer is one of my all-time favorite books. I’ve never read anything that comes this close to exploring young love, obsession, and desire.
  1. I want to say anything by Alice Hoffman, because she never lets a reader down. But if forced to choose one I would pick her latest novel, THE MARRIAGE OF OPPOSITES.
  1. I WILL HAVE VENGEANCE by Maurizio DiGiovanni. This is the first in his detective series, which is set in 1930s Naples Italy. Once you read this one you will be hooked, I promise.

What are you reading this summer? What book matters most to you? Please join the conversation.

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