For Book Clubs

Book Club Resources

Bring Your Book Club to Fall for the Book

Here are some of our Book Club Picks for the 2017 festival. Spend the summer reading your choices, then head to Fall for the Book October 11-14 with your Club to meet your favorite writers! 

Included in our list are some great resources to encourage fresh discussion. Let us know who you’re excited about seeing!

Contact Festival Manager Suzy Rigdon at suzy[@] to organize your book club trip today!


The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead

National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize Winner, Oprah Book Club Pick

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood—where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned—Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.

The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.

See Whitehead on Wednesday, October 11 at 7:30 PM in Harris Theater on Mason’s Fairfax Campus. 

♦ Watch Whitehead’s National Book Award acceptance speech, and read his interview with Lauren Wilkinson by clicking here.

♦ Read Whitehead’s “Rules for Writing” in the New York Times here.


The News at the End of the World, Emily Miller

Meet the lovable but dysfunctional Lake family over the four days that will make or break them.

Told in alternating points of view by each member of this colorful New England clan, and infused with the quiet charm of the Cape in the off-season, The News from the End of the World follows one family into a crucible of pent-up resentments, old and new secrets, and memories long buried. Only by coming to terms with their pasts, both separately and together, do they stand a chance of emerging intact.

See Miller on Saturday, October 14th in Sally Merten Hall on Mason’s Fairfax Campus.

♦ Read an interview on poetry in Miller’s prose here

♦ Read an interview on family dynamics in News here

Exit West, Mohsin Hamid

New York Times-bestselling writer of The Reluctant Fundamentalist

In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair, and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through. . . .

Exit West follows these remarkable characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, it tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time.

See Hamid on Friday, October 13 at 7:30 p.m. in Harris Theater.

♦ Read Hamid’s interview with Vice here. 

♦ Watch Hamid talk about Exit West on Late Night with Seth Meyers here.

All the Best People, Sonja Yoerg

An intricately crafted story of madness, magic and misfortune across three generations.

Vermont, 1972. Carole LaPorte has a satisfying, ordinary life. She cares for her children, balances the books for the family’s auto shop and laughs when her husband slow dances her across the kitchen floor. Her tragic childhood might have happened to someone else.

But now her mind is playing tricks on her. The accounts won’t reconcile and the murmuring she hears isn’t the television. She ought to seek help, but she’s terrified of being locked away in a mental hospital like her mother, Solange. So Carole hides her symptoms, withdraws from her family and unwittingly sets her eleven-year-old daughter Alison on a desperate search for meaning and power: in Tarot cards, in omens from a nearby river and in a mysterious blue glass box belonging to her grandmother.

An exploration of the power of courage and love to overcome a damning legacy, All the Best People celebrates the search for identity and grace in the most ordinary lives.

♦ Download the Discussion Guide here.

The Wide Circumference of Love, Marita Golden

As her husband’s memory wavers and fades, Diane Tate and her children must reexamine their connection to the husband and father Gregory once was before early onset Alzheimer’s— and learn to love the man he has become. A moving African- American family drama of love and devotion in the face of Alzheimer’s disease. 

See Golden on Saturday, October 14th in Sally Merten Hall on Mason’s Fairfax Campus. 

♦ Download the Reading Guide for Golden’s book by clicking here.

Pretend We Are Lovely, Noley Reid

It’s the summer of 1982 in Blacksburg, Virginia—seven years after the suspicious death of a son and sibling—and the Sobel family is hungry. Francie dresses in tennis skirts and ankle socks and weighs her grams of allotted carrots and iceberg lettuce. Her semi-estranged husband Tate prefers a packed fridge and hidden doughnuts. Daughters Enid, and Vivvy, are subtler versions of their parents, measuring their summer vacation by meals had or meals skipped. But at summer’s end, secrets both old and new emerge and Francie disappears, leaving the family teetering on the brink.

Told from alternating points of view by the four living Sobels, Pretend We Are Lovely is a sharp and darkly funny story of forgiveness, family secrets, and the losses we inherit. At its core is the ever-complicated and deeply-devoted bond of sisterhood as the girls, left mostly to their own devices, must navigate their way through middle school, find comfort in each other, and learn the difference between food and nourishment. 

Rich and Pretty, Rumaan Alam

As close as sisters for twenty years, Sarah and Lauren have been together through high school and college, first jobs and first loves, the uncertainties of their twenties and the realities of their thirties.

Sarah, the only child of a prominent intellectual and a socialite, works at a charity and is methodically planning her wedding. Lauren—beautiful, independent, and unpredictable—is single and working in publishing, deflecting her parents’ worries and questions about her life and future by trying not to think about it herself. Each woman envies—and is horrified by—particular aspects of the other’s life, topics of conversation they avoid with masterful linguistic pirouettes.

Once, Sarah and Lauren were inseparable; for a long a time now, they’ve been apart. Can two women who rarely see one other, selectively share secrets, and lead different lives still call themselves best friends? Is it their abiding connection—or just force of habit—that keeps them together?

With impeccable style, biting humor, and a keen sense of detail, Rumaan Alam deftly explores how the attachments we form in childhood shift as we adapt to our adult lives—and how the bonds of friendship endure, even when our paths diverge.

♦ Listen to an interview with Alam on NPR here. 

♦ Read an interview with Alam on The Millions here.