From the Mailbag: Put on Your Crowdsourcing Hat

We have two book-related queries from our readers today, and your assistance would be invaluable in the process.

Question the First:

Elise writes to inquire about novels and stories in which professors get into trouble, and then die. She’s sure she’s read at least two of them, thinks it may be a trope, and would love to know if there are others. For my part, I immediately thought of a recent (controversialllllll) blog post by Joe Hiland at Indiana Review, in which “Scholars Misbehaving” joins “The Sad Garage Sale” and “[Insert Character Name] is Sick” as Three Stories Unlikely to Make it Beyond the Slush. Relevant chiefly to publishing nerds and people wondering why Indiana Review is failing to accept their submissions, it’s still worth a read. Especially if you’re interested in entering their fiction contest, judged by the superlative Dana Johnson, entries due by October 31st (!) Okay, guys, what are some books about Scholars Misbehaving (and then dying)?

Question the Second:

From Liz — “I was hoping you might be able to help my mom pick a good read for her book club. Her turn only comes around once a year and she always agonizes over the decision. The club is 12 ladies, almost all retired, and many of them were teachers. There are a variety of tastes but they are usually all very studious and thoughtful (I joined in when they did Hunger Games and they all had printed out various lists of themes and maps of Panem and had an intense discussion about how you could teach the book — it was pretty adorable). My mom likes politics and always wants to pick some kind of dry nonfiction, but I fear not everyone is into it. Also, people will be reading it during December holidays so something that is easy to get through in a busy month is great. And it also needs to be in paperback already, so Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild” is out which was what I was going to suggest. Can you help us think of something interesting and fun that a group of retired elementary school teachers would enjoy discussing?”

Yes, we can do that!

Book club picks are so tricky, aren’t they? I’m going to simplify our task somewhat by requesting that we come up with writers who are still active (support the writers!), and I’ll toss out, hm, four ideas, and then the rest of you can chime in.

1. Lives of Girls and Women, Alice Munro
2. The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse, Louise Erdich
3. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz
4. Gilead, Marilynne Robinson

Speak to us of your book clubs!