The Red Shoes
Book Club

Laguna Niguel, California
Established 1993
Celebrating 27 Years in 2020!

Recent Selections

Our friends often want to know what we have read in recent months. After we finish a book, it is added to our "What We Have Read" page complete with links to information about the books. Here is a list of the books we have read recently.

Circling the Sun
Paula McLain

Discussion Questions - Quotes
NPR Review

July 2020

The Lager Queen of Minnesota
J Ryan Stradal

Discussion Questions - Quotes
NPR Review

June 2020

The Moment of Lift
Melinda Gates

Discussion Questions - Quotes
NPR Review

May 2020

The Dutch House
By Ann Patchett

Discussion Questions - Quotes
New York Times Review

April 2020

The Giver of Stars
By JoJo Moyes

Discussion Questions - Quotes
Kirkus Review

March 2020

Norwegian by Night
By Derek Miller

Discussion Questions - Quotes
Kirkus Review

February 2020

January 2020
Book exchange for 2020

November/December 2019
Holiday Party

The Alice Network
By Kate Quinn

Discussion Questions - Quotes

October 2019

Then She Was Gone
By Lisa Jewell

Discussion Questions - Quotes
Kirkus Review

September 2019

By Lisa Halliday

Discussion Questions - Quotes

August 2019

The Storyteller's Secret
By Sejal Badani

Discussion Questions - Quotes
Author Interview

July 2019

News of the World
By Paulette Jiles

Discussion Questions - Quotes

June 2019

Bad Blood
By John Carreyrou

Discussion Questions - Quotes

May 2019

By Madeline Miller

Discussion Questions - Quotes

April 2019

Where the Crawdads Sing
By Delia Jones

Discussion Questions - Quotes

March 2019

The Tattooist of Auschwitz
By Heather Morris

Discussion Questions - Quotes

February 2019

By Sam Quinones

Discussion Questions - Quotes

November/December 2018

Being Mortal
By Atul Gawande


November/December 2018

The Underground Railroad
By Colson Whitehead

Discussion Questions
NPR, Quotes

September/October 2018

The Illustrated Man
By Ray Bradbury

Characters, Quotes

July/August 2018

In the Midst of Winter
By Isabel Allende

Discussion Questions
Review, Quotes

June 2018

By Robin Sloan

Discussion Questions
Review, Quotes

May 2018

Foreign Affairs
By Alison Lurie

Themes and Meaning

April 2018

Before We Were Yours
By Lisa Wingate

Discussion Questions

March 2018

The Little Paris Bookshop
By Nina George

Discussion Questions

January/February 2018

Holidays on Ice
By David Sedaris

Discussion Questions

December 2017

Red Bird Christmas
By Fannie Flagg

Discussion Questions

November 2017

A Gentleman in Moscow
By Amor Towles

Discussion Questions
NPR, Quotes

October 2017

The American Heiress
By Daisy Goodwin

Discussion Questions

August/September 2017

By Ann Patchett

Discussion Questions

July 2017

The German Girl
By Armando Lucas Correa

Discussion Questions

June 2017

All Is Not Forgotten
By Wendy Walker

Discussion Questions

May 2017

Big Little Lies
By Liane Moriarty

Discussion Questions

April 2017

The Year of Living Danishly
By Helen Russell

Facebook Page

March 2017

Hillbilly Elegy
By J.D. Vance

Discussion Questions

January/February 2017

We read this book in March 2016 and
had a wonderful meeting with the author
J. Ryan Stradal!

November 2016

The Nest
By Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

Discussion Questions
Facebook Page

October 2016

The Sympathizer
By Viet Thanh Nguyen

Discussion Questions
Facebook Page


The Girls of Atomic City
By Denise Kiernan

Discussion Questions

August 2016

Brain on Fire
By Susannah Cahalan

Discussion Questions
Facebook Page

July 2016

Little Women
By Louisa May Alcott

Discussion Questions

June 2016 (one of two books)

By Geraldine Brooks

Discussion Questions

June 2016 (two of two books)

Fives and Twenty Fives
By Michael Pitre

Discussion Questions

May 2016

A Movable Feast
By Ernest Hemingway

Discussion Questions

April 2016

Kitchens of the Great Midwest
By J. Ryan Stradal

Discussion Questions

March 2016

A Man Called Ove
By Fredrik Backman

Discussion Questions
Facebook Page

January/February 2016

The Devil in the White City
By Erik Larson

Discussion Questions

November/December 2015

The Nightingale
By Kristin Hannah

Discussion Questions
Facebook Page

October 2015

I Am Malala
By Malala Yosafazi

Discussion Questions

September 2015

The 100 Year Old Man Who Jumped Out the Window and Disappeared
By Jonas Jonasson

Discussion Questions
Facebook Page

July/August 2015

All the Light We Cannot See
By Anthony Doerr

Discussion Questions

June 2015

A Storied Life of AJ Fikry
By Gabrielle Sevin

Discussion Questions
Facebook Page

May 2015

Nothing to Envy-Ordinary Life in North Korea
By Barbara Demick

Discussion Questions

April 2015

The Light Between Oceans
By M.L. Stedman

Discussion Questions
Facebook Page

March 2015

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
By Mark Twain

Discussion Questions

January/February 2015

The Circle
By Dave Eggers

Discussion Questions

November/December 2014

Those Who Save Us
By Jenna Blum

Discussion Questions

October 2014

Freedom Road
By Howard Fast

September 2014

Lean In
By Sheryl Sandberg

Discussion Questions
Facebook Page

July/August 2014

ONE SUMMER-America, 1927
By Bill Bryson

Discussion Questions
Facebook Page

June 2014

The Good Lord Bird
By James McBride

Discussion Questions
Facebook Page

May 2014

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats
By Jan-Philipp Sendker

Discussion Questions
Facebook Page

April 2014

Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker
By Jennifer Chiaverini

Discussion Questions
Facebook Page

March 2014

The Aviators Wife
By Melanie Benjamin

Discussion Questions
Facebook Page

January/February 2014

Gifts from the Sea
By Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Discussion Questions
Facebook Page

January/February 2014

By R.J. Palicio

Discussion Questions

November 2013

The Orphan Train
By Christina Baker Kline

Discussion Questions
Facebook Page

October 2013

The Secret Keeper
By Kate Morton

Discussion Questions
Facebook Page

September 2013

By Dan Brown

July/August 2013

Where's You Go Bernadette?
By Maria Semple

Discussion Questions
Facebook Page

June 2013

The Paris Wife
By Paula McLain

Discussion Questions

May 2013

The Night Circus
By Erin Morgenstern

Discussion Questions

April 2013

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
By Rachel Joyce

March 2013

Gone Girl
By Gillian Flynn

February 2013

Winter of the World
By Ken Follett

November 2012-January 2013

Ordinary Heroes
By Scott Turlow

October 2012

Steve Jobs
By Walter Isaccson

A fascinating and fair-handed biography about Apple's founder, Steve Jobs, a brilliant man who was a bit heavy-handed and self-centered in his corporate decision-making. Yet, it is obvious that Steve Job's contributions to the world put him at the top of his class in the world of technology corporate leaders. I admire his artistic style and constant drive to find beauty and simplicity in design. Pam - September 2012

Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948
By Madeleine Korbel Albright

July 2012

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid
By Bill Bryson

June 2012

The Hunger Games
By Suzanne Collins

May 2012

The Forgotton Garden
By Kate Morton

April 2012

The Cats Table
By Michael Ondaatje

March 2012

The Barbarian Nurseries
By Hector Tobar

January 2012

By By Laura Hillenbrand

November 2011

Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt
By Beth Hoffman

October 2011

Emily Alone
By Stewart O'Nam

September 2011

Major Pettigrews Last Stand
By Helen Simonson

July 2011

By Emma Donoghue

I like the summary of this book at the “A Book a Week” blog: "Inspired by real-life events, Room is the story of a mother and son who are imprisoned in a garden shed by the mother’s rapist. It’s also the story of their rescue and reintegration into society. The narrator is the son Jack, who was born in the shed, and is 5 years old when the story begins." I always love stories that are told from an unexpected perspective, and Jack’s perspective is what particularly held my interest and kept the story moving. Because his mom does an amazing job of building a loving, educational and very structured environment for Jack in their tiny shed, the narrative isn’t as horrifying as it would be from his Mom’s perspective, so we can keep on reading. (Our group measured out the size of the shed at our meeting and we were shocked at how tiny the space really was.) I also liked how the book continued after their rescue in unexpected ways. The fact that their rescue didn’t result in an immediate “happily ever after” added more dimension, interest, and realism. The news at the time we were reading this book was full of the trial of the kidnappers of Jacee Dugard, which made the book even more “real”. I would highly recommend this book!
Karen - June 2011

Fall of Giants
By Ken Follet

April/May 2011

The Women
By T.C. Boyle

March 2011

I Still Dream About You
By Fannie Flagg

February 2011

Sarah's Key
By Tatiana de Rosnay

January 2011

Await Your Reply
By Dan Chaon

November 2010

The Friday Night Knitting Club
By Kate Jacobs

October 2010

By Harlan Coben

September 2010

The Last Town on Earth
By Thomas Mullen

My sister-in-law recommended this book to me after her book club had read it. It takes place in an isolated logging community in Washington during 1918 during a world war, flu epidemic, and the emerging movements of labor and women’s rights, and conscientious objectors. The small community votes to impose a strict quarantine with armed guards in order to avoid the deadly flu. The quarantine is challenged by a couple of soldiers, forcing hard choices with far-reaching consequences. I thought it was a thought-provoking book that examines how commitment to ideals can be challenged in situations of extreme fear and the unknown. The emergence of “swine” H1N1 flu just before reading this book made it seem more real. I was motivated to learn more about the flu epidemic of 1918, which killed more people than World War I. Karen - August 2010

The Woman in White
By Wilkie Collins

This book is considered a classic - on the order of Withering Heights, Jane Eyre, etc. It is. But it is surprisingly very muh like a contemporary mystery story that happens to be set around 1850. In fact, it is considered to be one of the first “mystery novels” and even the first British “sensation novels” (mystery, crime, romance all in one). The hero falls in love with a young lady whom has been promised to a friend of her late father. The marriage takes place and it becomes apparent that the groom married her for her money. It is an involved story with lots of twists and turns but all set in an era where a women’s role was quite different than today. A long book but one you can’t put down. A very good read! Kathy - July 2010

Everything Changes
By Jonathan Tropper

May 2010

The Wednesday Sisters
By Meg Waite Clayton

Wednesday Sisters takes place in the 60’s in Palo Alto, CA, when women were learning to question the status quo, to speak up, and to have the courage to express their hopes and to take charge. Though not biological sisters, these unique young mothers (and one who yearns to be a mother) meet at the park, seeking friendship and validation. They are all so different, and yet they are all in the same place and are looking for ways to define themselves for more than just their roles as mother, daughter, and wife. Although they don’t meet on Wednesday anymore as the novel evolves, they learn through their common literary bonds and though personal difficulties that their friendship will stand the test of time, hardship and misunderstandings. It has been said that this book is “chick lit” for intelligent women. The one issue that may be a bit contrived is the success of two women as authors and one as an editor. Although this degree of success is possible within a small group, it seems unlikely that so many women from the same small Palo Alto circle would coincidentally achieve such eminence. However, it is a thoughtful, well-written novel that makes us wonder what we might become with a little help from our friends. Hey, that sounds like a good song! Pam - April 2010

Let the Great World Spin
By Colum McCann

March 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
By Stieg Larsson

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson, is the first in an exciting trilogy of suspense. It is a murder mystery, a love story with an unlikely cast, and a drama of financial conspiracy. Mikael Blomkvist, a gutsy journalist is sued for libel and loses because a corrupt businessman has set him up A brilliant, though odd, tattooed young hacker, dressed in boots and black leather, Lisbeth Salander, is originally hired to investigate Blomkvist. As the story progresses this boy-like, seemingly autistic, sly young woman becomes his ally and literally saves his life through her ruthless tenacity to search for the truth with her unauthorized, brutal methods. The reader is surprised at the ways technology can be used and abused! Blomkvist’s reputation is restored as he solves the Vanger family’s life-long tragedy of what happened to octogenarian, industrialist Henrik Vanger’s beloved great-niece Harriet, missing for many years and believed to have died. There are many twists and turns prior to Blomkvist’s printing the truth, as Vanger family members attempt to prevent the mystery from being solved to keep their personal connections to Harriet a secret. Blomkvist and Salandar are unique characters that will continue to intrigue readers as their personal stories intertwine in books II and III. The movie rendition of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was beautifully filmed in Sweden and the subtitles did little to distract from this exciting story. Pam - February 2010

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
By Jamie Ford

January 2010

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World
By Jack Weatherford

November 2009

The Help
By Kathyrn Stockett

This is a serious book with humorous moments and nostalgia coming together to paint a picture of life in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 60's. Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers, and JFK play minor but important roles in this story about 3 women - a young white girl just home with a degree in journalism from Ole Miss, a black maid who is devoted to the white children she raises but searching for meaning after her own son dies, and another younger and sassy black maid who can't mind her tongue but is the "best" cook in the area. They come together on a project that is both forward thinking and dangerous at the same time. A great book for book clubs, especially for those of us who remember these times. Kathy - October 2009

Olive Kitteridge
By Elizabeth Stout

Olive Kitteridge is not a nice person. Big and blunt, she stomps through her small Maine town, trampling people's feelings wherever she goes. She is horrid to her sweet husband Henry ("You, Mr. Head Deacon Claptrap") and mean to her son Christopher ("Your wife is so nice, it makes me puke"). To a small girl at Christopher's wedding, she says, "Go away, before I eat you," and then opens her new daughter-in-laws closet to run Magic Marker across a sweater. Olive spares no one. And yet you can't help liking her. This gorgeously spare book about love and loneliness offers us the gift of forgiveness, for as we absolve Olive of all the awful things she's done, we also forgive ourselves our own trespasses. Andrea/Time Magazine - September 2009

Cutting for Stone
By Abraham Verghese

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, is set in Barcelona after the Spanish Civil War. It is the story of Daniel Sempre, the son of a bookshop owner, who selects a book called The Shadow of the Wind when he is ten years old from the secret “Cemetery of Lost Books”. He becomes infatuated with the book and its author, Julian Carax. In his search for other books by the same author, he discovers that a strange man has been buying and burning all the books by Julian Carax. Despite being threatened by this mysterious man, Daniel continues his investigation into Julian Carax as he becomes a young man, with the help of a number of colorful characters. During his research, he finds many parallels between his own life and that of the Carax, as well as the main character in the Shadow of the Wind. This was a very enjoyable read, with many twists and turns, complete with mystery, murder, politics, history, romance, tragedy and humor! Karen - July 2009

The Middle Place
By Kelly Corrigan

Kelly Corrigan has written an engaging, funny and poignant recounting of her life -- as a daughter, wife and mother. She's diagnosed with breast cancer, while in the middle place of parenting young children and being a devoted daughter to her parents -- long distance. Honest, well-written and memorable. Andrea - May 2009

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
By Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

During World War II, the island of Guernsey was occupied by German forces. This story is told in letters, explaining how the islanders pulled together in support. The reader gets a good sense of the time, place and people. Perhaps the best story is the real one of the author's niece coming alongside her ailing aunt to help complete the book. Andrea - April 2009

The Pillars of the Earth
By Ken Follett

March 2009

The Shadow of the Wind
By Carlos Ruiz Zafon

This book is set in Barcelona after the Spanish Civil War. It is the story of Daniel Sempre, the son of a bookshop owner, who selects a book called The Shadow of the Wind when he is 10 years old from the secret “Cemetery of Lost Books”. He becomes infatuated with the book and its author, Julian Carax. In his search for other books by the same author, he discovers that a strange man has been buying and burning all the books by Julian Carax. This was an enjoyable read, with many twists and turns, complete with mystery, murder, politics, history, romance, tragedy and humor! Karen - November 2008

The Alchemist
By Paulo Coelho

September 2008

The Next Thing on My List
By Jill Smolinski

Meet June Parker. She works for L.A. Rideshare, adores her rent-stabilized apartment in Santa Monica, and struggles with losing a few pesky pounds. But June’s life is about to change. After a dark turn of events involving Weight Watchers, a chili recipe and a car accident in which her passenger, Marissa, dies, June finds herself in possession of a list, “20 Things to Do By My 25th Birthday.” Even though they barely knew each other, June is compelled by both guilt and a desire to set things right to finish the list for Marissa. The tasks before her range from inspiring (Run a 5K), to daring (Go braless), to near-impossible (Change someone’s life), and as June races to achieve each goal before the deadline, she learns more about her own life than she ever bargained for. June Parker is a heroine who really tries to make a difference in the world. This is a wonderful book with lots of humor and humanity. Jo - June 2008

The Book Thief
By Markus Zusak

This book is a beautifully written book. Listening to this book on CD while traveling to work/home was a special treat, as the dialects of the various characters really made the story come to life. One of my favorite things about this book is its creative narrator, "Death," which is initially unsettling, but strikingly unique. Death feels remorse when taking lives and cares for his victims. The tone of the story is thoughtful and sentimental as young Leisel Meminger, the main character, a foster child living in Nazi Germany, picks up (steals) a book about grave digging while at her younger brother's funeral. Her new foster parents, particularly her father, enrich Leisel's life and show her kindness and genuine concern for humanity in the way that they treat others. Leisel's loving foster father, Hans Hubermann, begins to teach her to read using The Gravedigger's Handbook as a start. She soon falls in love with reading and begins to steal books from anywhere she can, including Nazi book burnings. Constantly compensating herself for her many losses, Leisel is driven to steal many books which give her hours of comfort and distraction from loneliness. But, when Hans offers to hide a Jew, Max Vandenburg, in his house the story really captivates the reader. Leisel and Max grow to care about each other. The harsh cruelty of Nazi Germany and those that ignore this meanness of spirit is a contrast to the caring, loving relationships developing by Leisel, her new family, and Max. This story taught me a lot about the value of friendship and people who care about others when life's circumstances are at their most difficult. Pam May 2008

A Thousand Splendid Suns
By Khaled Hosseini

This book is about the lives of two Afghan women and the struggles that they share while under the roof of their abusive, unattractive older husband during harsh wartime circumstances. Their arranged marriages to a tyrannical selfish husband made the women enemies at first, but as the story progress, they become allies and even friends. This historical fiction story takes place in Afghanistan between 1964 and 2004. The book covers the women's lives with such captivating details that you feel like you are experiencing a docudrama. The first main character is Miriam, who was born to a poor unwed mother and a haughty, rich father who meagerly supported her but would not claim her. Her father had a shack built outside of the town for mother and child where no one would see them, and that's where Mariam and her mother resided for 15 years. Mariam's father would visit her every Thursday and bring her presents and tell her stories, giving her hope of being loved. Mariam soon learns that she can never count on her father's weak promises, although her mother continually warns her not to expect much. Mariam has no prospects for a better life and thus ends up in the horrible arranged marriage to Rasheed, who later becomes Laila's husband, too. Like Mariam, Laila is vulnerable and has no alternative when a marriage to Rasheed is arranged. Hiding her prior recent pregnancy, beautiful Laila tricks the evil Rasheed by posing as an innocent virgin. The deception, once discovered, increases Rasheed's angry outbursts. The beloved son that Laila produces becomes a focus of love and devotion for both women, who have little other joy and who experience many cruelties at the hands of unscrupulous soldiers, their own husband, and a political system that demeans women. Reading this book, one will learn about a different culture while having an amazing emotional journey. This is a beautifully written, engrossing book that will leave you yearning for more.Pam - April 2008

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
By Jean-Dominque Bauby

In December 1995, Jean-Dominique Bauby was 45 and the editor of the French Elle. He suffered a massive stroke that left him permanently paralyzed, a victim of "locked in syndrome". Bauby had been an outgoing and witty individual and was now only able to communicate by blinking his left eye. This memoir, written by blinking his eye, is remarkable in the way he is able to communicate his feelings, describe his days and memories and innermost thoughts. Bauby died two days after the book was published in France in 1997. Kathy - March 2008

Eat, Pray, Love
By Elizabeth Gilbert

This is a memior written as the author has just gone through a difficult divorce and at 35 is ready to start on a journey to bridge the gulf between body, mind and spirit. Her travels take her to Italy to learn the beautiful Italian language, to India to live in an ashram to study yoga and finally to Indonisia to spend time with a medicine man, a Javanese surfer and a woman healer. In Bali she finds balance and love. Kathy - February 2008

Three Cups of Tea
By Greg Mortenson
and David Oliver Relin

This is a story of one man's journey to counteract extremism in Pakistan by building schools especially for girls. In 1993 Greg Mortenson found his way to an impoverished village in Pakistan after a failed attempt to ascend K2. The people there nursed him back to health and he vowed to return to build a school. David Oliver Relin, an award winning journalist and Greg Mortenson put together this account of their journey. Kathy - January 2008

Slaughterhouse Five
By Kurt Vonnegut

This book was written in 1969. It is considered as a classic and combines science fiction with an analysis of the human condition using time travel as a plot device and the bombing of Dresden in WW II. It is the story of Billy Pilgrim as he experiences different time periods of his life particularily during WW II after being captured by the Gemans and sent to Dresden. Kathy - November 2007

Snow Flowers and the Secret Fan
By Lisa See

In 19th century China a 7 year old girl called Lily is paired with a laotong, "old same" which becomes a match that lasts a lifetime. The laotag, Snow Flower, introduces herself by sending Lily a silk fan on which she paints a poem in nu shu, a unique language that Chinese women have created to communicate away from the influence of men. Over the years the women send messages to help deal with their lives and endure the agony of foot binding. They develop a bond that keeps their spirits alive. But when a misunderstanding arises, it threatens to tear their deep friendship apart. Kathy - October 2007

Glass Castle
By Jeannette Walls

This is an amazing memoir of a successfull MSNBC journalist who was raised in a very dysfuntional but surprsingly cohesive family. Her father was very intelligent and taught his children physics and geology but became distructive and brutal when he drank. Her mother was a "free spirit", a sometimes teacher that really wanted to just experience life without constrictions. The family of five remained together during numerous moves from Arizona to California to West Virginia with all three children eventually leaving for New York. They lived in poverty but never would accept welfare and managed to survive. The story is told with passion but without being depressing or sad. Kathy - September 2007

Looking for more? Visit our "What We Have Read" page with a full list of the books we have read since 1993!

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