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A Book Club Kit for The Heart in Winter by Kevin Barry

Award-winning author Kevin Barry is back with his first novel set in America. The Heart in Winter is a savagely funny and achingly romantic tale of young lovers on the lam in 1890s Montana, and we have the perfect kit to foster discussion amongst your book clubs.

From the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency to Isabel Dalhousie, Alexander McCall Smith is famous for crafting warm and witty series beloved by fans around the world. One of his most charming series, 44 Scotland Street, tells the story of this cozy Scottish neighborhood’s residents, including the star of the show, Bertie, a remarkably precocious boy–just ask his mother.

The latest installment, The Enigma of Garlic is now available, so we thought it would be a good time to brush up on the other 44 Scotland Street books. To make this easier, we’ve created a guide to the full series! Prepare yourself for a few chuckles and cozy reads that will brighten up your day.

44 Scotland Street

The first novel in Alexander McCall Smith’s beloved series introduces us to Bertie and the wide cast of characters who live on 44 Scotland Street. There’s Pat, a twenty-year-old who has recently moved into a flat with Bruce, an athletic young man with a keen awareness of his own appearance. Their neighbor, Domenica, is an eccentric and insightful widow. Love triangles, a lost painting, intriguing new friends, and an encounter with a famous Scottish crime writer are just a few of the ingredients that add to this delightful and witty portrait of Edinburgh society.

Espresso Tales

All our favorite denizens of a Georgian townhouse in Edinburgh are back in the series’ second book. Bertie the immensely talented six-year-old is now enrolled in kindergarten, and much to his dismay, has been clad in pink overalls for his first day of class. Bruce has lost his job as a surveyor, and between admiring glances in the mirror, is contemplating becoming a wine merchant. Pat is embarking on a new life at Edinburgh University and perhaps on a new relationship, courtesy of Domenica, her witty and worldly-wise neighbor. Full of McCall Smith’s gentle humor and sympathy for his characters, Espresso Tales is an affectionate portrait of a city and its people.

Love Over Scotland

This just in from Edinburgh: the complicated lives of the denizens of 44 Scotland Street are becoming no simpler. Domenica Macdonald has left for the Malacca Straits to conduct a perilous anthropological study of pirate households. Bertie is still enduring psychotherapy, but his burden is lightened by a junior orchestra’s trip to Paris, where he makes some interesting new friends. Back in Edinburgh, there is romance for Pat with a handsome young man called Wolf, until she begins to see the attractions of the more prosaically named Matthew. Teeming with McCall Smith’s wonderful wit and charming depictions of Edinburgh, Love Over Scotland is another beautiful ode to a city and its people that continue to fascinate this astounding author.

The World According to Bertie

There is never a quiet moment on 44 Scotland Street. In The World According to Bertie, Pat deals with the reappearance of Bruce, which has her heart skipping–and not in a pleasant way. As usual, Big Lou is still looking for love and handing out coffee and advice to the always contemplative Matthew. And Bertie, the beleaguered Italian-speaking six-year-old prodigy, now has a little brother, Ulysses, who Bertie hopes will help distract his pushy mother, Irene. Beautifully observed, cleverly detailed, The World According to Bertie is classic McCall Smith and a treat for his avid fans as well as his first-time readers.

The Unbearable Lightness of Scones

The fifth book in the 44 Scotland Street series, The Unbearable Lightness of Scones, finds Bertie still troubled by his rather overbearing mother, Irene, but seeking his escape in the Cub Scouts. Matthew is rising to the challenge of married life with newfound strength and resolve, while Domenica epitomizes the loneliness of the long-distance intellectual. With his customary deftness, Alexander McCall Smith once again brings us an absorbing and entertaining tale of some of Scotland’s most quirky and beloved characters–all set in the beautiful, stoic city of Edinburgh.

The Importance of Being Seven

After seven years and five books, Bertie is–finally!–about to turn seven. But one afternoon he mislays his meddling mother, Irene, and learns a valuable lesson: wish-fulfillment can be a dangerous business. Angus and Domenica contemplate whether to give in to romance on holiday in Italy, and even usually down-to-earth Big Lou is overheard discussing cosmetic surgery. Funny, warm, and heartfelt as ever, The Importance of Being Seven offers fresh and wise insights into philosophy and fraternity among Edinburgh’s most lovable residents.

Bertie Plays the Blues

If you don’t want to start the series from the very beginning, this is a good place to jump in, since our friends of 44 Scotland Street seem to all be in the midst of new beginnings. New parents Matthew and Elspeth must muddle through the difficulties of raising their triplets. Angus and Domenica are newly engaged. Big Lou has begun the search for a new flame, boldly exploring the new world of online dating and coming up with an Elvis impersonator on the first try. And then there’s Bertie, who has been thinking that he might want to start over with a new family and so puts himself up for adoption on eBay. With his signature charm and gentle wit, Alexander McCall Smith vividly portrays the lives of Edinburgh’s most unique and beloved characters.

Sunshine on Scotland Street

From social media to the finer points of human behavior, this episode of Alexander McCall Smith’s popular series provides an entertaining commentary on a small corner of modern life in Edinburgh where, contrary to received wisdom, the sun nearly always shines. Angus Lordie and Domenica Macdonald are finally tying the knot. Unsurprisingly, Angus is not quite prepared. The long-suffering Bertie knows firsthand how stringent his mother’s rules can be, and he resolves to help Cyril set off on an adventure. Meanwhile, Big Lou becomes a viral Internet sensation, and the incurable narcissist Bruce meets his match in the form of a doppelganger neighbor, who proposes a plan that could change both their lives.

The Revolving Door of Life

Things are looking up for seven-year-old Bertie Pollock in the tenth novel in this series. The arrival of his spirited grandmother and the absence of his meddlesome mother–who is currently running a book club in a Bedouin harem (don’t ask)–bring unforeseen blessings. Meanwhile, surprises await Scotland Street’s grown-ups. Matthew makes a discovery that could be a major windfall for his family, but also presents a worrisome dilemma. Pat learns a secret about her father’s fiancée that may shake up her family. Alexander McCall Smith guides us through the risks and rewards of friendship, love, and family with his usual inimitable wit and irresistible charm.

The Bertie Project

Bertie’s mother, Irene, returns from the Middle East to discover that, in her absence, her son has been exposed to the worst of evils–television shows, ice cream parlors, and even unsanctioned art at the National Portrait Gallery. Her wrath descends on Bertie’s long-suffering father, Stuart. But Stuart has found a reason to spend more time outside of the house and seems to have a new spring in his step. And as Irene resumes work on what she calls her Bertie Project, reinstating Bertie’s Italian lessons, yoga classes, and psychotherapy, Bertie begins to hatch a project of his own–one that promises freedom.

A Time of Love and Tartan

When Pat accepts her narcissistic ex-boyfriend Bruce’s invitation for coffee, she has no idea of the complications in her romantic and professional life that will follow. Meanwhile, Matthew, her boss at the art gallery, attracts the attention of the police after a misunderstanding at the local bookstore.

Whether caused by small things such as a cup of coffee and a book, or major events such as Stuart’s application for promotion and his wife Irene’s decision to pursue a PhD in Aberdeen, change is coming to Scotland Street. But for three seven-year-old boys–Bertie, Ranald, and Big Lou’s foster son, Finlay–it also means getting a glimpse of perfect happiness.

The Peppermint Tea Chronicles

Summer has come to Scotland Street, and the long days have prompted its denizens to engage in flights of fancy. With the domineering Irene off pursuing academic challenges, Stuart and Bertie are free to indulge in summer fun. Stuart reconnects with an old acquaintance over refreshing peppermint tea while Bertie takes his friend Ranald Braveheart Macpherson to the circus. But their trip to the big top becomes rather more than the pleasant diversion they were hoping for. Once again, Scotland Street teems with the daily triumphs and challenges of those who call it home, and provides a warm, wise, and witty chronicle of the affairs in this corner of the world.

A Promise of Ankles

For the residents of 44 Scotland Street, life in Edinburgh’s intriguing New Town is a thing to be relished. After all, there are new faces to excite Domenica’s anthropological imagination, precious moments with his triplets for Matthew to savor, and the prospect of a trip to the promised land of Glasgow for young Bertie. But there are mysteries that need solving too. Could Angus Lordie’s dog, Cyril have unearthed a Neanderthal skull? How will the patrons of Big Lou’s cafe react to the menu’s imminent culinary transformation? The stories of this wonderfully vibrant cast may take unexpected turns, but the warmth and humor at Scotland’s most recognizable address will ultimately affirm the joy life brings us all.

Love in the Time of Bertie

In the microcosm of 44 Scotland Street, all of life’s richness is found in the glorious goings-on of its residents. There’s Domenica, whose anthropological training has honed her observations of her neighbors; Matthew, whose growing triplets are more than a handful; Bruce, whose challenge as ever is thinking of anything but himself; and Big Lou, who may just have found her shot at romance. And of course, there’s young Bertie Pollock, whose starry-eyed explorations of Edinburgh’s New Town are a touching reminder that life itself is an adventure and there’s joy to be found wherever you choose to look.

The Enigma of Garlic

Last, but not least, the latest book in the 44 Scotland Street series, The Enigma of Garlic, is now available! It’s the most anticipated event of the decade–Big Lou and Fat Bob’s wedding–and everyone is invited! But the relative peace and tranquillity of 44 Scotland Street is about to be disrupted. Domineering Irene is set to return for a two-month stay, Bruce Anderson’s new-found outlook on life is being put by the test as he prepares to leave his creature comforts for the monastic simplicity of Pluscarden Abbey, and young Bertie is being shipped off to a summer camp. Alexander McCall Smith’s delightfully witty, wise and sometimes surreal comedy spirals out in surprising ways in this new installment, but its heart remains where it has always been, at the center of life in Edinburgh’s New Town.

From the streets of Montreal and New York to the travels of a group of survivors after a plague to a mysterious world of shipping and Ponzi schemes, Emily St. John Mandel’s novels have taken readers on incredible journeys with unforgettable characters for five novels. Now, with her sixth work, Emily explores the realms of space and time with Sea of Tranquility — all while maintaining the lyrical writing, impeccable plotting, and flawless character development that have made her beloved by readers across the globe.

After you indulge in this irresistible novel, you’re going to want to discuss it with everyone — which is why we are getting you started with a book club kit, perfect for your next get together. Delve into some discussion questions to start the conversation and keep the fun going with a Q&A from the author, a book-inspired playlist, and some suggested tea pairings, curated by the author herself.

To download a PDF of the book club kit, click here or on the image below.

8 p.m. Friday night, Brooklyn, NY: Am finishing the last chapter of Bridget Jones’s Baby by Helen Fielding on my couch in my comfies. Have had a few more drinkies than I probably should have (calories, sulfates, etc.) and am about to queue up the movie version of the book on Netflix. Just heard the ding of the oven, meaning my cheesy potatoes are done. Credits roll. Was feeling sad about ending the book but now decidedly less sad with Colin Firth on the screen. . . .

If this sounds like the Bridget Jones version of your real-life diary entry, then we have some things to discuss with you. Mainly, the differences between the book and the movie. Because there are a lot, and some of them are huge and some of them are tiny. But what it means for big Bridget fans, like us here at the Reading Group Center, is that each is interesting in its own way. What’s true in both the film and the novel is that Bridget Jones is pregnant, and she’s not sure who the father is. She’s still single, clumsy, and lovable. She’s still got her job at the TV show, Shazzer and Tom are still around, and her mum’s still going on and on about babies and men.

And now, for the differences:

Daniel is dead. No, he’s not!

In the book version, Daniel Cleaver is alive and well. So alive and well that he’s a contender for baby daddy, cracking his normal jokes and pulling his normal stunts. In the movie, Daniel Cleaver has died before the film begins, which means there’s a different man in the running for Papa Jones, namely Jack, an American man played by Patrick Dempsey. Both Jack and Daniel are competing with Mark Darcy to be crowned father. Some things (like Mark Darcy) never change.

Bridget loves music festivals. No, she doesn’t!

In the movie, Bridget gets dragged to a Coachella-like music festival, where she falls into bed (or more accurately . . . into a glamping yurt cot) with an American man named Jack. In the book, no music fests are to be found. What is to be found, however, is a fancy dinner with Daniel Cleaver.

Daniel is dead. No, he’s writing a novel!

Playboy Daniel has decided to get serious in the novel version of Bridget Jones’s Baby. He’s writing an extremely boring book–The Poetics of Time–and he goes on and on about its contents over dinner with Bridget. We love reading but would never want to be subjected to his particular brand of literary fiction.

Jack’s the best man! Because Bridget and Mark are married! No, they’re not! Not yet!

In pure movie magic, American dreamboat Jack is the best man at Bridget and Mark’s wedding. In the book, you have to use your imagination because the most we get is a proposal from Mark in the hospital room as they find out that Mark is the father.

10 p.m. Friday night, Brooklyn, NY: Am extremely tuckered out after a night of good book and movie. Should move from couch to bed but can’t. Muster. Energy. Must recycle wine bottle. Must try not to dream only of Daniel, Mark, and Jack for the rest of the week. . . .

Bridget Jones’s Baby by Helen Fielding

Bridget Jones, beloved Singleton and global phenomenon, is back—with a bump! This gloriously funny story tells us what happened between The Edge of Reason and Mad About the Boy, revealing how our heroine came to be a mum.

From the streets of Montreal and New York to the travels of a group of survivors after a plague to a mysterious world of shipping and Ponzi schemes, Emily St. John Mandel’s novels have taken readers on incredible journeys with unforgettable characters for five novels. Now, with her sixth work, Emily explores the realms of space and time with Sea of Tranquility — all while maintaining the lyrical writing, impeccable plotting, and flawless character development that have made her beloved by readers across the globe.

After you indulge in this irresistible novel, you’re going to want to discuss it with everyone — which is why we are getting you started with a book club kit, perfect for your next get together. Delve into some discussion questions to start the conversation and keep the fun going with a Q&A from the author, a book-inspired playlist, and some suggested tea pairings, curated by the author herself.

To download a PDF of the book club kit, click here or on the image below.

Hour of the Witch is historical fiction at its best. . . . Insightful and empathetic. . . . Thick with details as chowder is with clams. . . . Handled with great skill and delicacy. The book is a thriller in structure, and a real page-turner, the ending both unexpected and satisfying.” –Diana Gabaldon, The Washington Post

Mary Deerfield is smart and outspoken, which wouldn’t be a problem except she’s a woman in seventeenth-century Boston. When she tries to divorce her husband on grounds of brutality, the trial quickly spirals out of control and Mary finds herself accused of witchcraft and facing the gallows. This story of the original American witch hunt has many themes that resonate today, making Hour of the Witch perfect for book clubs.

We’ve created a Book Club Kit to help facilitate your discussion complete with a letter from author Chris Bohjalian, a discussion guide, suggestions for further reading, and a sinfully decadent recipe. Enjoy!

To download a PDF of the book club kit, click here or on the image below.

“I thought I would believe I’d seen the world, but there is too much of the world and too little of life. I thought I would believe I’d completed something, but now I doubt anything can be completed.” –Marian Graves, Great Circle

Maggie Shipstead traveled the world to write Great Circle and it shows–it’s a truly immersive reading experience. From Prohibition-era Montana to the Pacific Northwest, wartime London to modern-day Los Angeles, Great Circle spans the globe. The novel focuses on Marian Graves, a daredevil female aviator, and Hadley Baxter, the modern-day actress who is cast to play Marian in a film that centers on Marian’s disappearance in Antarctica.

To help your book club explore questions such as “Why do you think Marian wants to fly around the world?” and “Have you ever wanted to take a major risk without quite knowing why?” we’ve put together a book club kit which includes a discussion guide, a Q&A with Maggie Shipstead, and photos from her travels, too.

To download a pdf, click here.

Motherhood is beautiful, exhausting, endlessly surprising, and above all, complicated. Sometimes, so are the relationships we have with our mothers, making for some truly fascinating and moving subject matter for our best novelists working today. The novels collected here feature a wide range of mothers and their children, grappling with what their relationships look like at different times in history and different stages of life. From mothers searching for common ground with their children to families coping with devastating secrets to children beginning to understand why their mothers do what they do, these novels will give your book clubs hours of discussion about one of the closest relationships known to man–in all its messiness and complexity.

The Swimmers by Julie Otsuka

“Slim and absolutely devastating. . . . A goddamn heartbreaker.” –Emma Straub, author of All Adults Here

The swimmers are unknown to one another except through their private routines (slow lane, medium lane, fast lane) and the solace each takes in their morning or afternoon laps. One of these swimmers is Alice, who is slowly losing her memory. For Alice, the pool was a final stand against the darkness of her encroaching dementia, until a break in her routine plunges her into dislocation and chaos, swept into memories of her childhood and the Japanese American incarceration camp in which she spent the war. Alice’s estranged daughter, reentering her mother’s life too late, witnesses her stark and devastating decline. Written in spellbinding, incantatory prose, The Swimmers is a searing, intimate story of mothers and daughters, and the sorrows of implacable loss: the most commanding and unforgettable work yet from a modern master.

Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin

“A suspenseful, haunting, achingly lovely novel about the hidden lives, wishes, struggles and dreams of those we think we know best.” —Seattle Times

When sixty-nine-year-old So-nyo is separated from her husband among the crowds of the Seoul subway station, her family begins a desperate search to find her. Yet as long-held secrets and private sorrows begin to reveal themselves, they are forced to wonder: how well did they actually know the woman they called Mom? Told through the piercing voices and urgent perspectives of a daughter, son, husband, and mother, Please Look After Mom is at once an authentic picture of contemporary life in Korea and a universal story of family love.

Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout

“One of those rare, invigorating books that take an apparently familiar world and peer into it with ruthless intimacy, revealing a strange and startling place.” —The New York Times Book Review

In her stunning first novel, Amy and Isabelle, Elizabeth Strout evokes a teenager’s alienation from her distant mother–and a parent’s rage at the discovery of her daughter’s sexual secrets. In most ways, Isabelle and Amy are like any mother and her 16-year-old daughter, a fierce mix of love and loathing exchanged in their every glance. And eating, sleeping, and working side by side in the gossip-ridden mill town of Shirley Falls doesn’t help matters. But when Amy is discovered behind the steamed-up windows of a car with her math teacher, the vast and icy distance between mother and daughter becomes unbridgeable.

As news of the scandal reaches every ear, it is Isabelle who suffers from the harsh judgment of Shirley Falls, intensifying her shame about her own secret past. And as Amy seeks comfort elsewhere, she discovers the fragility of human happiness through other dramas, from the horror of a missing child to the trials of Fat Bev, the community peacemaker. Witty and often profound, Amy and Isabelle confirms Elizabeth Strout as a powerful talent.

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis

“A remarkable page-turner of a novel…spans decades and covers dreams lost, found and denied.” —Chicago Tribune

In 1923, fifteen-year-old Hattie Shepherd, swept up by the tides of the Great Migration, flees Georgia and heads north. Full of hope, she settles in Philadelphia to build a better life. Instead she marries a man who will bring her nothing but disappointment, and watches helplessly as her firstborn twins are lost to an illness that a few pennies could have prevented. Hattie gives birth to nine more children, whom she raises with grit, mettle, and not an ounce of the tenderness they crave. She vows to prepare them to meet a world that will not be kind. Their lives, captured here in twelve luminous threads, tell the story of a mother’s monumental courage–and a nation’s tumultuous journey.

Casebook by Mona Simpson

“Lovely…. Casebook is about a mother’s legacy to her son–important life lessons, well learned.” —San Francisco Chronicle

Nine-year-old Miles Adler-Hart’s mother, “the Mims,” is “pretty for a mathematician.” Miles and his best friend Hector are in thrall to her. When her marriage starts to unravel, the boys begin spying on her to find out why. They rifle through her dresser drawers, bug her telephone lines, and strip-mine her computer. Ultimately, what they find will affect the family’s prosperity–and sanity.

Burdened with such powerful information, the boys struggle to deal with the existence of evil, and proceed to concoct hilarious modes of revenge on their villains. Casebook brilliantly reveals an American family coming apart at the seams and, simultaneously, reconstituting itself to sustain its members through their ultimate trial.

Longbourn by Jo Baker

“A triumph: a splendid tribute to Austen’s original but, more importantly, a joy in its own right.” —The Guardian (London)

The servants take center stage in this irresistibly imagined belowstairs answer to Pride and Prejudice. While Elizabeth Bennet and her sisters fuss over balls and husbands, Sarah, their orphaned housemaid, is beginning to chafe against the boundaries of her class. When a new footman arrives at Longbourn under mysterious circumstances, the carefully choreographed world she has known all her life threatens to be completely, perhaps irrevocably, upended. Mentioned only fleetingly in Jane Austen’s classic, here Jo Baker dares to take us beyond the drawing rooms of Regency England and, in doing so, uncovers the real world of the novel that has captivated readers’ hearts around the world for generations.

Longbourn also sheds fascinating light on one of the most derided and misunderstood mothers in literature, Mrs. Bennet. But Mrs. Bennet was no fool, as Jo Baker makes clear. She’s a realist desperate to save her daughters from a life of destitution, and therein lies one of the most interesting parent/child relationships in fiction.

A Mercy by Toni Morrison

“Spellbinding…. Dazzling…. [A Mercy] stands alongside Beloved as a unique triumph.” —The Washington Post Book World

In the 1680s the slave trade in the Americas is still in its infancy. Jacob Vaark is an Anglo-Dutch trader and adventurer, with a small holding in the harsh North. Despite his distaste for dealing in “flesh,” he takes a small slave girl in part payment for a bad debt from a plantation owner in Catholic Maryland. This is Florens, who can read and write and might be useful on his farm. Rejected by her mother, Florens looks for love, first from Lina, an older servant woman at her new master’s house, and later from the handsome blacksmith, an African, never enslaved, who comes riding into their lives.

A Mercy reveals what lies beneath the surface of slavery. But at its heart, like Beloved, it is the ambivalent, disturbing story of a mother and a daughter–a mother who casts off her daughter in order to save her, and a daughter who may never exorcise that abandonment.

From Clark Gable to Casablanca, the Golden Age of Hollywood created some of cinema’s most iconic stars and films. Glitz and glamour defined this era for which we now have great nostalgia. Today, we yearn for the elaborate costumes like Scarlett O’Hara’s curtain dress and showstopping musicals like Singing in the Rain. Yet at the time, the lives of film’s biggest stars could be much more scandalous behind the scenes. . . .

We’ve gathered a list of books that will transport you to most secret parts of old Hollywood, those that sparkle in the spotlight and those hidden in dark corners. From true insider accounts to sweeping fictional romances, there’s something here that is sure to take you back in time to Hollywood’s most notorious but dazzling period.

Do Tell by Lindsay Lynch

A scintillating debut novel that brings the golden age of Hollywood to glittering life, from star-studded opening nights to backlot brawls, on-location Westerns to the Hollywood Canteen. Through character actress turned gossip columnist Edie O’Dare’s eyes, Lindsay Lynch draws back the curtain on classic Hollywood’s secrets.

Back Street by Fannie Hurst

Originally published in 1931, this bestselling classic novel was adapted to the big screen three times, including one of old Hollywood’s most classic films, starring Susan Hayward and John Gavin.

When “fly girl” and gorgeous socialite Ray Schmidt first meets Walter Saxel in Cincinnati, their attraction is instant and everlasting. One fateful day, the settling of her family affairs interferes with their plans to meet, and Walter forms a relationship with another woman. Though years pass, Walter remains in her memory, and a chance run-in with him leads them both to fall into their former ways. What unfolds is the fascinating tale of what life was for selfless, devoted Ray, a prisoner of her love for the one man who would never fully love her back.

The Little Sister by Raymond Chandler

“Raymond Chandler is a master.” —The New York Times

A movie starlet with a gangster boyfriend and a pair of siblings with a shared secret lure private eye Philip Marlowe into the less than glamorous and more than a little dangerous world of Hollywood fame. Chandler’s first foray into the industry that dominates the company town that is Los Angeles.

Delayed Rays of a Star by Amanda Lee Koe

“Dazzling. . . . It’s larger-than-life history made intimately human.” —USA Today

At a chance encounter at a Berlin soiree in 1928, the photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt captures three very different women together in one frame: up-and-coming German actress Marlene Dietrich, on her way to becoming one of Hollywood’s lasting icons; Anna May Wong, the world’s first Chinese American star; and Leni Riefenstahl, whose work as a director of propaganda art films would first make her famous–then, infamous.

From this curious point of intersection, Delayed Rays of a Star lets loose the trajectories of these women’s lives. Intimate and clear-eyed, Delayed Rays of a Star is a visceral depiction of womanhood–its particular hungers, its oblique calculations, and its eventual betrayals–and announces a bold new literary voice.

A Touch of Stardust by Kate Alcott

“If you could time-travel to anywhere in the golden age of Hollywood, it would be hard to imagine a place more exciting than the set of Gone with the Wind. . . . [A] breathtaking novel.” —The New York Times Book Review

Julie Crawford left Fort Wayne, Indiana, with dreams of being a Hollywood screenwriter. Unfortunately, her new life is off to a rocky start. Fired by the notoriously demanding director of Gone with the Wind, she’s lucky to be rescued by Carole Lombard, whose scandalous affair with the still-married Clark Gable is just heating up. As Carole’s assistant, Julie suddenly has a front-row seat to two of the world’s greatest love affairs. And while Rhett and Scarlett–and Lombard and Gable–make movie history, Julie is caught up in a whirlwind of outsized personalities and overheated behind-the-scenes drama . . . not to mention a budding romance of her own.

Hollywood Nocturnes by James Ellroy

“You want tough-guy fiction? If you haven’t checked out the great James Ellroy, chances are you like water in your whiskey, too. . . . A must for Ellroy fans.” —San Francisco Chronicle

Dig it. A famous musician-cum-draft dodger is plotting the perfect celebrity snatch–his own. An ex-con raging on revenge in High Darktown becomes a cop’s worst nightmare. A strongarm for Howard Hughes and mobster Mickey Cohen finds himself playing both ends against the middle, all for a murderously magnificent moll. This is L.A., Ellroy style–corrupt cops, goons with guns, rattling roadsters–and all in the staccato rhythm of the streets. Hollywood Nocturnes shows us the seedy side of glamorous Hollywood, laid out like a corpse in the morgue.

The Castle on Sunset by Shawn Levy

“Fascinating, dishy, and glimmering with insight…. This is the definitive book about Hollywood’s most storied hotel.” –Cheryl Strayed, bestselling author of Wild

Since 1929, Hollywood’s brightest stars have flocked to the Chateau Marmont as if it were a second home. An apartment building-turned-hotel, the Chateau has been the backdrop for generations of gossip and folklore: where director Nicholas Ray slept with his sixteen-year-old Rebel Without a Cause star Natalie Wood; Jim Morrison swung from the balconies; John Belushi suffered a fatal overdose; and Lindsay Lohan got the boot after racking up nearly $50,000 in charges in less than two months.

But despite its mythic reputation, much of what has happened inside the Chateau’s walls has eluded the public eye–until now. With wit and insight, Shawn Levy recounts the wild revelries and scandalous liaisons, the creative breakthroughs and marital breakdowns, the births and deaths to which the hotel has been a party. Vivid, salacious, and richly informed, The Castle on Sunset is a glittering tribute to Hollywood as seen from inside the walls of its most hallowed hotel.

I Lost My Girlish Laughter by Jane Allen

“Old-movie buffs and lovers of Hollywood gossip will geek out on this fun, satirical read.” —Booklist

Madge Lawrence, fresh from New York City, lands a job as the personal secretary to the powerful Hollywood producer Sidney Brand (based on the legendary David O. Selznick). The action revolves around the production of Brand’s latest blockbuster, meant to be a star vehicle to introduce his new European bombshell (the real-life Marlene Dietrich). Nevermind that the actress can’t act, and Brands’s negotiations with MGM to get Clark Gable to play the male lead are getting nowhere. In this delicious satire of the film business, one is never very far from the truth of what makes Hollywood tick and why we all love it.

A fiery feminist tale set in 1950s America where thousands of women have spontaneously transformed into dragons, exploding notions of a woman’s place in the world and expanding minds about accepting others for who they really are.

“Completely fierce, unmistakably feminist, and subversively funny.” –Bonnie Garmus, bestselling author of Lessons in Chemistry

We’ve created a Book Club Kit to enhance your meeting complete with discussion questions, a beginner macramé craft by @DoubleRainbowDesign, and an interview with the author.

To download a PDF of the book club kit, click here or on the image below.

When Women Were Dragons Book Club Kit preview image
Knopf Doubleday