What's hot? August groups run the gamut

There’s less than a month of “dog days” left, and I firmly believe we should all spend them on the porch with a novel and a pitcher of lemonade.
To those of you with a stack of must-read’s three times higher than your newspaper recycling pile, I say, “Carry on.” As for those of you still bereft by the loss of Oprah’s book club-– read on.
The Today show has picked up where Oprah’s exited but has happily delegated the selection of titles to celebrated authors. Our own John Grisham announced the first pick: The Emperor of Ocean Park by Stephen Carter. It’s smart and suspenseful, but who would have thought that Carter, a Yale law professor better known for his scholarly social criticism than mass appeal, is actually a Tom Wolfe wannabe? The novel was the bestselling hardcover as of a month ago, probably thanks to the Today show honorific, as its reviewers were less kind.
Locally, Charlottesville book clubs can’t be beat for choice selections. Catering to a smaller, more selective audience, area organizers are less concerned than TV personalities with what the presses are hawking.
For example, one local group is planning a discussion of Heinrich Boll’s The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum. The fact the Boll was a German writing immediately after WWII should be a clear indication that the subject matter here is tough. If not, I give you the novel’s subtitle, Or How Violence Develops and Where It Can Lead. If you need any more evidence that this is a book group with a serious bent, note that next month they’ll be tackling Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. We’ll definitely need to rethink the hammock and lemonade in preparation for that meeting.
For a happy medium between the anonymity of reading along with the rest of early-morning America and the pressure of keeping up with existential bookworms, there’s always Barnes & Noble. This month’s B&N book group selections include Paule Marshall’s jazz family saga, The Fisher King, and a marine biology mystery full of treasure and grave robbers called Ten Thosand Islands, by Travis McGee.
And now for the readthehook.com August book group line-up: This month’s theme is “Iron Curtain Call,” and we’ll be reading The Russian Debutante’s Handbook, by Gary Shteyngart; Prague, by Arthur Phillips; and Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything Is Illuminated.
If you want to weigh in, I’ll be on my porch, at books@readthehook.com.

The Gordon Avenue Library Book Group will discuss The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum on Wednesday, August 14, at 7:30pm. 1500 Gordon Avenue. 295-5544, or call Ruth Slone 979-0172 for more information. B&N book groups meet Monday, August 12, at 7:30pm for The Fisher King, and Monday, August 19, at 7:30 pm for Ten Thousand Islands. Barracks Road Shopping Center, 984-0461.