Dear Wendy Book Club!

Since there are so many readers among us and since one of my New Year’s resolutions each year is to read more books and because open thread topics so often turn into discussions about books, I thought it would be fun to start a Dear Wendy book club in 2012. The way I envision it working: each month, we choose a book (by recommendation and then by poll) to read in the following month. Then, at the end of the month, we have an open thread discussion about it. We also make recommendations for the following book-of-the-month and vote via another poll.

If y’all are game, we have just a few days left to choose January’s book. Please make your recommendations here. We will have a poll on Thursday and I’ll announce the winner Friday evening. I’ll link to the book on Amazon so you can buy it there if you want.

And yes, this is definitely a way I’m trying to make a little extra cash through my Amazon affiliation (any time you buy something through my Amazon affiliate link, I make a small commission at no extra cost to you; big thanks to those who have helped out in that way!). In the new year, one of my goals is to increase the income I make from this site (without slapping on lots more ads, which is annoying). DearWendy.com turns one in just a few weeks and while this has been the best “job” I’ve ever had — it’s been rewarding in so many ways — I have to start making more money to contribute to my family or I won’t be able to keep it up in the same capacity I have for the last year. Anyway, I wanted to make that disclaimer: YES, of course, I’m trying to make more money. But I also think a Dear Wendy book club could be lots of fun.

If you agree, let’s hear your recommendations!


    1. I am SO ABSOLUTELY pro- The Hunger Games. I’ve been wanting to read it forever, what better chance than with everyone around here?!

    2. Having already read The Hunger Games, my vote is for The Marriage Plot!

    3. Painted_lady says:

      I LOVED The Marriage Plot, and I’d love to hear everyone’s perspectives on it. It’s a good one to talk about, but I don’t have anyone around here to chat about it with!!! Given what we talk about on here, a book about a complicated, unhealthy relationship where leaving is unthinkable but it’s killing you to stay would be perfect for all of us!

      1. ForeverYoung says:

        Read it and loved it so I would totally read it again! They are a quick read so we could probably do the whole trilogy in January.

    4. I’ve heard the marriage plot is good, I vote for it!

    5. I’m down with The Hunger Games trilogy. I’ve been meaning to read those for months but they’ve just been collecting dust in the bookcase, so I clearly need some outside motivation. 🙂

  1. iseeshiny says:

    AAHHHH! I love this idea! (The fact I got a gift certificate to amazon.com from my boss this year has nothing to do with it… really.) I’m blanking on suggestions right now but I fully support this move, mercenary or not!

  2. iseeshiny says:

    Actually, no, I’m down for Hunger Games, I’ve been meaning to read it for a while.

    1. As a fellow mercenary, I support your ambition and applaud you for your honesty 🙂

      1. Darn it, that wasn’t supposed to be there. Sentiment still stands.

  3. I’ve been hearing so much about the Hunger Games that I’m kind of burned out on it. I’m going cyberpunk and suggesting Zero History by William Gibson.

    1. Ooh, let’s do that one. If only because my boyfriend owns it (I can see it sitting on our shelf) and I’m pretty broke these days 🙂

    2. I’ve read neuromancer, would be totally on board for another of his

  4. This is such a good idea! What about the girl with the dragon tattoo???

  5. Great idea, Wendy!!! I’ve been meaning to read a lot more too!

    My suggestion is The Help, because I just borrowed it from my mom this weekend and have a 2 page head start 🙂

    1. theattack says:

      I second this suggestion! Just got it for Christmas. Plus there has been a lot of heated discussion about the book’s racial elements. I’d like to see it discussed here.

      Plus I can’t afford another book right now, so I vote for one that I already have.

  6. callmehobo says:

    OOh, Can we also do nonfiction? Leymah Gbowee’s *Mighty Be Our Powers* looks really awesome.

    1. Yes to nonfiction! I love me some memoirs…

  7. This is a very good idea. I’m ok with The Hunger Games, since my sisters are reading it and I already said I’d join them.
    Could we pick Pride and Prejudice sometime? That one will make for a great open thread.

    1. The_Yellow_Dart says:

      Go Pride and Prejudice! I’m teaching it in my class this winter!

  8. If you see a book recommended that you’re into, please “like” that comment. Books with the most recommendations or “likes” will be included in the poll for a vote.

  9. If I only had time (and peace and quiet) to read!!!

  10. belongsomewhere says:

    This is such an great idea! Suggestions: seconding Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot! Or something by Lorrie Moore (Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?, The Gate at the Stairs, Birds of America, etc.). Or for a classic, Dubliners by James Joyce.

    1. Loved ‘Dubliners’, glad to see a fellow Joyce fan!

    2. belongsomewhere says:

      To make my recommendations more clear:

      The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides (one of the major literary releases of this year, following two/three characters as they graduate from college at Brown)

      The Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore (set in the early aughts, about a young woman who becomes the nanny to a biracial who has just been adopted by white parents)

      Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? by Lorrie Moore (split between two eras in one character’s life, the first about Berie and her childhood friend Sils and a traumatic/life-changing experience they had together as teenagers, the second about Berie and her husband in Paris)

      Any of Lorrie Moore’s collections of short stories (she tends to write about strained romantic and familial relationships, often in a very funny way)

      Dubliners by James Joyce, which the back cover of my copy heralds as “the greatest short story collection in the English language,” set in Dublin in the early 20th C., which I’m suggesting because the protagonists range in age from very young to very old, so I think there would be a “relatable” character for almost anyone.

      OH! and one more, for a non-fiction suggestion: Pulphead by John Jeremiah Sullivan, which is a collection of profiles and essays about popular culture and politics, most of which have an element of personal essay/memoir.

      1. belongsomewhere says:

        Honestly, I could suggest a billion…so here are a couple more non-fiction choices, because I’m a non-fiction writer and I feel like a jerk for only suggesting one non-fiction book:
        A Moveable Feast by Earnest Hemingway (about his time as an expat in Paris)
        Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin (everyone in the world should read this)
        and because it’s new and I assume lots of people will want to read it anyway: Blue Nights by Joan Didion (about her daughter)

      2. Addie Pray says:

        I love non-fictions the best! So keep your suggestions coming. I loved A Moveable Feast. I read it when I was living in Paris — which of course is the BEST place to read that book! That’s a short book; maybe we can read it in February, ha. I’ll have to check out your other suggestions.

  11. Addie Pray says:

    Great idea, Wendy. But I think you should just pick a book, like Oprah did. You’re our new Oprah – big shoes to fill, kid!

    I recommend Operation Family Secrets, by Frank Calabrese, Jr. A true story, about how a mobster’s son and the FBI brought down Chicago’s murderous crime family. *And* it features my regular hangout, Bella Luna Cafe; the waitress told me about this book last week when I asked her if the restaurant was run by the mafia. How fun is that!?!

    *Or* Under the Banner of Heaven – by Jon Krakauer – an investigative non-fiction book about the origin and evolution of Mormonism, a modern double murder committed in the name of God by some fundamentalist brothers, and more juicy stuff. I would love an excuse to re-read this.

    1. Addie Pray says:

      Also, what was that one book that a few of you had recommended awhile back – “The Incredible Life of Henrietta Something Something” – or something like that – Harriette? I dunno. And it is about a scientist. Or something. I was intrigued and want to read it.

      1. The Immortal Life of Henriette Lacks. Good stuff!!

      2. Addie Pray says:


      3. Addie Pray says:

        Just ordered it on Amazon. $10 something and change. That’s more than my last purchase, Wendy. Movin’ on up!

      4. YouOtterKnow says:

        I love that book! Such a great read. I ended up reading it for an intro bio class. Probably the best book I’ve ever been assigned.

      5. Addie Pray says:

        At first i thought you meant Under the Banner of Heaven, and I thought, really, after intro to BIO?! … I get it now, haha.

      6. caitie_didn't says:

        yes, the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” also an amazing read! Especially if you like science.

        I love science, and I love murder mysteries and crime fiction so recently I’ve been reading a lot of Kathy Reichs. Her “Bones” series is about a forensic anthropologist (the author is one in real life) so it’s got a lot of really cool science on top of murder mystery thrills.

      7. Addie Pray says:

        Considering I just bought the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, I vote we read this one too!

      8. Would love to read some of Kathy Reichs, love Bones the TV series. Temperance Brennan (in the show) writes novels on the side and her protagonist is called Kathy Reichs which I thought was very funny 🙂

    2. caitie_didn't says:

      ahhhh Under the Banner of Heaven!! I read it this summer, and then immediately read it again. It’s SO good.

  12. ReginaRey says:


    Seriously, this is a website run by a woman, frequented by a vast majority of women, trying to help mostly other women. To NOT read The Gift of Fear would be criminal, I think.

    This book is awesome. It’s legitimately helped saved women’s lives, and I think that ALL WOMEN should have the insights and knowledge and tools that this book provides. The best way to stay safe, healthy and aware is to educate ourselves!

    1. Addie Pray says:

      I dunno, I think all women should be aware of… the mafia and mormons!

    2. theattack says:

      I put that book on my Christmas list, and I’m reading it now, RR! Thanks for the suggestion a while back! I second this because I won’t have time to read a whole lot, and I can’t afford to buy new books right now.

  13. AWESOME idea Wendy! I recommend “Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand” by Helen Simonson. It’s my favorite book from last year, has some poignant things to say about aging, love, race relations, plus it’s FUNNY.

  14. CottonTheCuteDog says:

    I am going to suggest The Invisible Thread.

  15. I love this idea! The Marriage Plot sounds interesting. And so does ReginaRey’s suggestion, The Gift of Fear. I’ve already read The Hunger Games series (awesome books!) and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (about to start book 2!) and also The Help (which I have a host of issues with). I read a lot. I do hope we can tackle something I haven’t read, but I’m happy to throw my two cents in on the monthly book club thread either way!
    I’m reading The Book Thief right now, which I wasn’t thrilled with at first, but am now in love with the protagonist. The Book Thief is my suggestion.

    1. I just read the synopsis to the book thief and it sounds great. Im a sucker for death/the devil’s warped perspectives in literature.

    2. caitie_didn't says:

      I read The Help and didn’t understand what all the fuss was about, so I’m glad to see someone else had issues with it!

      1. I may be opening up a can of worms here, but I found the premise of the Help at best historically inaccurate and unexamined privilege and at worst willfully ignorant and racist. While it’s not the worst offender of its genre (white person comes in to save the minorities!), it’s still right up there with every other assuagement of white guilt. I know it gives people the warm fuzzies to think of a time when someone stood up for what was right, but I found the Help too flimsily written to really drive that point home. And the author wrote a total cop out Afterword that was well-intentioned, but you know what they say about good intentions- the road to hell is paved with them.

        Though now that I’ve written all that it might be an excellent book to read for book club. The discussion might be interesting (or infuriating!).

      2. I definitely understand what you’re saying, and can appreciate the criticisms of the book.

        Having said that, I still enjoyed it. The reason I disagree with such criticisms is because I feel it further thickens the line between races.

        “Oh, really, you mean to tell me some earnest white girl wanted to help some black maids? Unrealistic, it’s just making white people look good.”

        Not saying that’s your exact criticism, but that’s a pretty good overhaul of what I’ve noticed people said negatively about it.

        Why does it have to be wrong that a white character has a conscience and does the right thing? And while people are busy criticizing the race aspect, I feel they completely overlook another important aspect of it-the bonds between women who become stronger and overcome the things in the book. Anyone who has read it knows that it doesn’t have this Disney style happy ending. In fact, I’d argue that the ending is actually quite sad, and realistic, yet hopeful.

  16. Addie Pray says:

    HEY YOU GUYS – I want to change my picture again. What’s the website again? (Sorry, short term memory.) I think I’m ready for a REAL one. I’m going to pick one from last summer when I was tan. Because I’m so tan right now. And because tans are so healthy-looking.

    1. Addie Pray says:

      Nevermind. I ‘membered.

      1. Addie Pray says:

        Also, I changed my mind – too much change, too fast. Maybe next year. Just because you all were wondering.

    2. YouOtterKnow says:

      I want to learn how!!

      1. theattack says:

        Me too! I’ve never known how. Someone tell us! Wendy, could you put instructions for this in the FAQ?

      2. Addie Pray says:

        That’s a good idea, because I’ll forget again by the time I’m ready to change my picture. But for now, just go to: http://en.gravatar.com/

      3. I finally got a gravatar, and it’s all because of you, Addie Pray! Now I’m wondering if it works.

        Thank you for all book suggestions. I haven’t had time to read much lately, although I used to be a voracious reader right until I finished high-school.

      4. theattack says:

        Ugh… I just tried to sign up for gravatar, but I can’t because WordPress is recognizing my account here on DearWendy, and I can’t figure out how to set it up.

      5. I just signed up for one! Is it working?

      6. Poo- Why doesn’t it work?

  17. I’m pretty stoked about this idea…

    I suggest American Gods by Neil Gaiman.

    1. I love Neil Gaiman. Have you read any Christopher Wooding? He’s another English fantasy writer who isn’t very famous in the states but is absolutely fantastic. I read his Braided Path series and also his YA stuff. I will literally read anything he writes- including grocery lists and to-do notes.

    2. Ooooh, yes yes yes. So much to discuss there. 😀

  18. I love this idea! I have not read anything recently and love all of the suggestions. I really look forward to reading along with everyone.

  19. Ah I am SO EXCITED about this!!!

    Since I want to read something I haven’t already read, I’m going to suggest “Under the Banner of Heaven” – since I’ve heard great things about it and it’s on my list!

    A synopsis: “Jon Krakauer’s literary reputation rests on insightful chronicles of lives conducted at the outer limits. He now shifts his focus from extremes of physical adventure to extremes of religious belief within our own borders, taking readers inside isolated American communities where some 40,000 Mormon Fundamentalists still practice polygamy. Defying both civil authorities and the Mormon establishment in Salt Lake City, the renegade leaders of these Taliban-like theocracies are zealots who answer only to God.

    At the core of Krakauer’s book are brothers Ron and Dan Lafferty, who insist they received a commandment from God to kill a blameless woman and her baby girl. Beginning with a meticulously researched account of this appalling double murder, Krakauer constructs a multi-layered, bone-chilling narrative of messianic delusion, polygamy, savage violence, and unyielding faith. Along the way he uncovers a shadowy offshoot of America’s fastest growing religion, and raises provocative questions about the nature of religious belief.”

    1. Addie Pray says:

      I recommended it above too. LIKE LIKE!

      1. Sorry! Didn’t see it had already been recommended!!

      2. Addie Pray says:

        No, the more suggestions the better! Though, considering I’ve read it a bunch of times already, maybe I shouldn’t push it so hard; would like to discover a new favorite book!

      3. Addie Pray says:

        Though, upon further thought, is it really an appropriate Book Club read? I mean, what will we discuss afterward? “That was awesome!” “I agree, amazing!” “Good Krakauer is a good writer.” “I know, right?” What else is there to say?

        That reminds me, episode 2 of Shit Girls Say is out.

  20. Love this idea. I am halfway through a great book called Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. It about Africa in the 50s and is wonderful so far. It is off the beaten path because for big readers like me, we have already read the help and girl with dragon tatoo.

    1. This thread is great because of all the suggestions. I’m definitely going to check out Cutting for Stone now. I’m a pretty voracious reader and finish a book or two every week. If I’m wrapped up in a series I sometimes read even more than that. Now that NYPL.org offers e-books for Kindle, I’m binging on books even more than usual. If you have any e-reader you can borrow books through NYPL. And you don’t have to live in NYC either to get an NYPL card, either.

      1. Beckaleigh says:

        Now I have to hurry up and get a Kindle before this book club starts!

      2. I love love love my Kindle. So much that I got my brother a Kindle Fire for Christmas. Shop around though because there are so many great e-readers out there and pretty much all of them have access to NYPL e-books. You can go on their website for a list of compatible e-readers. You can also download the Kindle app (and I think Nook too) for free onto any tablet or smart phone. On the rare occasion I forget my Kindle, I sync the book to my phone so I can pick up where I left off. While I do love traditional books, I have to say I’m an e-reader convert for sure!

      3. Beckaleigh says:

        I just downloaded the Kindle app to my smartphone! I may use this for a while and if it starts to make me go blind, I’ll get a Kindle. And, I just found out that I can borrow e-books from my public library! YAY! This whole thread just made my day!

      4. I was just checking out Kindle prices here in Argentina, thinking it would be easier to get the ebooks than actual books in english, but they´re ridiculously expensive!!!!

      5. that is great about the library. I didn’t know you could do that!

  21. Sing You Home by Jody Picoult

    1. Anything by Jodi Picoult! Love her books so much, pretty formulaic but so well researched and interesting.

      1. Yes very formulaic – but if I read one a year I don’t get sick of her. And they always make me think.

  22. I have a feeling I might be in the minority but I would prefer to skip anything in the YA/teen category (Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Twilight). I guess I see the point of a book club as discussion/debate and hearing different interpretations so I would prefer to discuss something that is a bit more challenging.

    1. OK, this is undemocratic, I know, but I have to use the “owner of the site” card and say no to Hunger Games, Harry Potter and Twilight as well. I just have no interest in any of these books and would rather feature book club books I’m excited to read. I know lots of wonderful people who like these books; they just aren’t my cup o’ tea. I’m open to other YA books, though — particularly classic YA books (think: “Catcher in the Rye” type YA novels).

      1. ReginaRey says:

        As a die-hard Harry Potter fan, I think you owe it to yourself to read them at least once in your life, maybe when Jackson is older and can appreciate them. Not saying we should read any YA on this site, but just advocating for them in general. I’ve made a lot of neutral people read HP, and none of them regretted it! Honestly, I have a hard time categorizing the series as YA, because (especially in the latter half of the series), the issues are very adult and often very dark and complicated. Lots of existential questions going on. Anyway, don’t totally rule them out in your own life! 🙂

      2. The Harry Potter books are THE best books I’ve ever read in my life. NOTHING compares to how incredibly amazing and imaginative J.K. Rowling is!!!!!!!!!

      3. Addie Pray says:

        Thank you! Don’t let RR change your mind.

      4. Oh Wendy, you are wonderful but…..the fact that you put the twilight series with Harry potter and the Hunger Games just gave me the vapors. Like, Victorian style. I needed salts.

        Twilight is NOTHING like those incredible books! The only similarity is that is that they’re for a younger crowd. But that’s it. Would you put Game of Thrones and Leaves of Grass in the same category because they’re trying to attract readers with a love of extravagant facial hair?

        Twilight is addictive crack made for teenage girls, the Harry Potter series is so much more. It teaches kids and adults to honor courage, intelligence, and friendship and frankly it has more lessons for how to treat people kindly then anything you could show a kid in the bible. Reading Harry Potter to kids will teach them how to be like Neville Longbottom and Hermoine Granger, not like a Sponge with pants and some racist transformer robots.

      5. Oh, well I wasn’t really comparing the books at all. The only similarity in my mind is that they’re all popular fantasy-type novels and none of them interest me in the least. So many people say wonderful things about HP, but I just … I’m sorry, I’m just not interested.

      6. It’s not that you’re comparing them- we know you’re not! It’s more that people tend to group Harry Potter and Hunger Games, which are excellent, with Twilight, which is trash, when it isn’t even in their league. It would be like including Nora Roberts in a list with Jane Austen. Or grouping an excellent movie like Shawshank Redemption with Scary Movie. We can’t help pointing and saying, “One of these things does not belong!”

      7. I hope Jackson will change your mind one day :). I had the same reservations a little over ten years ago when my little sister handed me the first book to try. I thought they looked to young for me. At the time my parents had recently separated and I had fallen into a deep and numbing depression. I honestly believe if I hadn’t started reading that first book as a whim, I would have found some very harmful ways to have dealt with my issues. Instead, I found characters in a book so kind and colorful and complicated that it started to give me hope that people like these could be found in real life, that I could become a character like this, flawed, but with the best of intentions. It taught me more than any other book I read and have read since (and I am an avid reader} to be true to myself,to always aim to do good, and to make every day an adventure. Books like this bring out the best in people and are very rare, and I honestly believe the world would be a better place if more people read them.

      8. Honestly, Harry Potter had the same effect on me. I was 13 and trying to sort out some heavily adult issues (blah blah my schizophrenic mom blah). My grandmother went on a trip to England and came back with the Philosopher’s Stone for me. She said it was all the craze over there and sine I was such a big reader she picked a copy up for me.

        I learned more about love and loyalty from Harry, Ron, and Hermione than I could ever have learned if I’d only had the people around me as role models. And the books only got better and more complex as they went along. There’s a whole lot of substance in them! (Sorry, can’t let that go. It irked me!) If I’d only known how popular they would become I wouldn’t have read my first edition Philosopher’s Stone copy so many times that the binding fell off!!

      9. ReginaRey says:

        I love you two for being such huge HP dorks. Those books were a defining part of my childhood, adolesence and adulthood. I felt like I grew up with them, and they definitely taught me some valuable lessons. I considered getting a Deathly Hallows symbol tattooed on me when it was all over…and I’m not a tattoo person AT ALL. I’m still open to it! Haha.

        It makes me legitimately sad that some people might never know or understand the wit and wisdom of Albus Dumbledore…one of the best characters to EVER BE WRITTEN IN THE HISTORY OF BOOKS. Sigh.

      10. And what about Snape? Who could possibly say Snape is not a complex character? I cried for a long time after I read, “Look at me…”. The thing I love about Dumbledore is that J.K. Rowling could have made him a simple and easy character to love, but instead she made him an intensely flawed and beautiful one.

        I have reeeeeally wanted to get a tattoo of Hufflepuff’s Badger on me for a long time lol.

      11. ReginaRey says:

        Hufflepuff, eh? I’m a Ravenclaw. At least, I’m 99% positive of that. Haha.

      12. I always knew I was a Ravenclaw. And then I got sorted into Ravenclaw on Pottermore- I stayed up til 4 in the morning so I could become a beta user. Ha. *Pins nerd badge on chest*

      13. Yeah, haha, I would definitely be with the cast offs in Hufflepuff. Though they do have the reputation of being a bit…..simple….

        I think you guys will enjoy this video about it though lol http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y0Z5_wipT2o.

      14. Addie Pray says:

        I’m trying to follow this discussion … fail. I should probably read these books just so I can understand you kids today. Ha.

      15. I have a theory that when people say they find Harry Potter simple or shallow (it irked me too, lol) are by people who do not get past the first two books. The first two books are not simple, but the books do get wonderfully intricate as the years go on and have darker story lines. I think there will also always be a prejudice against books that are universally accepted.

        I’m so glad to hear you had a similar experience (I felt silly for saying it). I absolutely know how close I was to making some terrible decisions and how Harry Potter completely changed my opinion of the world for the better.

      16. ReginaRey says:

        I’m sorry ya’ll, but NO ONE could say they disliked HP after reading the chapter in the 7th book where he walks into the Forbidden Forest and tells NO ONE, and the whole King’s Cross thing. I cry every freaking time. I cry when I THINK about it.

      17. Me too! It’s different in the movie and it wasn’t nearly as touching.

      18. ReginaRey says:

        I know! He says goodbye to them and it’s complete BS!

      19. Yeah, that was not good. I also thought that sh*t with Neville chasing the snake in the movie was kind of bullsh*t. He’s not playing the PS3 version of the story with extra challenges, assholes!

        Oh and, and I know this is probably just me, but I really didn’t like how no one was outside for the final battle scene. I liked in the book how everybody and their Grandmother (Neville’s) was there watching it go down, and while prettier, the movie version kind of took that away from me.

      20. Why did I take my lunch right in the middle of this convo!?

        You guys are making me misty eyed! You know what else makes me misty eyed? “Here Lies Dobby, A Free Elf.” RR, I was so PISSED when Harry said goodbye to Ron and Hermione in the movies. I was screeching in my head “That would NEVER happen! They’d NEVER just let him go!”

        And Amen to the Neville thing, Sarah. His character arch in the book is waay better in the book. He became a badass. It’s so funny because I’ve said all the things you’re both saying a million times about the last movie.

        I am a Harry Potter Geek. And I am not ashamed!

      21. hey fellow HP lovers!!

        i love HP just like you do. i have cried in those books so many more times then in any movies… ever. they are amazing!! my favorite thing is how the books are so complicated that you have to read them in order, and occasionally reference a past book as you are reading another one to remember everything. i just love how JK was able to weave everything together so seamlessly. but then that makes me hate the movies, so you know.. whatever. lol

      22. LOVE HARRY POTTER. The movies aren’t the same and don’t even come CLOSE. I grew up with Harry too and I was basically the same age as him through the entire series. My aunt is a 4th grade teacher and when I was younger she would buy me books for both Christmas and my birthday, which was AMAZING. When the books came out, she would reserve two copies: one for her and one for me! I got home delivery the day they came out because she would bring them to my house and I always always always got to read it before my brother because they were my birthday gifts. Ha. It was sooo awesome.

      23. Wendy! You’re breaking my heart! You have to at least TRY! I said the same thing for years, I didn’t get into HP until the 5th book was already out. I had absolutely no interest. But somebody convinced me and…. oh man. Most AMAZING books I have ever read in my 25 years of existence.

      24. Late to the game here, but hello fellow Potter fans!! I loved how the books went from being a fix for my inner kid to reducing me to tears. Are any of you ticked that Wormtail didn’t get an actual death scene in the movies, espcially since he got such a fitting one in the book?

        I’m also a big fan of Narnia, His Dark Materials, and Lord of the Rings. I just started The Hunger Games this weekend and am completely hooked.

      25. I agree with the premise that books that everyone read/already made into a movie should be nixed. I want to read something new, not something on the best seller list for over a year, ya know. If it has been on the list for that long, I think most avid readers have read it.

    2. I totally respect you’re preference, but I have to say it’s not accurate to say that YA isn’t challenging. Harry Potter and Hunger Games both dealt with serious and complex issues. While you can argue that the writing is not as challenging as adult fiction, I would say it’s no less challenging than some of the above suggestions such as the Help and Jodi Picoult’s fiction.

      Though I will agree that Twilight can be nixed. It does not deserve to have itself mentioned beside Harry Potter and the Hunger Games; it’s so godawful it hurts my head to think about it.

      1. ReginaRey says:

        Seconded. I wouldn’t even argue that the writing is less challenging in the Hunger Games or Harry Potter. I’ve read “adult” books that were a lot easier to follow and that didn’t present as many complicated themes as Harry Potter and the Hunger Games.

      2. Oh I definitely agree with you that many YA novels are not less challenging. They’re at least on par with a lot of “adult” novels. I thought I made that point clear by comparing them to the Help and Jodi Picoult, but I guess not! AND I have homophone confusion in my first sentence. I just wrote a whole spread about homophones for a reading program I’m working on. For shame!

      3. I had a homophone confusion in this post before I made an edit. In the last line I wrote, “here” instead of “hear.” My dad called and said, “You have a homophone confusion!!”

      4. Agreed. The Harry Potter series is many things, but simple isn’t one of them. Btw, if you liked those, you should try this new book called “Divergent”. I got it for Christmas and I’m already mostly done! Its very good!

      5. Sorry, I personally found Harry Potter and Hunger Games to be too simplistic to want to actively discuss them. I don’t disagree with you about the Jodi Picoult comparison; one of her books would not be my first choice for a book club. I am not saying any of them are bad books; to me, they just are more “beach reads”( aka books that are easy and enjoyable to breeze through but that I don’t necessarily give much thought to it after I’ve finished). I am not trying to be a literary snob nor am I proposing “Ulysses”, I would prefer something with a bit more substance.

      6. You read all seven of the Harry Potter books and you didn’t like them?

      7. ReginaRey says:

        Yeah, most people I know who say they “didn’t like Harry Potter” read the first one and didn’t read the rest. Honestly, the first isn’t nearly as amazing as the rest, but I think that was intentional. She wrote the first from the perspective of an 11-year-old child, and the writing gets intentionally more complex as the characters age and gain the ability to think deeply, etc.

      8. Addie Pray says:

        That’s me. I read the first book only.

      9. No, I did not read all seven but I did read the first three to see what all the hype was about and I did not say I didn’t like them. I realize EVERYONE loves Harry Potter but I personally did not find them riveting enough to want to keep reading or complex enough to want to discuss in length with other people in a book club. Sorry.

      10. I knew it. The first 2-3 books are not bad or simple or not complex enough, they are just made with the same wonder 11, 12, 13 year olds would have. To get past that, you have to have a pretty uncynical sense of whimsy, which is why a lot of people quit then. You missed out though.

      11. This is so true. It makes my heart hurt when people say they just “know” they wouldn’t be interested in Harry Potter because it’s a fantasy series about wizards. I can’t say this strongly enough: Harry Potter is so much more than that. It’s about relationships, growing up, love, and loyalty. It’s about persevering through challenges and finding your way in a world that doesn’t make sense. It’s about goodness triumphing over darkness in the least cheesy way imaginable.

        J.K. Rowling is a freaking genius. Once you get past the first few books, you begin to see how she created an entire complex universe. Things that seem small in the first few books, or that you don’t even pay attention to, weave back into the story in books 4-7 in ways that you never would have imagined. I don’t know how she did it.

        I can’t recommend finishing that series strongly enough.

      12. yea- it starts to get good about the 4th…. but really the 5th. try them again!! i love harry potter so much.

        my theory why the first ones were so easy was the arch of all stories- there is the stasis in the beginning, where the writer lays out the “normal” life that the characters have before the inciting incident throws them all off. so you are still the in the stasis, your still just learning about the wizard world… just wait til everything takes off. i promise its amazing. you have to take in the whole story, not just individual books

      13. Totally agree- I love Beach Trash and Twilight, but Book Club is not really the time/place for Confessions of a Shopaholic (big ups to Becky Bloomwood!)

    3. caitie_didn't says:

      Have you read the His Dark Materials trilogy? It’s (allegedly) a YA series but it’s truly one of the most complex, involved stories I have ever read (far more complex than Harry Potter). Actually, it would probably be my #1 book club recommendation.

      1. Beckaleigh says:

        That series is amazing! I haven’t read it in years!

      2. OH MY GOD I LOVE THE HIS DARK MATERIALS TRILOGY!!! I swear, I want to name a daughter Lyra. Who’s your favorite character? I think mine would be Hester or Lee Scorsbey or Lorek or ALL OF THEM.

      3. Painted_lady says:

        Iorek Byrnison!!!! I sort of have an irrational love of the gentle giant characters.

      4. caitie_didn't says:

        I’ve always loved the witches but Lee Scoresby is a close second!

      5. I’m now going to go buy the dark materials trilogy with the chapters gift card my boyfriend gave me for christmas 🙂

      6. Lee Scoresby and Serafina Pekkala were my favourites. The movie was on tv recently and it really made we want to re-read this series, it’s so amazing.

      7. Yup! Pullman’s Dark Materials is a great example of challenging and complex YA fiction. And just fantastic books all around.

      8. ReginaRey says:

        I’ve vaguely heard of this and I’m intrigued. What would you all who’ve read this series compare it to? Is it more HP, or more LOTR? or Neither? I tried to read LOTR, and I just couldn’t finish them. I rarely pick up a book without finishing it, but I just couldn’t get jazzed about LOTR.

      9. caitie_didn't says:

        It’s neither. Let’s face it, LOTR is kind of boring and not all that well-written (that said; there are lots of complex themes and great imagery in there and I read all three). It’s like Harry Potter only in the sense that it’s a fantasy series. But His Dark Materials is about Original Sin, the battle between the church and science, the nature of God. All three are intricate, complex, so well-written and really make you think about deep issues. Honestly, I can’t recommend them enough.

      10. A perfect description of them. The characters and worlds in those books are so incredible, after reading them I felt like I had more senses lol. I would also recommend the Bartimaeus Trilogy. Its much more British tongue in cheek than the others but they are really funny while still being dark and complex and Bartimaeus is one of my favorite characters of all time.

      11. In my case it was definitely BORED of the Rings….

      12. Only the Golden Compass, I read it in 5th or 6th grade and remember liking it despite not being a major fan of the sci-fi/fantasy genre but that was like 15 years ago so I don’t know if I would find it more or less interesting as an adult. Maybe it’s time to re-read it 😉

        but since that was like 15 years ago

      13. please ignore the last line courtesy of a cut and paste failure

      14. Beckaleigh says:

        You should definitely re-read this series as an adult!

      15. The first book is Northern Lights, don’t mean to correct you in a critical way but the decision to change the name of the book for the film made me so unbelievably angry. (It’s not even a compass!) Highly recommend you read the rest of the trilogy, it’s beautiful writing. Don’t finish Amber Spyglass in public, you will cry. Buckets.

      16. iseeshiny says:

        You’re right, but the book was actually published as The Golden Compass in the US from the beginning – that’s what the book was titled when I was in grade school anyway. Like the Philosopher’s Stone/Sorcerer’s Stone for Harry Potter. We don’t know why they did it, only that they did.

      17. I am guessing you are from the U.K. or Australia because in the U.S., the title has always been the Golden Compass. Many people think the title derives from the alethiometer’s visual similarity to a directional compass but it is actually a reference to a passage in “Paradise Lost” that features God using a compass(the v shaped circle-drawing tool, not the navigational one) during his creation of the world.

        Anyway, hope that makes you feel slightly better to know that the movie was named after the book and and not the other way around 🙂

        If you want to read how the book ended up being published under two different titles, the full story can be found here:

    4. Oh, gosh. I have to completely disagree with your dismissal of the entire YA genre. I adore YA books because at their core, they’re about people discovering who they are and how they fit into this complex world. There are so many incredible books in that genre, including ones that are not fantasy/paranormal. The authors of these books are equally as talented as the Jodi Picoults of the world, and they don’t write down to their audience, or simplify things.

      All this is to say that I hope YA books won’t be discounted simply because they’re classified as “young adult.” I know others will agree with me that they are just as compelling and powerful as any other type of novel.

  23. Trixy Minx says:

    We the living by ayn rand

    1. I have been meaning to read ayn rand for awhile. good option!

    2. Anything by Ayn Rand is a bad idea I think. She had a bad habit of polarizing people.

      1. She’s a talented author but I was tempted to burn my copy of “Atlas Shrugged” after seeing that “I am John Galt” signs at Tea Party Protests have become as much a staple as pictures of bloody mangled fetuses at anti-abortion demonstrations

  24. For those liking non-fiction, memoirs, humor and/or something off the beaten path, I recommend _A Girl Named Zippy_. I listen to a lot of audiobooks (and also read physical books.) This book is about a girl growing up in small-town Indiana in the 60s. Her family is poor, her father an inveterate gambler, her mom is sci-fi loving Quaker. The book is funny, touching and very short. I usually don’t like books read by the author, since actors usually have more vocal skills, but Haven Kimmel has an absolutely wonderful narrative voice. She sounds much younger than I assume she is. And, in general, I do recommend listening to books. You can “read” while on the bus, exercising or washing dishes. I finish an average of two books a week. (Although _What is the What_, about the lost boys of Sudan, took me about six weeks because it was so intense I could only listen to about an hour a day.)

    1. I read “A Girl Named Zippy” several years ago, and remember really enjoying it too.

      Do you (or anyone else out in Dear Wendy-land!) have more audiobook recommendations? I’ve got a 16-hour drive back to CO coming up here at the end of this week, and I burnt myself out on my standby podcasts (Savage Love, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, Stuff You Missed in History Class, Fresh Air, This American Life, etc…). Music alone won’t cut it.

      For reference, I don’t spend much time alone in the car, so have only gotten in to a couple of audio books on the long drives at holidays. The only one I have really enjoyed listening to was “The Help” – I loved hearing the actors with different voices, and I loved the wee bit ‘o suspense. Although one caveat for me is that I rolled my eyes every time I *really* thought about the premise (privileged white girl saves poor black people!). But it was entertaining and easy to listen to.

      I had a hard time listening to “Kitchen Confidential” because Bourdain just ended up all drone-y to me. Alternately, I was disappointed that one of Chelsea Handler’s books was NOT read by her, as her voice and delivery are so distinctive, and the actress just wasn’t cutting the mustard for me.

      I’d honestly be open to one of the simpler YA novels if the delivery is good (Twilight comes to mind… this is about the only time I’d be caught dead admitting I listened/read one of those things). And if it could pretty much be finished within 16 hours that would be ideal, too.

      Thanks in advance!!!

      1. Oh, lastly – would be great if it’s something that’s been out long enough for me to be able to rent from my library… I have a friend who’s told me it’s possible, but I think it may only be possible if it’s a book on CD? I dunno… off to research.

      2. Naked by David Sedaris is a good book on cd! I don’t Remember how long it lasts but it’s quite humorous.

      3. I also loved _Naked_. His best seller (and I think funniest) is _Me Talk Pretty One Day_.

      4. I absolutely LOVE Sedaris and have read everything by him. Started with “Me Talk Pretty One Day” when I did a weekly commute to NYC (from Houston, so a long-ish flight). I now wish I had held out to be able to listen to it on tape!

      5. I (obviously) don’t know where you live, but you can download audiobooks from the Chicago Public Library (CPL) (not to Apple products, unfortunately) and you can also take out MP3 players preloaded with the book of your choice from the CPL.

      6. I’ve listened to probably 200 books over the last 5 years, and my all-time favorite is _Anansi Boys_ by Neil Gaiman. It’s funny, scary and touching. The narration, by Lenny Henry, is absolutely fantastic. Briefly, it’s about a nerdly kind of guy in London, Fat Charlie (who actually isn’t fat), newly engaged to a somewhat bossy girl. She demands that he invite his father to the wedding. Charlie hasn’t seen his dad since his mom left him 20 years (or so) ago, really doesn’t want to see him, but is afraid of getting his fiancee angry, so he calls. A strange woman answers the phone and tells him his dad just died. Charlie decides to go to the funeral and learns all kinds of amazing things about his father and himself.

      7. I forgot to add that _Anansi Boys_ is pretty long – maybe 30 hours (can’t quite remember, but it was lengthy.) Other favorites – _David Copperfield_ and _Nicholas Nickleby_ by Dickens, read by Martin Jarvis (both long). _Treasure Island_ by RL Stevenson, maybe 10 hours, very enjoyable (I didn’t like it when I read it as a kid, but loved the audio version.) I also listened to all of the Ayn Rand books, and was fascinated by _Atlas Shrugged_, super long – maybe 60 hours. I’d have to check my Audible account to see what my ratings are on other books, but those are the ones I can think of off the top of my head. Also, if you check Audible, they now have ratings for both the book and the narration. I can still remember listening to _Artemis Fowl_ and thinking “The book’s not much, but that narrator is great!” It turned out to be the hunky Nathaniel Parker from the BBC/PBS Inspector Lynley series.

      8. Thanks for all the great suggestions guys! I appreciate it. I may check out Anansi Brothers…

  25. This is such a great idea! “Room” by Emma Donoghue was really great this year, I also read “Random Family” by Adrian Nicole Leblanc which totally blew me away. “The Night Circus” was also a really great read. I’m reading “We Need to Talk about Kevin” right now and I have a feeling it’s going to be intense. I also have on my to-read list “Just a Geek” and “Is Everyone Hanging out Without Me?” as a fun one. Is anyone else here on http://www.goodreads.com? Great way to track books you have/want to read.

    1. The Night Circus is the next on my list!!

      1. vizslalvr says:

        I definitely second The Night Circus. I’m reading it now (on my new Nook!) and I can’t put it down.

  26. I would recommend …

    The Gargoyle – Andrew Davidson

    Sounds kooky when you read the reviews, but so beautifully written and an enchanting story line.

    1. caitie_didn't says:

      I picked this up on a whim a couple of years ago and ended up really enjoying it!

  27. So, because I doubt we can convince any non-young adult fiction readers to make the leap, I nominate The Alchemist, unless everybody’s read it. I think it would be a great to have that book’s message to ring in the New Year though. Or One Hundred Years Of Solitude, because I promised myself I would re-read it soon and it is really great, or We Need To Talk About Kevin because that movie is about to come out and holy f*ck is that book incredi-scary.

    1. I read the Alchemist every other year or so. I love that book!

    2. Yes to We Need to Talk About Kevin.

      1. AND/or The Alchemist – because I own it but haven’t yet read it. 🙂

    3. caitie_didn't says:

      Sarah, you and I must have similar taste in books. The Alchemist is my favourite book ever. It literally changed my life.

      1. It is so wonderful. I have this beautiful illustrated copy at home and I read every time I need inspiration to do brave things. I honestly think they should give it to prisoners as a reform tactic lol. Hmm, let’s see, what is your favorite book, besides The Alchemist? Since we have such similar tastes, I need to read your favorite :).

      2. caitie_didn't says:

        Hmmm…..here’s a list off the top of my head.

        1. The Alchemist
        2. The Five People You Meet in Heaven
        3. His Dark Materials trilogy
        4. Harry Potter (all)
        5. The Abhorsen Trilogy (another YA fantasy series)
        6. The Outsiders
        7. the Bell Jar
        8. Life of Pi
        9. Not Wanted on the Voyage (Timothy Findley)
        10. Bridget Jones’ Diary

        Honestly, I don’t have nearly as much time as I’d like to read and when I do I tend to stick to escapist stuff (I really like crime or mystery novels- Sue Grafton’s alphabet series, Kathy Reichs, Patricia Cornwall). I recently read The Hypnotist (it’s kind of in the tradition of Girl with the Dragon tattoo, but even more edge-of-your seat thrilling).

        And you’ll notice how much of my list is YA fiction- it is unquestionably my favourite genre.

      3. I love the Aborhsen trilogy! It took forever for the last two to finally get published though. I now strict policy to not start a series until the last book has been published.

      4. Love Garth Nix, also rather into YA fiction in general. For those of you who like fantasy I’d suggest trying Trudi Canavan, starting with the Black Magician trilogy. She has such a talent for creating a whole world you can believe in completely, filled with characters who you love or hate. All of her books are great, what an imagination she must have.

      5. I cried my eyes out after reading The 5 People You Meet in Heaven

    4. Is “The Alchemist” the one by Paulo Coelho? There are a few by this title in my library database…. Thanks!


      I got “Maktub” tattooed on my thigh in Arabic after I read it.

  28. So many books to recommend. Wendy – I have been stopping here to go through to Amazon via your link to order stuff lately. Extra step, but not too bad.

    The Castle Perilous series by John DeChancie if you’re looking for a fun fantasy series.
    The Starrigger trilogy by John DeChancie if you want something a little more sci-fi (yet still fun)
    The Passage by Justin Cronin for something dark, long and scary
    Year Zero

    I’ll hold some back for now.

  29. Might I suggest that in addition to a book club, we have threads to discuss good new: music, films, documentaries, TV shows, websites, etc?

    I think this stuff is why it would be helpful to have a forum 🙂

  30. I do a lot of audio books and LOVED The Hunger Games. I’d ‘read’ it again. Marriage Plot sounds great too! I’m in!!

    Actually, I’ll read almost anything (that pesky English Lit degree!) but hard core sci fi and sappy romances.

    Memoirs of a Geisha
    Vanity Fair
    The Art of Racing in the Rain
    The Drop
    Looking for Alaska – GREAT YA novel!
    The Kitchen House
    Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

    and right now I’m digging the Games of Thrones series. AWESOME but bloody!

    1. Looking for Alaska is really good. My friend got her copy signed at the Edinburgh Festival this year.

    2. LittleLuWho says:

      I second The Art of Racing in the Rain! My childhood dog turned 14 this past summer and passed away from a tumor on her spleen in November. I read the book at the beach this summer (where my parents rented a pet-friendly condo so we could bring her with us) and we didn’t know about the tumor yet but I knew she probably didn’t have too much longer so the book hit me that much harder.

  31. I just skimmed Bonk by Mary Roach in the library and the bits I read were really interesting so I nominate that!

  32. Have usually just been a reader on here and don’t usually post, but love to read :). I nominate The namesake by jhumpa lahiri.

    1. YouOtterKnow says:

      that’s a great book!! If you haven’t you should read “interpreter of maladies” it’s almost as good as the namesake

    2. The Namesake is one of my all time favorites. So beautiful and compelling. Have you read Unaccustomed Earth? It’s fantastic as well. If you like Lahiri you might also like Amy Tan- Bonesetter’s Daughter is her best novel in my opinion.

      1. I have actually read both of those books as well. She is one of my favorite authors 🙂 thank you for the reccomendation.

  33. I completely forgot about your Amazon link when I ordered stuff for Christmas, and I’m kicking myself for it now! I love your site and love the ideas for support that you have; don’t ever let ads take over! The drop-down ads are the #1 reason that I rarely visit TF anymore.

  34. this makes me really happy because in the last weekend open thread, i felt really lame because i had no favorite book from this last year. i will try my best to read them with you all! i have a whole month right? lol that should be enough time. so, i am an open book (no pun intended!! haha) with this because i dont know any books. so no voting for me. but i will be reading along!!!

    i am way excited!

  35. I’m so excited about this, great idea! I vote for The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters, the story can be interpreted different ways so it would make for a good discussion. Fingersmith by the same author is really clever and fun to read also.

  36. Ok, nobody’s gonna read this before the poll comes up, but I just remembered Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, and that would be a great one. It’s dystopian and heartbreaking and it’s got complicated ethics to discuss.

    1. Oh I read that this year…super creepy but you’re right, great for discussion.

    2. belongsomewhere says:

      Oh, I loved that book! I read it last year just in time for the movie, which was also pretty good.
      Never Let Me Go or another of Kazuo Ishiguro’s books would be great!

  37. Wendy (not Wendy) says:

    HUGE recommendation for Pink Boots and a Machete by Mireya Mayor. Mayor, daughter of Cuban immigrants, was an NFL cheerleader in college and went on to get a PhD in anthropology. She’s done all kinds of cool cultural and scientific work with people and primates, as well as TV stuff for National Geographic and the History Channel. She has four children. The book is super entertaining, but it’s also so intriguing because of the ideas it raises–how far would Mayor have gotten if she wasn’t smoking hot? And yet, in what ways has being smoking hot kept her from being taken seriously as a scientist? Some of the explorations are manipulated by the needs of the TV people, and yet, who else is going to fund these trips today that end up benefitting the environment as much as they entertain people? And what is it like not just to be a working mother in a very absorbing career, but to be a working mother in a dangerous career that means spending time away from your family? Dear Wendy readers will LOVE this book. And also some of them will love to hate it. Which is what good discussion is made of.

    1. Wendy (not Wendy) says:

      (And here’s a quote from it.
      “Every morning in the middle of nowhere, without electricity or anyone to impress, I’d take great care in picking out my outfit and hover in front of a business card-size mirror to apply my lip gloss and check my eyebrows. I also felt I had a strong case for bringing a little black dress on expeditions. Village parties spring up more often than you might expect, and despite never having been a Girl Scout, I like to be prepared.”)

  38. I love this idea! Especially since I got a Kindle and a bunch of Amazon gift cards for Christmas. Here’s my list of books I’ve heard are wonderful and I haven’t gotten around to reading yet:
    The Dovekeepers
    The Tiger’s Wife
    The Swan Thieves
    A Thousand Splendid Suns
    Memoirs of a Geisha
    Northanger Abbey

    And here’s my list of books I loved that I think would make for good discussions:
    The Historian
    The Red Tent
    Wuthering Heights
    Pride and Prejudice
    To Kill a Mockingbird
    Water for Elephants
    Farenheit 451

    I’m leaving off my fantasy picks since most of those are part of longer series that I doubt a book club would want to plow through. Just curious though–anyone else on here excited about the final Wheel of Time book coming out in the next year or bracing themselves for the wait for the next George R.R. Martin book?

    1. I just reread The Historian two days ago!

      1. That’s one of my favorites! The Swan Thieves will be purchased with one of my gift cards this week–it’s been on my stuff to read list way too long.

  39. Looking for Alaska or Paper Towns both by John Green

    been meaning to read both!

    1. Another great (non-fantasy) example of YA!

  40. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Time travel, history, romance, sci-fi, action. What more could you want?

    1. Absolutely love Outlander, I’ve gotten several other people hooked on the series too.

  41. I’m not usually into sci-fi/fantasy stuff but I’ve been planning on reading The Hunger Games. Would also love to read The Marriage Plot–I loved Middlesex and The Virgin Suicides, so anything by Jeffrey Eugenides is a great choice in my book! I also loved The Alchemist and 100 Years of Solitude. Haven’t read Under The Banner of Heaven but I’ve read Into Thin Air which was great! I happen to own The Glass Castle which I’ve started to read, and am enjoying. So my top picks are:

    The Hunger Games
    The Marriage Plot
    Under The Banner of Heaven
    The Glass Castle

  42. i just got home from vacation and was very excited to see this post!! i can’t wait for dear wendy book club 🙂

  43. I LOVE the idea of this. I would definitely join up. gives me a reason to start reading again 🙂

  44. I just got home from my dads (no internet there) and I haven’t had a chance to read through all of theses but if no one has suggested Under the Banner of Heaven, I think we should consider that one 🙂

  45. Probably too late for this month, but I just finished The Wet Nurse’s Tale by Erica Eisdorfer and I think it would be a good choice.

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