In The Club

Death, But Not a Downer

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed. Today’s club agenda is all about fierce women and death: sounds like a real downer, don’t it?! I promise it’s not. 

As for format, I’m suggesting less ideas but providing more reading recs for the ones I do include. Let me know how you like it and what you want to see more of in this club.

Let’s go!

This newsletter is sponsored by The Last Book Party by Karen Dukess, Published by Henry Holt.

The Last Book Party is a propulsive tale of ambition and romance, set in the publishing world of 1980’s New York and the timeless beaches of Cape Cod. Editorial assistant Eve Rosen finds her professional ambitions floundering when she finds herself at a summer gathering at the Cape Cod home of famed New Yorker writer Henry Grey and his poet wife, Tillie. Leaving NYC behind, she goes to work for the writer and has a summer that changes everything.

Question for the Club

July’s query is:

You’ve got till end of month to enter to win 10 copies of A Gentleman in Moscow for your book club. Do it! Do it! Do it!

Let’s Talk About Death, Baby – It seems like there are two kinds of people in the world: those who avoid talking about death at all costs and those that relish it like I love clotted cream on scones. No matter what side you land on, I believe we could all benefit from more frequent convos about death and dying; here’s a great list of books on the subject to increase your understanding, and perhaps make you less uneasy about it.

Book Club Bonus: We need to talk about death, yo! I kind of love the idea of talking about death in book club and then having a candid conversation on preparedness. Do you have an advanced medical directive? What about organ donation? Do you want to be buried or cremated? Have you drawn up a will? And what about your partner, your parents, your children’s plans? Have the talks, then do the things. 

Other book suggestions: 

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty – A candid discussion of death from a twenty-something medieval history major who takes a job at a crematory that changes her life. This coming-of-age story isn’t the kind you’re used to!  Well, that is unless you tend to read a lot of mortician memoirs. It’s morbid, it’s informative, and it’s really darkly funny. It’ll make you look a death with new eyes. 

The Promise of Stardust by Priscille Sibley – When the book opens, a woman sustains a head injury while working on a home improvement project that everyone assumes is a mild concussion. It ends up leaving her brain dead though, and her husband is suddenly left with all of these end-of-life care decisions. The clash with his wife’s family that results gave me aaall of the feels, and made me scribble out a quick will of sorts and advanced directive the *minute* I finished it.

I Am Woman, Deal With It – I’ll be guest hosting an episode of All the Books with Liberty this month, and one of the books I’m talking about is just so bananas!! I read it months ago and have not been able to get it off my brain: I don’t think I’ve ever read anything that examines women’s desire quite so honestly, both the good parts and the unsavory with zero regard for anyone’s feelings. Gaaah I want to tell you about it so much! Tune in on July 23rd to get the deets.

Book Club Bonus: As for how this very vague blurb ties into book club, reading that doozy of a book has put me very much in the mood for uncomfortably honest books by and about women, women who look convention and modesty in the face and say, “Not today.” I want to discuss these books with other women and encourage you to do the same. Here are some suggestions:

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. SanchezI Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez – Following Sanchez on Twitter alone could spark a whole book club discussion: she is so authentically, frankly, unapologetically herself and cares thiiiiiiiis much how anyone feels about it. I loved this book because she injects so much of her non-confirming and rebellious spirit into main character Julia, who I’ve also seen labeled as unlikable for reasons I feel are unfair. I’d love to unpack that in book club, as well as other topics like grief and the immigrant experience.  

Gross Anatomy by Mara Altman – This book is equal parts cry-laugh-at-a-restaurant and feminist manifesto. It’s a hilarious and poignant reflection on all the ways in which women have been programmed since birth into plucking, preening, perfuming, and/or hiding every last inch of ourselves and then packing it into a waist trainer. It is book club gold: you could read the first chapter alone and spend an hour discussing your feelings on body hair.

I cannot resist sharing these three fun facts: 

1) At Mara’s San Diego book release party, someone gifted her a pair of hemorrhoid earrings and she immediately put them on. 

2) At said release party, Mara gave away a Camel Tote.

3) The Russian translation of the book is called… wait for it… Body Trash

shrill coverShrill by Lindy West – Lindy West is smart, clever, and one of the bravest women I know in my head. Even if you’ve seen the Hulu series, go back and read this for book club. Discuss the guts it took to stand up to Daniel Tosh and the misogynist internet, to go on record as saying rape isn’t funny, to publicly share her abortion story, to live as a fat woman and dare to do so happily.  

Suggestion Section

The LA Times is reading Laila Lalami’s The Other Americans for their book club and asks the question: who gets to be American?

If you’re in Canada and looking for a book club, Indigo apparently has three brand spanking new ones.

Thanks for hanging with me today! Shoot me an email at with your burning book club questions or find me on Twitter and the gram @buenosdiazsd. Sign up for the Audiobooks newsletter, get it on the Read Harder podcast, and watch me booktube every Friday too.

Stay bad & bookish, my friends.

More Resources: 
– Our Book Group In A Box guide
– List your group on the Book Group Resources page