Book Club Favorites: 8 Autumnal Picks to Discuss with Cider Nearby

September 20 2021
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Autumn is a time of change. Leaves burn bright crimson before falling. Our T-shirts and shorts are swapped out with cozy sweaters and long pants. And, of course, we turn over a new page in our book club discussions! This season, we’re diving into magical books, eerie thrillers, and transcendent tales that capture the essence of autumn.  Follow along with us at Book Club Favorites, and tune in to our first autumn discussion—with Alice Hoffman, on September 20, at noon ET on Facebook or YouTube!

Magic Lessons
by Alice Hoffman

Alice Hoffman unveils the backstory of the Owens family through its matriarch, Maria. Readers are transported to the time of the Salem Witch Trials, during which Maria invokes a cursed relationship with love that will follow her for the rest of her life, as well as impact the Owens family for generations. Join the bewitching journey of the Practical Magic series with this enthralling novel, newly published in paperback.

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Magic Lessons
Alice Hoffman

In this “ bewitching” (The New York Times Book Review) novel that traces a centuries-old curse to its source, beloved author Alice Hoffman unveils the story of Maria Owens, accused of witchcraft in Salem, and matriarch of a line of the amazing Owens women and men featured in Practical Magic and The Rules of Magic.

Where does the story of the Owens bloodline begin? With Maria Owens, in the 1600s, when she’s abandoned in a snowy field in rural England as a baby. Under the care of Hannah Owens, Maria learns about the “Nameless Arts.” Hannah recognizes that Maria has a gift and she teaches the girl all she knows. It is here that she learns her first important lesson: Always love someone who will love you back.

When Maria is abandoned by the man who has declared his love for her, she follows him to Salem, Massachusetts. Here she invokes the curse that will haunt her family. And it’s here that she learns the rules of magic and the lesson that she will carry with her for the rest of her life. Love is the only thing that matters.

Magic Lessons is a “heartbreaking and heart-healing” (BookPage) celebration of life and love and a showcase of Alice Hoffman’s masterful storytelling.

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Damnation Spring
by Ash Davidson

DAMNATION SPRING is a courageous tale of one family and their community clinging to a loggers’ way of life. Colleen and Rich’s Pacific Northwest logging town in 1977 isn’t what it used to be. For generations, the community has lived and breathed timber. But now, that way of life has been threatened. This is a story of adventure, environmental harm, the enduring power of love, and the beautiful bond between a family and their neighbors. DAMNATION SPRING provides a great discussion-worthy read as it asks this question: How far will one family go to protect their future?

Check out our Reading Group Guide!

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Damnation Spring
Ash Davidson

An epic, immersive debut, Damnation Spring is the deeply human story of a Pacific Northwest logging town wrenched in two by a mystery that threatens to derail its way of life.

For generations, Rich Gundersen’s family has chopped a livelihood out of the redwood forest along California’s rugged coast. Now Rich and his wife, Colleen, are raising their own young son near Damnation Grove, a swath of ancient redwoods on which Rich’s employer, Sanderson Timber Co., plans to make a killing. In 1977, with most of the forest cleared or protected, a grove like Damnation—and beyond it 24-7 Ridge—is a logger’s dream.

It’s dangerous work. Rich has already lived decades longer than his father, killed on the job. Rich wants better for his son, Chub, so when the opportunity arises to buy 24-7 Ridge—costing them all the savings they’ve squirreled away for their growing family—he grabs it, unbeknownst to Colleen. Because the reality is their family isn’t growing; Colleen has lost several pregnancies. And she isn’t alone. As a midwife, Colleen has seen it with her own eyes.

For decades, the herbicides the logging company uses were considered harmless. But Colleen is no longer so sure. What if these miscarriages aren’t isolated strokes of bad luck? As mudslides take out clear-cut hillsides and salmon vanish from creeks, her search for answers threatens to unravel not just Rich’s plans for the 24-7, but their marriage too, dividing a town that lives and dies on timber along the way.

Told from the perspectives of Rich, Colleen, and Chub, in prose as clear as a spring-fed creek, this intimate, compassionate portrait of a community clinging to a vanishing way of life amid the perils of environmental degradation makes Damnation Spring an essential novel for our time.

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The Color of Bee Larkham's Murder
by Sarah J. Harris

Synesthesia is an odd condition that causes one boy to see colors whenever he hears sounds. Jasper’s world is unlike the other thirteen-year-olds he knows. Words, numbers, people’s voices—everything has its own unique color. But lately, Jasper has been haunted by a color he cannot seem to comprehend: the color of murder.  Struggling to untangle a complicated mess of memories and colors will lead him to the truth about his unruly neighbor, Bee Larkham. This unique hero is sure to win over the hearts of your entire book club.

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The Color of Bee Larkham's Murder
Sarah J. Harris

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The Dickens Boy
by Thomas Keneally

Edward, the tenth child of the famous writer Charles Dickens, is sent to Australia in his teens in the hope that he will make something of his life, but even on the other side of the world, he is shadowed by his father’s fame. In the great expanse of Down Under, with its lively livestock and frontier battles, THE DICKENS BOY provides penetrating insights into the colonialism of the British Empire and the fate of Australia’s indigenous people. It is also an intimate portrait of Charles Dickens himself, as seen through the eyes of his exiled son.

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The Dickens Boy
Thomas Keneally

The award-winning author of modern classics such as Schindler’s List and the “complex and mesmerizing” (The Christian Science Monitor) Napoleon’s Last Island is at his triumphant best with this vibrant and engaging novel about the adventures of Charles Dickens’s son in the Australian Outback during the 1860s.

Edward Dickens, the tenth child of England’s most famous author Charles Dickens, has consistently let down his parents. Unable to apply himself at school and adrift in life, the teenaged boy is sent to Australia in the hopes that he can make something of himself—or at least fail out of the public eye. He soon finds himself in the remote Outback, surrounded by Aboriginals, colonials, ex-convicts, ex-soldiers, and very few women.

Even on the other side of the world, Edward encounters the same rabid veneration of his father that exists in England. But Edward has a secret: he has never read a single word of his father’s beloved writing. Determined to prove to his parents and more importantly, himself, that he can succeed in this vast and unfamiliar wilderness, Edward works hard at his new life amidst various livestock, bushrangers, shifty stock agents, and frontier battles.

By reimagining the tale of a fascinating yet little-known figure in history, this rollicking, high-spirited tale offers penetrating insights into Colonialism and the fate of Australia’s indigenous people, and a wonderfully intimate portrait of Charles Dickens, as seen through the eye of his exiled son.

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We Are Not Like Them
by Christine Pride

WE ARE NOT LIKE THEM is one book club recommendation that everyone will be talking about this fall. This evocative novel is about the long-standing bond between two women, one Black and one white, and the tragic event that alters their friendship. Jen and Riley have been best friends since childhood. But their deep bond is tested after Jen’s husband, a city police officer, is involved in the shooting of a Black teenager. WE ARE NOT LIKE THEM explores the complexity of race in society, and police violence, as well as tests the power of friendship.

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We Are Not Like Them
Christine Pride

“Now these women, they can WRITE!” —Terry McMillan, New York Times bestselling author of It’s Not All Downhill from Here

We Are Not Like Them will stay with you long after you turn the last page.” —Laura Dave, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Thing He Told Me

Told from alternating perspectives, an evocative and riveting novel about the lifelong bond between two women, one Black and one white, whose friendship is indelibly altered by a tragic event—a powerful and poignant exploration of race in America today and its devastating impact on ordinary lives.

Jen and Riley have been best friends since kindergarten. As adults, they remain as close as sisters, though their lives have taken different directions. Jen married young, and after years of trying, is finally pregnant. Riley pursued her childhood dream of becoming a television journalist and is poised to become one of the first Black female anchors of the top news channel in their hometown of Philadelphia.

But the deep bond they share is severely tested when Jen’s husband, a city police officer, is involved in the shooting of an unarmed Black teenager. Six months pregnant, Jen is in freefall as her future, her husband’s freedom, and her friendship with Riley are thrown into uncertainty. Covering this career-making story, Riley wrestles with the implications of this tragic incident for her Black community, her ambitions, and her relationship with her lifelong friend.

Like Tayari Jones’s An American Marriage and Jodi Picoult’s Small Great Things, We Are Not Like Them explores complex questions of race and how they pervade and shape our most intimate spaces in a deeply divided world. But at its heart, it’s a story of enduring friendship—a love that defies the odds even as it faces its most difficult challenges.

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The Night She Disappeared
by Lisa Jewell

Lisa Jewell, the queen of suspense writing, is back with another perfect book club pick. THE NIGHT SHE DISAPPEARED begins on a beautiful summer evening in an English suburb when a young couple disappears after a night-long party. Flash-forward exactly one year, when a writer moves into a cottage in town. After stumbling upon an ominous note in her garden that reads, “Dig Here,” she wonders if this mysterious message could be a vital clue to uncovering what happened to Tallulah and Zach on that fateful night.

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The Night She Disappeared
Lisa Jewell

“I love all Lisa’s books, but The Night She Disappeared is her best thriller yet.” —Harlan Coben, New York Times bestselling author of Win

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Then She Was Gone and The Family Upstairs comes another riveting work of “gloriously twisted” (Marie Claire) psychological suspense about a web of people whose lives are forever changed in the wake of a young couple’s disappearance.

On a beautiful summer night in a charming English suburb, a young woman and her boyfriend disappear after partying at the massive country estate of a new college friend.

One year later, a writer moves into a cottage on the edge of the woods that border the same estate. Known locally as the Dark Place, the dense forest is the writer’s favorite area for long walks and it’s on one such walk that she stumbles upon a mysterious note that simply reads, “DIG HERE.”

Could this be a clue towards what has happened to the missing young couple? And what exactly is buried in this haunted ground?

With her signature “rich, dark, and intricately twisted” (Ruth Ware, New York Times bestselling author) prose, Lisa Jewell has crafted a dazzling work of suspense that will keep on the edge of your seat until the final page.

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Cloud Cuckoo Land
by Anthony Doerr

From the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE comes a beautiful and redemptive novel. CLOUD CUCKOO LAND is told from several different time periods: fifteenth-century Constantinople; a small town in present-day Idaho; and on an interstellar spaceship decades from now. This is a triumphant tale about children on the cusp of adulthood who find resilience, hope, and magic within a book. In the story, Anthony Doerr, in beautiful prose, contemplates our vast interconnectedness with different species and the legacy we will leave long after we’re gone.

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Cloud Cuckoo Land
Anthony Doerr

From the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of All the Light We Cannot See, perhaps the most bestselling and beloved literary fiction of our time, comes a triumph of imagination and compassion, a soaring novel about children on the cusp of adulthood in a broken world, who find resilience, hope, and story.

The heroes of Cloud Cuckoo Land are trying to figure out the world around them: Anna and Omeir, on opposite sides of the formidable city walls during the 1453 siege of Constantinople; teenage idealist Seymour in an attack on a public library in present day Idaho; and Konstance, on an interstellar ship bound for an exoplanet, decades from now. Like Marie-Laure and Werner in All the Light We Cannot See, Anna, Omeir, Seymour, and Konstance are dreamers and outsiders who find resourcefulness and hope in the midst of peril.

An ancient text—the story of Aethon, who longs to be turned into a bird so that he can fly to a utopian paradise in the sky—provides solace and mystery to these unforgettable characters. Doerr has created a tapestry of times and places that reflects our vast interconnectedness—with other species, with each other, with those who lived before us and those who will be here after we’re gone.

Dedicated to “the librarians then, now, and in the years to come,” Cloud Cuckoo Land is a hauntingly beautiful and redemptive novel about stewardship—of the book, of the Earth, of the human heart.

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Ask Again, Yes
by Mary Beth Keane

Mary Beth Keane’s bestselling novel ASK AGAIN, YES, explores the impact of family, friendship, and  forgiveness. Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope are NYPD partners, neighbors, and best friends. While their children also form an inseparable bond, the loneliness of Francis’s wife and the instability of Brian’s set the stage for an explosive tragedy. After one shocking night, the loyalties of the two families are put to the test, and retested over the course of the next thirty years. This powerfully intimate story will have your book club talking for days.

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Ask Again, Yes
Mary Beth Keane

One of the most beloved novels of the year, the 2019 Tonight Show Summer Reads pick and “magnificent” (NPR) New York Times bestseller offers “profound insights about blame, forgiveness, and abiding love” (People) about two neighboring families in a suburban town, the friendship between their children, the daily intimacies of marriage, and the power of forgiveness.

Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope, rookie cops in the NYPD, live next door to each other outside the city. What happens behind closed doors in both houses—the loneliness of Francis’s wife, Lena, and the instability of Brian’s wife, Anne, sets the stage for the explosive events to come.

“A beautiful novel, bursting at the seams with empathy” (Elle), Ask Again, Yes is a deeply affecting and “smartly told” (Entertainment Weekly) exploration of the lifelong friendship and love that blossoms between Kate Gleeson and Peter Stanhope, born six months apart. One shocking night their loyalties are divided, and their bond will be tested again and again over the next forty years. Heartbreaking and redemptive, Ask Again, Yes is a gorgeous portrait of a relationship haunted by echoes from the past, yet marked by tenderness, generosity, and grace.

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