Book Club Suggestions!

by Alyssa Mooney, Emeritus Staff

Ladies!  Alyssa here, doing my part to ease Meg’s workload a bit and helping keep her from exploding into tiny Meg-bits from stress. (which I think would be pretty and sparkly, but still not a good thing.) Apparently book writing is HARD, y’all!

Anyway! It’s APW book club time again, and we’re going to try something a bit different with our suggestions.  There are some guidelines we need y’all to follow to make this work, so bear with us.

If you have a book you think would be perfect for the next APW book club, take the following steps:

  1. Read through the comments of this post and make sure your book hasn’t already been suggested.
  2. Comment and suggest your book, listing the title, author, and one sentence on why you think it’s a good APW book.
  3. If your book has already been selected (or you see one that you think is a good pick) click “Exactly!” on the comment listing the suggestion.

WAIT!  Don’t go yet.  A couple of requests.

  • If you have multiple suggestions, make multiple comments.
  • Please read through the comments before you make a suggestion.  Duplicate suggestions get deleted, along with any “Exactly!” votes they may have gotten. And that would be sad.
  • Please limit your suggestion to title, author and one sentence on why it’s amazing. Seriously, you get only one. Don’t make me edit your comments, cause Meg says I can.  As soon as I figure out how…
  • Please let your “Exactly!” be your vote, not any reply comments.  If you absolutely MUST give a paragraph-long impassioned plea on why we HAVE to use this book, send me an email (alyssa at apracticalwedding dot com).  I like mail.

We’ll tally the votes and then let you know the pick very soon! Now, GO!

Alyssa Mooney

Alyssa received a BA in Theatre and a minor in Gender Studies from Stephen F. Austin State University. She lives in Dallas, Texas, with her adorably red-neck husband, Maggie the Wonder Dog, and sassy baby Tater.

Staff Picks

[Read comment policy before commenting]

  • For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage, by Tara Parker-Pope.

    I actually haven’t read it yet, but it is on my to-read list (thanks to Meg!), and BONUS, it comes in a Kindle version. :)

    **Edit** Interviewing biologists, neuroscientists, psychologists, and sociologists, explores the science that can explain why a marriage succeeds and translates the science into practical advice.

  • ‘on Beauty’ by Zadie Smith. It’s a novel, but it is BEAUTIFULLY written and deals with a lot of marriage issues (without revealing too much, infidelity, self-worth tied to one’s work, interracial marriages, and aging with a partner).

  • I think “Notes from an Incomplete Revolution” by Meredith Maran would be an excellent book, but it’s out of print. It’s a book that discusses being a bisexual woman in long-term relationships and how to make partnerships with partners of different genders work, as well as how to talk about same-sex relationships with children.

  • Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner. Because we need to get some fiction up in this business, and because it is a quiet meditation on marriage and friendship between two couples (as well as a beautifully written yarn).

  • Anna

    ‘Middlesex’ by Jeffrey Eugenides
    An interesting account of a hermaphrodite’s anatomy and emotions, discussing love and family of all types.

  • Zan

    Spousonomics by Paula Szuchman and Jenny Anderson. It’s on my to-read list, non fiction, and supposed to be good; having not read it I don’t have more insight than that. Alas.

    **Edit** “Spousonomics: Using Economics to Master Love, Marriage, and Dirty Dishes” Economics is all about the allocation of scarce resources, and the key to a happy marriage is, in many ways, finding smart ways to allocate your own scarce resources.

  • Zan

    “Woman an intimate geography” by Natalie Angier. Natalie is a smarty-pants but accessible science writer and after yesterday’s body image kerfuffle this might be a good one for all of us to dig into; and this shouldn’t exclude men, Hubs is down for reading it too!

  • Ceebee

    Breadfruit/The Marriage Proposal by Celestine hitiura Vaite.
    A lighthearted book with real subjects of family, cohabitation, mother-daughter bonding, standing up for ourselves, wishing he knew, not selling ourselves short and waiting just with plain faith that all stories end happy.

  • Kate

    Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
    While tragic, is a good account of how things can break down and what can happen when everything if your marriage doesn’t go to plan and communication falls apart, which could lead to some great discussions.

  • Zan

    “The Dirty Life” by Kristin Kimball. I know Kristin and she is a superstar but this not only a good love story, it’s a lot of good thinking about what it means to turn your life upside down, make leaps of faith, love someone, and be brave in following what makes you happy.

    Okay, done spamming the suggestions now.

  • Marriage and Other Acts of Charity by Kate Braestrup. I read this memoir (in which Braestrup, a widowed Unitarian minister who remarried, reflects on marriage and love and relationships) before our wedding and loved it.

  • I’m going to throw my weight behind ‘I Thought It Was Just Me’ or ‘The Gift of Imperfection’ by Brene Brown, the originator of our shame blasters (pew pew!). I’ve read ‘I Thought It Was Just Me’ and it was awesome (though it felt a bit like it was geared towards women with children rather than engaged and babyless me) – haven’t read ‘The Gift of Imperfection’ but it sounds fabulous too.

  • The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman because I should have read this before I got married – I know it deals with relationships and how different people show their love and how to bridge these differences.

    • kc

      We had to read this as part of our pre-marital counseling. Loved it!

  • Michelle

    I would love to read something by Margaret Atwood – The Edible Woman or The Penelopiad (novels); Moral Disorder or Bluebeard’s Egg (short story collections).

    Warning to others on the hunt for books: an Amazon search for “marriage” may be discouraging – #1 result: “How To ImproveYour Marriage Without Talking About It”???!!!

  • Sarabeth

    Stephanie Coontz’s Marriage: A History. Because there is no better way of dealing with all the conflicting methods about what’s “traditional” than to actually learn something about the past. And, you know, it’s good.

  • Kate

    The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman. I read it a few months ago, and it was so helpful I plan to re-read it every year.

    Okay… I now see that this was already discussed in the original launch post of the book club. That just means we really should do it!

    • Sarah

      I want to say exactly but it won’t let me. So consider this an exactly.

  • I second the Margaret Atwood, but am suggesting a different book: Cat’s Eye. It is somewhat about marriage and relationships in adulthood, but more about girls, and women, and the way we treat each other – when I read it I think about how cruel girls can be to others, but also to themselves.

  • LW

    To Hell with All That – Loving and loathing our inner housewife
    By: Caitlin Flanagan

    A controversial book that examines the “central concerns of women’ private lives -weddings, sex, nannies, housekeeping, marriage, children – in a blazingly fresh light.” Tries to explain why so many women dream of modern marriage, but have a ‘traditonal’ white wedding. Lots to think about.

  • LW

    The Meaning of Wife
    By: Anne Kingston

    “Every wife, former wife and wife-to-be – every woman, period, should read this impeccable researched, important and enlightening book…kudos and gratitude to Kingston” Cathi Hanauer, editor of The Bitch in the House
    Talks about the bride as consumer icon, romanticisation of domesticity, ‘wife backlash’. Plus, it has a great front cover.

    • meg

      Ha! That was the first ever non-official APW book club selection, a year and a half ago. I actually only could make it a third of the way in before I wanted to slam my head against the wall. Achem, as you were. (Alyssa! Don’t edit me!)

    • Heidi

      So I volunteer to take young girls camping a couple weekends a year and I was currently reading “Bitch in the House” and “Meaning of Wife” before the trip. I didn’t feel like I could pack either to read on my trip because of the loud expressive cover/cover art…. :-)


    “You Know When the Men Are Gone” by Siobhan Fallon

    Ohmygosh, I fell in such love with this collection of inter-related short stories about women and marriage set against the backdrop of an army base in Texas…it is a far cry from Lifetime’s “Army Wives” (blech) and instead provides SO MUCH fodder for quality discussions about feminism, gender equality, current events, marriage, children, and a woman’s sense of self.

  • All About Love: New Visions
    bell hooks

    “…a refreshing change from relationship advice books that completely overlook the cultural context of love — the ways in which love is difficult for both men and women, but especially for women, in a patriarchal culture; the ways in which a more expansive understanding of love is sorely needed to set things right in a country run by fear

    *That’s from an amazon review, but that person wrote it better than I can even think it, so there.

  • Meg

    Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation by Nancy Cott
    A Yale historian traces the history of marriage in the US and its ties to national policy from Puritan colonists’ model of Christian monogamy setting the national standard of marriage, to issues of race and marriage (bans on slave and interracial marriages), to current changes in definitions of marriage in contemporary America.

  • “One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding” by Rebecca Mead.

    A sociology-driven book that looks a the wedding industry and how it creates or plays off of fears that brides have about weddings and marriages to sell them more (or more expensive) things; if you get your wedding day right, your marriage will be perfect, but if you boof it, your marriage is doomed.

    This was the first book that I read after getting engaged, on the rec of a whip-smart friend, and it set an awesome and thoughtful tone for my planning experience!

  • This Is Not the Story You Think It Is–Laura Munson

    A memoir about a woman who’s husband’s self-crisis fuels her desire to find happiness independent of their relationship. She doesn’t take the typical approach: doesn’t leave him, threaten him, but rather, steels herself in her created world, trying, sometimes hourly, to be brave and strong and rock solid. A wonderful tale of how some rocky times in marriage can survive if the other person can keep their head–and heart–above water.

  • Carrie

    “Young Wives’ Tales: New Adventures in Love and Partnership,” edited by Jill Corral and Lisa Miya-Jervis.

    A collection of fascinating personal essays about marriage, weddings, and partnership, from a huge array of perspectives — just like APW!

  • H

    The title sounds SO bad, but I promise it’s just a play on stereotypes: “Women are Crazy, Men are Stupid” by Howard J. Morris and Jenny Lee.

    It’s co-written by a real, in-a-serious-relationship couple (they’re comedic TV writers, so it’s funny, too) and it’s sort of a back-and-forth/he-said-she-said relationship memoir about problems ALL real couples have. Well, MOST real couples, anyway.

    And if people don’t agree with the book? It gives us all something to discuss. I’m tired of agreeing with everything all the time, anyway.

  • I also agree with the idea of fiction – what about The Lovely Bones? It’s a wonderful story about how the loss of a child affects a marriage, but it also talks about the effect that having children has on a marriage.

  • I saw on Twitter that someone mentioned a Twilight book and SERIOUSLY I would like to nominate the last one, Breaking Dawn. As much as I hated (um, and loved) this book, it led to so many amazing conversations about relationships, how they’re presented and should be presented in YA, and families – love it or hate it, it’s a fun read and can spark good conversation!

  • ANI

    The Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships & Other Adventures by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy
    Someone else said this single sentance about it and I totally agree:
    The Ethical Slut is one of the most useful relationship books you could ever read, no matter what your lifestyle choices. It’s chock-full of great information about communication, jealousy, asking for what you want, and maintaining a relationship with integrity.

  • Marchelle

    If we’re going for fiction, I propose The Summer Without Men by Siri Hustvedt. Because someone said this about it: ‘Provocative, mordant, and fiercely intelligent, The Summer Without Men is a gloriously vivacious tragi-comedy about women and girls, love and marriage, and the age-old war between the sexes – a novel for our times by one of the most acclaimed American writers.’ And because I love Siri Hustvedt but my pile of unread books means I need an excuse to get it. :)

  • Amanda

    Fiction…please please please!!!!!

  • Marina

    Not a book, but I’d love to discuss the documentaries “Married in America” and “Married in America 2”. The first looks at 9 couples about to get married, and the second follows up with them five years later.

  • Berluse

    The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris. I’ve yet to read it, but it’s been on my mind since Slate editor David Plotz said of it “The Unnamed does for marriage what The Road did for fatherhood,” which sounds fantastic and harrowing, like it would need the support of a group to process.

  • Lisa

    Bossypants, by Tina Fey

    Tina Fey’s memoir about being a successful, married, childbearing female in a traditionally male dominated field. The reviews are all fantastic, and it is available on kindle.

  • Sex at Dawn, please. From our man, Dan Savage: “Sex At Dawn is the single most important book about human sexuality since Alfred Kinsey unleashed Sexual Behavior in the Human Male on the American public in 1948.” (Dan Savage )

    And from the Amazon review: “In the tradition of the best historical and scientific writing, Sex at Dawn unapologetically upends unwarranted assumptions and unfounded conclusions while offering a revolutionary understanding of why we live and love as we do. “

  • Caro

    I loved A History of the Wife by Marilyn Yalom
    Yalom discusses what it meant as a woman, to be a wife, from ancient Greece through the end of the 20th century (focused on Europe and America), and traces the development of modern wifedom from it’s sometimes surprising origins to a frank look at the cultural and societal challenges facing wives today.

  • Taylor

    You Never Know by Lilian Duval

    I read this book cover to cover in 5 days, it was so good I couldn’t put it down. It follows Tobias as he drops out of college to take care of his brother and follows the twists and turns of his life. It made me laugh, cry and reflect on my own life. I highly recommend it.

  • Meredith

    What I Know Now: Letters To My Younger Self (edited by Ellyn Spragins)

    From the editor’s website: “We don’t always have the wisdom we require at the time we need it. We struggle. We worry. Often, only later do our choices make sense to us,” says Ellyn Spragins in WHAT I KNOW NOW: Letters To My Younger Self® (Broadway Books; April 2006) The book contains letters from forty-one famous women reflecting on significant moments in their lives and sharing the advice they wish they had known at that time.

    Yeah. That’s the stuff.