April book club: ‘Stories of Your Life and Others’ by Ted Chiang

During these weeks we’re all spending at home, many of us are pulling older books off our shelves, books that may have been gathering dust because we kept telling ourselves we’d get to it; sooner or later. If acclaimed sci-fi author Ted Chiang’s Stories of Your Life and Others, which came out in 2002, is one of those books for you, then you’re in luck: It’s our April Austin360 Book Club pick, so go ahead and dust off your copy and get ready to read!

We wanted to choose a book that, in these chaotic times, may already be on your shelf, or it’s at least easy (and affordable) for you to snag a copy. That’s why we went with Stories of Your Life and Others instead of Chiang’s Exhalation, which came out last year.

The book is a collection of short stories, including the story that inspired the film Arrival. The book includes eight of Chiang’s first stories, including one story that had not been published separately.

You can snag your copy of Stories of Your Life and Others from Bookshop.org, and make sure to choose our friends at BookPeople as the beneficiary (if you click here and go to BookPeople’s Bookshop page, you can search for the book there)! You can also check out the ebook from the Austin Public Library (or your local library of choice).

If you’re not already a member, make sure to join the Austin360 Book Club powered by TBF on Facebook. We’ll be discussing Stories of Your Life and Others in the Facebook group on Friday, May 1!

Catch up on our previous reads:

March book club pick: ‘My Dark Vanessa’ by Kate Elizabeth Russell

This month, the Austin360 Book Club powered by Texas Book Festival will be reading My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell, which came out March 10. Pick it up at BookPeople and check out the review of the book at Kirkus Reviews! We’ll be discussing the book in the book club Facebook group on Friday, April 6. Join the group here!

About the book:

2000. Bright, ambitious, and yearning for adulthood, fifteen-year-old Vanessa Wye becomes entangled in an affair with Jacob Strane, her magnetic and guileful forty-two-year-old English teacher.

2017. Amid the rising wave of allegations against powerful men, a reckoning is coming due. Strane has been accused of sexual abuse by a former student, who reaches out to Vanessa, and now Vanessa suddenly finds herself facing an impossible choice: remain silent, firm in the belief that her teenage self willingly engaged in this relationship, or redefine herself and the events of her past. But how can Vanessa reject her first love, the man who fundamentally transformed her and has been a persistent presence in her life? Is it possible that the man she loved as a teenager—and who professed to worship only her—may be far different from what she has always believed?

Alternating between Vanessa’s present and her past, My Dark Vanessa juxtaposes memory and trauma with the breathless excitement of a teenage girl discovering the power her own body can wield. Thought-provoking and impossible to put down, this is a masterful portrayal of troubled adolescence and its repercussions that raises vital questions about agency, consent, complicity, and victimhood. Written with the haunting intimacy of The Girls and the creeping intensity of Room, My Dark Vanessa is an era-defining novel that brilliantly captures and reflects the shifting cultural mores transforming our relationships and society itself.

Previous Austin360 Book Club picks:

February Book Club: ‘You and I Eat the Same’ by Chris Ying

You and I eat the same.

At least, that’s according to Chris Ying (and he’s right, if you’re *also* eating fruit snacks at your desk right now).

It’s also the title of Ying’s 2018 book, You and I Eat the Same: On the Countless Ways Food and Cooking Connect Us to One Another, which is our February pick for the Austin360 Book Club powered by the Texas Book Festival. The book suggestion came to us from TBF Logistics and Volunteer Coordinator Nicole Wielga, and Ying was featured at the 2018 Festival around the same time the book was released.

Ying is the cofounder and former editor in chief of Lucky Peach and is currently the editor of the MAD Dispatches book series, which aim to unpack a topic from the world of food and encourage readers to think about food in new ways. You and I Eat the Same is the first installment in the Dispatches series and discusses the way food can transcend cultures. For example, the first chapter is titled “Everybody Wraps Meat in Flatbread” (true) and later in the book we read a section titled “Cilantro is Everywhere” (also true).

We’ll be discussing the book in the Austin360 Book Club Facebook group on March 9 (so you get a bit of extra time to read, since February is a short month). Congrats to Ashley Jernigan, who was the 1,000th member to join the Facebook group and won a copy of “You and I Eat the Same” to celebrate!

Our friends at Austin360 will also be stocking the Austin American-Statesman & Texas Book Festival’s Little Free Library near the bat observation area just off of the Ann & Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail around Lady Bird Lake with a few bonus copies of the book, so if you’d like to snag that book (and other great picks curated by Statesman and TBF staff), swing by the Little Free Library! If you’re having trouble finding it, you can search for it here.

If you’re still looking for a copy of the book, you can find it at BookPeople or at the Austin Public Library.

January Book Club: ‘Trust Exercise’ by Susan Choi

Is your New Year’s resolution to read more? Great news: The Texas Book Festival is proud to announce we’ve partnered with the Austin American-Statesman to help facilitate the Austin360 Book Club.

The book club was launched as a Facebook group in 2018 with the aim to encourage discussions around books, authors, and the people who love them. TBF is excited to curate the monthly book picks and lead discussions, as well as help curate the Little Free Library located near the bat viewing area at the Statesman, just off of the Ann & Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail around Lady Bird Lake. 

The January pick for the Austin360 Book Club is Trust Exercise by Susan Choi. Susan Choi was a 2019 Texas Book Festival author, and Trust Exercise won the 2019 National Book Award. The novel follows the story of teenagers who attend a 1980s performing arts high school and the pressures they face, both within the school and outside of it. 

Join the Austin360 Book Club powered by the Texas Book Festival on Facebook, where we’ll be hosting all our monthly book discussions and talking about all things literary. We’ll discuss Trust Exercise in the Facebook group on Thursday, January 30, but stay tuned for questions and thoughts about the book all month long!

Need a copy of the book? It’s available for purchase at BookPeople, or you can find it at the Austin Public Library.