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Huntington Theatre Company Book Club Part. 1

by:  Carolyn MacLeod at 09/11/2015

The Huntington Theatre Company has a highly literary season this year, which is wonderful news for us book nerds! Below you’ll find book pairings to go with the first four productions of the Huntington’s 2015-2016 season.

If you read any of these books, let us know what you think via Facebook, Twitter, or the comments below. (And if you use this list at your own book club, invite us please!)

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Finishing the Hat by Stephen Sondheim (2010)

What is it about?

Finishing the Hat is the first of two books compiled by Stephen Sondheim (the second is appropriately titled Look, I Made a Hat). Finishing the Hat covers Sondheim’s work from 1954 to 1981, including A Little Night Music. The book contains the lyrics to his first 13 musicals, as well as production photographs and handwritten notes and music from his personal collection. But the real reason to check this out is for his notes on the writing process  and to learn more about his relationship with mentor Oscar Hammerstein II and collaborators Leonard Bernstein, Ethel Merman, and Angela Lansbury.

Why should I read it?

It’s a must read for any Sondheim fan or aspiring lyricist. Sondheim literally wrote the book on it.

 

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay (2014)

What is it about?

Roxane Gay is a contemporary novelist and blogger whose essay collection Bad Feminist received a lot of positive buzz when it was published last year. The essays cover Gay’s experiences with feminist issues like body image and reproductive rights, as well as pop culture representations of women. What makes it “bad” is her acknowledgement of her biases and her bold choice to bring up moral questions about being a modern woman and decidedly not taking a stance on her own inquiries.

Why should I read it?

Bad Feminist’s playtime with the moral grey in feminism and commentary on pop culture make it the perfect partner to Winnie Holzman’s Choice. These two works are filled with humor and an up-beat, colloquial tone while dealing with feminism in an open, inquisitive way. Both take on the challenge to point out how some social issues are too absurdly large to be reduced to the simple black and white when faced in the context of a woman’s everyday life.

 

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (1963)

What is it about?

Written in 1963, Toole’s novel wasn’t published until 1980 when it promptly won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1981. It tells the story of Ignatius J. Reilly, a cartoonish and overly pretentious slob who lives with his mother in New Orleans. Ignatius manages to bumble his way in and out of trouble with the law while meeting more colorful characters of NOLA’s French Quarter. The novel is often heralded as one of America’s great novels, a fact made more tragic by Toole’s suicide in 1969.

Why should I read it?

This novel has become a cult classic since its publication. It’s portrayal of the city of New Orleans and the fictional Ignatius has made it iconic. People have famously tried to adapt it for the screen for years, often to disastrous results). Get to know Ignatius before you see Nick Offerman (“Parks and Recreation”) step into the role in November.

 

American Dervish by Ayad Akhtar (2012)

What is it about?

Hayat Shah is a young Pakistani-American falling in love for the first time. When his mother’s friend Mina arrives from Pakistan, Hayat must confront new ideas about his heritage, love, and honor.

Why should I read it?

American Dervish and Disgraced (also written by Akhtar) discuss the challenge of balancing values in a modern age. In both his novel and his play, Pakistani-American men find themselves face to face with a heritage they’ve pushed aside. Experiencing both Akhtar’s play and novel will give great perspective on this complicated and charged experience.

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You can pick up these books at many local retailers and your local library:

Boston Public Library, Central Branch, Copley Square, 700 Boylston Street, Boston
Trident Café and Booksellers, 338 Newbury Street, Boston
Brookline Booksmith, 279 Harvard Street, Brookline
Barnes and Noble, Prudential Center, 800 Boylston Street, Boston

You can see all of these plays at the Huntington Theatre Company. Tickets for all shows are on sale now!

Read the books, see the plays, and tell us what you think!

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