Books The Gabber Book Club loved in 2022

A stack of books mentioned in this article in the shape of a Christmas tree, with a starfish on top and a Christmas tree in the background.
Reading is a gift, my first grade teacher always told me. But how much truer is it when you share your experience with a large group of readers?
Amanda Hagood

You’ve heard of think local and even shop local. But what about to read Local? There’s at least one bold group of bibliophiles here in Gulfport attempting to do exactly that: The Gabber Book Club, co-sponsored by The Gabber and Tombolo Books, meets once a month to discuss books set in Florida and/or written by authors from Florida . As we turn the page into 2022, some reading favorites from last year chart a course of adventure in the local literary landscape:

The final revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton. This richly textured “rockumentary” novel chronicles the rise and fall of an extraordinary interracial rock’n’roll duo amidst the confrontational politics of the 1970s. This multi-voiced, gripping narrative is layered with oral histories, reporting, and other “sources”—all products of Walton’s wildly inventive imagination (and of her journalism training at Florida A&M University).

The Coffee Lover’s Mystery Series by Tara Lush. Set in a quaint coastal village delightfully reminiscent of Gulfport, this cozy mystery series features a brave bar owner solving murders while brewing the best caffeine in town. Lush, who also writes novels under the Tamara Lush name, joined the club’s January meeting to discuss the art of the snug (a kinder, gentler form of detective novel), the brozy (the same as a welcoming, but aimed at kids), and the emerging world of microfiction.

Battle for the Big Top: PT Barnum, James Bailey, John Ringling and the death-defying saga of the American circus by Les Standiford. A Florida Book Award-winning treatment of — you guessed it — the circus. In Standiford’s deft hands, the wacky lives of circus promoters and performers ebb and flow like one continuous trapeze act (the group was especially moved by his treatment of elephant stars, such as the famous Jumbo). This could be particularly interesting reading now, in light of Ringling Brothers’ plans to reopen, after a long hiatus, in September 2023 – this time, sans elephants.

Among the beautiful beasts by Lori McMullen. This crowd favorite delves into the early life of Florida icon Marjory Stoneman Douglas, the journalist turned environmentalist who successfully campaigned for the creation of Everglades National Park in 1947 and never stopped fighting for its setting of Florida until his death in 1998. This bio-fic novel explores Douglas’s escape from a stifling early marriage – where his budding creativity and independent streak were not welcome – to the brave new world of fin-de-siècle Miami.

Matrix by Lauren Groff All right, definitely not a Florida book! But a stunning nonetheless read by a beloved Florida author, who brings rich life to a small sliver of historical evidence about the life of the 12th-century poet known only as Marie de France. Against a decidedly disturbing background (“the book really made me nervous‘ observed one book clubber), Groff conjures a world that looks like something out of a medieval tapestry, complete with saints having visions, sword-wielding nuns, and a giant labyrinth. Weird but worth it!

Want to join us on our next literary adventure in Florida? On tap for 2023 we have The magical kingdom by Russell Banks (January), The Dinosaur Artist: Obsession, Betrayal, and the Search for Earth’s Ultimate Trophy by Paige Williams (February) e The Electric Woman: A memory in death-defying acts by Tessa Fontaine (March). We meet on the second Wednesday of each month at 6.30pm for dinner and discussion – everyone is welcome! Find us on Facebook (The Gabber Book Club) or on the Tombolo Books Events page, or write to [email protected]

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