Literary The Zodiac • August 2020
#1  sun surfer 08-01-2020, 04:11 AM
Help select what we'll read and discuss next!

The topic is The Zodiac.

This is wide-ranging and could be any plot, character or word in a title having something to do with the zodiac. This might be a western zodiac sign (Libra, Leo, Gemini, Aries, Taurus, Virgo, Scorpio, Aquarius, Pisces, Capricorn, Sagittarius, Cancer) or one of their associations (scales, balance, lion, twins, ram, bull, virgin, maiden, scorpion, water bearer, fish, goat, archer, centaur, crab), or a Chinese zodiac animal (rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, pig). It could be a zodiacal element (air, fire, water, earth, metal, wood), a direction associated with the Chinese zodiac (west, north, east, south) or the concept of yin and/or yang from the Chinese zodiac. It might concern a more enigmatic association with astrology, horoscopes, divination, mysticism, fortune telling, tarot, cusps, the heavens, constellations, celestial bodies, planets, stars, sun, moon, etc. There's also more esoteric zodiacs (Hindu, Vedic, Greek, Celtic, etc.) that could be inspiring.

Detailed nominating and voting guidelines can be found here. Basically, nominations are open for about four days and each person may nominate up to three literary selections which will go automatically to the vote. Voting by post then opens for four days, and a voter may give each nomination either one or two votes but only has a limited number of votes to use which is equal to the number of nominations minus one. Any questions, feel free to ask.

We hope that you will read the selection with us and join in the discussion.


Nominations are complete. First round voting is complete. Run-off voting is complete. Final results-

#2  AnotherCat 08-03-2020, 10:05 PM
I was tempted by some science fiction but in the end chose these, none of which I have read:

The Hour of the Star - Clarice Lispector

Lonesome Dove - Larry McMurtry (1986 Pulitzer)

The Sun Also Rises - Ernest Hemingway

If wondering about the connection of Lonesome Dove to the month's theme, the story starts in The Lone Star State and finishes in Big Sky Country.

I think that The Sun Also Rises is the only Hemingway novel I have not read, if I have it was so long ago that I cannot remember the story at all.

There are two (at least) translations of The Hour of the Star around but maybe does not matter which one read.

#3  sun surfer 08-03-2020, 10:31 PM
Great nominations. I was also considering the Hemingway so that’s one less book for me to have to decide between nominating, heh. I’ve heard of Lispector off and on (she has a distinct, memorable name) and the book looks intriguing. I’ve never read Lonesome Dove (nor have I seen the mini series) but I’ve heard it’s good.

#4  Bookworm_Girl 08-05-2020, 12:07 AM
My first nomination is Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk. The protagonist in the book writes horoscopes.

From Booklist:
Tokarczuk's captivating novel, following her renowned Flights (2018), opens with narrator Janina Duszejko learning that a neighbor, whom she calls Big Foot, has suddenly died on a cold winter night. An off-season caretaker for homes in a remote Polish village, Janina accompanies her fellow year-round local, known as Oddball, to prepare for the authorities. Big Foot's death, however, isn't a singular event. When others are later found dead, both members of the community and outliers, rumors grow that their demises are the result of strangely nefarious activities. A devoted pupil of astronomy, Janina has few relationships, but they are fierce, and she mounts her own inquiries while navigating the matter-of-fact realities of her physical ailments. As the seasons change, Janina finds herself summarily dismissed by authorities and locals alike, all the while maintaining her beliefs that the perpetrators may not be human at all as the action surges toward a gripping conclusion. Mythical and distinctive, Tokarczuk's translated novel erupts off the page, artfully telling a linear tale while also weaving in the metaphysical, multilayered nuances of Janina's life.

#5  Bookworm_Girl 08-05-2020, 12:11 AM
My second nomination is Pale Horse, Pale Rider by Katherine Porter.

From Amazon US:
The classic 1939 collection of 3 novellas by the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winning author and journalist, including the famous title story set during the influenza epidemic of 1918

In Noon Wine? a family struggling to live on a farm in Texas is saved by the unexpected arrival of a mysterious stranger—only to have their world upended again by the arrival, nine years later, of a second stranger. The three parts of Old Mortality introduce the teenager Miranda and chronicle her journey of self-discovery, as she gradually realizes her family’s romantic nostalgia for her absent uncle and late aunt bears little resemblance to the truth.

Miranda returns in the title story, Pale Horse, Pale Rider. She is now working as a drama critic for a newspaper in Denver, where she falls in love with a soldier, Adam, during the influenza epidemic of 1918. When Miranda falls ill, Adam cares for her until she is moved to a hospital. Throughout her ordeal, on everyone’s mind is “the war, the war, the WAR to end WAR, war for Democracy, for humanity, a safe world forever and ever.”

#6  Bookworm_Girl 08-05-2020, 12:30 AM
My last nomination is Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi and translated by Marilyn Booth.

From Amazon US:
In the village of al-Awafi in Oman, we encounter three sisters: Mayya, who marries after a heartbreak; Asma, who marries from a sense of duty; and Khawla, who chooses to refuse all offers and await a reunion with the man she loves, who has emigrated to Canada.

These three women and their families, their losses and loves, unspool beautifully against a backdrop of a rapidly changing Oman, a country evolving from a traditional, slave-owning society into its complex present. Through the sisters, we glimpse a society in all its degrees, from the very poorest of the local slave families to those making money through the advent of new wealth.

The first novel originally written in Arabic to ever win the Man Booker International Prize, and the first book by a female Omani author to be translated into English, Celestial Bodies marks the arrival in the United States of a major international writer.

#7  Bookworm_Girl 08-05-2020, 12:33 AM
This topic was even more fun than I anticipated. Interesting nominations. I’m looking forward to sun surfer’s selections.

#8  sun surfer 08-05-2020, 11:13 AM
Thanks Bookworm_Girl. Your nominations are grand. I'm glad you ended up enjoying the topic. When I first began searching it seemed hard but then it was as if there were a rush and suddenly I had far too many options, even compared to my usual many. It was a hard task to whittle to three but on the plus side I think I added more books to my tbr this month while searching than any other month before and probably won't be topped again.

#9  sun surfer 08-05-2020, 11:27 AM
My first nomination is My Name Is Venus Black by Heather Lloyd. This fits in a trio of ways, having the main character named Venus a planet associated with astrological signs, having another main character named Leo an astrological sign, and having the character of Venus being fascinated by astronomy and the night sky as a focal point.

Goodreads . Preview . 384 Pages . 2018 . U.S.

Venus Black is a straitlaced A student fascinated by the study of astronomy—until the night she commits a shocking crime that tears her family apart and ignites a media firestorm. Venus refuses to talk about what happened or why, except to blame her mother. Adding to the mystery, Venus’s developmentally challenged younger brother, Leo, goes missing.

More than five years later, Venus is released from prison with a suitcase of used clothes, a fake identity, and a determination to escape her painful past. Estranged from her mother, and with her beloved brother still missing, she sets out to make a fresh start in Seattle, skittish and alone. But as new people enter her orbit—including a romantic interest and a young girl who seems like a mirror image of her former lost self—old wounds resurface, and Venus realizes that she can’t find a future while she’s running from her past.

#10  sun surfer 08-05-2020, 11:54 AM
Second is The North Water by Ian McGuire. While the story itself doesn't have any overt astrological ties in the plot description, both words of the title do. Each sign of the Chinese zodiac is associated with one of the four cardinal directions including north, and each sign of the western and the Chinese zodiac is associated with one of four or five elements including water. The setting is also near/in the arctic circle which many people associate with stars, constellations and night since certain times of year night can last for a long time and with phenomena such as aurora borealis. This book was nominated for quite a few awards including the Booker.

Goodreads . Preview . 325 Pages . 2016 . England

Behold the man: stinking, drunk, and brutal. Henry Drax is a harpooner on the Volunteer, a Yorkshire whaler bound for the rich hunting waters of the arctic circle. Also aboard for the first time is Patrick Sumner, an ex-army surgeon with a shattered reputation, no money, and no better option than to sail as the ship's medic on this violent, filthy, and ill-fated voyage.

In India, during the Siege of Delhi, Sumner thought he had experienced the depths to which man can stoop. He had hoped to find temporary respite on the Volunteer, but rest proves impossible with Drax on board. The discovery of something evil in the hold rouses Sumner to action. And as the confrontation between the two men plays out amid the freezing darkness of an arctic winter, the fateful question arises: who will survive until spring?

With savage, unstoppable momentum and the blackest wit, Ian McGuire's The North Water weaves a superlative story of humanity under the most extreme conditions.

'A tour de force' Hilary Mantel
'Riveting and darkly brilliant' Colm Tóibín

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