March 5, 2017

February: Childhood Favorites

This turned out to be a fun and unexpected discussion about the books that have remained with us since childhood. "Childhood" is a bit of a nebulous term - we are children from the time we are first chewing on board books until the time we are first reading the same kinds of books that our parents are reading.

 Nancy shared with us that her favorite book growing up was Winnie The Pooh which her sister read to her as a young girl. She can, remarkably, still recite long passages! We all remembered being charmed by Pooh growing up but talked about how much of the wisdom in those books stands true into our adult lives as well.

 Lisa W. said that her favorite childhood read was Gone With The Wind. She has never reread it but thought it might be time to see how it held up to a reread. We were all impressed that she had made her way through such a big book at such a young age. The combination of action and love story were a big appeal. We talked about why we liked Scarlett O'Hara despite her obvious character flaws; she is, after all, someone who did everything in her power to hold her family together and to hold on to her family's heritage.

 Ann had reread Little House On The Prairie and might have loved it even more as an adult than she did as a child. She was so impressed by how happy Ingalls Wilder's family was, despite the hardships they faced, how content they were with what they had, and how well they managed to keep themselves entertained with very little. We talked about how Ingalls Wilder wrote the books at a time when money was tight and how that and our tendency to recall the best of our pasts might have colored her stories. But we agreed that those who lived a simpler life did learn to make themselves happy with less.

 Lisa S. brought the copy of Little Women she had been given for Christmas in 1968, when she was just eight. It's a book that has held up for her through several rereads, despite some faults she can see in it as an adult that she didn't see as a child. We talked about which of the March girls we identify with. Lisa said that she has always wanted to be like Jo, as so many girls do, but acknowledged that she is probably more like mousy Beth.

 The biggest surprise was Grace's choice of The Old Man and The Sea which she had read in fifth grade. She said she had never been a big reader of "girly" books and liked the adventure and struggle in the book. She did say that she couldn't really remember books that she'd read much from the time before that.

 We definitely recommend this idea for other book clubs - it gave us a great chance to rethink what we loved to read as young people and to learn a lot about each other and the readers (and people) we were growing up.

January 21, 2017

January - The Interestings

So, only two of us finished this book and we both liked it. Several of you tried and just couldn't get into it. One complaint was that nothing much happened, at least not out in the open. Some felt the writing about sex was just awkward and uncomfortable. Although, on further reflection, sex IS often awkward and uncomfortable! We wondered why Ash ever invited Jules into the teepee in the beginning, although one person suggested that maybe she really did just need a friend.

The problem with a book that only two of six people have read is that it's all but impossible to discuss the book. We didn't get to talk about the rape, about Ash and Ethan marriage filled with lies, about mental illness as addressed by Wolitzer, or about the weight of money on lives.

Books that everyone doesn't love actually make better books to discuss than books were we gather, say "we loved it" and then we are done. But, this is a book that people, in general, either seem to love or hate. Which is why I wouldn't encourage you to power your way through this one.

In February, we'll each have chosen our own books to read. You'd think that would make it hard to have a discussion. It won't be. In part because everyone should have been able to finish the book since they chose it. In part because there's a good chance that many of us will have, at one time or another, read the other people's books. Also, because there is already a list of questions and we'll be trying something a little different to keep things going.

In March, we'll begin a new schedule, which will allow time to discuss the book for those who have read it and want to talk about it and also plenty of time for a group of friends to gossip, laugh, and catch up, and exchange stories.

December 22, 2016

Coming in 2017!

It was fun to play with a theme for last year's book selections so we're doing it again this year. For 2017, our theme will be "Friendship, Family, and Feminists." The list for the year is not yet complete, a couple of the choices are still not set in stone (although, as you know, nothing is ever entirely set in stone as we may run into trouble getting books from the library or something will come up we really want to read). At least one of the open months we'll likely look to do a movie night again. Those of us who went to The Light Between Oceans enjoyed doing that a lot (and found we were in a theater full of book club members!).

January: Kicking off the year, we're reading a book about friendship (which also gets into the theme of family and touches on feminism), Meg Wolitzer's The Interestings. Lisa has an extra copy of anyone wants to borrow it.

February: This month will be both our classic and our multi-generational read (if you'd like to invite your mom, aunt or daughter(s) to join us, we'd love to have them!). Instead of choosing a single book we'll all read, each of us will choose a book to reread that we particularly loved as a young girl. I'm interested in seeing what everyone loved then and hearing why and hearing how it held up to a reread.

March: The first in a book series (although it's not essential to read all of the books), Elena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend is not just a book about friendship but a nice chance for us to read a translated work.

April: Tentatively this month we will read Anne Tyler's  A Spool of Blue Thread. The library has a book club bag of books we may be able to get.

May: This month we're getting in a nonfiction read and hitting on that feminist theme with Iron Carmon's Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsberg. 

June: Again, this month's choice of Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney's The Nest is a tentative choice.

July:

August:

September:

October: Stacy Schiff's The Witches will be another nonfiction read for us and it's one that got rave reviews when it came out.

November:

December:

Some of the books I'm considering for 2017 are Did You Ever Have A Family by Bill Clegg, The Wife, The Maid and The Mistress by Ariel Lawson, Kitchens of The Great Midwest by Ryan Stradal, The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan, The Wonder by Emma Donohue, Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston, and The Trespasser by Tana French. I'll continue to scour "best of 2016" lists for other choices as well.

Of course, as always, I welcome your suggestions!

October, November, and December

In October, we read Anna Quindlen's Miller's Valley. For Lisa S, it was one of her favorite books of the year. While not everyone enjoyed it as much (some thought it was too slow), we had a interesting discussion about it, trying to skirt around a big reveal toward the end of the book that actually let all of us wondering. The relationships between the characters gave us a lot to talk about - sisters who lived on the same piece of property but had almost nothing to do with each other, a couple who may have been living with a secret for years, the burden placed on a daughter by her parents. While it may not be a book everyone will love, it's definitely a book that will give book clubs plenty to talk about.

In November, we read Lauren Groff's Fates and Furies (unless your Linda, who accidentally raced to finish it for our December meeting!). Lisa and Ann both liked the book a lot, the way Groff tells the story of a marriage from both the husband's and the wife's point of view. We agreed that the wife's part almost read like a thriller with secret after secret being unveiled but we also agreed that the book might have been a bit too long, with so much of some of the plays included. Again, this one is certainly not a book everyone in book clubs will enjoy, but since the point of a book club is to find things to discuss about the book, this does make a good choice.

For December, we read The Boys In The Boat by Daniel James Brown. Those who finished the book all liked it a lot, although we all agreed that, for most readers, it's too detailed. If you're interested in rowing as a sport, you may be interested in reading the details of each race and the minutiae of building the shells from wood. For those looking for an interesting human interest story, an underdog success story, and some interesting history of both the U.S. and Germany, this is a book worth reading even if it does mean you might want to skim over a lot of the races.

We all learned a lot about the Nazi propaganda machine as well; while we were aware that Hitler had meant for the games to shine a positive light on Nazi Germany, we weren't as aware of just how much had been done to sanitize what they were doing so that they looked less dangerous to the world.

We got very involved in the stories about the boys in the boat that we got to know well and got a little agitated about how Joe Rantz's father and stepmother treated him. Although Linda had been a month behind, because she had just finished Fates and Furies, she was the one to point out that in both November's and December's books, we had characters whose parents had abandoned them and we spent the rest of the book seeing how that had impacted the character (although, of course, here it was a real person).