November 24, 2015

2016 Reading List - Our Year of Love and Learning

The Bookworms have always been eclectic readers and willing to challenge themselves and 2016 will be no exception. In 2016, though, we are going to change things up a bit. First of all, you'll notice that our books all fit into a theme - Love and Learning. We'll be reaching out into the world to learn about new cultures, finding out what it's like to be someone other than a white woman in the suburbs, and looking and marriage and motherhood.

We'll travel to Sweden, India, Syria, St. Thomas, France, and Ireland. We'll pair a nonfiction read with a fiction read to learn more about India. We'll venture into new territory for us when we read two of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes mysteries, which will also allow us to open the group to other generations. We'll peek into an historical marriage, meet a couple of tough ladies, and read some award-winning books.

January and February are the result of requests from members. Bear in mind that if you have something you really want to read that would make a good book club choice, nothing on the schedule is set in stone. However, one of the goals in setting the schedule for the coming year was to steer a bit away from "the latest thing." They are tougher to get from the library and we don't want anyone to feel like they have to buy a hardcover book. As scheduled, there should be enough lead time (other than maybe January) to get to books in time at the library.

The schedule is posted in the left column. The summer schedule may be tweaked so that we might work in something lighter - keep your eyes out for something that might work. You know, in the vein of The Rosie Project or Where'd You Go Bernadette, something that is lighter but still gives us something to talk about.

November 19, 2015

November - Lila

Sorry, Marilynne Robinson, this one was not a hit with our group. We know it's up for a lot of awards but for the life of us, we can't quite figure out why. As easy as last month's long book was to read, this book, at just 190 pages, was much more difficult. Not one chapter break, not a lot of dialogue, not much at all to break up the read. Plus it moves back and forth in time constantly. For those who were at the meeting who had not read the book yet, those of us who had told them to just skip it.

For those of us who had read Robinson's Gilead, this book made some more sense, if only for the fact that you came away from that one knowing that Lila would stay, at least while John was alive. Here, Robinson gets all the way to the end and, even though we know that Lila loves John, we are still not sure what will become of her and her son. Yes, yes, we get that Robinson is saying that sometimes we can't overcome our past. And it's clear that Lila never really fits into Gilead, as much because of her past as because she just really doesn't seem to want to do that.

Lila is a woman whose had a very tough life, no doubt, which is bound to leave scars. But Ann found her very unlikable and, therefore, hard to care about. Lisa and Cheryl agreed that she is hard to care about. Even though she's clearly looking for someone to love her, she's always incapable of trusting someone enough to love them fully.

As a book club choice? While there's plenty here to discuss, clubs might find it hard to convince people to read it. Cheryl and Lisa both, though, highly recommend Gilead which is lovely and spiritual and talks a lot about religion without seeming to be overly religious. Lila seemed to get weighed down in scripture.

October - All The Light We Cannot See

Just three of us were able to get together in October but all of us had read the book and enjoyed it. We were all surprised about what a fast read it is at 530 pages. Lisa had read that Anthony Doerr had intentionally written the book to have a lot of "white space" to help make it a best seller. Apparently publishers think readers don't want to have to work too hard. But that also made it easier to read about something of the difficult things that happened in the book.

We talked about what the light we cannot see means - the radio signal, the way  Marie-Laure is able to see so much more than those with sight can, the way Werner is blind to what is going on to him for so long, the darkness that envelops Werner when he is trapped in the basement toward the end. We talked about Werner and how he got swept up in the war machine. Lisa pointed out a couple of passages where Doerr does a good job of explaining how an orphan could easily be pulled in when he finally has a place to belong.

We all felt it was interesting to look at the war through a German's point of view and to think about the way that ordinary German's got caught up in the "cause." At our November meeting, a couple more of us were ready to talk about the book and they echoed how it was important for us to remember that not all Germans were bad guys who chose to do terrible things. Something that feels particularly important to remember with current world events.

We were all impressed with how Marie-Laure's father had prepared her to survive even before he had any notion what would happen, between teaching her Braille and building her the mockups of the cities she was in.

At the October meeting we spent a lot of time talking about what happened to Werner at the end of the book. Did he go back for the stone? Did he intentionally destroy it? Did he just take the house and the stone was left to the sea?

Over all, although it's a long book, it's a very good choice for book clubs with a lot to discuss and a lot that is relevant today.