May 3, 2017

Our Future

Life is busy; I get it. But with only three people at the meetings the past couple of months, I'm wondering if we need to make some changes. I'm wondering if everyone is still interested in being a book club. 

One change we'll definitely be making is a change in venue. As you all know by know, Upstream will be closing the end of June. We've got two months left of having our own room with comfy furniture and our favorite bartender. Then where do we go? Cheryl and I have been talking about it; Cheryl's been asking everyone we meet if they have any suggestions. What about you guys - any idea where we might go that might work at least somewhat as well? Is it time to go back to hosting in our homes?

While we're at it, we've been the Omaha Bookworms for a long time. The reason we're the Omaha Bookworms was so that we could get free books from publishers. Our original founder felt that publishers wouldn't be as likely to send free books to groups with cute names or names with alcohol in the name. But since we're no longer beholden to read the books a publisher thinks we'll like, we can be whatever we want to be. If we're going to stay together going forward, what do you think about a new name to go with our new venue?

**Assuming we're going forward, you'll see that in September we're reading George Saunders' Lincoln In The Bardo. If you're a library person, you'll want to get your request in now to make sure you have a chance to read it by September.

Last, but not least, I've been leaning us heavily on literary fiction critic favorites. We're going to shake things up a bit in the next few months - some nonfiction that should be not too heavy, a mystery, I'm looking at something light for the summer, and we'll have a movie night in December. That may be in a theater or we may rent something and watch in someone's house. Where we can drink for less and eat real food.



March and April - My Brilliant Friend and The Turner House

So we're kind of back to where we were a couple of years ago with book club. There were only three of us at the meetings in March and April.

In March, it kind of worked because all three of us had read the book and it was nice to be able to discuss everything about the book, start to finish. My Brilliant Friend was a hit right up to the point where we found out it ended with a cliffhanger, ala an hour-long t.v. drama. We want to know what happens with the two friends whose friendship we'd just spent hours reading about and more than the usual amount of time discussing. Which one was the brilliant friend? How do you keep up a friendship when there jealousy and secrets are a part of your relationship? We loved learning about Naples, we were startled by the matter-of-fact violence of the neighborhood. In short, we might well have been happy reading the next three books in the series for the next three months of book club.

But...we didn't. In April we read The Turner House. And by "we," I mean two of the three of us that made the meeting. One of us couldn't stay long and didn't like the book. She had been expecting more about the house itself. The other one of us did enjoy the book but didn't necessarily think it was one of the best books of the last year, even though it found itself on many of the best-of lists. We did talk about how, through the story of one family, we see the rise and fall of Detroit and how we enjoy when a city or setting of a book becomes one of the characters.


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.