Saturday, April 26, 2008

We're not Oprah

I've been part of a book group since 1995, or thereabouts. My original group has long since dissolved, but I'm now part of 2 others. One is very much a book clubby book club, in that we really talk about the books and don't just get together for too much wine and "me time" away from kids and bedtimes and household stuff. Not that I'm above that, because I'm totally not. My other one, with which I'm contemplating breaking up, is comprised of several women whose daughters all go to school together and they spend an inordinate amount of time bashing their kids' teachers and things at school. They are all very interesting women, many of them are very accomplished. We share similar political views, although I've come to realize that many of them who are in a much, much, higher income bracket than we are here at Casa de T, subscribe to more of a "do as I say, not as I do" kind of philosophy. It's a little annoying and I sometimes privately refer to it as their WLG , or White Liberal Guilt.

But, I digress. My other book group, the more "bookish" one, is such a treasure to me. We meet every 4-6 weeks, depending on holidays and how big the book is, at 5pm on Sunday. We vary the time SOMETIMES, but not much, since the 5:00 time just seems to work best for everyone. I like that. In the other groups, we'd try to accommodate everyone, which is impossible and then people would cancel at the last minute and try to reschedule- a nightmare. The way we choose our books is to have a particular meeting dedicated to the choosing of the books. Everyone brings 2-3 possible choices to present to the group. Then, the group votes on them. Then, we assign a month for each person to host. No one is obligated to host at their home- we've met in pubs and coffee shops and parks. If you are unable to host during your month, we go ahead and meet anyway. Light snacks and beverages are the norm, but some really like to cook, so they make more. We've acquired several traditions- one is that every summer or early fall, we have a potluck picnic at this wonderful park overlooking the river. The other is that in December, we do not have a book meeting, but rather a potluck brunch with a gift exchange. Gift exchanges can be kind of dicey, but ours is always a success. People choose well - this year there was kind of a "green" theme, probably as a direct result of our reading Barbara Kingsolver's "Small Wonder". In addition to the gift exchange, we've added another element, which was to find the most awful Christmas sweater we could, and wear it to the brunch. The funniest was one woman's vest- made of Christmas calico, it even had bells or other tchockes sewn to it. She said her husband kind of liked it, which we all had a big laugh over. He didn't get that it was a joke.

So here are our picks for the year:

The Whole Truth, by David Baldacci I know nothing about this book, other than my perception of the author is that he's kind of John Grisham-y.

Little Heathens, by Mildred Armstrong Kalish This looks really good- about growing up on an Iowa farm during the Great Depression.

I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith, who also wrote 101 Dalmations
It's the story of a teenaged girl in England in the late 1940's, whose family lives in a decrepit castle. One of those coming-of-age kind of novels.

Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott Many of us have never read this classic! We feel we need to. Actually, Claire and I were reading it, and got stuck about halfway through it. I know what's coming, and Claire does not. I fear that Beth's death will hit her pretty hard.

Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett I mentioned this in my previous post- I just got it today- boy what a heavy book it is! I am considering taking it with me to Spain, but the weight of it concerns me.

The Double Bind, by Chris Bohjalian (sp?) He wrote Midwives, which I did not read, and Trans Sister Radio, which I listened to on tape- a very clever title, since one of the characters was undergoing gender reassignment surgery and the other worked in public radio. Get it? Anyway, I think he's a pretty good author.

Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro This is about students at a special school- it seems like a more complicated version of Lois Lowry's The Giver. The students are "told, but not told", as is the reader. I am very intrigued by this book.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genious, by David Eggers It is a memoir, which I've come to be very wary of. David Eggers tells his story of how he had to raise his 3 siblings after the sudden death of both their parents. I understand that Eggers is rather funny, so I hope that will make it less, well, heartbreaking.

Downriver, by John Hart According to Amazon, this book "settles once and for all, the question whether thrillers and mysteries can also be literature."

Water for Elephants, by Sarah Gruen I read this in the other book group and LOVED it, as I mentioned earlier. I highly recommend it.

Lottery, by Patricia Wood This is about a mentally challenged boy who wins the lottery. I predict it will be very Forest Gump-ish.

If I'm of a mind, I will post the runners up later.


Blogger ORION said...

I'm flattered you chose LOTTERY!
I've had a great time chatting with book clubs all over the country by speaker phone and I just had my first overseas club from the Netherlands.
(BTW Water for Elephants is one of my favorites!)

4/26/2008 10:10 PM  
Blogger HappyChyck said...

Thanks for the ideas on some potentially good reads. I'm stockpiling for summer! Lately I've been reading a lot of YA fantasy that some students have raved about. Quick stuff--that's for sure.

4/26/2008 11:32 PM  
Blogger ms-teacher said...

The youngest is an avid reader. He is the only one of my three who reads as voraciously as I do. One of the books he will be reading soon is my very own copy of Little Women that I got when I was about his age. He read Little Men a few months ago and loved it. He also recently finished reading To Kill a Mockingbird, which really impressed me as his mom seeing as how he is only 12!

4/27/2008 1:19 PM  
Blogger Mrs. Bluebird said...

I hope you keep us updated on what books you chose - and I like the feeling of "bookish" book club. It's funny how a simple get together bound by a common interest can become such a highlight. I get together with a bunch of fellow knitters (including a husband and wife who both knit and his skill level is amazing!) every week at a local bookstore with a coffee shop. It's very informal, very loose and we range in age from 19 to grandmothery. It is so much fun to sit and talk knitting and books and movies and travel and patterns and gardening and just have fun for a few hours sharing something we love.

4/27/2008 7:38 PM  
Blogger Manager Mom said...

I absolutely was in awe of "Never Let Me Go - I found the tone engrossing, surreal, and dreamy and it totally effed with my mind. Loved it.

If you like that one there's a book written by a woman about a guy who inherits a castle... I can't remember the name, it's kicking my butt.

As far as the Eggers book, I know Dave personally - he was my boyfriend's roommate in college before he had to drop out before his parents died. So I read this book on two levels - one, with a pure appreciation for it on its own literary merits, and two, with a weird sense of meta-reference because I know almost everyone he references.

I still see him once in a while. he is quite funny in a dry way, and a good guy. the real deal.

having said that, I didn't like his second book, "You Shall Know Our Velocity" and I am still struggling through "What is The What," which I find to be a vegetable book - it's good, and it's good for you, but it's just damn heavy to be whipping out when you have twenty minutes to kill on the train...

4/28/2008 12:31 PM  
Blogger Manager Mom said...

"The Keep!" By Jennifer Egan!!!

Praise Google. That would have pissed me off all day.

check that one out, again if you like the Ishiguro I think you'd like her work as well.

4/28/2008 12:33 PM  
Blogger CaliforniaTeacherGuy said...

My wife is reading the Ken Follett book and is suitably impressed. However, she's thinking about buying her own copy instead of relying on the library's copy, because it's so long that she can't finish it during the check-out time!

4/29/2008 1:51 PM  
Blogger Doing It Herself said...

Great List! I may refer to it for future assignments. I find how book groups function to be endlessly fascinating. My social group has been meeting for 12 years. There's been a divorce, a birth, the son of one woman came out, lots of college successes and failures among children. We never missed a dinner or a book through it all. Who needs a therapist?!

4/30/2008 1:22 PM  

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