Book Club

I am really trying to read more.  Tis the season.  Steve's mantra, Reading is for Losers circulates in the air every time I sit with the Kindle in my lap, however.  How can I capitulate and get engrossed in the Steve wonderland of sports?  I must put my nose in a book- or upon my Kindle!    I am a recovering English teacher.  I love to read.  There are so many detours in any given day:  sports, TV, papers, junk magazines, chores- that I find myself butterflying to the most simple pursuit.  Usually it is a gardening magazine.  However, it is summer, and 10 books is my goal.  Mind you, the ultimate excuse to not read is on the way:  my grandson, due any day.    

Nevertheless, I plan to have reading material at the ready every moment of the day so that I can successfully get to 10.  I have an I Phone, and I received an I Pad for my last (big) birthday. I already owned and loved my Kindle, and I was hesitant to two-time it with my new toys. I hated to dilute my electronic library by downloading I-Books.  Ah, the conundrum.  
 The good news is that all my toys play nice together.  With the Kindle app on my I Phone and I pad, I can read on any device.  My books are all stored in each device, and they magically sync with each other so I do not even lose my place.  When I awaken at night, and I cannot go back to sleep, I read on the I Pad with the text in white on a black background.  That way Steve does not see any ambient light, and does not attempt to put me to sleep in his special calming way.  I can also reach for my phone to read, as it is on the nightstand charging. When I am out in the world, I can always flip through a chapter or so...if I have remembered to take my phone.  It is easier to underline on the Kindle, and easier to make notes on the I Pad.  The really good news is that Kindle is getting lending friendly, just as readers get wise to ways of sharing accounts and books.  
Steve has dubbed me the bossypants bitch of my book club, The Bookbags, because I am the facilitator as well as the originator of the group.  I keep the notes, communicate the dates and selections to the members.  We have many women who are equipped to lead the discussions, and he is correct that I most likely hog the job.  Several teachers are deft at leading discussions, but they work, and I think they deserve time off for good behavior.  We really do chew up the books, and I would be glad to offload the director duties.  On the other hand, I have time to prepare, and I do not want anyone to be uncomfortable in that role.  Volunteers are welcome. (hear that, my reading friends?  Fear not- my bossy pants are yours to wear!)
I encourage others to suggest books, but ultimately I tip in the decision.  No one has the thick skin for criticism that I do if a book is unloved.  I troll all kinds of websites looking for reviews and criticism to support a choice.  I have used  readinggroupchoices.com, bookreporter.com, and lists for book groups via libraries, like the Cincinnati library.    A delightfully curated source is wutheringbites.com.  Amazon's star ratings and reader comments are always worthwhile.  Even if a reader's review is scathing, the tone and subject helps me to evaluate its relationship to our group. Sometimes I LOVE a book, but do not suggest it because it aligns badly with our membership. Worst book suggestion by me:  The Shack. Almost universally reviled. My fault for saying "let's see what people are talking about...." Life is too short.  
The last two books we read are The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and Major Pettigrew's Last Stand.   Major Pettigrew is among the happiest books we have ever shared, and Henrietta is among the saddest.  We loved them both.  Next month we are reading Let's Take the Long Road Home, which I have punched off my list already.  I will be reading A Pack of Two,  because it was written by Caroline Knapp, the subject of Long Road Home.  Knapp wrote Drinking, A Love Story, and it chronicled her alcoholic years as a respected and fierce journalist.  This book pushed Steve to quit,  and so Caroline Knapp has a soft spot in my heart.  Ironically, as Steve tries to stop eating badly, he has fallen into dog whispering as a sideline, as did Knapp. She quit her last vice, smoking, too late, and the friendships that embrace her as she falls ill and dies young are what we will be discussing next month. I am hosting, so I will have to go heavy on dessert and wine to keep us upbeat.  
All our reading is not purposeful..  Sometimes we just explore.  I have just detoured this month with a charming Weird Sisters, about three daughters of a Shakespeare professor and the way they churn the decade after high school before returning home to help their Mother through breast cancer.  I read The Year We Left Home, which can best be described as a series of snapshots in time from 1970-2010 for an extended Iowa family.  It was powerful in its objectivity.  It forces the reader to take stock of her own life, and the wondrous ways life weaves around, often ignoring our goals and plans.  
I am 1/3 through Faith, which emanates from Boston's crisis of priestly abuse. I still do not know if Father Art, the central character,  was guilty or swept up in over-correction.  The next 200 pages will inform me, but it has put me in mind of Cardinal Bernadin's holy reaction to such an accusation.  No such grace is on display in this novel.  Yet.
And the "yet" is the beauty of reading.  There will be resolution, introspection and catharsis.  And then, another set of friends or enemies beckons.  I pre-ordered Maine, by J. Courtney Sullivan and it was downloaded to my devices on Tuesday.  After all, I am going to Maine in October, and I want a glimpse of life in L.L. Bean Land.  Many other books are calling for me.  I have delayed The Imperfectionists for a year.  I WILL read that right after Faith.  Or Maine.  
Let me know if there is something so amazing that I cannot miss it.  I read Room, and yes- it was amazing.  Others?  Something light for summer, maybe?  

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  • No, Janet, the ultimate excuse TO read is on the way: your grandson, due any day. You can hold him and read your books out loud to him. It does not matter the content, just use a nice soothing voice. My daughter, Brandy, who is working on her Masters as a Reading Specialist says that reading from day one helps teach the child about the structure of our language and is a wonderful behavior for modeling reading.

  • Wonderful, as always. Will use some of these books in our own book club. I'm also excited that you're going to Maine, one of my favorite places in the world and one in which I've spent lots of time over the past 15 years. I would love to suggest some must-see places and also great restaurants that are not to be missed!

  • Ooo. Excellent. I'm always looking for books/sites for our BookClub. While our guideline is that those who choose the book lead, I have become the de facto leader. I develop the questions, look up words I don't know, prompt the discussion and highlight its relevance in our lives.

    BTW. SLATE has an audio/podcast bookclub. It's a great discussion resource plus you can simply listen to it.

    Yes. You will be busy with Baby Pat; however, at this age they sleep all the time. Wait till he wants you to start playing Pirates or SuperHeroes....or will that be relegated to Steve and Uncles Mike and Matt?

  • Thanks so much for mentioning Reading Group Choices! We love finding book clubs that use our resources. Thanks to you, Janet, and your book club friends for keeping the joy of reading alive.

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