Friday, December 14, 2012

Book Club

I joined a book club at the beginning of 2012. I keep meaning to write about this book club, and never get around to it. (Pretty much the story of my blogging life, actually).

To be honest, at first I wasn't sure that I liked the book club. The women are terrific, and we had some great discussions on books ranging from The Paradox of Choice to The Hunger Games, from The Wind in the Willows to a biography of Georgia O'Keefe that some of us found so ridiculous, one of our members decided to quit afterwards because we were too negative. One month we each picked a biography, our own choice (in my desire to combine this assignment with research for the Deaf characters in the book I'm writing, I opted for a Marlee Matlin memoir, which I don't especially recommend unless you love celebrity memoirs). One month we each read any book by Louise Erdrich.

Our discussions were wide-ranging and generally fun and positive (except for that Georgia O'Keefe book....and my Marlee Matlin book....and my Louise Erdrich book....and some members who aren't me hated the Hunger Games a whole lot). But I got burnt out on reading on a deadline two years ago, and even though book club is only once a month, I sometimes found myself dreading the deadline more than I was looking forward to the meeting. Also, the snacks are minimal, and in my opinion any club meeting should have maximal snacks. Ironically, I hosted the discussion of The Hunger Games and served copious amounts of food.

Speaking of which, note to self: Must have a Hunger Games dinner.

Well, this month's meeting was the one where we were to bring ideas for next year's books. Each of us brought 3-5 titles to share except the woman who quit because we were too negative, and the other woman who quit. And I find that I am really excited about my 2013 book club--even though they only picked one of my three suggestions. (It's okay--everyone had really great suggestions! It was hard to choose.) My friend Stephanie is joining, so that's awesome, and for the most part we chose fabulous-looking books. There are a few months that I'm less excited about--we're reading the wonderful book Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal, which I loved when I read it in 2003 and will probably enjoy re-reading, but I'm definitely not a huge fan of re-reading. For next month's meeting, we are reading Fannie Flagg's Redbird Christmas, which I hope will surprise me by being more than a feel-good Xmas story. Honestly, I think I just hate the cover of the library's copy of this book, which is a perfectly nice image but makes me think of a romance novel. Except, the romance appears to be between a cardinal and a mailbox,or perhaps a mailbox and a chair.

The alternate cover doesn't leave me with nearly the same sense of apathy. It's just as hokey--looks like a masculine Christmas card, actually--but it's more refined. And in this instance the romance is clearly between the cardinal and the gift, who is playing hard to get by hiding in the mailbox.

We have a couple of months where I will need to choose a book within a category, so I'm looking for suggestions on these:

1) Any book by Ursula Le Guin. She is a local author so I'm looking forward to checking her out, but I'm not especially familiar with anything she's written and nothing is really calling to me. Any recommendations?

2) Any mystery. I'm really hoping my friend and writing-group colleague Warren Easley's book will be published in time for me to read it for this month. I think Any Mystery month is in the summer, which is when Matters of Doubt is due to come out. I will have read the full manuscript regardless, but I'd like to bring the "real" copy with me when I talk about it. In any case, I'd love suggestions for mysteries that would appeal to a reader who's all about character development and not particularly swayed by plot.

 Some of the books I'm most looking forward to:

Hidden America by Jeanne Marie Laskas: "Laskas spent weeks in an Ohio coal mine and on an Alaskan oil rig; in a Maine migrant labor camp, a Texas beef ranch, the air traffic control tower at New York’s LaGuardia Airport, a California landfill, an Arizona gun shop, the cab of a long-haul truck in Iowa, and the stadium of the Cincinnati Ben-Gals cheerleaders. Cheerleaders? Yes. They, too, are hidden America, and you will be amazed by what Laskas tells you about them: hidden no longer."

The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan. This was my selection, recommended by a friend of mine.

"This poignant encounter is the starting point for a true story of a remarkable relationship between two families, one Arab, one Jewish, amid the fraught modern history of the region. In his childhood home, in the lemon tree his father planted in the backyard, Bashir sees dispossession and occupation; Dalia, who arrived as an infant in 1948 with her family from Bulgaria, sees hope for a people devastated by the Holocaust. Both are swept up in the fates of their people, and their lives form a personal microcosm of more than half a century of Israeli-Palestinian history.
What began with a simple act of faith between two young people grew into a dialogue of four decades that represents the region’s hope for peace and self-determination. The Lemon Tree is a reminder of all that is at stake, and of all that is still possible.

 Mink River 
Written by local author Brian Doyle. "Like Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood and Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, Brian Doyle’s stunning fiction debut brings a town to life through the jumbled lives and braided stories of its people.

In a small town on the Oregon coast there are love affairs and almost-love-affairs, mystery and hilarity, bears and tears, brawls and boats, a garrulous logger and a silent doctor, rain and pain, Irish immigrants and Salish stories, mud and laughter. There’s a Department of Public Works that gives haircuts and counts insects, a policeman addicted to Puccini, a philosophizing crow, beer and berries. An expedition is mounted, a crime committed, and there’s an unbelievably huge picnic on the football field. Babies are born. A car is cut in half with a saw. A river confesses what it’s thinking…
It’s the tale of a town, written in a distinct and lyrical voice, and readers will close the book more than a little sad to leave the village of Neawanaka, on the wet coast of Oregon, beneath the hills that used to boast the biggest trees in the history of the world.

Can't wait to start reading! Starting with the romance between the mailbox and the chair. Or the cardinal and the gift.


  1. I'm getting ready to run to my book club! My complaint with mine is we don't spend much time talking about the book.

  2. I think it is a universal complaint that we don't talk enough about the books but I still enjoy my club immensely and it does bring people together who probably wouldn't read the same things so that makes it fun. We meet in a restaurant and now the staff is always happy to wait on us and we tell them what book they need to read for next time. :D
    I am most curious, too, who ends up in the romance!

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. It's not really a romance novel, but it has just about as much substance as one. Definitely not one of my favorite reads.