When I visit my local ELA Library, I usually do a quick pass through the New Mystery section. If the latest Alex Delaware (by Jonathan Kellerman) or Kinsey Milhone (by Sue Grafton) novel is available….YES. Mine, grabbing it like a child and holding it close.
I then put aside whatever I am reading and delve into those books.
Most genres I can set aside at the appropriate times. But, when I get engrossed in a mystery, forget it. The details, the short section breaks, the quickening pace, keep the pages turning long after they should.
Here are a few of the reasons why I should not even start a mystery, unless I have a day to focus on it:
Dinner -what dinner? Are you really hungry tonight?
These woeful eyes staring when their walks are delayed.
Pages might get warped near the shower.
At 11 pm I will resolve to read “one more chapter”; suddenly it is 2 am. And I have to be up in 4 hours for work!
Can’t read it when at the gym. So postpone the workouts, right?
The same often happens with the latest Stephen King or a few other authors, but it always happens with a tight mystery.
The journey continues.
Note: feel free to substitute “binge watch the latest HOT series”, “start a puzzle”, “search online for cheap airfares” in the title, depending on your tastes.
Books, Books and more Books! With an overwhelming selection of enticing-poorly written-predictable-and keep-you-up-all-night reads today, how do you choose books for your book club? For our club, each host gets to pick their book and shape their meetings around the selection.
We have a few members who get stressed (and hilarious) when it comes time to make their book selections. Just stay calm, since there are a myriad of resources to find your selections.
Here are a few ideas for you to help you pick your next read:
My last post was about why I love my book club. Since people have asked us about how to set up/run/host a book club, know that there are many options to create a club that works for you. Some groups are very organized and intense, and some (like ours) are a bit less formal in pre-planning and execution.
Here are some ideas to think about, when setting up your own group:
Consider inviting varied members who are willing to research the book, develop questions and will be involved in the discussions.
Mix up the genres of books you read.
How will you make your book selections? My next post will explore this topic, since there are so many resources.
Choose where/when you will meet. Our group meets at someone’s house at night; others go to a coffee shop, out for lunch, or meet at a local bookstore or library.
Possibly have some set times, such as 30-60 minutes for catch up, then giving a specific time for the book discussion to start. We started doing this, and this structure helps our meetings run smoother when some people come who have not read the book.
Decide who you will have a discussion leader for each meeting who will do research on the author bio, background on subject matter, pose pointed discussion questions. Will it be the current host? Hire someone?
Pair up the book with a movie or tv show. For example, we have read and seen the movies: Chocolat, Wuthering Heights, The Help and A Man Called Ove(the latter two were seen in the theater).
Decide if you will record a member rating for each book.
Mix it up! At our December meeting, we choose an easy book with a holiday theme, wear Christmas sweaters, and do a white elephant.
Enjoy reading and each other!
Now, gather some people, then start reading. And talking.
To answer the most frequently asked question first—Yes, we discuss the books in our monthly meetings! We do not just drink wine.
I am honored to have been part of our book club since its inception in 2003! Our first book was A Million Little Pieces by James Frey, shortly before it was debunked as a fraudulent biography. Ironically, there was a lot of discussion at our initial meeting about which parts of that book seemed fake (and later, how easy it should have been for Oprah’s team to research the story before catapulting it to stardom).
In 14 years, we have welcomed new friends to our group, had our dear friend Janaki move, seen births, deaths, kids grow through school and beyond, job changes, and illnesses. I personally have enjoyed books and genres I never would have chosen and found some authors I now covet—Lianne Moriarity, Fredrik Backman, Kristin Hannah. In our discussions and debates, I still learn about my friends’ histories, dreams, passions, losses.
My friend Theresa, who launched our book club, says that she is very proud of our club’s longevity as a no judgment book club. If you only read the back page but want to listen to the discussion….come on in. Only read one book a year and come only twice a year…we will be happy to see you. Listen on Audible at double-time speed…more credit to you.
People often ask me for reading suggestions. This can be a baited question, since there are so many types of books. Do you like novels, chick lit, romance, biographies, non-fiction, science fiction, history? If for a book club, will you read recently released books? Or only ones that are available at the local library?
For several book ideas now, here is the list of books that our book club read in 2016, and the start of 2017, in the order that we read them:
Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman The Martian by Andy Weir The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens The Memory Box by Eva Lesko Natiello Whiskey & Charlie by Annabel Smith The Wedding Pearl by Carolyn Brown Before the Fall by Noah Hawle My Grandmother Forgot to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans 11/22/63 by Stephen King
My personal favorites from this list were My Grandmother Forgot to Tell You She’s Sorry, A Man Called Ove,11/22/63, and Whiskey & Charlie.
If you want to start a book club, it just takes a little time and a few friends. There are many options to best set up and run your club, choose your books,etc. My next post will address these topics.
I so look forward to my monthly neighborhood book club meetings. While our families joke that we do not actually discuss our varied selections, we do! The amount we talk about the book may be proportionate to how relatable (or debatable) the book is, whether there is a difference of opinion about the quality of the characters-plot-writing, and if the host has good discussion questions.
Through others reading choices I have discovered authors and books I never would have picked up, lived vicariously through a variety of eras and locations, expanded my life views, made new friends, and become a better writer.
Sometimes we even have homework assignments.
For our last book club we were asked to bring our bucket list of 5 things we wanted to do, typed and unsigned. We then tried to guess who wrote out each sheet. (this “homework” went along with our discussion, nameless but light romantic fluff).
It was eye-opening to see how similar some of the items were on our lists: a lot of travel, learning new skills like writing and knitting, re-learning old hobbies, more travel, and spending more time with our families.
We will continue to share, learn, cry, discuss life in each meeting. Hopefully grow individually and as a group. And prop each other up outside our ongoing gatherings.
And my bucket list, in case you are interested:
Travel to Iceland and Australia.
Research family history to learn my mom’s family when/why they came to US.
Do travel and photo exploration of large swath of Route 66. (maybe Sante Fe to Flagstaff or CA).
No matter what talents are born within ourselves, we need to discover and nurture them to help them expand, morph, breathe, grow. That could not be more physically true than for these amazing sculptures created by my high school friend, Nancy Pirri. Once a nameless block, they became these varied women (and one man) with the guidance, hard work and amazing hands of hers.
They are on display overlooking The Art Institute and Lake Michigan. I walked into The Cliff Dwellers Club at the perfect time to view them. The dining room was empty, so I could enjoy them in silence. Lovely details, varied expressions, I think they are beautiful.
My favorite is the ethereal Genevive, resolutely posed facing onto Michigan Ave and the lake, rather than into the dining room. She looked so proud, and the feminine details like the flower on her skirt grabbed me.
I am honored that I have one of Nancy’s sculptures in my home. I bought it several years ago, and I can really how her style has changed. She has a true appreciation for the woman’s body and form.
Her sculptures are on display at 200 S. Michigan Ave 22nd floor, Chicago until July 23.
I recently saw the Art Institute’s of Chicago’s excellent “Van Gogh’s Bedrooms” exhibit. The piece de resistance is all 3 of his very similar “Bedroom” paintings side by side, with a unique video display comparing them in detail. The exhibit also shows works of other painters who inspired him and how those mentors influenced his painting style changes.
This exhibit truly showed how much Van Gogh tried to improve his technique by learning new styles, testing different materials, and how observant he was of the world surrounding him. Like Claude Monet’s haystacks or lily pads paintings, one might find the final results repetitive. However, the hours and details to create such similar works in different lighting and seasons amazes me.
Remember that these are not photographs that can be taken 30 shots per second—these are oil paintings that take days and months to complete. The thought process, the changes a stroke style or layering makes can change the whole feeling of the work.
I was impressed with how his painting styles were also transformed over the years by his surroundings, his interests, as he learned from his contemporaries, and by his uneven mental health. From his works and personal letters on display, it seemed the essence of the subjects he explored remained similar.
Not only did I admire his paintings, I was able to compare the 3 bedrooms paintings; owned by 3 different museums, this was a rare feat.
We can all learn from this exhibit to keep expanding our knowledge and abilities. Test, change, absorb, improve, modify, test again in our daily work and home routines will open our minds to unexpected opportunities and results.
P.S. If you have never been to the Art Institute of Chicago, I highly recommend it! Voted #1 museum in the world by Trip Advisor last year, I am lucky to be able to visit a couple times annually.