My Book Club Basics 3/3, Choosing Books!

 

img_6852
What books are on your nightstand now? (or in your line up on your electronic device)  Share!

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:

  • Talk to other people who love to read!
  • Ask your librarian—our local ELA Library has an entire book club selection area with ideas. Library websites also include lists, such as Chicago Public Library’s top 2016 rentals.  
  • Browse your local bookstore. Pick up a book, read the jacket, sample a page. Ask an employee what they liked recently.
  • Many newspapers and magazines, from People to The New York Times to Vanity Fair, include new book releases on a regular basis.
  • Goodreads website  gives you a place to find books, fellow readers, research genres.
  • Bookbrowse is an online booklover’s magazine. They have a “First Impressions” you can join where they send 5-6 books a year to either write a review or join a discussion, for a small fee.
  • You can Google many topics for book lists. Be careful, it’s easy to get lost doing this: top historical fiction, history, chick lit, novels, young adult, science fiction.

It can be overwhelming, so keep it simple. Remember, it is a BOOK CLUB choice–happy reading!

This is the 3rd and final post I have shared for now about starting, organizing, or changing up your book Club.  Read the others here: My Book Club Basics, 1 of 3 and My Book Club Basics, 2 of 3.

The journey continues.

Cindy, the WBL Book Club Wrangler

P.S. With all the new books out, it is easy to overlook the classics. Refresh your list with some timeless (or dated) literature.

My Book Club Basics, 2 of 3

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.

C

My Book Club Basics, 1 of 3

imgp2796
Display from the Printer’s Row Book Fair, Chicago

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.

Why I Marched and What Comes Next For Me

img_6750
Panoramic shot of my view of the Chicago Woman’s March, 2017.

I wrote most of this post before the world went crazy with people sniping and commenting for and against the Woman’s March last weekend. To me, this event was democracy at its finest.  Aren’t we lucky to live in a country where we we can stand up for our beliefs, try to affect change?

If you chose not to join, that is absolutely your right. If you participated, I hope it encourages you to engage. Instead of women (and men) ripping on each other for their choices about the rallies over social media, and the negativity that has spread, try to TALK to people who might think differently than you: learn WHY we joined, we watched, we marched, why we spoke. Don’t let the outcome of this worldwide event divide us further.

I choose HOPE as the new administration starts office. I also choose awareness, involvement, and vigilance. And don’t be daft enough to ask if I voted—of course I did.

MY experience
img_6761
I joined an overwhelming estimated 250,000 women and men this past weekend during the Woman’s March in Chicago. My first protest rally ever! The thought that people were marching around the country and world only lifted my spirits more.  The aerial shots are amazing.

It was a gorgeous, sunny January Chicago day. I was buoyed by those around us—every age, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, physical ability represented. The mood was so empowering, curious, bold, and positive, volunteers and vendors welcoming, the police calming and strong, drivers engaged as we marched through the city after the rally.

Amazingly, we ended up 10 feet from the main stage during the rally. We listened to a wide range of speakers talk passionately about their life experiences. And many who work on the front lines daily with organizations involving women, immigration, Native Americans, LGTBQ, Chicago Teacher’s Union, Black Lives Matter, Planned Parenthood, and many more spoke. A complete list can be found here.

(note: leads from Hamilton spoke, then led the crowd in singing “Let it Be”)

The organizers tried to cancel the march, since the route was overflowing with participants (5 times the expectations!). But the masses ruled that day, filling the streets with pink hats, engaging signs, strollers, wheelchairs, joy, purpose, calm. The shouts of “this is how democracy works” filled the air, as the streets of the Loop became one. From what I heard, there were zero participant arrests among 250,000 in Chicago.

Why I participated
People have asked me, why did I choose to be part of this event? I joined for myself, for my daughters, and family, for my friends, for those on the bubble of so many women’s and human rights issues in our town and country. Not agreeing with the misogynistic words and previous actions of our new President,  I wanted be part of an event that lets this new administration that we will be watching what they do with women’s rights, with immigration, with health insurance. It far surpassed my expectations.

So what now?
As one speaker said, “if do you do nothing after today, then this just becomes a giant pep rally.”

I think we need to personally choose the area(s)  we want to help galvanize, by involvement and/or supporting financially. There were many number of issues discussed at the event; it would be impossible to be involved in all of them.

We need to watch the changes this administration implements, to not move women’s rights backwards. I will take some time to select which group(s) to become more personally involved with.

For work, I will continue to speak and write about promoting women working in technology, since we are woefully under represented.

And if you chose not to participate, or do not understand our fears and anger, that it okay too. We are fortunate to live in a country where we can have a variety of ideals. .

And why did I share my personal story?  So I remember.  And am counted in one of the largest single day demonstrations in the world.  Time to march forward.

C

Winter Inspiration for Fun

A few weeks ago—before our deep freeze– we had the PERFECT Illinois winter snowy day. That day I cross country skied and shot the pictures I posted on this blog a couple weeks ago. My 16 year old son Ronan and his friends sledded all that afternoon.  I was secretly smiling that the boys adventures . Are you ever too old to sled?

kids1206
My 3 kids so long ago, with one of our Aussie, playing in the snow

“There were a lot of kids there. I feel like the parents were looking at all of us weird, since we were older,” Ronan said when he got home, after he said how much fun they had. And how tired they were.

“No way,” I replied. “I remember when we used to take all of you sledding when you were younger.

“ I would watch all the older kids on the hills, playing, having fun. I was so glad that they were having a blast outside, rather than watching TV or playing video games. That they still let themselves be kids.”

So, one simple idea for me this year is to find time to have more fun. Step away from the screens and daily responsibilities, just to let loose and laugh.

C

6 Simple Ways to Maintain Balance (or Sanity) this Holiday Season

img_6406
Walking Zoe & Cali last week

Many of you know that my dad passed away this year. I have to count on 3 hands my friends who are also celebrating their first holidays with one fewer parent. It isn’t easy, this “Year of Firsts”. As we move through December, I know I will need to find some time to step away from the myriad of activities and stress that comes with the holiday season.

Even in a normal year, the end of year pressures can be great. Here are 6 easy ideas to try for a 30-60 minute inexpensive escape.

  1. Spend an hour alone in a coffee shop, with NO electronic media unless you need music to distract from other patrons. Write, read, stare out the window.
  2. Go for a winter walk. 
  3. Practice yoga.  According to The Mayo Clinic, yoga helps to relieve stress, find focus, and improve flexibility.  Ironically, I just got an offer today to sign up for a free 21-day session on Wanderlust, starting in January.   Feel free to join up, if you want to start a yoga practice at home.
  4. If you only have 5-10 minutes to spare, meditation offers many similar benefits. If you think you can’t meditate, all the more reason you should try it. (I was one of those people; I can’t sit still!) Simply sit or lay quietly, close your eyes, hands facing up to accept more energy from around you. TRY to clear your mind, but if a thought wanders in, accept it and let it flow on. Start to breathe deeper—to your belly and collar bones. A really informative post about the benefits of meditation can be found on the Live and Dare website.
  5. Pay it forward. Whether you work with an organization or do a simple gesture to a stranger, your spirit will soar.
  6. Dance party–turn up your music to your favorite song and move those feet! Or just sing along. If you are by yourself, no one will ever know if you have no rhythm or sing off-key.

You are not alone in stress or loss this year. Know that it is okay to say NO to attending events. Every party, gathering, obligation does not require a yes response. Not overloading is the key to enjoying the next 30 days.

C

P.S.  Dogs encourage you to go out and walk all year round.  There are many of shelter dogs and organizations willing to help match you with your perfect Furrever friend this holiday season.

First Snowfall Photos

 

img_6404
A world in white 

The gorgeous snowfall yesterday–all day long, with thankfully no where to go–inspired me to take a few photos and change up today’s post.

Abstracts and landscapes, the changing weather gives so many possibilities to create. Enjoy.

 

I love this secret spot…..

imgp3890
A hidden world

C

All photos copyrighted by Cindy Cardinal Kennedy