My Book Club Basics 3/3, Choosing Books!

 

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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.

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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

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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.

Books and Bucket Lists

Reading. Friends. Cocktails. Discussion. Learning. Debate. Snacks. Laughter. Maybe One.More.Drink.

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).
  • Write a novel.
  • Sky dive.

What is on your list? (bucket or reading)

C

New Book Choice

I  become bored in most romantic-comedies because they follow the same path, trying to hide behind different jobs, fancy locations and funky friends–the same ups and downs with a twist.  And sitcoms, launghs but many the same.  And books-I don’t want to know they end in the first third of the story.

How refreshing, how unexpected to read “The Lace Reader” by Brunonia Barry.  American history, magic, dreams ,mystery, secrets, great character development, turns when you think you can follow the path, destinations unexpected, all set up Salem, MA part of our country’s notorious past comes to life.

I wish I could tell you more, but I can’t give away its secrets. I am happy someone chose this for our book club, since I don’t think I would have chosen it from the cover. I may add more to this post after our meeting next week, but I highly recommend this book. There are no expectations. And I cannot wait for her next book.  I am envious of her talents and creativity. C

Who’s Your Hilly?

That was one key question asked during book club discussion of The Help by Kathryn Stockett.  An engrossing book about the civil rights’ movement in the south, we all thoroughly enjoyed it.  And from what I heard, people saw others on their vacations reading the same tome.  I never thought about it, how the many people of the times had black help in their homes, talking as if they couldn’t hear, devising ridiculous “separate bathrooms” in the garage so they would not have to share, prejudices alive.

And who is Hilly?  She is the Queen Bee of Mean, the sorority queen of times past, the cliche character who unfortunately does not change or learn or overcome, but we all hope will get her comeuppance.   Every neighborhood has one, every group had one–though maybe not so bold, every school from elementary on up.  And I think the question will remain “Who’s your Hilly?”

Thankfully, I think any Hilly’s once in our book club have silently–or semi-loudly–removed themselves from our midst, and our group remains chatty, fun, exploratory, and yearning to broaden our thoughts and voice our opinions.

So, who’s your Hilly?  I hope I am never known as the Hilly of any group!  C