Monday, September 26, 2016

book club : what we read this year!

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I am completely obsessed with books.  I used to come home from school, grab a plateful of food, and then spend hours holed up in my room with a novel.  I was notorious as a pre-teen for stealing my older sister's boyfriend's books when he would come to take her out on a date and proceed to finish the entire book while they were out romancing.  (Thank you, Brian, for introducing me to various Paulsen and Krakauer titles!  It was a much-needed break from Sweet Valley High, Christopher Pike, RL Stine and re-reading the Anne of Green Gables series for the millionth time.)

I chose to be an English major in college (like most English majors) just because my two favorite things were reading and writing.  I gave very little thought to what you can actually "do" in life with this degree. English majors are creative and thoughtful...but not always super practical.

Here is one thing I am qualified to do : start a book club.  One year ago I decided enough was enough -- I needed to discuss good books on a regular basis with other bookish folks!  I had finally been invited to join one, but I didn't know anyone in it very well, and I strongly desired an intimate group of women that I knew were as in love with books as I was.  So I grabbed a friend, fellow English degree holder + a high school English teacher, and we each invited a couple female friends to join the group.

There are lots of creative ways to hold a book club.  Some groups choose books from a jar of choices that everyone contributes to.  In ours we simply take turns choosing (can be any genre) and the person picking the book that month gets to also choose where we meet for discussion.  I encourage a place that sort of fits with the theme of the book (I am a theme-nerd) but really any location is fair game.  We meet at bars, restaurants, and even at home.

I thought I would share what our group has read over the past year, since we are coming up on our one-year anniversary in October!  We've done six books, as it worked out to be around every eight weeks we could meet.  There are six of us, so we each got a pick!

1) Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie
I loved this book...because it is completely fantastical and even as an adult I can vibe with that.  Most of what is in my head is pretty fantastical and illogical.  I was unfamiliar with this author hitherto, but loved his writing style and was hooked the whole way.  I even enjoyed recapping every day what I had read to my five-year-old son, who enjoys when I tell him in detail about the plots of books I read.  The kid just loves story-telling in general, so I can't wait for him to read this book someday!  The rest of the ladies seemed to like this book as well, but no one else seemed quite as enamoured as me.
2) The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
This memoir was one we all really enjoyed!  Super dark, but pretty gripping all the way through. Memoirs are my favorite genre, and I gravitate towards strong female characters...so this one I highly recommend -  maybe my most favorite pick this year.  Lots of grit and great conversation starters.
3) Eligible by Curtis Sittenfield 
This "modern re-telling of Pride and Prejudice" was a quick read but sort of disappointing for a few of us hard-core Jane Austen fans.  If you end up reading it, don't expect any of the sweet and clean romance that Austen provides.  "Modern" here means sexting, vulgarity, and (in my opinion) actually the removal of true romance in the relationship.  I approached the novel as a farce, much like how I read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,  so it made me chuckle a lot.  So ridiculous. But if you read it wanting or for modern-day Elizabeth Bennet to be likable, you will be sorely disappointed.  Or maybe not.  Just my opinion.
4) The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
This super popular book was an easy, beach read that I think everyone loved.  Highly recommend for a book club, as it generates a lot of conversation and was a quick read.  (Hubby loved it, too!)
5) Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
This was my pick, and probably the most obscure.  It was recommended by another friend who read it in her book club and said it was a favorite that generated a lot of discussion.  I loved Franz Kafka in college, the dark weirdness of it all, so I jumped on board.  Probably the most difficult read...and I'm pretty sure only two of us actually finished the book.  Of course, everyone else in our book club is a teacher, so they've all been pretty busy with the start of school.  All that being said : a really good book!   Especially if you like fantastical, bizarre, mysterious, heavily-metaphorical, modern retellings of Greek tragedy.  The characters are so intricate and oddly beautiful, and the story is woven together expertly.  Gets a little "out there" and long in the second half, but still left me desperate for explanations...so I couldn't stop reading.  I definitely want to try other Murakami books.
6) The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
The latest pick!  I have never heard of this novel, but apparently it has been around, has been made into a movie, and has a huge waiting list at my local library.  Amazon it is! :)

Did I love all the books?  No.  I don't think any of us did.  Some were easy to read, others a bit of a struggle.  Everyone has their own preferences.  It is fun to get to know other authors and genres than you are used to and expand your horizons, though!  

Other stuff I read in the meantime...A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway (loved) Me Before You by Jojo Reyes (eh) Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham (fabulous) and Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire by JK Rowling (of course, loved.)  I also did two really great Bible studies that honestly were pretty life-changing for me : The Armor of God by Priscilla Shirer and Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby.  If you are looking for a study to help you grow in your walk with Christ and perhaps better understand his plan for your life, I would recommend both of these!
Currently reading : The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

Click on any of the images to get a better sense of the books or purchase!








Are you in a book club?  Have you read any of the above books?  What are you reading right now?  
I would love to hear!