Category Archives: Book Club Meetings

Follow Up to 8/16 Meeting

This message is going to my entire Book Club list, if you never want an email on this subject again, do let us know! Remember, whether you’ve read the book or not, come once, a dozen times, or never before – you are always welcome. (And if I missed someone, please share this with them and let me know).

We had a very nice gathering in Sara’s lovely garden today and I promised to send an email to recap a few decisions/reminders. All of the meeting times mentioned below are 4:00 to 6:00pm.

1 – Next meeting is September 13 at my house (Brooklyn Street), the book being discussed will be Moonwalking with Einstein : the art and science of remembering everything / Joshua Foer I just put it on hold at the library and I’m now 2nd of 2 holds for 38 copies.

2 – Following is October 11 at Kathleen’s (Brooklyn Street), the book is The world without us / Alan Weisman. The library has 15 regular book copes, I’m 4 of 4 holds.

3 – November will be at Sharon’s (not on Brooklyn), I expect the 8th but as I write this I am reminded that I am always out of town on the second Sunday of November and I may put out the idea that this be moved to the 1st or 15th because I’m looking very forward to discussing Astoria : John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson’s lost Pacific empire : a story of wealth, ambition, and survival / Peter Stark (library has at least 38 copies and today I ordered a used hardback copy for $5 from Amazon).

4 – We’ll end the year at Adrienne’s (Brooklyn Street) on December 13 with The book of Genesis / illustrated by R. Crumb. The library has 14 copies. I’m wondering if I can read my copy of The Brick Testament instead.

5 – January we’ll have our annual “what shall we read this year…” meeting. We did agree today that everyone will limit themselves to 2 titles to recommend, it was either that or agree to not be too polite to remove a book from consideration (too many books, not enough meetings…). That location is TBD, though I expect it will be January 10th (2nd Sunday of the month).

As I said, if you don’t want another Brooklyn Book Club email, do let us know (and if you already did and I lost it, I’m sure after reading the September book I’ll be able to remember in the future).

Looking forward to all of it,


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Wading In The Shallow End

At our most recent book club get-together, Sara made a comment that she was a “shallow reader,” a statement that I repeated about myself as did a couple of other people.

By “shallow reader” I mean that I take the words as they’re written without drawing tenuous connections between the story and some greater meaning; but I also mean that sometimes I feel like there is something I’m not “getting,” that there is some deeper meaning to the story that alludes me.

Many years ago in creative writing class I turned in a short story that was returned with comments about the story’s meaning, the professor wrote that I had taken what started as an interesting examination of a relationship and turned it in to a Stephen King story. Here’s the thing – I was trying to write in the vein of one of my favorite authors (Stephen King). Whatever the professor thought he read, it was in him not in my story. At the same time I was taking that class where we were analyzing novels. I enjoyed that class, but the experience with my own story made me wonder how much of what we were finding in these stories was put there by the author and how much was put there by us.

We were discussing the book Zezen by local author Vanessa Veselka who is also a neighbor and was at the meeting. At least for me, the “shallow reader” line of conversation was a way to say “it’s not your fault that I didn’t understand your Grand Meaning.” But when Vanessa talked about the book and where she was writing from, I took away that we weren’t being shallow in our reading of her book, that the story was the story and there wasn’t a Message to be discovered. Sometimes an explosion is just an explosion.

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That Time of Year Again

Today we meet to select next year’s reading list. What recommendations will I bring?

How to Build a Girl: A Novel

“Vivid and full of truths…. There’s a point in midlife, when you’re already built, as it were, when the average coming-of-age story starts to feel completely uninteresting. But Moran is so lively, dazzlingly insightful and fun that “How to Build a Girl” transcends any age restrictions.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

Stone Mattress: Nine Tales

“Witty and frequently biting … this book’s stories offer characters a chance to put their own understandings of gallantry, courage and revenge to the test, in ways both mundane and extraordinary.”
—The New York Times Book Review

Everything I Never Told You: A Novel

Lydia is dead. From the first sentence of Celeste Ng’s stunning debut, we know that the oldest daughter of the Chinese-American Lee family has died. What follows is a novel that explores alienation, achievement, race, gender, family, and identity–as the police must unravel what has happened to Lydia, the Lee family must uncover the sister and daughter that they hardly knew. There isn’t a false note in this book, and my only concern in describing my profound admiration for Everything I Never Told You is that it might raise unachievable expectations in the reader. But it’s that good. Achingly, precisely, and sensitively written. –Chris Schluep

The Museum of Extraordinary Things: A Novel

“Alice Hoffman employs her trademark alchemy of finding the magical amid the ordinary in her mesmerizing new novel.…If you’re looking for an enchanting love story rich with history and a sense of place, step right up to The Museum of Extraordinary Things.” (USA Today)

Delicious!: A Novel

“Its title strikes me as perfectly apt. . . . The novel presents a whole passel of surprises: a puzzle to solve; a secret room; hidden letters; the legacy of James Beard; and a parallel, equally plucky heroine from the past, who also happens to be a culinary prodigy.”—The New York Times Book Review

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Filed under Book Club Book Ideas, Book Club Meetings, Book Club Reading List, Books To Live Long Enough To Read, The New York Times Book Review

April’s Book

April 13th we meet at Nancy’s to discuss The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian. I should start reading it, but the “general description” Bettie has included in the reading list says “Fiction: Armenian genocide.”

Sometimes I feel like the weakest link in the book group. The one who wants to read escapist fiction. A murder mystery occasionally, a little Stephen King to keep it lively, a memoir with moments of heartbreak – I can take all of that. But genocide? No matter how well written it is purported to be, regardless of any claims that story is uplifting or life-affirming, this will not be an easy book.

Many of the material choices have been a challenge for me. I won’t admit how many I haven’t finished. But I will always at least START the book, I will sincerely work at it.

After all, that’s why I’m here.

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Can’t Make Today’s Meeting

Unfortunately, my situation changed and I won’t be able to attend today’s meeting. I spent yesterday with a sick 15-year-old, half the day at Urgent Care to attempt to make sure it was a stomach virus, not meningitis (someday I’ll write a book about my lifelong fears of meningitis and schizophrenia). Near the end of the visit, the dr. described my daughter as ‘very contagious.’ I don’t know yet if I’m stricken, but I won’t be exposing anyone until I have certainty I’m not.

A comment on the book, something I think I’d like to explore some time in the future. I really like the writing, but I’ve had a difficult time connecting/reading. Previously I gave up on about page 16 (far too early to give up on a book!), but I took it with me to Urgent Care yesterday and made it to 56. The feeling continues – I genuinely enjoy the writing, the people are interesting, I’m learning a little snippet of history I know nothing about (always a plus)… and, yet, I’m not driven to read it. Last night, when my daughter insisted I sit next to her while she slept on the couch (and we all know the days of that happening are very numbered), I chose to watch a series of movies instead of continuing to read (a silly romantic comedy, all 3 episodes of Masterpiece Classics’ The Bletchley Circle, and a Japanese film called Time Traveler).

I am very curious as to why the successful components do not add up to a compelling whole.

But that’s a question for another day, in the meantime, here is what I watched (except for the rom-com I won’t admit to):

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Shifting Gears

About 1/3rd of the way through Dr. Sleep, relishing being back in a Stephen King universe, when I get a reminder that Book Group is this Sunday… and I haven’t read the book yet. I have it, I was going to read it next but somehow the days flew by and now I have to make a choice.

Do I postpone reading Mr. King to read This House of Sky, do I convince myself I could read them both by Sunday, or do I add yet another to the list of Book Group books I will read on my own someday?

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Notes from 9/8/2013 Meeting

At the last meeting, a very nice get together where I was the only one who hadn’t finished the book and everything I heard has only enhanced my enjoyment as I continue reading, I offered to send a note to catch up on the rest of the year.

1) Next meeting is 10/13 at Kathleen’s house. The book is Michael Meade’s “Why the World Doesn’t End.” Apparently the library had the book at some point but lost it. Kathleen bought a couple of copies and is happy to share.

2) November 10 we’re scheduled to meet at Elaine’s (but that might have changed, stay tuned for confirmation) and discuss Storm Large’s memoir “Crazy Enough.” This is a change from what was decided at the beginning of the year; I believe it was the May 19th meeting where that change was made. Apologies if no one mentioned it earlier.

3) December 8 also had a suggested change – stick with Wally Lamb’s “I Know This Much Is True” as the book, but because it is a big book over holidays, it is proposed that we discuss it in January and use the December meeting to choose books for next year. I’ll trust you all to tell me what you think of that idea, or to make a decision at the October meeting. Bettie is listed as the host that month, again this was a long time ago and that might have changed.

Whether books to read in 2014 are decided 12/8 or in January, throughout the year there have been a few ideas about selecting books for next year. One idea was to have everyone suggest a favorite/well-enjoy book that they’ve already read, another was to focus on one author for a few titles in a row (I think this was my idea after a long talk about John Irving).

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