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Thursday, June 28, 2012
HOW BOOK CLUBS CAN ENRICH OUR LIFE
As you are reading this, I am either frantically doing last minute cleaning, or food preparation, or if you're reading this later in the day, I'm finally enjoying the meeting of my Red Read Robin Book Club. Hopefully, a few times during the day I'll find time to check out what's been posted and respond to it, but not as often as I should. Someday, I always tell myself, I'm not going to be like Clara Morrow, one of Louise Penny's main characters with hair in disarray and chocolate on my face. I'm going to have my house in order; food prepared ahead of time and graciously greeting my guests and be totally relaxed. I won't even see a stray spider web hanging from a beam in my kitchen because there won't be one there. Someday, I tell myself, when I'm a well-read author and have enough money from the sale of my books, I'll have a cleaning person and maybe a caterer to bring in food. I think I might have mentioned before that I'm an optimist and try to ignore the realist who perches on my left shoulder, snorts and says, "Ain't gonna ever happen."
All the years I taught, I dreamed of joining a book club, but didn't know of any. Besides, I wouldn't have had time to join one if I could find one. Then four months after retiring, I was in the Brew Basket with some friends and saw a notice on the counter announcing a new book club being formed. It was to meet in the Brew Basket Cafe' on the third Thursday morning of each month. The first book to be discussed was The Lovely Bones by Alice Siebold. I'd already read the book, but was willing to read it again to discuss it with others. Many of those who came to the first meeting are still together after almost five years. New ones have joined and a few have left, but those who remain have become good friends.
Then four months later, a friend I'd graduated with many years before, asked me to join a book club being started. It was the Red Read Robin Book Club which I'm hosting tonight. Half this club's members are related and/or go to the same church I do. One comes from 50 miles away to attend our meeting. Unlike the first one I joined, this one doesn't meet in a cafe', but mostly in the homes of members. If a member doesn't have room or care to host the meeting, she chooses a restaurant instead. The hostess having the meeting at her home furishes a meal that always includes wine. Often the hostess serves food which in some way relates to the book. For instance, when The Help was the book being discussed, everyone laughed when dessert was chocolate pie. Those who have read the book or saw the movie will know why we laughed. The first book chosed by the Red Read Robin group was To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. It had been at least 30 years since I'd read the book and what a wonderful discussion we had. We hated to end the evening.
For tonight's meeting, I chose Still Life by one of my favorite authors, Louise Penny. After we've eaten - some outside on the patio, a table under the trees, or in my library at a large table there, we'll settle down with wine or coffee in the living room to discuss the book. I have a few questions to start the discussion, and then I've planned something else. I'm telling the group I've chartered a bus to take us for a long weekend to Three Pines, the location in the book. Since Olivier and Gabri won't have enough room in their B&B for all of us, I've asked Louise Penny if she'd contact the residents of Three Pines to see if any of them would put us up for a few days. She did, and they quite graciously agreed to it. Tonight we'll discuss who they want to stay with and why they chose that particular character. I'm hoping Penny's characters have become as real to them as they have to me. Of course, this is the third time I've read this book, plus I've read all her other books, too, so I feel I know each of her characters quite well.
Book clubs have enriched my life in many ways. They've brought new friends into my life who I feel quite close to now. Our discussions bring out insights into each reader. How they feel about certain books or characters and why, show something about who they are. Book clubs have widened my reading. I've always been a eclectic reader, but mysteries are my favorite and not often picked for either book club. Instead, the books have spanned a wide spectrum both fictional and non-fictional; books I might never have read if they hadn't been a book club pick. Unlike discussing a favorite book I've passed on to a family member or a friend, we're discussing books we've all read in the same time frame so our discussions are fresh and often lively. Even though I haven't liked every book chosen, I've been enriched by the wide range of books I've read through my book clubs and even more by the discussions we've held.
Do you belong to a book club? If not, what aspect of a book club do you think you'd like?
If you've read any of Louise Penny's books (and if you haven't, you should) which character would you like to meet or stay with on a weekend visit to Three Pines?