Thursday, December 18, 2008

Our Christmas Get-Together

Well girls, the day is almost upon us....hope you are all as unprepared for Christmas as I am, because for some unknown reason misery loves company!
Anyway....remember to take a break from the madness and come to my house on Saturday at 11am.
We will choose books for the coming year, eat ourselves silly, laugh, talk, and exchange gifts of books!
Can't wait to see y'all..

hugs and kisses,

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Fought Over Any Good Books Lately?

This is from the New York Times. I thought it would be appropriate to publish it here:

Published: December 5, 2008

JOCELYN BOWIE was thrilled by the invitation to join a book group. She had just returned to her hometown, Bloomington, Ind., to take an administration job at Indiana University, and thought she had won a ticket to a top echelon. “I was hoping to network with all these women in upper-level jobs at I.U., then I found they were in the book group,” she said. “I thought, ‘Great! They’ll see how wonderful I am, and we’ll have these great conversations about books.’ ”

Ms. Bowie cannot pinpoint the precise moment when disillusion replaced delight. Maybe it was the evening she tried to persuade everyone to look beyond Oprah Winfrey’s picks, “and they all said ‘What’s wrong with Oprah?’ ” she said.

Or perhaps it was the meeting when she lobbied for literary classics like “Emma” and the rest of the group was abuzz about “The Secret Life of Bees,” a pop-lit best seller.

The last straw came when the group picked “The Da Vinci Code” and someone suggested the discussion would be enriched by delving into the author’s source material. “It was bad enough that they wanted to read ‘Da Vinci Code’ in the first place,” Ms. Bowie said, “but then they wanted to talk about it.” She quit shortly after, making up a polite excuse: “I told the organizer, ‘You’re reading fiction, and I’m reading history right now.’ ”

Yes, it’s a nice, high-minded idea to join a book group, a way to make friends and read books that might otherwise sit untouched. But what happens when you wind up hating all the literary selections — or the other members? Breaking up isn’t so hard to do when it means freedom from inane critical commentary, political maneuvering, hurt feelings, bad chick lit and even worse chardonnay.

“Who knew a book group could be such a soap opera?” said Barb Burg, senior vice president at Bantam Dell, which publishes many titles adopted by book groups. “You’d think it would just be about the book. But wherever I go, people want to talk to me about the infighting and the politics.”

One member may push for John Updike, while everyone else is set on John Grisham. One person wants to have a glass of wine and talk about the book, while everyone else wants to get drunk and talk about their spouses. “There are all these power struggles about what book gets chosen,” Ms. Burg said. Then come the complaints: “It’s too long, it’s too short, it’s not literary enough, it’s too literary ... ”

The literary societies of the 19th century seemed content to leave the drama to authors and poets, whom they discussed with great seriousness of purpose. Some book groups evolved from sewing circles, which “gave women a chance to exercise their intellect and have a social gathering,” said Rachel W. Jacobsohn, author of “The Reading Group Handbook,” which gives a history of the format plus dos and don’ts for modern hosts.
For Doreen Orion, a psychiatrist in Boulder, Colo., the spoiler in her book group was a drama queen who turned every meeting into her own personal therapy session. Dr. Orion was used to such people in her practice, but in her personal life — well, no thanks. “There were always things going on in her life with relationships, and she’d want to talk about it,” she said. “There’d be some weird thing in a book and she’d relate it to her life no matter what. Everything came back to her. It was really exhausting after a while.”

What attracted Susan Farewell to a book group called the IlluminaTea were guidelines that precluded such off-putting antics. No therapy talk, no chitchat and no skipping meetings. “It was very high-minded,” said Ms. Farewell, a travel writer in Westport, Conn. Members took turns selecting books, “and you felt that your choice was a measure of how intelligent and sophisticated and worldly you were,” she said.

The high standards extended to the refreshment table. “When it was your month to host a meeting, you would do your interpretation of a tea, and the teas got very competitive,” Ms. Farewell said. Homemade scones and Devonshire cream were par for the course, and Ms. Farewell recalls spending the day before her hostess stint making watercress and smoked salmon sandwiches.

This started to feel oppressive. “If the standards had been more relaxed, I would have stayed in the group,” she said. “But I just felt I couldn’t keep getting clotted cream. I couldn’t work and carry on the formality and get through the novel every month, so I just said I couldn’t make the meetings anymore.”

Some who leave one group find happiness in another. Dr. Orion and another woman broke from their original group and contacted another woman who had also left. “Then we secretly reconstituted as another group,” Dr. Orion said. “We’ve been going strong for 10 years, but our experience has made us cautious about inviting new members. We’ve become very selective.”

Nancy Atkins Peck, an artist and historian in Glen Rock, N.J., has also made a successful transition. Until the election cycle of 2004, she had loved her book group — the members read “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” novels by Virginia Woolf “and sometimes a paperback of no importance,” she said.

Then, after a presidential debate, an argument about the candidates ensued, “so it was decided that we couldn’t read any political books or have any political discussions anymore,” recalled Ms. Peck, who had just suggested the group read a book about the Bush White House.

“It was nixed, and I just felt that was unnatural,” given that the group had successfully discussed other sensitive issues, she said. She and her husband then joined a coed group, which has worked out well. “And we read a heck of a lot of political books,” she said triumphantly.

Sometimes the problem is a life-stage mismatch among group members. “I know of a group where all but one member has young children,” said Susanne Pari, author of the novel “The Fortune Catcher” and the program director at Book Group Expo. “They talk for 15 minutes about the book and then launch into a discussion of poopy diapers and nap times and preschool.”

Then the one member who had nothing to bring to the soiled Pampers conversation announced she did not have time for the group. For etiquette reasons, “it’s very uncommon” for people to give the real reason for their disenchantment, Ms. Pari said.

Ms. Bushell, the book-group facilitator, tells of one woman who left a group “because she didn’t envision herself sitting around talking about a book — she thought some business networking would take place.”

Another woman decamped because she wanted to read more chick lit. “I hate to sound ponderous,” Ms. Bushell said, “but I have a certain moral obligation. I don’t feel I can be paid for leading a discussion about ‘The Devil Wears Prada.’”

At Book Passage, a store with two branches in the San Francisco area, Kate Larson is something of a Miss Lonely Hearts for newcomers and disgruntled book group members. “I collect names, and when I get 12 or 14 I ask them to come to a meeting at the store,” she said. “If it looks like they all agree about what kinds of things they want to read, they’ve got a book club.”

Ms. Larson uses a newsletter to help people find special-interest groups — say, in science fiction or spirituality. Groups made up of total strangers seem to last longer, she said, “because the focus is truly on the book.”

As for Ms. Bowie of Indiana University, she was asked to join another group but has chosen to stay unaffiliated. “My experience was a real disappointment,” she said. “Now when I look at a novel in a store and it has book group questions in the back, it almost puts me off from buying it.”

Today there are perhaps four million to five million book groups in the United States, and the number is thought to be rising, said Ann Kent, the founder of Book Group Expo, an annual gathering of readers and authors.

“I firmly believe there was an uptick in the number of book groups after 9/11, and I’m expecting another increase in these difficult economic times,” she said. “We’re looking to stay connected and to have a form of entertainment that’s affordable, and book groups are an easy avenue for that.”

Most groups are all-female, but there are plenty of all-male and coed ones. Lately there have emerged plenty of online-only book groups too, though — given the difficulty of flinging a drink in the face of a member who suggests reading Trollope — those are clearly a different animal.

And more clubs means more acrimony. Sometimes there is a rambler in the group, whose opinion far outlasts the natural interest of others, or a pedant, who never met a literary reference she did not yearn to sling. The most common cause of dissatisfaction and departures?

“It’s because there’s an ayatollah,” said Esther Bushell, a professional book-group facilitator who leads a dozen suburban New York groups and charges $250 to $300 a member annually for her services. “This person expects to choose all the books and to take over all the discussions. And when I come on board, the ayatollah is threatened and doesn’t say anything.” Like other facilitators, she is hired for the express purpose of bringing long-winded types in line.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Still Lurking

I finally got logged on here after several tries when the site was not letting me on. I tried not to take it personally, but ya'll know how I am!

I haven't posted any suggestions since there are so many already listed that I want to read. I will be glad to choose one of yours, although you might want to read one that I'm trying to finish up this weekend. It's called White Noise and it won the National Book Award in 1985 and was one of Time Magazine's top 100 books from 1923 - 2005. It is very quirky and maybe some of you wouldn't like that, but I think it is so funny!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Amy's Suggestions

Ireland by Frank Delaney

From a land famous for storytelling comes an epic novel of Ireland that captures the intimate, passionate texture of the Irish spirit.

One evening in 1951, an itinerant storyteller arrives unannounced at a house in the Irish countryside. In exchange for a bed and a warm meal, he invites his hosts and their neighbors to join him by the wintry fireside, and begins to tell formative stories of Ireland's history. Ronan, a nine-year-old boy, grows so entranced by the storytelling that, when the old man leaves abruptly under mysterious circumstances, the boy devotes himself to finding him again.

Ronan's search for the Storyteller becomes both a journey of self-discovery, long unspoken family secrets, and an immersion into the sometimes conflicting histories of his native land.

Juggling the demands of her yarn shop and single-handedly raising a teenage daughter has made Georgia Walker grateful for her Friday Night Knitting Club. Her friends are happy to escape their lives too, even for a few hours. But when Georgia's ex suddenly reappears, demanding a role in their daughter's life, her whole world is shattered.

Luckily, Georgia's friends are there, sharing their own tales of intimacy, heartbreak, and miracle making. And when the unthinkable happens, these women will discover that what they've created isn't just a knitting club: it's a sisterhood.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Margaret Lea works in her father's antiquarian bookshop where her fascination for the biographies of the long-dead has led her to write them herself. She gets a letter from one of the most famous authors of the day, the mysterious Vida Winter, whose popularity as a writer has been in no way diminished by her reclusiveness. Until now, Vida has toyed with journalists who interview her, creating outlandish life histories for herself - all of the invention. Now she is old and ailing, and at last she wants to tell the truth about her extraordinary life. Her letter to Margaret is a summons.

Somewhat anxiously, the equally reclusive Margaret travels to Yorshire to meet her subject - and Vida starts to recount her tale. It is one of gothic strangeness featuring the March family; the fascinating, devious and willful Isabelle and the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline. Margaret is captivated by the power of Vida's storytelling. But as a biographer she deals in fact not fiction, and she doesn't entirely trust Vida's account. She goes to check up on the family, visiting their old home and piecing together their story in her own way. What she discovers on her journey to the truth is for Margaret a chilling and transforming experience.