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Are Book Clubs Still Trendy?

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Published on December 19, 2009 : 4 comments

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2009 is coming to a close. It’s been a great year for my local book club and an even better year to read great books!

Seven years ago I joined a book club hoping to meet some new people and make some friends (I had lived in Omaha for just two months). We met once a month and selected books just one month at a time. The gal who led our group was an seventh grade english teacher, so it should come as no surprise to learn we read titles like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn or Brewster’s Place.  We met at a coffee shop near 180th and Center and talked until the employees were done with their closing duties.

Most of the women were mothers to very young children, and they were so excited to have an evening to themselves that we hardly ever discussed the book. What we did talk about was parenting. Picture The Bob Newhart Show and you might get a glimpse of how I remember this first year–group therapy. We mostly shared potty-training war stories and tips for raising children.

Flash forward six years and my book club looks very differently. I am the only legacy member still living in Omaha.  I’m proud to say that not only do we discuss books, but we invite authors to discuss their books! 

Talking with the author adds so much to the reading experience. Just this month we talked with Mahbod Seraji, author of Rooftops of Tehran, via video Skype. We discussed the book for an hour, and with Mahbod joining via video, we felt like he was in the room with us. Image eight women crouching around a laptop (we were so excited to be able to see him) just to get a glimpse of the author.  We loved this book, and this was easily one of our favorite author discussions of the year. 

Confession: we don’t love all the books we select to discuss. To be completely honest, there have been times when a few us didn’t like a book, but we always walk away from an author discussion emotionally attached to the story. After the author shares details about character development, plotting the story, and the many revisions editors require from time to time, it’s hard not to value the book you just read a little bit more. 

Have you ever thought to talk with an author to enhance your reading experience? You might be surprised to learn that authors want to talk to their reading audience. They are so appreciative and respectful. 

Do you belong to a book club? If you do, I would love to hear what you like best and what you would change if you could wave a magic wand. How often do you select books? Do you have criteria for the selection process?

Some of my Favorite Books read this year…

The Blue NotebookThe Blue NotebookIf you asked me to share the title of my favorite book read this year, I couldn’t name just one. 2009 was such a successful year for new releases, which was a nice surprise.

I like to learn while I read. I have everything from medical-themed books about anesthesiologists to early onset Alzheimer’s, books on growing up in the slums of India to living in the woods.  Some of my favorite novels were written by authors I was not familiar with a year ago. 

2009 might have been coined ‘The year of the memoir’–how many did you read? 

When She FlewWhen She FlewIf I had to pick one memoir that was released in 2009 that everyone should read, its The Blue Notebook, written by James Levine. It will make you appreciate and cherish the simplest things in life.  This is the story about homeless children on a famous street in Mumbai, with the main character being a young woman writing a notebook. Dr James Levine interviews her and tells us a gripping story. 

I can no longer read books written by some of our great authors–James Patterson, John Grisham, and JK Rowling to name a few.  I decided to give them up after losing a week’s sleep while reading the second Harry Potter book. I kept waking up during the night. These books are so vivid that they enter my dreams leaving me feel restless the next day.

April and OliverApril and OliverDo you like to read fantasy, thrillers, science fiction or horror?   Do you have any titles to recommend?  If yes, leave a comment and share your ideas since I am not able to help with these genres.

Like most readers, I thoroughly enjoy fiction.  Most of the books I read fall into the women’s literature category–in my never ending quest to find the perfect book club selection.  Two of my favorite novels read this year are When She Flew, written by Jennie Shortridge–you will fall in love with a little girl named Lindy–and April & Oliver, written by Tess Callahan. This is a dark yet hopeful story of two childhood friends whose lives collide in their late twenties. It’s a powerful story.

The Piano TeacherThe Piano TeacherThe bar is high for 2010.  I hope we are not disappointed. The year starts with some best selling authors releasing books in January. 

I’m reading The Piano Teacher, written by Janice YK Lee right now (there are copies available at the Omaha library, in book form or on CD).  It reads like The English Patient, a gripping tale of love and betrayal set in war-torn Hong Kong.  When I’m done reading this book, I will watch the author book club discussion on Border’s website. If you haven’t visited this site I highly recommend it as a compliment to your reading experience.

What are you reading?

mpartykaHappy Reading, Mari


Peter Riola (not verified) says:

December 24, 2009 : 14 years 25 weeks ago

Peter Riola's picture

Great article. I love the range of reading you do. A renaissance woman!

Kelley (not verified) says:

December 26, 2009 : 14 years 25 weeks ago

Kelley's picture

In the sweeping tradition of The English Patient, Janice Y. K. Lee’s debut novel is a tale of love and betrayal set in war-torn Hong Kong.”

I don’t even think you read the book. This is the description straight from the Borders website. Please try not to so obviously steal the words of actual writers.

mpartyka says:

December 26, 2009 : 14 years 25 weeks ago

mpartyka's picture

When this was posted I was reading The Piano Teacher and this synopsis was from a website (I believe from the author’s) to give a desciption of the book. I apologize if this offended you, it was only meant to share what I am reading and to tell others to use the Border’s site to participate in online book clubs.

I will be posting my review of this book next week - which I enjoyed.

Norma Gillespie (not verified) says:

August 14, 2011 : 12 years 44 weeks ago

Norma Gillespie's picture

I’m wanting to start a book club in our small town. I taught college Eng. and Lit. (including Women’s Lit and would like to just have a women’s book club on women’s lit. Is this a better idea than a book club for both sexes?