The Book Report Club - By Sue Gleason
I belong to a book club, but it's not like other Book Clubs. We do not select one book for each
meeting that we all read and discuss in depth. Instead, we each report about what we have read
in the last month. Sometime members own the books they discuss. We have a ledger book, and if a
member wishes to borrow a book that another member is willing to lend, that loan is recorded.
I am not sure why the club developed the way it did: probably because we could not readily find
something that everyone wanted to read. This member, and perhaps others, refused to read
anything she could not be enthusiastic about. So while most Book Clubs emulate a college
literature seminar, ours is more like sixth grade book reports.
I volunteered to take notes for a member who missed the September meeting. I usually do this anyway.
I make a list of books mentioned, noting which I want to read and a quick impression of why; also
which ones to avoid and why. As a result, my notes are a very limited and
personal view of what has been said.
I have several friends who might like to be in our Book Club but cannot. Some of these potential members
live far away or have jobs! And also, to keep the length of the meetings manageable, we find that ten
is enough members. I want to share what we discuss with people who would like to attend but cannot.
Also, I realize that this book club format might work for other groups, although I have never heard of
anyone else following this model. And it certainly might liberate members of
other conventional book clubs, or enable other groups of non-conformers to form.
Sept 12 2007 meeting - What I think I would like to read, based on reports by others:
- Omnivore's Dilemma - Michael Pollan - Read This Book. Terrific and thought provoking. All the issues
we are thinking about now are touched on.
- Hons and Rebels - Jessica Mitford - memoir of her youth in the 20's and 30's - fabulous story (originally
issued as Daughters and Rebels).
- The Custom of the Country - Edith Wharton - terrific funny well written ; contemporaneous to Howard's End -
story of a midwestern social climber who makes multiple marriages after moving to NY.
- The Good Husband of Zebra Drive - Alexander McCall Smith - next in the light series many of us enjoy.
- The Bean Trees - Barbara Kingsolver - wonderful story about a woman who informally adopts a child.
- July's People - Nadine Gordimer - I read all her books in the past and loved most of them.
- Eat Pray Love - Elizabeth Gilbert - memoir of travels by a recently divorced young woman. Very
witty; beautiful writing.
- All the Days and Nights, So Long See You Tomorrow - William Maxwell - writings by the long-time
New Yorker editor.
- The Reluctant Fundamentalist - Mohsin Hamid - current fiction.
- I Feel Bad About My Neck - Nora Ephron - fun 5-minute read
- Autobiography of a Face Ann Patchett - memoir of a friendship; good writer but perhaps sad.
- Rattled - Debra Galant - very light and funny; local writer; reminiscent of Jean Kerr.
- Roger's Version - John Updike - discussion on whether God exists (great writer but...)
- Iain Pears - art history mystery series - fabulous, light, fun, literate
- Edith Wharton- Hermione Lee - very good bio (but I rarely like them unless autobio..)
- The Buccaneers - Edith Wharton's last book (finished postumously by Marion Manwaring)
Not for me -
- The Emperor's Children - Claire Messud - I did not like it; others did.
- Presidential Courage - Michael Beschloss - unpopular stands taken by various Presidents; surprising
issues and very readable.
- The Prince of Darkness - Robert Novak - some good gossip but no great shakes overall.
- The Power and the Glory - David Yallop - about the Catholic Church but also boring.
- Times to Remember - Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy - autobiography. Reader loved it despite great length
and lack of frankness on some subjects.
- Parish Priest - Brinkley and Fenster - not good.
- Black and Blue -Anna Quindlen - story of a beaten wife and her escape; good to some - repetitious
- Trevayne - Robert Ludlum - government agency corruption tale; interesting; convincing; good beach book
- Osman's Dream - Carolyn Finkel - 600 page history of the Ottoman Empire over 600 years.
- God is Not Great - Christopher Hitchens. Very scholarly; about organized religion.
- Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Luis Zafon - a gothic novel about how books can change your life.
evoked mixed reactions in several readers; one said - translation from the Spanish too literal .
What I read and don't recommend particularly:
- February House - Sherill Tippins - American Bloomsbury saga (McCullers, Auden, Britten, Harpers
Bazaar editor George Davis who was in LoveMusik about Brecht/Weill which I had just seen-
Expected to love this book about all these great people in my home town of Brookyln -but I did not
like it; depressing because kept discussing WWII - did not finish. Some members loved it.
- You've Got Peacocks - Donna Andrews -light ladies mystery. Made it through but barely.
also You've Got Murder - about AIP Turing Hopper (Artificial Intelligence Personality) -
a humanoid computer thing - liked that better; new for me though it's sci fi standard idea.
- Nancy Culpepper - Bobbie Ann Mason - good but depressing - did not finish, though I like the writer.
What I read and enjoyed:
- Cowboys are My Weakness - Pam Houston (author found accidentally by my friend SF at a library sale)
Fabulous, breathless tales about women's feelings for men, animals, nature. Writer is the
director of creative writing at UC Davis (even though none of us ever heard of her). New favorite.
also Sight Hound - good story about a dog dying of cancer!
- Continental Drift - James D Houston. I loved it. Family saga on the San Andreas Fault;
romantic older couple with son who was in Vietnam. Reminiscent of Stegner, DH Lawrence,
Brookland et al.
- Spending - Mary Gordon. A cross between soft porn for the over-50 set and a good novel with
philosophical pretensions. About a woman artist riffing on medieval paintings of Christ after
passion in the more common usage -maybe sacrilegious.
- Sixty Days and Counting - Kim Stanley Robinson - 3rd in trilogy on global warming; medium good -
very realistic and persuasive (the first in the series is terrific.
- The Glass Palace - Amitav Ghosh -very good old fashioned historical
romantic family saga novel in Burma.
- In Case We're Separated - Alice Mattison - excellent; connected
stories. By an author I knew well growing up.
Comment from a friend I had wanted to invite :
I really enjoyed reading what people are reading ! This is an idea that
could catch on and I loved the way you said it's like a sixth grade
report. I think readers may be inspired to start such clubs. People
like me who refuse to join book clubs because the reading feels like
an assignment! Carry on !!!
Page copyright by Sue Gleason, September 23, 2007; Last updated: September 26, 2007