20 January 2008

Stuff I've Been Reading 2


  • A whole bunch of stuff on Amazon; too many to list here
  • Kitchen Confidential - Anthony Bourdain
  • This Is Not Chick Lit: Original Stories by America's Best Women Writers - Elizabeth Merrick
  • Liar's Poker: Rising Through the Wreckage on Wall Street - Michael Lewis
  • King Dork - Frank Portman
  • How Sassy Changed My Life - Kara Jesella & Marisa Meltzer
  • Skin Deep - Karol Griffin
  • The Princess Bride - William Goldman
It's really hard to talk about books. I mean, with something like movies, it's easy to go over major themes, which scenes you liked, the work of the actors and/or the directors. But talking to somebody about a book is kind of difficult. Generally speaking, after explaining "What's it about?" the conversation ends because all you can really do is wait for the reply of "Okay, that sounds awesome, I'll read it." This is mainly true of literature and fiction books. Non-fiction books tend to lend themselves to discussion much better.

I've figured that out after many book club meetings, where invariably, the best meetings (meaning the most animated and free flowing discussions) are during the non-fiction months. It's just hard to explain why you loved certain parts of a book without referring to the source material constantly. And people are here to talk, not to be read at.

With that in mind, if I were to put together my ultimate one hour book club meeting, I'd format it something like this:
  • Start with a quick vote of who liked it and who didn't so we know where everyone stands.
  • Recap what happened in the book because chances are, half the people in attendance didn't finish the book.
  • Have someone knowledgeable lead a quick run through of major themes, characters, points of interest. Like you would have in English class. I want someone to bring some literary heft to the table.
  • People can bring up questions and points of interest, perhaps referring to a quote or part of the book that really struck them deeply.
  • Discuss the author and the work as far as their style and historical placement. Or fun facts about the author that might lend some perspective to the novel.
  • Plan to go see the film version; or discuss who should be cast as the main characters. Never skip this portion of the meeting, it's key.
  • Have an email list (or blog) that allows a lead up to the actual physical meeting. Giving people a chance to communicate about the book beforehand is useful and some people are more comfortable articulating themselves online. Plus, it fosters more in-depth communication because people can take their time to read, reflect, and react.
  • Everyone should bring in or discuss what they've been reading that month. After all, a book club isn't just about the book of the month, but connecting with people about reading in general. Show me your books!
As much as bibliophiles love books, it's just hard to talk about them sometimes isn't it? Maybe books by nature are supposed to be a solitary experience but once we've encountered something great, don't we want to share and talk about it? I sure do.