Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Book Clubs are the Best!

What happens when a group of women enter your house bearing food, drinks, and all carrying the same book? An amazing book club adventure, that's what!!

This past year was my second year at a new school in my district. As the newbie last year, I sort of sat back and did a lot of observing of my new colleagues. What I noticed right away was the social nature of this group. In my second year, I wanted to see if this social group would be interested in starting a book club. I threw the idea out to the entire staff by email in April, and for our first organizational meeting in May, 23 people expressed an interest in participating in this book club!! 23!! That was a whole lot of energy and excitement about reading and discussing books together!

Last night was the inaugural book club meeting of a GREat group of women - 14 of us were able to make it! We met at my house, and as in all fun social gatherings, the first 45 minutes or so was spent on catching up on each other's summers and enjoying good food and drink. After we filled our tummies, quenched our thirsts, and tried to finish the last anecdote about vacation, we were ready to get down to the big conversation.

We had selected Little Bee as the book to read and discuss. Those of you who have read this book know that it is not at all an easy book to read due to its content, but wow, does it make for great discussions!! Not knowing how the conversation would flow, I tossed out a feeling I had about the ending of the book, and then the fun began. People were so eager to wonder, ask questions, give opinions, share favorite parts, talk about language, and talk about characters. We didn't have a list of guidelines; we were just a group of fun, smart women talking about a book that had several important messages for all of us. The conversation was a like a ping pong ball being hit all around the room. Some of us had a lot to say; others not as much, but everything shared added to our appreciation of the book, Little Bee.

It was also interesting to see the format in which each of us had read Little Bee. The majority of us had an actual paper book, but one had it on her iPad, and another had read it on a Kindle. I love that there are choices available to suit each readers' needs.

For me, book clubs are so rejuvenating!! It is an opportunity to share a book communally and talk about meaty topics. That experience just heightens my appreciation of the book. I'm still abuzz with the excitement of last night, and I look forward to sharing books with this lovely group of women for a long time to come!

We have decided to read The Lincoln Lawyer for July, followed by Jodi Picoult's latest, and then Half-Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls (many had read and loved her memoir, The Glass Castle). We are also considering the following as future reads:
  • Unbroken
  • Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
  • Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett
  • State of Wonder - Patchett's latest
  • The Alchemist
If you have any other great book club suggestions, I would love to hear from you so I can relay some more choices to this wonderful group of women.


  1. I loved JOY FOR BEGINNERS by Erica Bauermeister.

  2. We started a teacher book club at our school as well and it has gone off AMAZINGLY well! We are focusing on YA literature that we can use in our classrooms, with a sprinkle of adult literature in there. It has been so much fun and we have only met twice so far!

    Congrats on the success of your club!

  3. Carol - thanks so much for the title. I have added it to the groups' TBR list!

    Lindsay - isn't it great together over something besides just school and get to know one another in a different context? Love it!! You will have to share some of your YA titles, please.

  4. So sad that I missed the book talk.
    It sounds like everyone had a wonderful time. Hope to get to the next one.

  5. If you are thinking about YA literature, I would suggest Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, Strings Attached by Judy Blundell, Blink and Caution by Tim Wynne-Jones, Nothing by Janne Teller, Burn by Anna Fullerton. All are written by thoughtful and amazing writers and will lead to their other books. For adult reading, I would add Annabel by Kathleen Winter, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Shaffer nd Barrows, and When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sederis. All wonderful and would inspire much discussion! Good luck!

  6. I'm sitting of the parking lot of the bookstore as I read your post! Ready to get the next few books. Can't wait for our next gathering! Thanks for organizing us, Karen!

  7. Karen - hope you can make it to one soon! So much amazing energy in the room.

    Sal - thanks for the YA and adult titles. Will be adding those to our list as well.

    Maureen - I'm so glad you were there. I'm still so happy about what happened 2 days after t happened. What great conversations and what a wonderful way to know each other outside of the school setting.

  8. Hi Karen,
    I have been organizing a summer book club for our teachers for the past three years. We started out strong, but then slowly people stopped actually reading the books. We devolved into just a social group..which was still fun. You miss your school family over the summer.

    But this year we are reading 2 Newbery nominees, and we actually talked a little about the book!

    I LOVED Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. You might also consider The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. We all enjoyed that one and its a quick easy read!

    Happy Reading!

  9. I participate in a book club with some friends, and I must say that it is a wonderful experience every month-- even the month that NO ONE read the text chosen to discuss (let's just call that a fluke).

    We started in January 2011 and read one book each month. We vote for the next month's book from a pool of suggestions that the members bring. Choosing the next book is always taken care of after the discussion of the current book finishes.

    And yes, there is always food.

    Our Past Reads:
    1. Jan - Super Sad True Love Story, Gary Shteyngart
    2. Feb - The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov
    3. Mar - Room, Emma Donoghue
    4. Apr - Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen
    5. May - The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot
    6. Jun - Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese

    I'm going to suggest Unbroken-- again!!-- and hopefully someone else will go along with me this time. I really want to read it!

    My favorite read so far has been Cutting for Stone by Verghese; very evocative and elegant, with a truly meaty story. Fans of John Irving will likely enjoy this novel.

    Now I've written too much. Happy Reading!

  10. Karen, I love my book club too. When we first started (I don't even remember how many years it's been), we were all at the same building. Now we are each at different buildings and it's so nice to be able to keep in touch once a month and talk about a great book. We have read a few of them that are on your list and I'm going to take some of your suggestions to my book group. Glad it went so well! Julie

  11. So sorry to Stacey, Jennifer, and Julie for not getting your comments posted sooner. I totally forgot to check the blog over the weekend. Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving your thoughts.

    Stacey - Read The Guernsey Literary book and loved it! Would read it again if this group wants to. Hope Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet makes it also. Really want to read it!

    Jennifer - thanks so much for leaving your list! Will be sharing it with my group. I also loved Cutting for Stone, but we nixed it for now because of its length. Unbroken is sitting on my iBook shelf calling my name right now.

    Julie - I'm actually in a 2nd book club that is similar to yours. We're either in different buildings or retired. Book club is such a nice way to catch up on one anothers' lives!

  12. Karen,
    I've had this post in the back of my mind since I read it several weeks ago. What a terrific idea! Of course, I came back today to look at the list of books you have been discussing. I have been reading quite a bit of nonfiction lately, and think it is time for a different read. Thanks for sharing. You always keep me thinking.