Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Holiday Traditions

December brings lots of fun holiday traditions and book clubs have their share of them. The Spring Hill Book Club in Spring Hill, Kansas holds a cookie exchange in which members each bring a few dozen cookies and everyone goes home with some of each variety. The gals of MPBC in Lawrence, Kansas hold a luncheon at a member's house and exchange holiday books.

Also on MPBC's holiday agenda is the annual "People's Ballot" in which members rank the books that the group has read for the year. The #1 book is then written into the club's "permanent record." It's always a little nerve racking to find out how your book club colleagues truly feel about your selection.

So what are MPBC's #1 books? I figured you'd be curious, so here you go...(do I hear a drumroll?)

1999: The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
2000: Bleak House by Charles Dickens
2001: Victoria's Daughters by Jerrold M. Packard
2002: Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel
2003: Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand
2004: The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
2005: 1776 by David McCullough
2006: Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
2007: The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer

How about your book club? What are your holiday traditions? Let us know!


Saturday, November 15, 2008

How Does Your Book Club Operate?

As more book clubs jump onto whatareyoureading.com, some have shared information about how they run their affairs. MPBC of Lawrence, Kansas meets once a month at a member's house. The person who is hosting the meeting is also the person who chooses the book. While no one is assigned to research the selected book, often times members will bring supplementary information to enhance the discussion. And yes, food is key. There is usually some wine and a fabulous dessert involved as well.

A member of the WWW Book Club of Washington, D.C. reports that their club has two volunteers "present" the book at each meeting. This entails tracking down information on the author, reviews or other helpful background information. She reports, "I love that aspect of our group -- it just forces a bit more structure to the discussion." WWW meets monthly and the host provides dinner. "It has become one of my favorite things -- raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens...and book club evenings!"

What are your book club traditions? Don't be shy! Share your information with the rest of us.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Reading Communities

November 5th officially signals the end of the election season. We have a new President elect and fewer political yard signs dotting the landscape. But what will we do with ourselves? What in the world do have to talk about?

Hey, I have an idea. Let's talk about book club books!

The new crop of November book club selections is trickling in from various corners of the country. We've had the good fortune of ending up on a library list serv and a small group of savvy librarians have forwarded their choices. One of the more interesting submissions comes from The West Regional Book Discussion of Luling, Louisiana. The City of Refuge, by Tom Piazza is a novel about two families' experiences -- one black, one white -- during Hurricane Katrina. This book is the selection for the "One Book, One New Orleans" reading program, an initiative that encourages adult readers in the greater New Orleans metro area to read and discuss a common book.

Community reading programs are all the rage. They are a great way to bring citizens together for shared reading and book discussion events. What has your community read? Share the titles and let's build a list. There are bound to be some great ideas for book clubs lurking out there.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Maternal Echo

Have I become my mother?

I suppose that every middle-aged woman feels this at some moment in her life. I find myself saying things to my kids like, "Isn't this a beautiful Saturday morning? What would you like to do, clean the garage or vacuum?" I also have sticky notes on my dashboard with reminders to pick up the carpool and remember choir practice – a far better option than my mother, who used curly adding machine paper and straight pins.

But the true sign that I have morphed into my mother lies on my bedside table: books, piles of books. And what a bizarre collection it is: Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss, Measuring America: How an Untamed Wilderness Shaped the United States and Fulfilled the Promise of Democracy, by Andro Linklater, Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, Kansas Curiosities by Pam Grant, Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, and Team of Rivals, by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Some of my earliest memories as a kid were walking into my parents’ bedroom and seeing all sorts of books and magazines. While both of my parents are voracious readers, it is my mother who I best remember stretched out reading a magazine or romance novel. Her ultimate escape from seven children was to the bathroom where she would lock herself in, draw a bubble bath and read.

Fast forward forty-seven years and her daughter is repeating history. There are books on my bedside table and magazines in our bathrooms. So what, you ask, is my favorite place to escape? Yes, you guessed it -- to the bathtub, where kids nor phones can find me and I can enjoy my paperback in peace.

And my mother? She now is 80 and a member of two book clubs. Her reading list is long and impressive. She has provided lots of encouragement and advice to help me get whatareyoureading.com off and flying.

Reading is our guilt-free refuge. Yes, it eats up some of our precious time, but it’s the best sanity saver there is. And remember…your kids are taking notes.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

After a Long Delay...

Ok, I've finally figured this technology thing out. There's been a bit of a hiatus in my blogging. But now we're all linked up to the whatareyoureading.com website and ready to go. Sorry for being such a Luddite. Off we go...!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

My Motivation

This website is a totally selfish act.

The idea came to me when it was my turn to choose a book club book. I only have a once-a-year shot at picking a winner, so the pressure is always really on. In my opinion, there is only one thing to do in this situation: call my mother, my sisters or a friend in another book club and ask, “What are you reading?”

This annual odyssey of choosing a book club book got me dreaming about a place on the web where book clubs from all over the United States (and who knows, maybe all over the world) could come together and swap reading lists. Not only would I be providing a service, I could build a really great reading list for myself!

The result is whatareyoureading.com, an online community where members of book clubs unite to exchange lists, make recommendations about their favorite books and honestly spout off about those not-so-great reads. In addition, the site provides a central place for book clubs to check out great book-related links on the web.

Finally, my most important goal is to make whatareyoureading.com a lighthearted and fun destination for users. After all, reading is supposed to be enjoyable. What other hobby provides us all with an excuse to sit in a comfortable chair, take a break from the frenzy and lose ourselves in a good story?

So let’s not take ourselves too seriously. The truth is that few of us are literary experts. All we want to do is read and discuss great books!