Thursday, October 27, 2011

Loving the Des Moines Life: Book Club, take one

After a failed attempt to start a book club in Albany (we managed to meet twice before admitting defeat), I hoped to find a book club rather than start my own. I was thrilled to hear one of chapters of P.E.O. (Philanthropic Educational Organization) I was invited to visit also has a book club. The book club meets every other month and reads two books.

What we read
The September picks were Sister by Rosamund Lupton (my review) and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (my review). While I liked one much more than the other, they both made great books for discussion. As many so often say, discussions of books you don't like are sometimes more enjoyable.

What we ate
I admit, I didn't quite know what to expect when it came to food and drink. I was delighted to see a smorgasbord of mini-wrap sandwiches, cheese and crackers, fresh fruit, nuts, and brownies. Plus, there were four bottles of wine. I was in heaven: snack, drink wine and read.

The consensus
One sign of a good book club: there is no consensus. Everyone was positive about Guernsey, but many had read it previously and didn't remember many of the details. Unfortunately, not everyone read Sister because the lines at the library are still quite long. One question I posed about Sister was the age of the sisters. For some reason, I didn't realize how young they were until I had been reading awhile. When it began, I assumed they were closer to my age. As the youngest person in book club, I asked if anyone else misread their ages. We agreed Bee's age was a little ambiguous initially.

What made for the most interesting discussion, however, was noting both novels are epistolary, albeit in dramatically different ways. It was an unintentional commonality when the books were selected, but it provided some interesting discussion.

The joy of spoilers
I try hard to not give out more than basic plot details in my reviews here, let alone spoilers (except, of course, in rare situations that merit them). The biggest thrill for me was being able to talk so candidly about literature. I had forgotten how rarely I get to engage in discussions rife with spoilers. Sister, a thriller, had some fascinating twists and surprises, and it was fun to hear which ones others found most surprising, as their  reactions varied from mine.

Next time...we spent almost as much time picking our next reads as we did discussing this month's reads, but I enjoyed the possibilities immensely. In the end, we couldn't narrow it down, so we picked three books:
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
Winter Garden by Kristin Hanah
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

How is that for variety? Can you guess which one I suggested? Several of the members have already read Winter Garden and love it, and I'm trying to wait for the temperature to drop so I can enjoy the winter-ness of it. Unbroken is new to all of us, and I'm excited to have an excuse to read it. I often need a push to read non-fiction, so I'm glad to have this one. We meet the week after Thanksgiving to discuss these three titles.

Now tell me: Have you read Unbroken or Winter Garden? What do you think of them as book club picks?

As an affiliate, I receive a very, very small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!


  1. Our book club is reading Unbroken too, so perhaps we can discuss it together when we are done! It sounds like this was a lovely first meeting with the club, and I am so glad that you found a group that you were comfortable with and who you could talk spoilers to until your heart was content. I am so happy for you to have found a new book club! Great post!

  2. I've only read Winter Garden of those three... if you get bored with the first half, push through because the second half is really good! ;)

  3. I am reading Unbroken right now for my book club. I was glad when my club chose it because I had been wanting to read it and this way, I knew it would get read, but I worry about what we'll discuss.

    It's pretty much a "this happened, and then this happened" kind of book. It's not really artfully done and I know there are limitations with non-fiction but it almost reads like a Wiki entry or something. Once I got past the childhood stuff, I have to admit that his story is fascinating.

    I think much of our discussion will be on how it was written, not so much his life...because what can you say? It happened.

  4. It love your comment "One sign of a good book club: there is no consensus." That is incredibly true. It's boring when we all agree on a book being good or bad. I love the discussions we have when one of us feels strongly in a completely different way.

  5. I haven't read either; I'm all caught up in massive envy over the awesomeness of your book club! I've been looking for one here for the reasons you articulated and my one attempt fell a bit flat.

  6. Great choices - I really loved Unbroken and State of Wonder.


Thank you for taking the time to comment. Happy reading!