Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Sisterhood of the Travelling Book Club by Karen Rock

Reading is a solitary sport, but it doesn’t have to be. For years, I drifted through novels, swooning, gushing, ranting, laughing and had no one to share my feelings with… until book club. While teaching English at a local high school, I met two, fellow voracious readers and ELA teachers, Elizabeth and Jen, who shared my taste in books… which is to say anything well-written except westerns and extremely technical sci-fi.

We gabbed about our latest discoveries and recommended each other’s next reads. Eventually, we discovered we were all reading the same book one week and Elizabeth invited us to stop by her house on a weekend night to chat about the book, drink wine and sample cheese. We settled on a Friday night and enjoyed the evening so well we planned another the following month. Whoever hosted would chose the book.

Since we trusted each other’s tastes, we knew we’d be in for another great book and a fun night ahead. I believe our second book was THE RED TENT by Anita Diamant and since then we’ve read everything from thrillers like Gone Girl to poignant memoirs like Glass Castles. We seem to enjoy literary fiction that focuses on women, but we equally enjoy discussing hard-hitting, masculine epics like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Anything that makes us think, analyze, question and feel… we’re there.

Before long we added four more members: my sister Cathy, a school psychologist, my sister-in-law Joanne, a fellow romance author like me, and two close friends, Elaine and Michelle who are English and Journalism professors at our local university respectively. We each bring a unique perspective to our book discussions and never have a dull moment.

Joanne came up with our official book club name: Friday Night Book Club, and began a yahoo group for us that’s kept track of all of the books we’ve read over the past ten years. It’s impressive to look at and consider the passage of time. But deeper than that, are the changes we’ve seen in each other, supporting someone going through a divorce, losing a job, health scares, and wildly celebrating when someone got married, pregnant, a promotion, a new home. Through it all, Friday Night Book Club has been not only a celebration of books, but a celebration of friendship and sisterhood.

I’m as fascinated to hear how everyone’s kids are doing as I am to chat about the surprise twist at the end of our current read. It’s just as riveting to hear how Michelle is handling her switch from Public Relations Director to Professor of Journalism, how Elaine’s search for an agent is going, what plans are being made for Cathy’s autistic daughter who graduates high school this spring, if Jen thinks her current boyfriend will give up his “paleo” diet in time to have cake on her birthday, whether Joanne’s new house flipping project will finally get the plumbing fixed and if Elizabeth won her union election bid.

Those topics will shuffle again next month, just as our book selection will. We’ve travelled a fictional as well as a non-fiction journey together, coming-of-age, adult-style, through the years. I highly recommend forming a book club if you don’t already belong to one. More than the wonderful food, (you’ll see the Swedish meatballs and magic bars I served this weekend), and the terrific books, you’ll gain a close circle of friends bound by a love of reading and, eventually, a love of one another. Are you in a book club? What books are you reading? Let’s share! I’m reading Jojo Moyes’ ONE PLUS ONE and loving it J










27 comments:

  1. I love this, and I love your club. I've always been surprised (and, yeah, a little hurt) that no one has ever asked me to join a reading group. I've also been busy enough to not try to start one on my own. Maybe I'll think about it again now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Liz, we can Skype you in and make you our official long-distance member! The more the merrier :) But I'm glad it got you thinking about joining or forming a club. It's amazing how quickly, once you start asking, other women are eager to join up. They'd be lucky to be in a club with you!

      Delete
  2. Replies
    1. We laugh so much some nights, Tara, my cheeks hurt the next day! Always a good time :)

      Delete
  3. I have a friend, formerly a writer, who has been in her book club for 10 years. She loves it. I'm such an eclectic reader that I think it would be hard for me. And I slack off reading when I'm starting to write a new book, or when I'm working on proposals. I just finished the February Heartwarmings which were all excellent (ha-I didn't have to read mine) and Rachel Hauck's How To Catch a Prince. I can recommend it. Also my sister and I are reading Sheila Connolly's mystery series set in Ireland (Cork) where my family came from. Those are good. My sister liked her writing so well she's now read Sheila's apple orchard series and museum books. That's how writers grab new readers. Karen, great post. I'm beginning the first book in a trilogy I recently sold to the American line, so my reading will be spotty for a while.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Congratulations on your American trilogy, Roz.

      Delete
    2. Congratulations on your American trilogy, Roz! We'll add that, and your other great recommendations to the list. We love Irish writers and have been Tana French- The Dublin Murder Squad- series fans :)

      Delete
  4. Over the years, I've been invited to discuss my own titles at lots of book clubs, but like you, Liz, I've never been invited to join one. Maybe people think because we write, we'd turn into crazy literature professor types, second-guessing all their opinions? WE WOULDN'T, Y'ALL! WE PROMISE!

    Love the description of your club, Karen! And those magic bars look mighty tasty, too! :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Loree! They were too good. I gained another three pounds before I made myself throw them out. Sheesh. Still. All is fair in food and book club :) I hope you do join a group. You are exactly the best kind of member because you would provide those great insights.

      Delete
  5. Over the years, I've been invited to discuss my own titles at lots of book clubs, but like you, Liz, I've never been invited to join one. Maybe people think because we write, we'd turn into crazy literature professor types, second-guessing all their opinions? WE WOULDN'T, Y'ALL! WE PROMISE!

    Love the description of your club, Karen! And those magic bars look mighty tasty, too! :-)

    ReplyDelete
  6. I want to be in your book club, Karen. It sounds like great fun! I'm currently re-reading Still Alice. I read it early last year, but I wanted to read it again before I see the movie.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aw! I wish you could be in the club, Jill. I bet you could form a fabulous one. I haven't read Still Alice, but I downloaded a sample to my Kindle which is how I hold books I plan to purchase once I finish the ones I'm currently reading (usually that's 2-3 at a time unless it's Jojo Moyes and then I'm consumed!)

      Delete
  7. Your book club sound like so much fun! That's the way book clubs should be. I am filled with envy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much, Kristine :) Those ladies are like sisters to me and the best of friends. We could read the dictionary and we'd still make it a fun night- lol.

      Delete
  8. Love your book club, Karen. I saw the Jane Austen Book Club again - love that movie. I belonged to a Mystery Book Club for a while but some of the books they read contained such God-awful stuff. (Nothing against them. They'd been together a long time and had read so much already.) Anyway - I'm a woosy reader. I love romance in all its sub genres, and have no desire to read about tragedy, horrible loss, and other significant stuff. But getting together with other women to discuss what you have in common - or what you don't - is certainly good for the soul. And I love the notion of cookies and Swedish meatballs!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Muriel :) Cookies, Swedish meatballs, literature and friendship... a powerful combination! I can't help liking the darker reads as much as the light, but the good thing in our club is that we read whatever the host chooses and it's exposed us all to books outside of what we might have picked for ourselves. Sometimes the selections don't work for me- so I kind of skim enough to be part of the chat- but for the most part, it's really worked out :)

      Delete
  9. I'm with Kristine and several others--envious of your book club, Karen. I do have a great group of writer/friends here. Our writer meetings tend to range from actual writing topics to whatever else is going on in our lives. Send some of those meatballs and cookies my way! Yum.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Meatballs and cookies, in-coming, Leigh!! lol. I have a YA writers group that's wonderful and agree that they are great groups to join, too. Unfortunately, living so far north, I don't have any other romance writers except my sister-in-law Joanne whom I speak to at least 2-3 times a week!

      Delete
  10. Karen, I love how your book club developed naturally and into a group of friends or 'kindred spirits'. I'm not part of a book club, but this post is making me want to be! I'd want there to be that sense of friendship in it too :).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rula, I couldn't encourage you do form one more! None of us were necessarily looking for, or felt we needed, close friendships as we were all (and still are) in the middle of work and raising a family and running households... yet setting aside that sacred time that belonged to no one but us actually gave us more energy for the rest of our lives and friendships and sisters that will be there for a long long time.

      Delete
  11. Your book club sounds great, Karen! We have a monthly book club that meets at noon at the local library. We all bring our lunch and discuss the latest books we've read and enjoyed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What a great place for a book club, Britney! And you also get to hear about what other great books the members are reading and recommending. What a terrific way to spend lunch together :)

      Delete
  12. I'm with Liz, I'd love to be in a book club. I've been invited, but I can just see me trying to squeeze in time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know what you mean, Pam! At first, I wasn't sure but oddly enough having that one sacred night where it isn't about work or family energizes me when I go back to my regular world. It's so relaxing and fun and if you have time to squeeze it in, I couldn't recommend it more :)

      Delete
  13. I've never belonged to a book club, although I've spoken to several. If I could find one like Karen's I'd join one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Join us, Patricia :) You could Skype in... And you could form one, too, if you have a couple of friends that tend to read the same things you do. And how lovely to have spoken to some. I spoke to a local group in upstate New York but it was their first Harlequin romance and most expected a bodice ripper instead of a heartwarmer... sigh... still, they were very gracious :)

      Delete
  14. I'm sorry I missed the original day of this post because I enjoyed reading it so much. I tried to start a book club but it didn't really get off to an encouraging start. Two of the members almost immediately were confronted with serious health issues involving themselves and close family members. Another would-be member moved away. But, maybe when things settle down (do things ever really settle down?), I'll get more serious about starting one. The trouble might be me. I have such a long list of books I'd like to read that I wonder if I'll want to read someone else's suggestions. I can be selfish when it comes to books and reading. And for some reason I'm a sucker for reading authors' books when asked. I like to help them out with reviews. I truly love doing that. See....I'm all over the place. But, I was inspired by your book club Karen. ( :

    ReplyDelete