Looking for Suggestions

I’m looking for some help.  I’ve got an idea for a family bonding experience.  Our get togethers aren’t as lively as I’d like, and usually I’m placed at a dinner table next to my dear step-grandma, an intelligent, kind woman, who loves to tell me all the latest antics of people I’ve never met.  She gets offended if I interrupt to say, “Now, who is Randy again?” and she’ll say, “Don’t you remember?  He’s Kenny’s 2nd cousin’s husband, the one from Fresno?  With the son who is a blackjack dealer in Reno?  I mentioned him at Christmas!” and then she resumes the story as my eyes glaze over, not daring to ask who Kenny might be.

So, back to my idea.  There are 8 of us- 4 couples- ranging in age from 29 to 87.  Three of us, including the oldest two, are Japanese Americans.  The oldest couple are first generation Japanese Americans who actually remember being in the internment camps in Central California during World War II as children.  The youngest of us is my brother’s longtime girlfriend.  She is a first generation Chinese American.  4 of us grew up in California, the rest of us are transplanted midwesterners with WASP-y heritages. The women and one of the men love to read, the rest are reluctant readers.

My idea is that I’d choose a book for all of us to read and discuss.  I’d give the books out as gifts on Mother’s Day (the next time we’ll all be in the same room at the same time) and we’d discuss the book on Father’s Day.  The reluctant readers might receive an audio book.

My dilemma– what book would appeal to a group with such wide differences in age and backgrounds? Does a book like that exist?  I’m looking for suggestions.  Please let me know what you think.

14 Responses

  1. I’m so glad you asked!! My family started a book club a few years back (here’s a link to the history of it, plus what we’ve read: http://bookclubclassics.com/Blog/2008/01/09/my-family-book-club/ ). It has been a wonderful experience for us. I would recommend choosing a book that isn’t too long and is fairly accessible for your first choice (we did To Kill A Mockingbird).

    I taught Farewell to Manzanar for years and wondered if this might be a good choice for your first selection? It is short, accessible, and focuses on the internment camps and might spark great discussion.

    Our most recent selection was Three Cups of Tea — which led to an interesting discussion on trying to balance social justice with private responsibilities to family and friends.

    Please post on what you choose and then how it goes — !!

  2. First off.. I love your idea. The other members of my family do not read..nor do the family members on my husband’s side. However, if I had to choose a book I agree it should probably be something that can be interpreted in different ways by each person..

    My book group (both men and women of different ages) enjoyed The Keep, by Jennifer Egan. It was mysterious and very readable but allowed each of us to have different interpretations of the end.

    As for an “almost classic”, I have always enjoyed A Separate Peace, by John Knowles. It’s a coming of age book but it’s one of those books that means different things to the reader depending on what time of their life they choose to read it.

    There are a lot of “family” stories out there but so many are dysfunctional and others are often too “fluffy” in nature.

    I can’t wait to see what everyone else comes up with.


  3. What about something non-fiction like Blink or The Tipping Point by Gladwell? That might appeal to a variety of readers…

  4. “All Creatures Great and Small” by James Herriot. Everyone should like that book.

  5. Maybe you could go with a classic, that way they’ll have all heard of it and possibly thought of reading it before. Some of my favorite choices would be “Grapes of Wrath,” “Things Fall Apart,” or “The Good Earth.”

    Super fun idea. I doubt it would work for my family though. We’re not interested in any of the same things. 😦

  6. My favorite book ever is “The Sparrow” by Mary Doria Russell… I’m not sure how well it would work for such a diverse audience, but it does have a lot of different elements to it, a little sci fi (space travel), some religion, it’s funny in parts, there’s sort of love stories in it… It’s just really amazing but I don’t know if all your family would enjoy it.

  7. What a fun idea! It’s great that your family is open to this. I can only imagine the ridicule and crazy looks I would get if I suggested it! I’m sorry I can’t think of any titles to recommend. Well, I have yet to read this but my husband who is NOT a big reader, just bought Oil by Upton Sinclair. Then you could go see the movie There Will Be Blood.

    I am loving the comments so far and I’m now adding The Sparrow to my tbr. Someone just last night rec’d Three Cups of Tea to me.

  8. I think this is a great idea as well. My suggestion would be to pick a book with a lot of characters to increase the chance that there would be someone in the books that everyone enjoys reading about; I would suggest Barbara Kingsolver’s Poisonwood Bible. There are two drawbacks with it: (1) The book is long and (2) The drawbacks to missionary work are discussed which some may not like. When I read this as part of a book club, we split it up, so that every meeting our goal would be to read a few chapters. This helped to make the book more manageable.

  9. My mom is guilty of this – telling story after story about people I”ve never met and never will…drives me mad!

    Hmm. I’m having trouble coming up with titles though. If you have reluctant readers you want something that’s not too difficult or feels like work. Something that keeps you turning pages. Water for Elephants. Something by Bill Bryson. A mystery. The Everest book by Jon Krakaur (I saw this today so was thinking of this book.) Let us know what you decide!

  10. What a super cool idea! I wish I had a good suggestion, but aside from the dreaded high school classics (which probably weren’t really bad at all) it is hard to think of a book that would appeal to both sexes of all ages and interests. Hmmm…..if I come up with something I’ll let you know. Good luck!

  11. This would be impossible with my family! I am trying to think of a suggestion for you. Are there really UNISEX books out there? There aren’t many books that even my hubby and I would both read on our shelves other than cookbooks or travel books. I’ll think about it and see if I come up with anything.

  12. Thanks for all the great comments!! After extensive searching, I think I’ve hit on THE book for us. Wait Till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin is a coming of age story set in New York in the 50s with a baseball theme that has great reviews. The baseball theme is perfect as the men in the group are rabid Dodger fans. It has a father/daughter story and we’ll be discussing it on Father’s Day, also perfect. And it has a reading theme, which is what I’m trying to encourage! There are paperback editions, audio editions, and a large print edition for grandma.. perfect! So I think that will be my first pick, although I took down all the great suggestions here for the future. THANKS for all of your help!

  13. My family has a book club although it’s only the women. We range in ages 83-22. I have learned so much from my aunts and grandma that I would have probably never learned had we not formed this bookclub. Another great book is Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. Good luck and please post the outcome.

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