Last June our book club discussed Eating Heaven, and author Jennie Shortridge attended by speakerphone. This was the first time we’d had an author in attendance and we were really nervous. One thing I remember and laugh about now from our conversation with her is that we were so concerned about taking up too much of her time that we jumped in with our questions almost as soon as she picked up the phone, and she said something like- “Well, hold on a minute, what are you guys eating? And are you enjoying some wine?” I remember she asked to “meet” each of us and we all introduced ourselves separately. She was so warm and friendly, and funny, too! We were so impressed with her and her book.
So imagine how happy I was when we found each other in blog-land, and how delirious I became when she agreed to a guest post! Please enjoy Jennie’s thoughts on The Power of Women Who Read. Ooooo, I am feeling powerful already!
The Power of Women Who Read
by Jennie Shortridge
Because I’m a reader and a woman, I may be biased on this topic, but I’ve had the opportunity to meet many other wonderful reading women through authoring three novels and attending many, many book group gatherings to discuss them. It’s no surprise to anyone that the majority of readers and book group members are women, and it’s no surprise book publishers drool over the thought of putting out a book that is book-group worthy.
This is where our power comes in. We can read Oprah books and NY Times bestsellers, or any other books someone else tells us to; there is no shame in that. For the most part, they’re fine books, and bestsellers for a reason. Of course, there are other options. Author Josh Henkins blogged here recently and offered you a challenge: choose something for your group that half of you haven’t read. I wanted to jump up and down clapping my hands when I read that. Yes, please! There are so many wonderful books out in the world. Why read the same twelve everyone else is reading?
As an author who attends book groups, in person and on the phone, I’d like to make a little pitch for those books whose authors aren’t yet household names. We are friendly, and available! We have insider stories of the book world, and of course, how the book was conceived and written. Some of us are funny, some serious, some weird, maybe, but we all have one thing in common. We love books as much as you do, and will sit and talk with you about them as long as you’ll let us.
But here’s where the power part comes in. By choosing those books that don’t get all of the marketing money and media attention, you send a message to publishers: we love these books. We purchase these books. We support these authors. Keep publishing them, too, along with the bestsellers and sure things. Publishers will take note.
How do you find great books? Ask your friends, your sisters and co-workers what they’ve loved lately. Ask your local bookseller for something beyond the front of the store. What secret gem lies in wait back in the shelves? Look at the employee recommended lists in bookstores. Ask librarians. Ask other book groups. Ask your hairdresser. Look to older books you missed the first time around. A book does not become stale or moldy with age. It seasons, just like we do, oh women readers.
In that spirit, I have a few book suggestions that may not have crossed your radar.
–Miss Alcott’s Email, by Kit Bakke. Yes, Kit is a friend here in Seattle, but I pick her book because it’s smart, wry, and delightfully subversive! Kit has the audacity to imagine that she finds a way to email back and forth with Louisa May Alcott, and in her wonderful prose, they discuss social movements, personal connections, writing and famous writers, and so much more.
–Church of the Dog, by Kaya McLaren. Highly recommended by friends, I’m about to embark on this novel myself. For now, I’ll just tell you what a famous author says about it: “Church of the Dog is a radiant novel that honors the broken among us, tenderly healing with its love, humor, and understanding. Kaya McLaren is a deeply wonderful writer. From the opening scene of Mara in her grandmother’s garden, through the wrenching finale on the ranch, I was stunned by this book. It’s a classic on the spirituality of everyday life…”—Luanne Rice, New York Times bestselling author
–Devils in the Sugar Shop, by Timothy Schaffert. LOADS of sexy fun mixed with utter poignancy as a group of offbeat Omaha women gather for a sex-toy party, ending up with more than they bargained for. Not for the prudish, as you may have guessed. I also love both of Timothy’s other books: The Singing and Dancing Daughters of God (I even blurbed it) and The Phantom Limbs of the Rollow Sisters.
–Firmin: Adventures of a Metropolitan Low-Life, by Sam Savage. This little book is the Ratatouille of the book world! It’s no cartoon, however, but the wonderful adventures and misadventures of a rat and his family inhabiting a Boston bookstore in the 1960s. Quirky, yes! Fun, yes! You’ll love it. I promise.
–Chez Moi, by Agnes Desarthe and Adriana Hunter. French author Desarthe tells the story of Myriam, a middle-aged wife and mother who, with no prior experience, opens a restaurant in Paris. With few resources, she sleeps in the dining room and bathes in the kitchen sink, struggling to come to terms with her painful past. Her delectable cuisine begins to bring in customers and Myriam finds that she may get a second chance at life and love. Chez Moi is a charming story that will appeal to those who love Chocolat and Like Water for Chocolate.
-In that vein, Home Cooking: A Writer’s Life in the Kitchen, by the late, great Laurie Colwin. If you’ve somehow missed Laurie’s books, they’re all wonderful.
-And of course, I’d be delighted if you chose one of my novels. You can read more about them at www.jennieshortridge.com.
I could go on all day. Claim your power, oh reading women! Make your own choices about what you read, and help broaden the scope of wonderful reading out there in the world, not just for you and your group, but for the community of readers whose decisions you impact here.
Jennie Shortridge is a three-time bestselling novelist. Her most recent book is Love and Biology at the Center of the Universe, and her second novel, Eating Heaven, has become a favorite book club pick for hundreds of groups, even one in Taiwan! Learn more about Jennie and her books HERE.
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