Guest Post: In Praise of Book Clubs, Vol. 19

In this 19th volume of In Praise of Book Clubs, we hear from Sarah of the terrific blog, The Last Book I Read.  Here she talks about the book club she formed with other stay at home moms in her area.

I started my book club a little over a year ago.  As a stay at home mom of a then almost two year old I was craving the company of other women during the day who could talk about something other than their kids.  I went to a playgroup which I enjoyed, but I wanted a playgroup for ME.  And, while I have other girlfriends that I swap books with and talk books with all the time, I needed something in person and I wanted something during the daytime.  I wasn’t looking to get out of the house, but I was looking for better conversation.

So, I asked a couple friends and I put up a little sign and soon enough we had a group of 4.  We try to meet once a month and whoever hosts the group at her house gets to pick the book and also lead the discussion.  When we meet the kids go off and play together while we get to talk about the book.  We’re pretty informal-don’t really have any rules and it’s agreed that if you haven’t finished the book that’s ok.

One of the things I like about our group is that I think we don’t have the same exact reading tastes.  We like enough of the same books that it’s not a chore to read the month’s book (well, that’s not exactly always true), but we’ve all also been pushed into trying new things.  I prefer to choose books that we haven’t read before but it often happens that someone chooses a book she’s read before and wants the others to try.

Some of our selections have been The Memory Keeper’s DaughterNights of Rain and StarsWhen Rabbit Howls, Captain Corelli’s MandolinBelong to MeThe RoadThree Junes, and The Ice Queen.

Although it was not my intent at all, something that has naturally occurred is that we often talk about how we responded to a book as a mother of a young child.  For example, in our conversation about The Memory Keeper’s Daughter* we all found the deception of telling a mother her child had died was practically unbearable to contemplate.  Since having kids I’ve found myself even more emotional about death/kids/families in novels than I used to be (and that’s saying something because I’m an easy crier at books.)  My book group has shown me that I’m not the only one who’s become so sensitive to those topics.  [Our upcoming discussion is about Belong To Me, during which I cried and cried at the friend’s death imagining myself dying with my children around me.]

*(I like to steer clear of Oprah books when it comes to my picks, but we’ve actually read quite a few of them.  I hate to admit it but they usually are really easy to talk about and universally liked by us. I just have a thing about reading what everyone else reads.)

As a YA librarian I wanted to introduce my friends to some YA lit and chose Speak for my first book.  I thought the discussion we had about this book was one of our best yet.  A YA buddy had suggested it as being a good one for women to discuss because no matter who we are or were it was likely we could all think back to being a teenage girl and feelings of isolation.  This proved to be true!  I am looking forward to introducing some more YA titles into our mix, perhaps some Sarah Dessen or Shannon Hale.  I also think maybe we should try some sci-fi or fantasy since that is a genre we haven’t yet discussed.

We’ve definitely had some flops.  Captain Corelli’s Mandolin was only read by one of us.  Two of us couldn’t get more than two chapters in.  When Rabbit Howls was so interesting in concept, but in reality nobody could get through it.  It was one of those books that you like someone to tell you about, but it turns out that that’s enough. And even though it’s topped book lists galore for the past two years not one of us liked Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

Nickel and Dimed was another choice that really prompted conversation.  Truthfully, though, our conversation ended up being a lot more about what we thought about Ehrenreich, cleaning services, and the economy, and not so much about the book as a work of writing.  I think sometimes that happens with non-fiction choices– you don’t talk about it as a book per se, but just about the content.

Thanks to Lisa for inviting me to post about my book group.  I hope it encourages other stay at home moms to form their own groups!

Blogger Bio:  My name is Sarah, I’m a thirty-six year old young adult librarian, who is presently a stay-at-home mom. I have two children, aged  three and 9 months.  We live in central New Jersey in a beautiful area with lots of fields and farms.  I’ve been an avid reader since childhood.  I read a ton of ya books (hence, ya librarian), but I do like adult books too. I like historical romances, general fiction, and anything set in a boarding school! My blog is The Last Book I Read.

***Would you like to share about your book club here at Books on the Brain? If so, leave a comment and I will get in touch with you about a guest post!

For previous volumes of In Praise of Book Clubs, click HERE

For more info on starting your own book club, click HERE

For fun ways to make your book club better, click HERE

For a chance to win The Safety of Secrets by DeLaune Michel, click HERE

13 Responses

  1. Sarah, I really enjoyed reading about your book club! My book club had pretty much the same thoughts on The Memory Keeper’s Daughter.

    Speak and Nickel and Dimed sound like great books. I’m adding them to my TBR list.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. I appreciate your comments about the Oprah books – that’s exactly how I feel, but you worded it better than I could.🙂

  3. I like the mix of books that your club has read; seems like a great group. I’m jealous! 🙂

  4. I hadn’t thought of Nickel and Dimed as a book club read, but now I think you’re on to something. I feel the same way about the Oprah book club, incidentally.

  5. I really enjoyed The Memory Keeper’s Daughter! Kim Edwards is a Kentucky author (I’m from KY) and I love reading local authors!

  6. I wondered when you didn’t mention The Road in your first list if you had blocked it out! I get the feeling that The Road is meant to be a guy book. Nevertheless, you’ve put me off it enough that I don’t want to read it.

  7. […] 5, 2008 by Paul Sarah was invited to write a guest post for Books on the Brain.  She writes a great piece about the book club she started in which…aw heck, I won’t […]

  8. Fun post! I too am a stay-at-home Mom in New Jersey (and fellow guest poster here at Lisa’s blog) and even though my group doesn’t meet during the day, most of the women are mother’s and have found that our discussions can be pretty interesting since we always have a parent perspective.

  9. Thanks everyone for your nice comments! I’m looking forward to checking out your own blogs.
    Happy Reading,
    Sarah

  10. Great post! I loved Speak, and Nickel and Dimed myself.

    I am currently a New Jersey librarian who runs an Adult Book Discussion group in Central Jersey. We have an interesting group that chooses across genres for our selections- even having a “Short Stories for a Short Month” every Februrary. I’d like to share a post.

    I also blog about libraries and graphic novels and comic books at Redhead Fangirl.

    Thx!

  11. Thanks, Sarah, for a great post! I loved hearing about your book club.

  12. Great post Sarah! Isn’t it fun how books bring us together and book groups expand our thinking and our choices?

    I’ve been a member of a book club for over 7 years – Ladies on Literary Adventures (LOLAs). I’d love to write up something about our group to share.

  13. I love this series of posts! Interesting to learn how the various groups are formed, what they read, etc.

    I tend to shun the Oprah picks as well! For a while they ran along the same themes, then I felt like I got burnt reading James Frey’s *A Million Little PIeces*. (and, yes, I read *My Friend Leonard* as well, but haven’t pick up *Bright Shiny Morning*)

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