Guest Post: In Praise of Book Clubs, Vol. 9

In this 9th edition of In Praise of Book Clubs, Becca from The Inside Cover talks about her book club, where some months they drink more wine then read, but no matter what they have a ‘ton of fun’. This month her online book club is reading Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks.

When I was in college I stopped reading “fun books” because I was so laden with school assignments, not to mention the three jobs I was working to pay my tuition. Toward the end it really started to gnaw at me that I wasn’t enjoying reading anymore, especially considering I’d always been a huge book-aholic. So I decided to start a book club – and I asked everybody I knew to join in. The book we chose for our first meeting was “Life of Pi.” We never did actually meet even though I saw a bunch of the girls walking around with the book for a while. The problem was none of us were really into the book. And most of us weren’t that close of friends.

A year later, I decided to try again with some of my closer friends. Most of them aren’t really readers, but for us it was an excuse to get together at least once a month for a gossip session and some wine. Our college years were winding down and we were seeing each other less and less often as we began to work “real” jobs and worry about life and rents and mortgages. So in January 2006 we had our first book club meeting, in which we discussed The Secret Life of Bees. To date, this is the only book we’ve discussed with any amount of seriousness, having used the “book club guide” in the back of the book for discussion questions.

As our book club grew and became a monthly ritual, we didn’t want anyone to feel unwelcome for not having read the book, so we sort of have this unwritten rule that as long as you bring some wine and good gossip, you’ll be forgiven for not reading the book. We go in circles – some months nearly everyone has read the books, and some months there is an abundance of wine at the meeting. I guess we still haven’t gotten to a level where we all know which books everyone would read. No matter what though, we have a ton of fun, and our book club has kept us close even though we live farther away than any of us would like.

In the meantime, I’ve taken part in some other book clubs and have had wonderful book discussions with more serious readers. While living in Paris last year, I joined meetin.org and took part in their monthly book club. It gave me an opportunity to read a number of books I wouldn’t have chosen on my own and opened my mind to new genres. And, more recently, I’ve started my own online book club over at The Inside Cover and I plan to take part in my local library’s “Banned Books” book club. When you like to read, you can never be a part of too many book clubs.

Blogger Bio: Rebecca lives in Sacramento, California, where she works as a freelance journalist and lives with her boyfriend of two years. She loves flip flops, traveling, being outdoors, and spending time with her friends. Although she has been blogging since 2005, her book blog (The Inside Cover) didn’t come on the scene until early this year. Rebecca is a huge fan of travel essays and memoirs, but will read just about anything she can get her hands on.

***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 Springtime on Mars by Susan Woodring, click HERE and leave a comment by June 6.

Review: Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks is the fictional account of an 18 year old widow with two young boys set against the larger backdrop of the true story of the plague in a remote village in Derbyshire in 1665-1666. 

Anna, a servant to the town minister Michael Mompellion, is alone with her boys after her young husband dies in a mining accident.  The bubonic plague arrives in the village with a tailor from London, who Anna has taken in as a boarder.  In horrifying detail we watch as the disease spreads from Anna’s cottage to her neighbors’ homes and the greater community. 

In the early weeks of the plague, the minister gathers his flock together and has them take the Sunday Oath, in which they will voluntarily seal off their town’s borders to allow the plague to run it’s course without anyone entering or exiting their village. Anna forges an unlikely friendship with the minister’s wife Elinor, together becoming well versed in the use of herbs to comfort and alleviate pain.  She tends to the sick even as she grieves for the dead.  Miraculously she survives the year that claims 1/3rd of the town’s population.  Her perseverance in the face of death is truly inspiring.

Year of Wonders made me wonder- how much can one person take?  Clearly, as the saying goes, that which does not kill us makes us stronger.  This novel speaks to the indomitable human spirit.  It made me grateful for things like hand sanitizer and antibiotics.  It made me appreciate the blessings of hot running water and flush toilets.  It made me worry more than I already do about asian bird flu, mad cow disease and deadly SARS.  But for all the horrifying and grim detail of this book, it is absolutely wonderful and one I cannot recommend highly enough. Geraldine Brooks has done an exceptional job of blending historical fact with fiction.  She is a magnificent storyteller.   

Ms. Brooks is the Pulitzer Prize winning author of March, about the absent father in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women.  Her most recent novel, People of the Book, was released in January.  You can find her website HERE.

I look forward to discussing this book at my book club meeting in June, and also with the online book group at The Inside Cover.  If you’d like to participate in that discussion- run out and get a copy of Year of Wonders and be ready to talk about it on May 31st.

You can find another review of Year of Wonders at Devourer of Books