Monday #43: This Is How We Do Book Club

NOTE: If you are looking for the comprehensive book list for our book club, scroll down to the bottom of this post. Happy reading!

Summer’s here!  Time for road trips, beaches, cruises and vacations.  While some of us read for fun all year long, for many of us, summer and vacations mean that, at last, it’s time for recreational reading!  This week’s post is for anyone who wants to know what I might suggest for some great summer reading–or anytime reading, for that matter.  Shout out props go to my new friend and awesome creative person, Peggy Doyle, for encouraging me to put this out as a blog post.  Turns out, other people in the world do actually care what the rest of us are reading!  Yay!  First I’m going to talk about my book club and then I’ll give you a list of our books.

So, I love my book club.  Seven good friends I enjoy and respect.  Two hours on a Tuesday evening each month.  Books I (mostly) like reading and that make me think and talk about things that I wouldn’t otherwise think and talk about.  If you’ve been reading this blog, you know I can be a little bossy so I should tell you that I’m the self-appointed leader.  It’s a democracy, for sure, but, for the most part, I made up the rules.  I’ll give ‘em to you in a minute… trust me, they work.  You might even want to use them for your own book club.

I went to Mizzou and majored in creative writing and contemporary literature.  To me, being an english major was almost like cheating since so many semesters were spent doing something I would have done anyway!  I love to read and have been in some kind of an organized book club since 1999.  But, until I started my own book club, I was never completely happy with the ones I participated in for a number of reasons.  First off, as much as I like to chit-chat with my friends, I prefer to actually discuss the book I’ve spent the last month reading rather than discussing our children, our husbands, celebrity gossip or good and bad restaurants.  I also don’t like holding meetings at someone’s house because the temptation to veer off into a conversation about backsplash tiles or area rugs is just too great.  Plus, if it’s at my house, it means I probably have to clean.  Finally, wishy-washy schedules for meeting and unplanned book lists drove me crazy… “When can everyone meet next?  What book should we read?  Where should we have our meeting?”  We’re all busy, so what’s the matter with a little planning, you know?

So, this is how we do it.

Each late August or early September we have our Book List Party where we will choose an entire year’s worth of reading.  This time of year gives it a “back to school” kind of vibe and the weather is nicer, too.  This is actually the one meeting that is at someone’s house (my house) and we have good food, good beverages and a CAKE!  Traditionally, it’s a Mexican theme because one of our members makes killer Sangria.  :-)  It is both a celebration of the year of books we’ve read where we take a moment to talk about our favorites, and a picking party for the new year of reading.  Each person brings three books to pitch.  Ideally, these are books that they have not read, but want to read.  They’ve done a little research on their three choices and come with something to say to the group about each one in an effort to get their selections on the list.  First we eat and then we start our selection.

The selection begins with someone at the table and then goes around until everyone has had a turn.  One person at the table should be a secretary and a laptop is helpful and efficient for creating the final list while the selection process is happening.  This is the process:

  1. Pitch your three books, giving about 3-5 minutes on each.
  2. After your pitch, everyone votes on which one of your three they want.
  3. The most popular choice of your three is now on the list (if there is a tie, vote on the two to break it).
  4. Move on to the next member and repeat.
  5. The secretary keeps a running tally of all the votes, even for the ones that aren’t the final choices.

Since we have eight members, this process selects eight books for the final reading list.  The last four selections are slotted by voting again on the other books that received the most votes, which is why we keep a tally on all the books.  If there are ties, we vote again until we have four clear choices.  Doing it this way means that everyone gets at least one book onto the list.  Theoretically, someone could get all three of their books in but this has never happened.  Since each member will lead the discussion of her book(s), we take a moment to put them into the calendar to accommodate her best month(s) for this.

We came up with the day of the week that was best for everyone and so our book discussions meet the first Tuesday of each month at 7:00 p.m.  If there were a cute coffee shop in town that was open on Tuesday nights, we’d meet there, but there isn’t so we meet at a nearby Panera.  The leader for the book comes with biographical information on the author, discussion questions and any other information she wants to bring on the book or the author.  The meetings last about two hours.  Our club is made up of eight women (that’s right, all women, sorry, no men allowed in our club), which I think is a perfect number because it’s not too big when everyone can make it and we regularly get 3-6 people which works just fine.  We also have diverse religious and political backgrounds and I like this because I believe it makes our discussions more interesting and, at least for me, sometimes means that I read amazing books that I may never have chosen on my own.

I keep a running list of everything we’ve read since we started, so here you go: BOOK CLUB Comprehensive 05-11.  My top personal favorites are in green and my least favorites are in red and anything in black text is definitely worth reading.  In general, my favorites were also books that did well in discussion and that most or all of the members enjoyed as well.  If I had to pick three stellar books from my lists to begin with for the summer, I would choose Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese, The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse by Louise Erdrich, and Peace Like a River by Leif Enger.

I’m always up for suggestions so please add your favorites to the comment section here.  Happy reading, everyone!

TRY THIS WEEK:  Make time for a good book.

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About Dar Hosta James

I am an artist living in New Jersey. I write and illustrate children's books, paint, draw, blog, coach, teach and speak about creativity.
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9 Responses to Monday #43: This Is How We Do Book Club

  1. Pat Brisson says:

    Love the list, Dar. Thanks!

  2. Rose says:

    Thanks Dar – I printed the list. I love to read and plan to catch up on some great books over the summer. Another awesome blog – thanks!

  3. Peggy Doyle says:

    Thanks for sharing your well thought out plan for a book club – plan to start up one in the fall. Love the book list and the lovely compliment! :o) Thanks also for the introduction to the squish-squash books! I have been making them as graduation cards for lots of my son’s friends. Since I have so many photos through the years they are turning into mini photo albums. A huge hit!! Happy Summer!

  4. Kelly says:

    Although I read all year long, for some reason, I always enjoy books more during June, July and August .
    I went to the library today and brought home Cutting for Stone, I was happy to see it at the top of your list. Can’t wait to begin reading it tonight! Thanks for the great suggestions.

    • Dar Hosta says:

      Cutting For Stone is one of my top 10 of all time…. I hope you love it. Few books give me the urge to open them right back up and start at the beginning again but this was one of them. Make sure you give your self the luxury of nice blocks of time for this read. Enjoy.

      • Judy eckwielen says:

        I’ve always enjoyed your artistic talent….but now I can share your love of reading with mine. Cutting For Stone..a great choice and at the top of my list too.

  5. Carol Lange says:

    What fun! Friends, books, and Panera!
    Choosing books to read yourself is often difficult; choosing books to recommend to others shows considerable trust and respect! Now that’s a Book Club!

    I know a book is my favorite based on my three questions:
    Does it elevate me? Will I give it as a gift? Will I read it again?
    Your selections include many that are on my list of winners, but my best gifts are:

    The Art of Racing in the Rain (Garth Stein) unexpectedly tearful and uplifting-Enzo humbles me
    Loving Frank by Nancy Horan -why are fascinating men still so fascinating?

    All time gift-giving favorite:
    Gifts from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh (fast read, but read again, and again, and again-carry it with you)

    I just may start at the bottom of your list and work my way up – two more days until official summer reading starts for me!

  6. Pingback: Monday #52: The Finish Line? | Dar Hosta's Monday Blog

  7. Pingback: Monday #2: Labor of Love | Dar Hosta's 52 Mondays Blog

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