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Chicagoland book club: 43 years after the big snow

Lifestyle and LeisureBars and ClubsDining and DrinkingBookClubs and AssociationsAmy TanChicago Tribune

Things to know about our book club: Our book club began in Glenview during the big snow in 1967 when two mothers, snowed in with young children, decided to organize a neighborhood book club for much-needed intellectual stimulation. We started with six members and an ambitious reading list that included Honore de Balzac's “Cousin Bette,” Franz Kafka's “The Trial,” Thomas Mann's “The Magic Mountain,” James Joyce's “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” and Stendhal's “The Red and the Black.” We now have 15 members who live in the northern suburbs. Our daughters love books; two are founding members of a Chicago book club. In 2005 we organized a book drive for U.S. soldiers stationed in Afghanistan.

We celebrated our 25th anniversary at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada. For our 40th anniversary, we held a weekend celebration in Chicago. Highlights included: reunion with previous club members, rereading and discussing “Cousin Bette,” the first book we read in 1967, and a “Stories in Art” tour at the Art Institute of Chicago. The love of reading, researching and discussing books brought us together and still holds us together, but the friendship and the support that we have given each other in happy and sad times for 43 years are equally important.

Authors we have met: Mark Salzman, Sherman Alexie, Kurt Vonnegut, Amy Tan, Alexander McCall Smith, Tobias Wolff, Anchee Min, Billy Collins, Michael Chabon and Walter Dean Myers.

Worst excuse anyone's given for not reading an assigned book: We don't make excuses.

Average time we actually spend talking about a book before conversation swerves off into politics and family issues: We meet at members' homes where we have refreshments. At each meeting a member prepares a review and leads a discussion that lasts about two hours. We spend 30 minutes socializing before and after the review.

What books are next:
“Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art” by Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo, then “The Hummingbird's Daughter: A Novel” by Luis Alberto Urrea.

Five books we loved: “The Brothers Karamazov” by Fyodor Dostoevsky, “Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books” by Azar Nafisi, “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak, “Cousin Bette” by Balzac and “Kindred” by Octavia Butler.

Tell us about your book club at printersrow@tribune.com.

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