One thing to know about your book club: Our book club evolved from a one-woman photography show by one of the founders. She asked if we might want to gather informally once a month to discuss books. Six original members led to our current 10 who have been meeting for 17 years. Sometimes we travel together to a city that relates to what we have just read. The image you see of us was taken on a trip to Springfield to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum after reading “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln” by Doris Kearns Goodwin. We have also traveled to: New York after reading “Remembering Mr. Shawn's New Yorker: The Invisible Art of Editing” by Ved Mehta where we met the author; an abbey in Iowa after “The Cloister Walk” by Kathleen Norris; Aspen, Colo., after “The Book of Illusions: A Novel” by Paul Auster; and Wisconsin after “The Flanders Panel” by Arturo Perez-Reverte.
We started our group reading about women artists and women's lives but through time we have grown to political topics and classics. One session each July is devoted to setting up the year's choice of books and dates, allowing us to purchase books in advance for the entire year.
Authors we would most like to meet: Wallace Stegner (“Crossing To Safety”), Barbara Kingsolver (“The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel”), Goodwin (“Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln”), Iris Chang (“The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II”), Paul Auster (“Oracle Night: A Novel”), and Michael Chabon (“The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay”).
Worst excuse anyone has given for not reading an assigned book: “I dropped my Kindle in the bathtub and it never came up for air!”
Average time we actually spend talking about a book before conversation swerves off into politics and family issues: We have a strong structure and a member can only suggest a book if she has read and recommends it. Each member leads one of 10 meetings and serves dinner. Often the menu follows a theme of the book. We have dinner first and allow an hour and a half for bonding and chatting. Then we have a discussion on the reading for at least another hour and a half led by our hostess.
What book is next: “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad
Books we loved: The books we loved were sometimes sequenced: “Cold Mountain: A Novel” by Charles Frazier was followed by “The Odyssey” by Homer and “Team of Rivals” was followed by “Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson” by Robert Caro. But we also loved “The Control of Nature” by John McPhee, “The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed” by John Vaillant and “The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: A Novel” by David Wroblewski.
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