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Friday, July 15, 2011

Book Lovers Club

As I mentioned here, the BPL RA Department had its first ever Book Lovers Club on Tuesday night.  Kathy and I were pleasantly surprised at the turnout (30 people!).  We were overflowing.  But ever better than the turn out was how excited everyone was to come together to talk about books that they love.

For those who want to try a program like this at their own library I will explain how it went.  We were at a restaurant which had a back room set up for us.  Kathy set up the ground rules:
  • The library was buying appetizers and non-alcoholic beverages.  Participants were encouraged however to order their own drinks and food if they wanted right at the start to be brought throughout the discussion.
  • We asked everyone to introduce themselves and say why they came (ie why they love books).
  • We asked each person talk for no more than 2-3 minutes about their book or author and then a few questions could be asked by the group to each person.
  • We also told everyone that this was as much a chance to share our favorite books as it was a social club.  So after everyone had a chance (or 2) we were going to leave the second hour for less formal mingling.  And in fact, that was what happened.  At about 8:15 everyone got up and talked in small groups around the room and others moved into the bar.  Kathy, Jose (another BPL employee but there for the fun) and I were the last to leave at 10:30.
  • Finally, with such a big group, we split into 2 smaller groups with Kathy and I each leading a table.
So that's the set up.  Below I will provide a list of what books my table talked about, as well as a few of the participants' comments.  Everyone was super happy that Kathy and I were taking notes.  I think this was a key to the night's success.  As people came in they were anxious about getting all of the suggestions written down.  They came as much to share their favorite books as they did to get new reading suggestions.  Assuring them that we had it covered and that we would get everyone a list was a vital component to their enjoyment.

We did pass around an email and phone number sign-up sheet.  Kathy and I will type up the reading list which was created that night and post it on the Browsers Corner.  We will be creating a new page there in the coming weeks where we will continue to catalog the list of books spawned by this group over time.

Yes, over time.  It was such a hit, we are doing it again, for sure!  Kathy and I will meet in August to nail down the details, but it looks like The Book Lovers Club may be come an every other month social club event.

I for one am excited about the opportunity.  I feel this is a program not offered by any library I know of in the area.  Since it is not a book discussion group, but rather a social club for readers, I think we have a great opportunity to reach a whole new audience.  I will be writing an article for NoveList about this program in the Fall also, so that we can share our success with others.

Now on to my table's suggestions, with links to the record in our catalog.  Remember the full list will be available next week at the Browsers' Corner.  The comments are theirs (not mine unless noted).

Finally, please notice how when given only 2 minutes to share a book, people do NOT waste time on plot.  Every single participant spent their time on why they loved the book, and what it was about (the plot) does not figure into that very highly.
  • In the Woods by Tana French (suggested by me, comments from here): In the Woods can best be described as, police procedural meets psychological suspense.  This is a dark book, with an extremely flawed narrator.  Bad things are happening here and even when the crime is "solved," no one is satisfied; in fact, just about everyone involved with the case has been ruined as a result of the investigation.   And the kicker is, you know that it will not end well from the start, but you are so compelled by the complex plot, the interesting, 3-dimensional characters and their interactions that you cannot look away. 
  • Devil in the White City by Erik Larson: I heard it was interesting when it came out, but never got around to reading it.  When I read it I got a lot more than I expected.  The narrative style was compelling; it draws you in.  If you are a Chicagoan, you have to read this book!
  • The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov: This is the best book I have ever read in my life! It has three plot lines that slowly come together.  It begins with the Devil coming to town with a talking cat.  I find it captivating and have read it 15 times.
  • God Knows by Joseph Heller: Most people know Catch-22.  This is the story of David, from the Bible, but with a modern twist.  It is humorous and gently blasphemous.
  • Agatha Christie and Janet Evanovich: This person suggested 2 authors.  Christie because she is not brutal with her mysteries, but they are always clever and convoluted.  She stays a step ahead of the reader.  Evanovich because they are fun, bright, and snappy.  Her novels are some of the only books where as I am reading to myself, I literally laugh out loud.
  • Lee Child: You  don't have to read the Jack Reacher series in order, which is nice.  Although they are modern suspense, they feel like an old time Western-- good guy rides into town and fixes everything before riding out again.
  • Tony Hillerman: He wrote great murder mysteries immersed in the Navajo Indian culture.
  • Ahab's Wife by Sena Jester Naslund: This book was a lucky accident.  A friend just handed me a book and said you'll love it.  I was a bit worried because it was thick and based on Moby Dick, which I hate!  But, I loved it.  It is one of my favorite books.  I loved how it wove in different pieces of history.
  • Marshall Field's: The Store That Helped Build Chicago by Gayle Soucek: This is a nonfiction book about the store and the man who started it.  If you are from Chicago you will like this.  I was surprised by how much I liked it.  I learned how Fields was the man who first brought women into shopping.
  • Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks: I love historical fiction in general and Brook specifically.  I cannot stop thinking about this book.  She constantly gives me the history and new information I crave, but I am also invested in her characters.  She always starts with one small fact in the fringes of history and then uses her imagination to fill it all in.
  • The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson: Although it was nonfiction it read like a novel to me.  Centered around 3 people; one who went to Chicago in the 1930s, one who went to NYC in the 40s and one who went to CA in the 50s.  I lived through much of this time, and even for me, it changes the way you think.  Today we tend to forget the struggle African Americans had so recently.  (Eds note: I promised the group I would share this link to the reading map my student Jeanne did on this book last semester).
  • You're Wearing That?: Understanding Mothers and Daughters in Conversation by Deborah Tannen: I love how she dissects how we communicate with each other.  This is something you don't consciously think about, and reading about it is fascinating.
  • Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace: It is very long, but if you read it in pieces it is worth it.  It still stays with me.  It is about the mundanity of life, yet also how at the same time how wonderful and magical life is.  I compare it to the years of raising my small children.  There is a tension between how bored out of your head you can be while at the same time you know that it is glorious to watch your small children grow.
  • The Radleys by Matthew Haig (me): This is a family drama, about family tensions and secrets and how they can eat a family apart.  It just so happens that the secret these parents are keeping form their children is that they are all abstaining vampires.  It is similar to Tom Perrotta or Elizabeth Berg.  This is a great choice for people who think they would hate a "vampire" book.
  • Dracula in Love by Karen Essex:  The story of Dracula from Nina's perspective.  No fangs here; it is a historical story of Nina discovery who she really is.  There is also reincarnation.
  • Shirley Jackson: I like scary, creepy stories.  She is horrifying with no blood or guts. Particularly, the story "We Have Always Lived in a Castle," still gnaws at me. Why don't they ever leave the house? When the twist comes, it is bad.
  • Damon Runyon: I like him because he writes about lots of different subjects but for all he romanticizes them in a way that makes me love them too.
  • New Miss India by Bharati Mukherjee: New book about present day India.  A girl in a backwater town escapes an arranged marriage.  Great story.
  • Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones: It has a great first line, " My father James Bigelow is a bigamist." It is the fascinating story of his two families, one which knows of the other family, the other which does not.  It is told from the alternating points of view of a daughter in each family.
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: I have read so many books about Nazi Germany, yet this one was still fresh and original.  I liked how I had a view from a little town and saw the day to day life of ordinary German citizens.
  • A few books/authors mentioned in passing at the end: The Immortal Life of Henreitta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga and Jane Austen.

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