Next week Ali will turn twenty-five, which means that our book club will also reach that milestone fairly soon. I think I still remember the conversation that Dan and I had when we hatched the idea of a book club. We lived in our duplex then. Our two babies shared a room. Most nights included a few visits to that room to calm a crying baby or get one up for a meal. Having two children in nineteen months was a great idea, but it was not conducive to sleep or adult time. Added to that, with me not working, we did not have extra money to get babysitters. Our home time was pretty child focused.
I think we started talking about how we just didn’t read anymore. What we did read ran more along the lines of The Monster at the End of the Book, and I Can Do it Myself.For a couple who always counted books among their most prized possessions, we were losing ground. That’s when we decided that we would make a book club. If we had an assignment to read a book, that would drive us to get back into the reading routine. It would also beef up our social life.
Somehow, we picked a first book. We chose a book called Emperor of the Air by Ethan Canin. This was the author’s first book and it was a collection of short stories that were written when he was a medical student. I guess we picked it because we had read one of his short stories somewhere else. The book notes that some of the stories appeared first in The Atlantic and The Best American Short Stories of 1985. Whatever the reason was, it turned out to be a great read, and now that I have it off of the shelf, I want to read it again.
Finding people to invite was the next issue. We wanted it to be men and women, couples, singles, different ages, different occupations. I think for that first gathering we had a few lawyers and a few stay at home moms. Not much variety, but we started with what we knew.
We met at 8:00 after we had gotten the kids to bed. One thing about Sam and Ali was that once they got to sleep, those first hours were major zzz time. They did not care about noise. They were sleeping.
We sat in our living room, drank some beers, talked about the book, talked about other books, talked about life, and decided that we liked having a book club. We picked our next book, and set a date to do it again.
That was almost 200 books ago. For a long time, I kept the list of books that we read on a stack of 3×5 index cards. Since then, I have moved it to an electronic document kept on my laptop. There are books on there that are among my favorite books of all time. There are some real stinkers that I had to struggle to get through. Because I am the way I am, though, I finished each one.
Now we have added some variety into our schedule. Once a year (usually during April), we have poetry month where we all bring poems to read aloud. In December, we read a food book that becomes the focus of a pot luck. In the summer we meet on a friend’s deck for fajitas. While we usually meet at our house, we travel more now.
The attendees have evolved quite a bit since that first meeting. At one point, we noted ourselves to have medical people equalling our legal people. We still have a good male/female presence. We have ages that have spanned from 20s to 70s. Members have left and returned. Marriages have brought new members. Babies have been that are now in college! Friends of friends join and become our friends.
I love books, but no book is as memorable or special as the club itself.
P.S. I would be happy to share our list if you are interested.