History of a Book Club

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.

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7 thoughts on “History of a Book Club

  1. i’m interested! after starting my new job last year, i realized that with 20 hours a week there is a TON of things you can do – like reading. we (bethany, sara and i) actually joined a book club here and so it’s wonderful to read a book and then discuss it as well as have more variety than if you were just picking a book yourself. my current book is Wicked since my parents and i are going next month.

    • I am missing a couple, but here is the list:
      Book Club List
      1. Emperor of the Air – Ethan Canin
      2. A River Runs Through It – Norman MacLean
      3 . Mr. Bridge/Mrs Bridge – Evan Connell
      4. Illumination Night – Alice Hoffman
      5. Lincoln – Gore Vidal
      6. Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
      7. The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway
      8. The Autobiography of Malcolm X
      9. Life and Death in Shanghai – Nien Cheng
      10. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
      11. Billy Bathgate – EL Doctorow
      12. Slaugherhouse V – Kurt Vonnegut
      13. Zen and the art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert Pirsig
      14. Rabbit Run – John Updike
      15. Tropic of Cancer – Henry Miller
      16. The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
      17. Letters from Earth – Mark Twain
      18. Best Short Stories of 1990
      19. The Things They Carried – Tim O’Brien
      20. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues – Tom Robbins
      21. A Country Year – Sue Hubbell
      22. Song of Solomon – Toni Morrison
      23. Cows are Freaky When They Look at You
      24. Anatomy of a Murder – Peter Traver
      25. Rock Springs – Richard Ford
      26. The Beans of Egypt Main – Carolyn Chute
      27. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austin
      28. Lolita – Vladimir Nabakov
      29. Portrait of the Artist as a Young man – James Joyce
      30. Hamlet – William Shakespeare
      31. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
      32. A Thousand Acres – Jane Smiley
      33. The Sheltering Sky – Paul Bowles
      34. All the Kings Men – Robert Penn Warren
      35. Rabbit Redux – John Updike
      36. Saint Maybe – Ann Tyler
      37. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – Hunter S Thompson
      38. Love in the time of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
      39. Robert Kennedy : A memoir – Jack Newfield
      40. All the Pretty Horses – Cormac McCarthy
      41. A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving
      42. Your blues aint Like Mine – Bebe Moore Campbell
      43. Death Comes to the Archbishop – Willa Cather
      44. Portnoy’s Complaint – Phillip Roth
      45. The Beet Queen – Louise Erdrich
      46. Henderson the Rain Queen – Saul Bellow
      47. Yellow Raft in Blue Water – Michael Norris
      48. Vox – Nicholson Baker
      49. The Jungle – Upton Sinclair
      50. The Moviegoer- Walker Percy
      51. Bluebeard’s Egg – Margaret Atwood
      52. Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
      53. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
      54. Room of One’s Own – Virginia Woolf
      55. Paddy Clark, Ha, Ha, Ha – Roddy Doyle
      56. Cowboys are my Weakness – Pam Houston
      57. Shoeless Joe – W.P. Kinsella
      58. Problem of Pain – C.S. Lewis
      59. Stone Diaries – Carol Sheilds
      60. Other Voices; Other Rooms – Truman Capote
      61. Year in Provence – Peter Mayle
      62. The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne
      63. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
      64. Snow Falling on Cedars – David Guterson
      65. One True Thing – Anna Quindlin
      66. Sense & Sensibility – Jane Austin
      67. Winter’s Tale – Mark Helprin
      68. Moo – Jane Smiley
      69. House of Spirits – Isabella Allende
      70. Crossing to Safety – Wallace Stegner
      71. Tortilla Curtain – T.C. O’Boyle
      72. Winesburg, Ohio – Sherwood Anderson
      73. Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
      74. Primary Colors – Anonymous (Joe Klein)
      75. Killer Angels – Michael Shaara
      76. Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie
      77. Devil in the Blue Dress – Walter Mosely
      78. Books of Roald Dahl
      79. Son of Morningstar – Evan Connell
      80. House on Mango Street – Sandra Cisneros
      81. Monster in A Box – Spalding Gray
      82. Light in August – William Faulkner
      83. Our Town – Thornton Wilder
      84. Le Divorce – Diane Johnson
      85. Out of Africa – Isak Dinesen
      86. World According to Garp – John Irving
      87. At Home in Mitford – Jan Karon
      88. Practical Magic – Alice Hoffman
      89. Cold Mountain – Charles Frazier
      90. Diving Bell and Butterfly – Bauby
      91. Lake Woebegone Boy – Garrison Keillor
      92. Under the Tuscan Sun – Mayes
      93. Beloved – Toni Morrison
      94. Echo House – Ward Just
      95. Slaves in the Family – Edward Bell
      96. Widow for One Year – John Irving
      97. High Fidelity – Nick Hornby
      98. Diary of Bridget Jones – Helen Fielding
      99. Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway
      100. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil – John Berendt
      101. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
      102. Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone – JK Rowlings
      103.  The Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison
      104.  The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
      105.  The Perfect Storm – Sebastian Junger
      106.  Ride With the Devil – Daniel Woodrell
      107.  Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing – Melissa Bank
      108.  Age of Innocence – Edith Wharton
      109.  Like Water for Chocolate – Laura Esquivel
      110.  The Giver – Lois Lowry
      111.  LLoyd, What Happened? – Stanley Bing
      112.  Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius – Dave Eggers
      113.  Investment Biker – Jim Rogers
      114.  1000 White Women – Jim Fergus
      115.  The Samurai’s Garden- Tsukiyami
      116.  Bobos in Paradise – David Owen
      117.  Bee Season – Myla Goldberg
      118.  Alice , Let’s Eat – Calvin Trillin
      119.  A Walk in the Woods – Bill Bryson
      120.  Plato’s Symposium – Plato
      121.  Come to Me – Amy Bloom
      122.  The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay – Michael Chabon
      123. Double Whammy – Carl Hiassen
      124. Nickle and Dimed – Barbara Ehrenreich
      125. West With the Night – Beryl Markham
      126. The Huntsmen – Whitney Terrill
      127.  River Town – Peter Hessler
      128. All Over But the Shoutin – Rick Bragg
      129. Poetry bring your own #1
      130. Seabiscuit  – Laura Hillerbrand
      131. Life of Pi – Yann Martel
      132.  White Teeth – Zadie Smith (Jul03)
      133.
      134. DaVinci Code – Dan Brown (10/03)
      135. I Don’t Know How She Does It – Allison Pearson (11/03)
      136. Summer of My Greek Taverna – Tom Stone (12/03)
      137. Feast of Love – Charles Baxter (1/04)
      138.  The Dancer Upstairs – Nicholas Shakespeare 3/04
      139.  Favorite Poems 4/04 #2
      140.  Drinking Coffee Elsewhere – ZZ Packer 6/04
      141.  The curious incident of the Dog at NightTime – Mark Haddon (7/04)
      142. Kite Runner – (8/04)
      143.  Vile Bodies – Evelyn Waugh (10/04)
      144. Bell Canto – Ann Patchett (11/04)
      145. Gastronomical Me – MFK Fisher (12/04)
      146 -Complications (2/05)
      147 – Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell (4/05)
      148 – Poetry Night  (5/05) #3
      149 – Unless – Carol Shields (6/05)
      150 – The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho (9/05)
      151 – Jimmy Corrigan – Chris Ware (11/05)
      152 –  Consuming Passions (a food obsessed life)- Micael Lee West  (12/05)
153 – The End of Faith – Sam Harris (8/06)
      154 – A Changed Man – Francois Prose (9/06)
      155 – A Brief History of Everything – Bill Bryson (11/06)
      156 – Cooking with Fernet Branca – James Hamilton- Patterson (12/06)
      157 – Cross-X – Joe Miller (2/07)
      158 – The Pacific and Other Stories – Mark Helprin (3/07)
      159 – Poetry Night – (5/07) (#4)
      160 – Intuition – Allegra Goodman – 6/07
      161 – They Call Me Naughty Lola – 7/07
      162 – Assassination Vacation – 8/07
      163 – The Cure for Death By Lightning – 10/07
      164 – Heat – 12/07
      165 – My Antonia – 1/08
      166 – Emperor’s Children – 3/08
      167 – Poetry Night – 4/08
      168 – Eat, Pray, Love – 6/08
      169 – Tales of the City – 7/08
      170 – The Tender Bar – 9/08
      171 – Then We Came to the End – 10/08
      172 – Clementine in the Kitchen – 12/08
      173 – People of the Book – 2/09
      174 – March – 3/09
      175 – Old School – 4/09
      176 – Poetry 6/09
      177 – Water for Elephants – 7/09
      178 – Love is a Mixtape – 9/09
      179- Saturday – Ian McEwan – 10/09
      180- My Life In France – Julia Child 12/09
      181 – Lucky Jim – 1/10
      182 – America America – Ethan Canin – 3/10
      183. Poetry Month – May 2010
      184. Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – July 2010
      185. Finding Nouf, Zoe Farraris – Sept 2010
      186. I Like you: Hospitality Under the Influence – Amy Sedaris – Dec 2010
      187. Just Kids, Patti Smith – Feb 2011
      188. Your favorite children’s Book (Harriet the Spy) – March 2011
      189. Poetry Month – May
      190. True Grit – Charles Portis – June 2010
      191. A Visit From the Goon Squad – Jennifer Egan – August 2011
      192. Devil in the White City – Eric Larson – Oct 2011
      193. Immortal Milk – Eric Lemay – Dec 2011
      194. The Book Thief – Mrakus Zusak – Feb 2012
      195. Best Short Stories of 2011

      • Wonderful list! I see many that I’ve read, many on my to-read pile a a fair few that I’ve never heard of. Thanks for sharing!

        Which was your favorite, out of them all?

      • It is difficult for me to every select any other book than Pride and Prejudice when it is included in a list. That is probably my favorite all time.

  2. I think Mimi Doherty – now Mimi Doherty-Barton – recommended Emperor of the Air, because she went to Stanford with the author. At least that’s what my hazy memory recalls.

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