Our book club started about seven years ago. Members have come and gone. We now have eight members – a good number for lively comment, but small enough that we are coming to know each other well, in the special way that book club members do.
From day one we have had few rules. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t want to read the book or haven’t had time – come along anyway. Catering is to be simple – though for a while we indulged in amazing pot luck meals. We are back to a cup of tea or coffee with something to accompany it. The idea is that hosting book club should not be onerous.
The challenge is to recommend a book a few months ahead of when it is your turn to host. This is where the rules come in – the book should be light enough to read easily in bed (talking actual weight here – not literary merit) and the font big enough to read without eye strain. Getting the idea about how old most of us are now?
Mary’s choice for our meeting this week was unexpected – Kevin Powers’ “The Yellow Birds” which reads like a first-hand account of the Iraq war; what war does to its own soldiers, let alone the enemy. The writing style is often lyrical and poetic – a counterpoise to the graphic, punchy and challenging content and raw symbolism. A book to enjoy? I don’t think so. An important book. Definitely. Powers won the Guardian First Book Award for “The Yellow Birds”.
Kindles and Kobos have slightly changed the way we work. Usually two or three members could lay their hands on hard copies of the book. These books would do the circuit. This has become a bit more challenging since members have started downloading the book. Buying hard copies has become much easier with Trade Me and The Book Depository providing the titles we are after in excellent condition and well below the shop price. Sorry book shops – I try to support you, but you usually have to order in the title I want, which means an extra trip down the road, and your prices are prohibitive compared to online options, delivered right to the door.
I blithely suggested we might read anything by Isabel Allende for my turn at hosting, coming up in a couple of months. I suggested this because I have a pile of her books that I have acquired over the years that are waiting to be read. However, great titles have been popping up all over and, given there has been nothing – absolutely nothing – worth watching on TV, I have indulged in a reading binge.
This is where I need your help. I started “Life After Life” by Kate Atkinson – it’s huge and I’m told that the plot jumps around all over the show, but this was recommended by the book sellers at the Readers and Writers Festival. I’ve only read the first couple of chapters and I’m not sure so far.
I devoured “The Rosie Project” an Australian book where I recognised people who have been close to me who have the Aspergers personality, drawn here in the lead character with humour, compassion and admiration.
“The Writing Class” by local writer Stephanie Johnson riffled across the top of the characters who want the world to read their masterpieces, Merle’s relationship with her students and her husband, with a sprinkling of current issues and literary references running through the story. The book purported to be a novel about students learning to write a novel, while doubling as a class for any reader who aspires to write and be published. Perhaps Joan Rosier-Jones’ classes and Stephen King’s book have already done too good a job with me, as I didn’t glean anything new about the art or craft of writing novels in the book. So please help me here – please register your vote. Which of these books should I recommend for book club?