That perfect tranquillity of life, which is nowhere to be found but in retreat, a faithful friend and a good library.
-Aphra Behn, 17th Century poet, playwright and novelist.
This is a picture from December with my book club of thirty some years (with the addition of a visiting club). It was also my first book club appearance as an author. There is nothing like being in the warm company of friends who have read your book and want to talk deeply about your process and choices. This is mana for writers, the conversation that comes full circle, from the mind of the writer, to the characters on the page, to the experience of the reader–because all writing and reading is a conversation, often out in the ether, thousands of miles away, two minds connecting in the imaginative space of the story. And in this particular case, I was surrounded by friends who had been on the same journey, reading and diving deep into our experiences as readers over the decades.
When I joined our club, I had certain reading habits that were serving me well enough–filling out my experience with the classics and enjoying the machinations and intrigues of John Le Carré’s spy world. I’m sure there were others, but thirty years is a long time enough, let alone prior to that. I had waited a year to be admitted to this club that held to the strict limit of ten women, many of whom were already my friends. The rule was that we would each pick a book for one month, leaving the longer tomes for the summer. And fiction only. When I reflect on my experience over the years, I am in awe of two things: one, the extraordinary range of literature that found me, and the deep analysis and appreciation of the written word that has grown in everyone of us over the years. We’ve read magnificent books, easy, enjoyable reads that didn’t really stick in our memories, and a few stinkers that did. It’s the way it works.
For the past few years, we get together in January with recommendations from reviews, friends and family, and come to a consensus on the books we’ll read for the year. This is working for us right now. We’re going to read some old ones and some new ones this year. I’ve listed the books below.
Reading and discussing books was my impetus to write. Reading good literature continues to inform and teach me about writing. I will be learning until there is no time left to read.
In the meantime, I would love to continue the conversation about The Genuine Stories with other book clubs. I split my time between Iowa and San Diego, and frequently visit Dallas and Philadelphia to visit family.
I can arrange to come to your book club and talk when I’m in your area, but I’ve also started a schedule for Skype/Google Hangouts for places I can’t get to. Shoot me an email and I will put your group on my calendar.
Our Book Club Picks for 2019
- Normal People, by Sally Rooney
- The King Hereafter by Dorothy Dunnett
- Americana by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- Circe by Madeline Miller
- The Overstory by Richard Powers
- The Bone Rattler by Eliot Pattison
- The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar
- The Kinship of Secrets by Eugenia Kim (We are hoping Eugenia will Skype in for our meeting)
- There There: A Novel by Tommy Orange
Wishing you a very happy year of reading.