Guys, I have a little over a year of clubbing under my belt. Book clubbing, that is. Let the record show that I am a #partyanimal.
It’s been an interesting bookish journey. Now, let’s not kid ourselves. I’m basically a newbie at this whole thing. One whole year hardly qualifies me to be a book club sage. But since I’m technically a Millennial (skated through by one year!) and I’ve been regularly taught at the feet of American reality television where everyone who has an opinion is an expert…well, I have THOUGHTS.
First, I think there are a lot of reasons why a person might join a book club. Some book clubs are more social, really the books are just an excuse to get together to eat and chat. I was briefly a part of one of those—we liked to read, but that sometimes paled in comparison to our love of chips and salsa. There are also those book clubs where people are really in it to dissect the book and expand their minds. I am going to shoot straight – I don’t think I could hang with the cats in that kind of book club. I like YA (young adult) books waaaay too much for that. My current book club is a happy medium of the two.
Second, picking your book club mates is really important. I like the mix of my group – we all usually have something to say but no one really dominates the conversation. Plus, our Goodreads compatibility was pretty darn good—always a good sign!
Third, I think the whole point of being in a book club is to stretch your horizons and read things you wouldn’t normally pick up. But you do it in a gang…that way, you can blame other people if the book is bad. 🙂
Fourth, this year has reinforced what I have always known about myself – I like thoughtful and deep books, but I do NOT care for most literary books. Literary books are those could-be-a-Pulitzer-prize-winning tomes that usually have gorgeous language and a super-hefty point to get across, but, in my opinion, this is usually at the expense of the story itself. (Now, there are people in my chosen career of publishing that could string me up for saying something like that, so let’s keep it between us, okay? Circle of trust?) If I have to run to a dictionary every three seconds and diagram the sentence to understand what you are saying, I will cry “uncle”. For me, a truly gifted author knows how to turn a beautiful phrase without making the phrase the “thing”. The point is to tell the story, not show off how many eight syllable words you have in your vocabulary.
But that’s just one reader’s opinion. [End rant.]
The Jessicas (yes, both of my book club mates are named Jessica) and I have read a lot of books this year! In recapping things below, I think we missed September and we have yet to discuss our October book, but all-in-all a pretty diverse list. Here’s a brief run-down with HIGHLY sophisticated thumbs up or thumbs down AND star rating systems.
January – Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
If you’ve ever seen the show Revolution, you’ll have a pretty accurate picture of this book. The premise is that there’s a massive epidemic and the technologically-driven life that we know crumbles and society reverts back to life way before the internet ever existed. The book is told from several points of view, and it had all the makings of a major bestseller. It was endlessly readable and hit a lot of the “Best of 2014” lists. If you’re looking for a page-turner with Dytopian flavor, this is for you.
February – Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey
I was really curious to read this book and see where Sarah Bessey landed. I didn’t agree with everything she said, but I really appreciated her attempt to address an issue that the church usually skirts. My fellow book clubber, Jessica Lamb wrote an excellent review of this book. I honestly couldn’t say it better than she did…and she included links to other resources on the subject!
March – The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
I know, I know. I couldn’t believe I’ve never read this book, either! I’m pretty sure I saw the movie years ago, but any self-respecting reader knows that THE BOOK IS ALWAYS BETTER THAN THE MOVIE! The same was true for this book. This historical southern-set story was poignant, hopeful, and quirky.
April – Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
I couldn’t in good conscience give this a “thumbs down” because after reading the first book, I read the other two in the trilogy. The pacing was really good and the characters and different-feeling story drew me in. But I do have to say that there was definitely an undertone of darkness throughout and just enough things that made me uncomfortable that I have to give it only three stars. If you widely read YA books and are looking for something different, this might be the ticket for you. But I don’t think it’s for everyone.
May – Emotional Intelligence by Travis Bradberry
I picked this book and was really excited to dive into the pages. I’d heard a lot about it from women in business that I respect. The idea that the book purports is that successful people in business (and life) are not just the ones that are the most educated or with the highest IQ—instead, it’s those that have a high EQ (emotional quotient). This means they have the ability to perceive how people around them are reacting to circumstances and also have the ability to make their emotions work for them instead of against them. On almost every performance review I’ve gotten, I’ve been told that I don’t have a “poker face” in meetings. So, I think it’s clear why I was drawn to this book. (Mom, that doesn’t mean I’m a poker player…) The most helpful thing was the code to take the free quiz and identify your emotional intelligence weakness. The actual content was fairly simplistic, but had the potential to be powerful. I was looking for more depth, but found it to be a helpful resource.
June – The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
OH, THIS BOOK! I really hated it, guys. To be fair, I read the descriptive copy and heard the term “literary apothecary” and I gave my seal of approval to have this book be our June read. Boy, was I wrong. The cover is deceptively charming, DO NOT BE LURED IN!
This is excerpted from my scathing Goodreads review:
“There are many reasons why I didn’t like this book, but one of the other major ones was the sexual undertones throughout. I know its a translated title and critically acclaimed in many countries…so now I know that I would not fare well overseas. The only redeeming part of this book (save the crafted writing) was the main character’s friendship with a young successful author who still had yet to figure life out.”
July – Rising Strong by Brene Brown
How do I love this book? Let me count the ways…in a separate post. 🙂 #cliffhanger
August – In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume
Oh, Judy Blume. You were so charming in your Late Night with Seth Meyers interview, but I really didn’t care for your book. In the Unlikely Event is a historical novel set in the 1950’s and based on true events. Back when airline travel was new and cool (this really makes me miss the show Pan Am), there were three plane crashes in Blume’s hometown of Elizabeth, NJ. I really enjoyed the vintage feel of the story, but it had too many points of view—when I got half-way through the book and realized I was still having trouble keeping the characters straight, I got perturbed. Also, the plane crashes are the catalyst of a story that goes…no where. How fitting? Not my favorite.
October – Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling
More to come on this one, too. #cliffhanger2
Have you read a good book this year OR one that I should avoid?