Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Reading is FUNdamental

It was my turn to host Book Club this week, always a fun time getting together with those girls. I joined my co-worker's Book Club about 3 years ago and really enjoy the way the club works. We meet about every six weeks with one member choosing to host.  This person picks the book and emails the selection and date of the next meeting out to everyone. The meeting is at the host's house or somewhere convenient to her. She puts on the spread and supplies the drinks (read all about my appetizers here). What I like about this scenario is the intimacy of meeting at someone's house rather than at a restaurant or book store coffee shop where distractions run high.

Unless you have an established timeframe - like you only meet on Mondays - using a
Doodle scheduling tool helps plan for the best date for all. This tool is extremely helpful when it comes to scheduling conference calls for work - especially when my committee members are located in Argentina, California, London and Chicago. I've also been using Doodle to plan happy hours, brunches, movie nights and more. Get on the bandwagon and soon enough you too can "Do a Doodle."

Having between 10 and 12 people in the club ensures that your turn to host is not going to come up every couple months and you can choose the time of year that works best for you. A larger book club also ensures that even with the inevitable conflicts folks will have there will still be a good sized group available. I actually had a small group this time around because of some unexpected conflicts.

My favorite part of Book Club? We actually talk about the book! Isn't that the cliche? The gals set clubs up and then just end up drinking wine and gossiping all night? Well, there is definitely wine involved, and the discussion usually starts and ends with catching up, but the majority of the time is spent discussing the latest read. The host usually has discussion questions or interesting trivia about the book available to drive the conversation. This group has even had authors local to Chicago stop by to chat about the book!

It's a great group of ladies and the club has seen marriages, babies, new relationships, new jobs, new homes and more! Christmas time brings an ornament exchange and mamas-to-be gets a basketful of our favorite children's books (an idea I updated for
my sister's baby shower). I think I need to start buying Fox in Socks in bulk!

Interested in being part of a book club, but not sure where to start?

- Local bookstores may have information about regular meetings. For example, those in Lincoln Square should check out The Book Cellar.  I'll admit, I'm a Borders addict, but nothing beats an independent bookstore - especially one that has a liquor license!
 - Query your co-workers, invite friends through facebook or send out an e-vite to see who would be interested in starting one up with you.
- Go long distance: pick out a book with a friend or two across country, provide a deadline to read it by and discuss over phone or email. Take turns picking books from different genres.
- If an established deadline is too much for your busy plate, work your latest reading endeavors into conversation with a friend you talk to regularly. Because of our busy schedules (it's amazing how far away two floors up can seem), I catch up with a co-worker probably only about once a month in the hallway or on the phone/email, but we always make it a point to ask what we've been reading lately. It's a great way to get recommendations and hear about new books.

A few of our more popular Book Club picks:

Loving Frank - historical fiction about Frank Lloyd Wright's mistress. Delicious scandal that is almost too crazy to be true.
Moloka'i - you'll learn more about the leper colonies of Hawaii than you ever thought you could know.
The Book Thief - Set in WWII, it follows a little girl in Nazi Germany trying to make sense of it all. Narrated by someone surprising, it's hard to believe this book is found in the Young Adult section (you know, right next to Twilight).
The Glass Castle - When you read this author's account of her childhood, you'll want to hug your parents for providing you with the basics.
The Other Boleyn Girl - this was the first book I read with the group and definitely a hit. Deception, affairs and back-stabbing sisters - it's like Melrose Place with royalty.

Since I hosted this month, it was also my turn to pick the book.  I chose Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri. It has been sitting on my shelf for a few months and I had been looking forward to reading it. I love Indian Novels and read her second book, The Namesake. It is a collection of short stories and a very short collection at that. Really interesting stories that seemed true to life, some a bit depressing, but you can find the humor when you start looking.

Time to start reading!

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