Thursday, 3 September 2009

Book Groups


Do you all belong to book groups? I belong to two: this one and another that a friend invited me to at the beginning of the year. Both are very different but each are fun and a great way to meet new people (in a strange city) and discuss books with like-minded individuals face-to-face.

The book group that Simon S and Kim started is only in its third month but already it looks as if we are going to be reading some interesting books that will generate a lot of discussion. This month's meeting takes place this evening (I'll be blogging about the book tomorrow) and we are reading Voice Over by Celine Curiol, which is translated from French and was shortlisted for The Independent's foreign fiction prize. This is the synopsis:

A young woman works in Paris, at the Gare du Nord. She spends every day talking into a microphone, announcing platforms and timetables, invisible to the world. And then she falls in love with a man who, in turn, loves another. To our heroine, her rival is stunningly beautiful, as beautiful ‘as an angel’. So she decides not to pursue the man, rather, she is prepared to wait, alone. That is, until one night a male friend of the ‘angel’ asks her what she does for a living and without thinking she answers, ‘prostitute’. She decides to play her new role to the hilt.

What makes book groups so great is that I wouldn't have come across this book otherwise. Our next book is my choice (we choose in alphabetical name order) and I can't reveal it until after book group but what I will say is that it is also a book in translation and one I have been wanting to read for some time; another plus for book groups is that they allow you the opportunity at times to read "must read" books on your own to-be-read list.

My other book group meets next week and this month we are reading The Trouble with Lichen by John Wyndham, which I am very excited to read (this weekend) and discuss. We meet over dinner and our reading choices have somewhat of a feminist slant, with a good mix of fiction and non fiction. The non fiction is a definite positive for me as I am such a lover of literature that it is pleasant to read something anthropological, economical, or historical every so often to force myself out of my comfort zone.

Next month's book is also, coincidentally, my choice but I am flummoxed as to what to suggest. I was tempted by Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood but I have a feeling that it will be too similar in genre and perhaps tone to Trouble with Lichen. I also considered The Color Purple by Alice Walker as I haven't read it yet but I plan on reading it anyway, there's a chance others in the group will have already read it, and I do like to choose books that are a little off the beaten track... I think that instead I will suggest non fiction and I considered Married Love by Marie Stopes until I realised my copy was at home in Glasgow and my library doesn't stock it. Now I am thinking about Round About a Pound a Week by Maud Pember Reeves because, yes it's a Persephone, but it is also topical and relative to a group of females in London supporting themselves and running a household. What do you think or suggest?


15 comments:

farmlanebooks said...

In translation? Great! from which language? I'd love a little hint to keep me guessing!!

I know my turn to pick a book is a long way off, but I have been thinking about it and have found it impossible to decide. The problem with a lot of the books you list is that a lot of people will have already read them. I want to pick a book which is new to everyone, not too long, with loads to enjoy/talk about. I can't think of anything, but have a feeling that my pick will be in translation too.

claire said...

Round About a Pound a Week sounds wonderful. As for suggestions, I can only think of Jamaica Kincaid's The Autobiography of My Mother at the moment. Haven't read it but it's on the tbr and I've skimmed, looks wonderful. I love her writing.

Paperback Reader said...

Jackie, Czech...

That was my criteria too and hopefully I'll meet it. In addition it was a book that I really wanted to read so what better than suggest it and ensure I read it.

Speaking of that, I also considered Blindness by Jose Saramago for my other book group for the same reason...

Claire, unfortunately the Kincaid is out of print here :(. Ease of obtaining is another check box that needs to be ticked. I've only read some short fiction by Jamaica Kincaid but really enjoyed her writing.

farmlanebooks said...

I don't think I've read any Czech books. I look forward to finding out which one it is.

Blindness would be a great read for your other book club. I did think about chosing one of Saramago's lesser known books for ours, but I don't think Simon would approve - he hates Saramago!

Paperback Reader said...

I've read some Milan Kundera and a shorter work by the author I've chosen but my experience of Czech (or Slavonic) literature is limited.

I will keep Blindness in mind for book group, depending on whether I go for fiction or non fiction. I have a similar issue with my other book group as you do with ours - one of the members hates Murakami!

Steph said...

It sounds like you have two really excellent groups to share your love of reading with! I have on real-life book group, but alas, more often than not I find the books that are chosen pretty underwhelming... which is why when it comes to my chance to choose, I make sure I pick something I really want to read! It's my one chance, even if it's a selfish approach!
One book our group had a lot of success with was Grimus by Salman Rushdie. It's his first book and lesser known, so there's a good chance no one will have read it yet! Also, Nicole Krauss's The History of Love was one I discovered through my book group, and I'm so glad I did!

Darlene said...

Voice Over does sound tantalizing doesn't it, I'm already wondering how that situation works out. Round About a Pound A Week would make for some fascinating discussion. Could be a fun opportunity to host an evening of 'who can bring the most economical appetizer'.

Green Road said...

I go to a real-life book group and it's the most enjoyable evening of my month (mostly, I DO have a life aside from books hehe). It's amazing how different people read the same book differently, sometimes we come up against such different viewpoints it gives the book a new dimension.

We're currently reading The Vanishing Act Of Esme Lennox. I'm only halfway through it but I would recommend it. It's about a sixteen year old girl who is incarcerated in a mental hospital because she wouldn't conform and is released in present-day Edinburgh as a seventy-plus year old. Kind of like A Secret Scripture but more accessible.

mattviews said...

I've been reading Kim and Simon's blogs for quite a while. The tidings about the book group makes me so envious---how I wish to live in your city! I haven't been in a book group, but recently I found my very first (promising) one that actually meets at a bookstore not too far from my house, right in the neck of my wood!

I usually write down the books that Simon mentions in his blog. So Voice Over by Celine Curiol will be on my list that I take with me to the bookstore! Bravo!

Paperback Reader said...

Steph, it's unfortunate that the choices by your book group have been so far underwhelming. I would choose books that I really want to read in that case too. In fact, the book I chose last night for book group #2 is one that I have been meaning to read for a while and this prompts me to do so, as well as potentially being a good choice for group discussion: I Served the King of England by Bohumil Hrabal.

I will definitely be keeping Grimus in mind; I love Rushdie! I've read The History of Love but wouldn't mind a reread as I can't recall the ending.

Darlene, we all found Voice Over to be quite bizarre! The synopsis gave me a different impression to what actually happened.
We eat out for book group (cheaply) but I like your idea! I think I'll go for Around a Pound a Week as it is my turn for non fiction.

Swati, that is another great thing about book groups (and blogging), that we can all have different impressions about a book and it prompts lively debate. I like looking for something redeeming in a book that I otherwise didn't like and others can offer that as well as allow me to examine my own reading likes and preferences.

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox sounds intriguing! I look forward to your review.

Matt, thank you for commenting on my blog for the first time. I'm glad you have found a book group close to home! I was lucky to find this one and so excited; I haven't long moved to this city.

Voice Over was definitively agreed on as bizarre!

novelinsights said...

I really enjoyed the group yesterday! Definitely a thought provoking book and I'll be heading on to Amazon later to pick up a copy of your choice...

Paperback Reader said...

I've just posted about it! I hope it doesn't come across as too negative because it was thought-provoking and that's certainly a redeemable point.
I hope that my choice is enjoyed and provokes discussion.

Anonymous said...

Your book groups sound much more interesting than the one I belong to, though I have to confess I have no great urge to read
Married Love. Round About a Pound a Week, though, is extremely readable and lots of eye-opening detail on how families lived not so very long ago. Plenty to discuss. And topical - we have the Duchess of York and Jamie Oliver advising the poor how to live these days!

Anonymous said...

Your book groups sound much more interesting than the one I belong to, though I have to confess I have no great urge to read
Married Love. Round About a Pound a Week, though, is extremely readable and lots of eye-opening detail on how families lived not so very long ago. Plenty to discuss. And topical - we have the Duchess of York and Jamie Oliver advising the poor how to live these days!

Paperback Reader said...

Anonymous, I think I will go for Around a Pound a Week as it is topical and I think we'll find it really interesting.