I checked Susan Cain's book out a couple of years ago on Janssen's recommendation, and I never finished it. I just kind of stalled out in the middle sI checked Susan Cain's book out a couple of years ago on Janssen's recommendation, and I never finished it. I just kind of stalled out in the middle somewhere. So, I was happy that my book club picked it. I started from the beginning and, with the proper motivation, got through the book fairly quickly.
I definitely consider myself an introvert, so I could relate to a lot of things about this book. There were times when I found myself wishing for a bit more nuance. Not all introverts dislike public speaking, for example. Also, Cain tells us that shy and introversion are not the same thing, but then I felt like she didn't separate the two much. I wished there had been a bit more on being an introverted parent.
The discussion for this book club was very interesting and gave all of us introverts the opportunity to talk about ourselves and our experiences as introverts, including all the times we wished we were more extroverted. I think, at this point, I am pretty accepting of my introvertness, so much of the book was very affirming for me.
One of the funniest tidbits concerning book club and this book actually occurred at the next month's book club when a member who had not been to the Quiet discussion told us all how much she had wanted to come to that book club because she doesn't understand introverts at all. We could have used an extroverted perspective at our discussion. ...more
The Rent Collector has a very interesting setting. It takes place in the largest dump in Cambodia. In this dump live many people who make their livingThe Rent Collector has a very interesting setting. It takes place in the largest dump in Cambodia. In this dump live many people who make their living salvaging items from the garbage.
Parts of the book were less believable than others, but I enjoyed learning about this kind of life. As always, the book was greatly enriched by the discussion....more
The Remains of the Day was Rachel's book club pick for September. It's the story of Stevens, a butler from the grand age of butlerdom. Now, as StevensThe Remains of the Day was Rachel's book club pick for September. It's the story of Stevens, a butler from the grand age of butlerdom. Now, as Stevens nears the end of his career and so much has changed in England, he looks back on his life and contemplates his years of service.
Kazuo Ishiguro's book is beautifully written. I especially loved the mirroring of momentous events in Stevens' life--[spoiler: when his father died and Miss Keaton got engaged]. I thought the book made for a really great discussion. I always love an unreliable narrator, and I enjoyed talking about Lord Darlington. As seen through Stevens' eyes Lord Darlington is a rather sympathetic character who made some huge mistakes and trusted the wrong people, but it was interesting to think about whether or not Lord Darlington deserved our sympathy.
Other interesting discussion points included: Race War Dignity Service Regrets Lies...more
I reread Watership Down for Sarah's August book club pick. I first read this book when I was a kid, maybe in fifth grade, and I remember really likingI reread Watership Down for Sarah's August book club pick. I first read this book when I was a kid, maybe in fifth grade, and I remember really liking it. I also remember my parents saying, "Sure, you can read that. But it's just about rabbits." There are lots of books about sentient animals for kids, so it wasn't too hard for me to accept as a child.
This second time around, I think much of my enjoyment of the book came from nostalgia. I actually remembered a lot of the story which was surprising. I still am pretty okay having rabbits as my main characters. What was difficult for me this time around were all the journeys. Ugh. So many wasteland wanderings. ...more
A Tale Dark Grimm was the book club pick for July. Unfortunately, I wasn't crazy about this one. It's a mash-up of a several fairy tales. It stars HanA Tale Dark Grimm was the book club pick for July. Unfortunately, I wasn't crazy about this one. It's a mash-up of a several fairy tales. It stars Hansel and Gretel. The fairy tales are, as the title states, dark and grim. There's a lot of blood and a fair amount of violence for a middle grade book. The narrator often speaks directly to the reader in a manner that reminded me of Lemony Snicket--don't keep reading all these terrible things are going to happen. ...more
Like all of Malcolm Gladwell's books, this one tells the reader a whole bunch of things he or she already intuitively knows while providing a lot of rLike all of Malcolm Gladwell's books, this one tells the reader a whole bunch of things he or she already intuitively knows while providing a lot of really interesting stories as supporting evidence.
I always find Gladwell's books to be really entertaining. The stories are interesting and the narration on the audio version, done by Gladwell himself, is fabulous. Even if the premise of this one--that what is typically seen as a weakness can really be a strength--is not particularly life-altering it's still a fun ride.
We read 1776 for book club. It was a small crew that day, but we had a great discussion.
1776 is definitely worth reading. However, I find military hisWe read 1776 for book club. It was a small crew that day, but we had a great discussion.
1776 is definitely worth reading. However, I find military history a bit tedious, and the audio version (sorry Mr. McCullough) was pretty dull. Luckily, I had a lot of packing and cleaning to help me get through it. Or was it the other way around? I also think it's a little odd how the book only covers one year when the Revolutionary War was so long.
1776 gives a fuller picture of George Washington, who can seem like a more of a legend than a person. The story of Henry Knox and his journey with the canons is unbelievable. There are several remarkable retreats and the crossing of the Delaware is always a big hit. It was also fun to read about the taking of Boston because it reminded me of my trip to Boston with Jill, Kristen, and Nicole. Jill had just finished 1776 and she had Nicole take us to Beacon Hill so that we could see where the Americans dragged their canons in the dead of night.
Also, during the book club I could not stop mentioning the Stuff You Missed in History Podcast. This was me: "Oh, the Hessians. The Stuff You Missed in History girls just did a podcast on the Hessians." "Oh, the Boston Massacre. The Stuff You Missed in History girls just did a podcast on that topic too."...more
I didn't really know how to react to Portuguese Irregular Verbs. At times the book is very funny, but at times I found myself wondering if I should beI didn't really know how to react to Portuguese Irregular Verbs. At times the book is very funny, but at times I found myself wondering if I should be offended by the book. This reaction has everything to do with me and the fact that I too have a PhD and am interested in impractical things, and I think that is okay. My suspicions that one might read this book as a cautionary tale of a man who misses out on life because he is too engrossed in one, impractical, obtuse thing were confirmed when we discussed the book at book club. However, it was a surprisingly productive book club pick, inspiring quite a bit more discussion than one would think its slim volume could. The book club discussion proved once again how differently individuals can react to a book and how our reactions are often based on our own experiences, preferences, and interests....more
Book club really helped me thinkTill We Have Faces was the book club pick for this month. C.S. Lewis crafts a retelling of the Cupid and Psyche myth.
Book club really helped me think through this book and gain a little more appreciation than I would have had for it without the discussion.
It seems many love this book, but I found it kind of strange. There are, of course, overtones of Christian belief that are worth pondering. The characters, however, are just so unlikable. I think The Fox was probably my favorite character and what does that say about me?
I wish the whole "you will be another Psyche" would have been shown rather than told to the reader. I was not a fan of the beauty vs ugly theme. The idea of "till we have faces" is a good one, but I'm not sure I needed a whole story to illustrate it. ...more
I'm reading all kinds of Halloween-appropriate books this year. Rachel picked Frankenstein for book club in October. I had good memories of reading thI'm reading all kinds of Halloween-appropriate books this year. Rachel picked Frankenstein for book club in October. I had good memories of reading this in college for Humanities 350, and I enjoyed it just as much, if not more, the second time.
Thoughts (many from book club): - Frankenstein was not what I expected--it's much more philosophy than horror. (A whole section that reads as a epistemological study.) - Victor Frankenstein is not a very sympathetic character. However, we wondered if our empathy for the creature is a very modern reaction. (We had trouble even calling him a monster.) - In many ways the book is quintessentially Romantic--from Frankenstein's solace in nature, to the views on children, and Frankenstein's extreme mood swings, depressive personality, and overzealous passion. - The frame story is a bit boggling. Is this setup an excuse to tell the tale in first person? The frame story makes it much more of a cautionary tale. - I find Elizabeth to be dull, dull, dull. I wonder why Mary Shelley writes such a boring, stereotypical female character. Then I feel bad for foisting my modern, feminist perspective on her. - Is the creature really repentant. I'm not sure I buy his weeping and wailing and am glad that Walton takes him to task. - I'm surprised the second time around how readable I find the book. I clipped right through it.
I think I'm putting this book on my list of favorite book club discussions. ...more
My favorite part of Starry River of the Sky was all the stories the characters told to one another. It made me think about the power of story and how humans love stories. We love to tell stories and hear stories. Stories teach us about other people in other lands, and they teach us about ourselves. It's fitting that my sister, who is a storyteller, gave this book to me.
I also enjoyed the beautiful woodcuts and illustrations throughout the book. There is something special about reading a beautiful book.
The book club discussion for this book was fun. I wanted something light and enjoyable for the busy month of August, and I think this was a good pick.
On the fictional island of Nollop, Nevin Nollop's tomb is tiled with the pangram "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog." The tiles begin to faOn the fictional island of Nollop, Nevin Nollop's tomb is tiled with the pangram "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog." The tiles begin to fall from the tomb and the governing council takes this as a message fromm Nollop from beyond the grave: they must excise that letter from their lives.
Ella Minnow Pea was a fantastic book club choice. It's short but full of really interesting ideas. Ella Minnow Pea is a a satire in the tradition of George Orwell'sAnimal Farm and can lead to discussion about totalitarianism, superstition, censorship, and community.
I kept thinking about the communication while I read this book, and how essential communication and community is to our humanity. As more and more restrictions are placed upon these characters it becomes harder and harder for them to communicate with one another and harder and harder for them to hold onto their humanity. Some manage to do so and others do not. ...more
Malika Oufkir, her mother, her two brothers, three sisters, and two family friends were imprisoned for twenty years following Oufkir's father's attempMalika Oufkir, her mother, her two brothers, three sisters, and two family friends were imprisoned for twenty years following Oufkir's father's attempted coup in Morocco. Her father was executed. What makes Malika's story even more mind-boggling is that she was raised by King Hassan II. He was a father figure turned captive.
The endurance, fortitude, and love shared by this family is praiseworthy. Human beings truly have untapped potential and reserves of strength.
This was a great book club pick and inspired lots of discussion....more
The Power of Habit was a great book club pick. Habit is much more instinctual and gripping than most of us realize. The anecdotes and evidence in theThe Power of Habit was a great book club pick. Habit is much more instinctual and gripping than most of us realize. The anecdotes and evidence in the book are really interesting: Charles Duhigg writes about how Target can tell women are pregnant before they make the big announcement, how Febreze is marketed, why Rosa Parks was the spark that ignited the Civil Right movement, how one individual functioned on habit alone. He writes about why habits are so powerful and what can be done to override them. Each habit has a cue, a routine, and a reward. To change a habit we need to keep the cue and the reward and change the routine. We can't seem to kick the whole cycle to the curb. Belief also plays a major role in rewriting especially strong habits, like additions. ...more
Mayflower is all about the Plymouth colony. It begins with the Pilgrims in Leidon. Contrary to the title of the book, the crossing of the Atlantic occupies very little of the narrative. Instead, the majority of the book focuses on the Pilgrim's relations with the native peoples. Before reading this book, I would have said that my knowledge of the Pilgrim's voyage and subsequent life in Plymouth was marginally higher than the average person. However, now I know so much more.
Some things I learned: I was surprised by Squanto's early death, and his conniving ways. He told the Indians that the Englishman were storing the plague beneath their houses. The Pilgrims started not starving once they instated capitalism. The Pilgrims had a greater number of non-Puritans than I realized (much to the Puritans' dismay). It's so interesting/scary how often we see the children of those who sacrificed so much forget the lessons of their fathers--enter King Philip's War.
We seriously considered naming Felix, Winslow, and if I had read this book before he was born it might have tipped the scales more heavily in Winslow's favor. The story about Edward Winslow saving Massasoit's life (and many others as well) during the typhoid outbreak was pretty impressive.
I really liked the first half of this book. The second half was very informative too, but I find reading about battles to be rather tedious.
This book made for a great book club discussion....more
I read Heaven is for Real for book club. The book is very short and is a fast read. I read it in two sittings. I think how a reader receives this bookI read Heaven is for Real for book club. The book is very short and is a fast read. I read it in two sittings. I think how a reader receives this book has more to do with what he/she thinks about heaven and near-death experiences than the book itself. Maybe I should be more skeptical, but I didn't pick up on any exaggeration or manipulation on the part of the authors. So, it seems to me, that at the very least, they believe what they have written. ...more
I've read Corrie Ten Boom'sThe Hiding Place at least three times. One of those times was as a audio book on our epic trip to Disneyland with the DanaI've read Corrie Ten Boom'sThe Hiding Place at least three times. One of those times was as a audio book on our epic trip to Disneyland with the Danahers (8 seatbelts in the car, 8 passengers). The Hiding Place was the book club pick for August. Some of my thoughts on the reread:
I really enjoyed the descriptions of the house, clockmaking, and life in Haarlem before the war. Reading about the work of the underground was fascinating. I was struck by how many miracles occurred in the concentrations camps. Those miracles blessed not only Corrie and Betsie but the other prisoners (and sometimes the guards) as well.
This was a great book club pick. Even though I had read the book before, and knew what was going to happen, I really powered through it. is a book that everyone should read. Corrie and Betsie display such humanity and strength of character, and even in such dire circumstances they stay true to themselves and continue to love their fellow man....more
Eowyn Ivey'sThe Snow Child is a retelling of a Russian fairytale about an old, childless couple who build a girl out of snow that comes to life. IveyEowyn Ivey'sThe Snow Child is a retelling of a Russian fairytale about an old, childless couple who build a girl out of snow that comes to life. Ivey sets her story in 1920s Alaska. Mabel and Jack, our older couple, are new homesteaders in this harsh wilderness.
This is a really lovely piece of magical realism. Ivey does a fantastic job adapting this tale. One never quite knows if Faina (the snow child) is real or not. The chapters with Faina have no quotation marks--a hint that something magical is taking place? I loved all the descriptions of the wilderness and life on the homestead. I also love when characters are developed throughout a novel, and Jack and Mabel certainly grow.
The Snow Child is a novel about family, life and death, loss and love. It was also a fun book club pick. I wish we had talked about it longer. I love how everything we have read for book club, thus far, has been so different.
I'm certain that no one needs me to tell them what Laura Hillenbrand'sUnbroken is about. Louie Zamperini's story is insanely amazing. Here were someI'm certain that no one needs me to tell them what Laura Hillenbrand'sUnbroken is about. Louie Zamperini's story is insanely amazing. Here were some of my thoughts while reading it:
1. How could I not love all the running stuff?
2. When reading about Louie's time as a bombardier I could not help thinking about Joseph Heller'sCatch-22 because the main character of Catch-22, Yossarian, is also a bombardier in WWII. A lot of the horrifying things that happen in Catch-22 really happened to Louie and his crew mates--the ever raising of the air missions, the inept officers (ordering Phil's crew to take out that faulty plane). And, now I know why Yossarian always dropped his bombs with very little attention to the target--the pilot can't do any evasive maneuvers until the bombs are away and the computer is no longer flying the plane in a straight, unwavering line.
3. Anyone who has a fear of sharks is absolutely justified. That time on the raft was unreal.
4. Reading about the POW camps was hard. Really hard. Because I had already read about the Bataan Death March and POW experiences in a couple of other books it wasn't new to me, and I think that not newness made it more difficult for me to get through. I just kept wishing the war would end.
5. So, so glad that Louie was able to find redemption and have a good life....more
I liked Eddie's story, and the concept that everyone meets five people in heaven who explain the newly deceased life to him or her. However, the messaI liked Eddie's story, and the concept that everyone meets five people in heaven who explain the newly deceased life to him or her. However, the message--that everyone's little life is of value--was just too heavy handed. The book reminded me of The Alchemist in that it seemed that the authors decided on a message first and then shaped the plot around that message, instead of allowing the themes to develop organically. Both books feel like they are trying to be super life-changing, and that's a rather high mark to which to aspire....more
For a year Jana Riess tries to fully commit to one new religious practice per month. For example, she fasts for the month of February as if it were RaFor a year Jana Riess tries to fully commit to one new religious practice per month. For example, she fasts for the month of February as if it were Ramadan. She practices strict Sabbath-keeping, fixed-hour prayers, generosity, gratitude, among others. She also reads a book or two each month that corresponds with her chosen practice. Riess finds herself failing to reach perfection in these commitments month after month, but she does gain a lot in trying.
The writing is humorous and fluid. Riess's book feels so honest. She does not hesitate to be critical of herself or the authors she reads. She readily recognizes her shortcomings. This initially didn't seem like the type of book that I would really enjoy, but I ended up reading it in two days.
Wilkie Collins'The Moonstone is considered England's first detective novel. Collins, a contemporary of Charles Dickens, crafts a tale about the disapWilkie Collins'The Moonstone is considered England's first detective novel. Collins, a contemporary of Charles Dickens, crafts a tale about the disappearance of a Indian diamond, the moonstone. He tells the story through the words of several narrators, each of whom knows the details of only one particular point in the case. I enjoyed this method of tale-telling.
I really enjoyed The Moonstone. At different points I suspected each one of the major characters. They all seemed to have amply motive and opportunity. However, I was quite pleased by the ultimate culprit.
We read this for my first book club meeting in Maryland. I think it was a good choice, even if others are tired of old British books. (Mentioned with humor.) It's not necessarily a book that I would have picked up on my own, but one that I definitely should have considered with or without the added incentive of a discussion....more
Becca's book club pick is the story of Ernest Hemingway's marriage to his first wife Hadley Richardson, as told from Hadley's perspective. During thisBecca's book club pick is the story of Ernest Hemingway's marriage to his first wife Hadley Richardson, as told from Hadley's perspective. During this period of the author's life, the two lived in Paris and participated in the burgeoning artistic climate of the post-war period. I found everything about this book fascinating. In my academic pursuits, this time period is one of my particular interests. I very much enjoyed reading of Ernest's and Hadley's dealings with artists such as Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ford Maddox Ford, and Gerald Murphy. The Sun Also Rises might be my favorite book by Hemingway, so it was also interesting to read about the circumstances surrounding it's creation (even if I don't necessarily agree with Paula McLain's interpretation of the novel). However, I also was extremely interested in all the more mundane and personal aspects of Ernest's and Hadley's life from their shabby living conditions to their use of birth control. I think that Paula McLain crafted the book so that Hadley is a very rich and captivating narrator. In her hands Ernest is an artist with a vigorous and energetic spirit who, although not without his demons and flaws, is clearly a fascinating person. The connection between the two main characters felt honest to me....more
Jamie Ford's novel Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a Romeo and Juliet story featuring two immigrant families living in Seattle during WorldJamie Ford's novel Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a Romeo and Juliet story featuring two immigrant families living in Seattle during World War II. The young Chinese Henry and Japanese Keiko are the only two Asian kids in their middle school. As scholarship students they bond over lunch detail and blackboard cleaning, then later jazz. It's not a good time for the Japanese immigrants and Keiko and her family are sent to an internment camp.
I found Henry and Keiko to be very likable, if not always incredibly realistic, characters. I think the choice to move between 1986 and 1942 was a good one that gave a fullness to the story that would have been lacking if we only saw these characters as children. The importance of the local jazz scene was probably my favorite part of the novel.
As a book club pick, I think we had some really interesting topics to discuss: immigration, assimilation, integration, parenting, internment camps, etc. ...more
I had heard rave reports of The Elegance of the Hedgehog. Perhaps too many. My expectations were way too high. Truth be told, I struggled through theI had heard rave reports of The Elegance of the Hedgehog. Perhaps too many. My expectations were way too high. Truth be told, I struggled through the first half of this book. The characters were so unlikable and spouting pseudo-philosophical treatises. However, the book takes a major turn around page 75. The plot picks up, and I essentially raced through the second half of the book. Plus, this book is all about change and growth so you know that the characters improved quite a bit as well.
All in all, I am not sad that I read this book, and I think it made a great book club choice. Thanks especially for Gigi's contributions all the way from Australia, and Carolyn's reminder that this is book is very French.
Some of the major topics of discussion included:
The meaning of art, life, and death Class and social status Hiding one's true self and stereotyping others The value of intelligence...more
Okay for Now follows Doug Swieteck, a character in The Wednesday Wars, to a new town and a new beginning. Doug has a rough family life, a volatile father, one brother in Vietnam and one who is always picking on him, and a loving, but powerless mother. Needless to say, Doug is rough around the edges, but Marysville, despite his initial disdain for the town, ends up being so very good for him. I couldn't not love this battered kid who has such a good heart and so much potential.
As with The Wednesday Wars, Gary Schmidt brings in so many details that probably make me predisposed to love this book even more, such as great teachers, libraries, Jane Eyre, horseshoes, running, and John James Audubon (American art history!). Each and every one of these things helps Doug strip away that tough kid facade.
Okay for Now is a companion novel to The Wednesday Wars but not a sequel, Holling Hoodhood only makes one appearance, but it is a worthy one.
Doug's voice is so strong and so funny but also so vulnerable, and it's one of the things that makes Okay for Now poignant and real and amazingly good.
Update 2012: Just finished reading this again. It's still a nearly perfect book, deserving of every one of those 5 stars. I hope my book clubers liked it too. We'll find out in a couple weeks.
I read it on my iPod this time, and it was fun to look up Audubon's pictures on the internet. I would flip back and forth to see them in full color....more
Jennifer Haigh'sFaith is about a priest in Boston in 2002 who is accused of sexually abusing an 8-year-old boy. The novel deals with how this accusaJennifer Haigh'sFaith is about a priest in Boston in 2002 who is accused of sexually abusing an 8-year-old boy. The novel deals with how this accusation is handled by the priest, the church, and his various family members.
Faith is extremely realistic and well written, but it was kind of like watching a train wreck. You just couldn't take your eyes off the devastation. Also, none of the characters are particularly likable. The issues that the book raises, however, are ripe for discussion and discuss them we did.
So, overall, I'd say, good book club pick, but one that I wouldn't have picked up on my own....more
This latest book club pick is a fabulous read about a controversial topic. Henrietta Lacks's cells became the first immortal human cells, HeLa. ThoseThis latest book club pick is a fabulous read about a controversial topic. Henrietta Lacks's cells became the first immortal human cells, HeLa. Those cells helped create the polio vaccine, AIDS and cancer treatments, and were a crucial component of cloning and nuclear research. But Henrietta Lacks had no idea she had "donated" those cells and neither did her children or husband. When they found out, long after Henrietta's death from cervical cancer, that knowledge haunted them.
Rebecca Skloot weaves the tale of Henrietta and her children with the history of the HeLa cells. Skloot is as unbiased as possible both celebrating the advances that HeLa has made possible and never sugar coating the trauma suffered by Henrietta's family. The book causes readers to question the morality and legality of tissue research and illuminates what a tricky issue this is.
A seriously good book club pick by Gigi. Everyone had lots to say on the topic. And Skloot's writing is pretty fabulous....more
Amy Chua's books is a fascinating read. It produced a whole range of emotions. At times I was cheering her on. At times I thought what she was doing wAmy Chua's books is a fascinating read. It produced a whole range of emotions. At times I was cheering her on. At times I thought what she was doing was ridiculous. At times I found Chua offensive. That's all I'm going to write for now. I think this will be a fabulous book club discussion and until then I reserve final judgment....more