Saturday, March 26, 2011

Weekly Whine: Book Club

Next week, I'm going to a meeting of a fledgling book club. It's right in my building, so it combines my two great loves: reading and being lazy.

My husband asked me what you do at a book club. Damned if I know. Presumably you discuss books, right? I told him that, and he commented that it kind of sounded like school. True. But I liked school. Well, not med school. But other kinds of school.

At the first meeting, we're going to be deciding on what book to discuss at our second meeting. I asked what book we were going to be reading and the leader of the group said she was thinking about a book called Little Bee by Chris Cleave.

Little Bee. That sounded interesting! Sounded like it might be funny, possibly about bees, maybe bees doing something funny.

I looked it up on Amazon and started reading the description: "Little Bee braids the fates of a 16-year-old Nigerian orphan (who calls herself Little Bee) and a well-off British couple..."

And that's all I got through before I zoned out.

Maybe this Little Bee book is great. Maybe I'll love it. I'm sure I'm unfairly judging it. After all, it's on the NYT Bestseller List, so presumably there are a lot of people at least purchasing it. But what I really want to do is read a book that I'll lose myself in. That I'll be turning the pages in desperation to get to the end. I'm too old to be reading fiction I don't really enjoy And I just don't see myself really enjoying Little Bee.

(My suggestion for the book club was Water For Elephants, which didn't sound that much more appealing to me, but I've heard good things about it and it got more stars on Amazon.)

I guess my whine is this: why does book club reading have to be so damn pretentious? Why does it always have to involve some Nigerian orphan? Right now I'm reading Watermelon by Marian Keyes, about a woman whose husband dumps her a day after she gives birth... I don't see that being on any book club lists, but it's sure fun to read. The best I can come up with is that maybe there isn't enough to discuss about Watermelon. Maybe a book has to be really deep in order to spend a whole hour talking about it while drinking wine and eating cheese.

But I'm trying to keep an open mind. After all, some of my favorite books of all time were ones assigned to me by teachers in order to enrich my little mind (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Jane Eyre). But a few of them I really hated and thought were pointless (Frankenstein, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance). And some made no impression on me whatsoever (????). Maybe I'll end up loving Little Bee.

Probably not though.


  1. That's what I hate about book clubs- I don't want to have to search for some sort of deeper meaning in what I read- I want to read it for the sake of enjoying the story. (And if I race to finish it, because it was that good, so much the better.) Analyzing why the main character uses his left hand to brush his teeth, and if that's a metaphor for Communism is tedium that can't be negated by wine.

    Also, Water For Elephants was an excellent book. Great story, couldn't wait to see what happened next, and it was dead cheap for the kindle.

  2. I am completely empathetic... But, as it happens, Little Bee really is a fantastic story, one that it is easy to lose yourself in. I'm picky about my fiction reading, and I loved it.

  3. I have read both those books and Water for Elephants is a MUCH more enjoyable read. There is a scene in Little Bee that disturbed me more than any scene, in any book, ever. The rest of the book was quite good.

    I am in a book club but we mostly just eat, drink, and people talk about their kids. It's my turn to pick the book next month, and I might pick Water for Elephants. Or a fun Sophie Kinsella novel.

    A few months ago we read The Gargoyle, and it was generally considered the favorite book ever chosen in the 6 years of this book club.

  4. Water for Elephants is the page turner you're looking for. It was amazing. And you KNOW how picky I am about books.

    Honestly, I like book club more for the socialization aspect, and less for the book. This seemed to piss some people off who actually went to book club to discuss the book? Anyway, let us know if you like Little Bee and I'll add it to the list of good books I'll probably never read.


  5. I've read all three f those books actually- water for elephats was my fav but the others are good too:) let us know how you like it!

  6. Little Bee is pretty good. I got at the airport and it engrossed me for my entire flight from coast to coast.

  7. SpecialSauce: Yeah, I don't know exactly what we're going to talk about with these books. I like to talk about books I like, but I don't like to analyze them. I guess we'll see...

    Femina, C, Caligirl: We haven't selected a book yet, so if Little Bee gets chosen, I guess I'll give it a shot.

    Liz: I looked up The Gargoyle on Amazon and it sounds interesting! Maybe we'll try it. I love Kinsella, but I have to wonder what we'd discuss about her books. Then again, I think that about any book.

    OMDG: It might have been your blog where I heard Water for Elephants was good. That's why I suggested it. And yeah, I'm mostly joining for socialization.

  8. Ugh, little bee was totally depressing. Loved water for elephants...loved! My book club read both :)

  9. At a former workplace the women in the office decided to start a book club, and although the men were interested we were excluded. We started our own 'men's bookclub'. The rules were simple:
    There will be snacks.
    The host chooses the book.
    "I hated this book so I only read the first chapter" is a legitimate opinion, please come to the book club even if you did not read or finish the book.
    There will be snacks, but no pretentious snacks and no snack one up man ship.

    The women's book club folded on the first book (I think it was Soul Mountain) and the men's book club has ben going strong for years (though I now live in another city).

    The problem with some bookclubs is that they are basically competitive (better books, better opinions, better snacks). Book clubs that are about camaraderie are really the way to go.
    Dr. J

  10. Definitely give it a shot... it's a very unique story with an unusual writing style, unlike a lot of crap on the NYT bestseller list. Bit depressing though, but its a nice break from light and fluffy.

  11. If you never experienced the tragic loss of a family member you won´t understand Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

  12. Aaron: I'm mostly going to meet people, so hopefully it won't turn out to be too snooty.

    Lizzie: I don't like depressing books though...

    Lisa: I read that book over a decade ago and all I remember about it is that it was boring and I rolled my eyes a lot. I don't know if there's anything that would have made me like it. In any case, it wasn't appropriate reading for a class of 16 year olds.

  13. I definitely agree that Kinsella is not going to bring about any deep discussions! After some of the things we havve read lately though (holocaust, abuse, etc.), I think we could use a break from the tears.

    Good luck with your book club, that is so awesome that it is in your building!

  14. I got kicked out of a book club... at least I think so. They quit telling me when it was. I will attribute it to the fact that I showed up ill prepared ( didn't read the book), and was just there to socialize.... Nobody seemed to want to read non-fiction either, which is my preference.... :-)

  15. I prefer reading the books of my choice and drinking wine at home. LOL. Of course, I'm in school right now, so the appeal of reading as brain exercise is somewhat less appealing to me.

  16. "Cutting for Stone" Excellent! But maybe too much like taking your work home?

  17. I avoid books of an enriching nature like poison. Damn it, I read for FUN!

    Don't you get enough 'slice of life' encounters and tragedy in your line of work? Give yourself a pass!

    (says she who translated Homer from the original Greek, and feels it excuses her from all future cultural endeavors)

  18. Water for Elephants was great, but my fav is The Time Traveller's Wife. It's the only book I've read several times, and each time I forget where I am, who I am, and end up balling my eyes out at a couple of different places. Never fails.