Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Book Group

Here's what's ridiculous: Naked Without Books! is a book blog, and I belong to a book group and I hardly ever blog about BOOKLEAVES! Who turned out the lights? I resolve to do much better in this regard.

BOOKLEAVES has been in existence since 2005. Veronica finally got it off the ground after pining away for years and years, longing for a book group in Korea, and persevering like mad. You can read the whole inspiring story here.

I don't know who decided on the location, but the decision smacks of genius. We meet at a coffee shop in Gangnam called "Angel-In-Us" on the first floor of the Kyobo building. The beauty part is that a bookstore with a very nice English language section is housed on the ground floor of this very same building! It makes for a very nice meeting: We talk about the book, discuss what we're going to read next time, talk about various other things, (like how brunch has finally caught on with the Koreans and how there's all these really great new restaurants specializing in brunch opening up in Seoul!) then wander downstairs and check out what's new.

At this last meeting, we discussed The Master And Margarita by Mikhail Bolgakov. Russian magical realism. A retelling of Faust, Satan visits (then) modern-day Moscow. The novel was published in 1966, 26 years after Bolgakov's death. It was always available underground, but for obvious reasons, it wasn't on Stalin's favorites list. The Master And Margarita is considered one of the greatest novels of the 20th century. I'm still reading it since I didn't get my copy until shortly before the meeting on Sunday. Since Bolgakov was also a playwright (as BOOKLEAVES member Karen helpfully pointed out) each chapter reads like a scene, but the writing is beautiful; there's no staginess.

After the meeting, Liz, Karen and Catherine took off, and Veronica, Aaron and I headed down to the bookstore. That Aaron is one sick puppy. I say this with the greatest respect and admiration, of course. Before the meeting, he'd been downstairs and bought 4 or 5 books. After the meeting, he went back and bought 4 or 5 more! At this point, I'd list titles, but I'm having a little problem remembering everything he bought. [Aaaaghhh! Memory loss! That 46th birthday is rapidly approaching -- I can feel its fetid breath upon me.] Aaron's going through a rough patch right now, and is drowning his troubles in books. Gotta love him. He's a fine example of a young male in the throes of bibliomania unleashed. I can't compete. He makes me look like a mere pretender to the shelves.

Veronica was no slouch either, when it came to buying books. She's in the midst of hunting, gathering and reading the James Patterson series with numbers in the title. I think she bought a biography of Audrey Hepburn, too. Did I say she's also generous? She loaned me her copy of Book Lust by Nancy Pearl, which I'm reading with a pen and notebook at the ready, to write down Pearl's recommendations.

I went downstairs to pick up a copy of Water For Elephants, which we're reading for the January 6 meeting, but guess what? Aaron had bought the last copy before the meeting! Of course, there was nothing to do but meander over to the biography/memoir section, right? Although I had sworn to leave off buying anything more in this genre, I was weak. I bought Mockingbird (the biography of Harper Lee) and Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.

The next meeting is December 9, and we're discussing A Thousand Splendid Suns. I've seen many favorable reviews of this novel on the various blogs I read, but I've avoided reading them in detail so I can avoid a "too-much-hype" letdown. I'm very much looking forward to this novel.

So that's a day in the life of my wonderful book group! Aren't I lucky to have found them?

9 comments:

Tara said...

You are lucky to have found them! I found Water for Elephants to be a hugely entertaining book. Two of your upcoming books are also on our 2008 list, Eat,Pray, Love and Thousand Splendid Suns.

Lisa said...

Be prepared to have your wish list grow exponentially after being exposed to Book Lust! I have that as well as More Book Lust and Now Read This II. There just isn't enough time in one lifetime to read all the books that I want to read.

You mentioned Mockingbird. I haven't read that, but I definitely want to. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is my all-time favorite book.

Our book club will be reading A Thousand Splendid Suns the first of the year. I'll be interested to see what you think of it.

kookiejar said...

Those sound like my kind of people. Dear Aaron. He sounds like a great guy.

'Book Lust' is wonderful. She goes out of her way to recommend "The Dork of Cork" by Chet Raymo, so I read it, and I loved it! Nancy Pearl will not steer you wrong.

John Mutford said...

I'm a little scared to read A Thousand Splendid Suns as well. It'll be impossible to read it objectively at this point.

Zeek said...

Oh cool! Love to hear about bookies in Korea- when I lived there I know I sure missed that. (Thank God for Amazon and abe.com!)

I was in Pusan, and while there it felt more difficult finding English Books (and other things "english") then in Seoul. Course not as bad as some of the outlying areas, I'm sure!!!

I really liked Water for Elephants and truly need to get out there and buy Thousand Splendid Suns because I loved The Kite Runner!

jenclair said...

Your book group sounds great, and the location, perfect! I want to read The Master and Margarita; I love retellings/reinterpretations of the Faust story.

Water for Elephants and Mockingbird are both very good reads. I wasn't sure I was going to like Mockingbird, but after the first chapter, it was very good. I do wish Harper Lee had talked to him, though.

joemmama said...

I loved "Mockingbird" as well as "Eat,Pray,Love". I have "Booklust" and "More Booklust" in my bookbag at all times! "Water for Elephants" was my best read last year! I wish I could find some fun people for a group. Living in "Stepford" it seems, not many folks read. They have busy,busy lives, I guess....sigh.

Dewey said...

A good book group is such a joy. I miss the one I belonged to in my old town, but I haven't tried to join one here because I'm afraid any I joined would never live up to my old one.

The Lee biography was fascinating! Hope you enjoy it.

Bybee said...

Tara,
Glad for the recommend about Water For Elephants.

Lisa,
You were right. My wish list jumped up 40+ books. I'm working on A Thousand Splendid Suns right now and it's wonderful. The hype was right.

Kookiejar,
Back in 2005 when I had a little time off, I went back and read a years' worth of Nancy Pearl's reviews and picked up a lot of good ideas for reading then. One novel she recommended, called A Complicated Kindness, is strongly seconded by Aaron, my Canadian book group buddy. I went back and added The Dork Of Cork when you mentioned it in your above comment. Thanks!

John,
I went ahead and started it. The hype is real. It's good. Great.

Zeek,
I wish I'd known you when you were here. When were you here? I don't find Busan to be a great place to shop for books -- I just usually go to the beach!

Jenclair,
The Master And Margarita is a bit of a struggle for me, but it's just that neither Russian literature nor magical realism are my cuppa tea.

Joemmama,
My sympathies that you live in "Stepford". The women in Dallas reminded me of Stepford wives. Plastic as all hell. Maybe it's changed in 20 years...

Dewey,
Mr. Bybee grabbed my copy as soon as I unpacked it from my backpack and looked at the pictures. He was happy to see one of Harper Lee and Gregory Peck together. To Kill A Mockingbird is in his Top Ten movie list. If ever in this life he decides to read a novel, it'll be To Kill A Mockingbird.