Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Talya With Cracked Spinz And Bookleaves: My Book Groups

I'm really lucky to be part of 3 book groups. Here's a report of our recent activities:

1. Talya's Book Group: Talya has finally realized that Seoul Women's Book Club is a deadly moniker that hardly matches her vibrant personality, so she's in search of a new name for the group. Any ideas? Meanwhile, in April, we read The Evolution of Shadows by Jason Quinn Malott, a novel about three people who gather in Sarajevo to get answers about Gray Banick, a journalist they were all close to who disappeared five years before. Malott's novel capitvated almost everyone in the group. Reading the acknowledgements, I noticed that he studied writing with Steve Heller at Kansas State University. I got to meet Heller almost 20 years ago and read his short story collection The Man Who Drank A Thousand Beers as well as his novel The Automotive History of Lucky Kellerman. It's funny what a small world it can be with readers and writers. Anyway, for our next meeting, we're reading Shanghai Girls by Lisa See. A few months ago, I saw this novel everywhere. Now that I'm looking for it, I can't find it, but the meeting isn't until very late in May which gives me time to track down a copy.

2. Cracked Spinz - Unlike Bookleaves and Talya's Book Group, this one, comprised of individuals who share my workplace, is almost all-male, which makes for some interesting selections. We kicked off the new year with Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. James had the most amusing comment -- he said that it reminded him of a video game -- the characters move into one place and there's a fight and lots of violence, then they move into another place and there's a fight, lots of violence and so on throughout the novel. Paul said that the first time he read the book he didn't get the humor as he did this time around. I was reminded of the first season of Deadwood. For our next read, Alex suggested The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton. I know that the novel deals with anarchy and that the author is famous for creating the detective Father Brown, but little else, so I'm looking forward to expanding my knowledge and seeing what the guys come up with next. Paul suggested Poe's only novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1838). Gotta admit, I'm intrigued.

3. Bookleaves is already on its sixth book for the year. The only book so far that I have truly loathed was Wicked, but we switched gears big time with Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan, a gripping book of short stories about children living marginal, often dangerous lives in Africa. After that, we read Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh, which is a feast for the senses. We're keeping up that international bent by looking to Sweden and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. I've been shying away from this book for my own usual stupid, stubborn awkward reasons: it's a mystery, it's a bestseller, but I've got to break free of my snobbish and narrow prejudices, or why be in a book club -- let alone three of them? The next meeting should be doubly interesting -- we're meeting at COEX on May 16, during which time there will be an International Book Fair that we'll be attending. I'm excited, but trying not to get my hopes up too much. Finally, Jill has encouraged us as a group to do more book-swapping at our meetings, which has been fun and added to our already rich and varied conversations about books. Not to mention that there's something so rich-feeling and indulgent when you see piles of books spilling over on a table that's laden with good food.

Isn't it funny that all three groups chose books whose titles mentioned people by their gender, and that the girl groups chose books with girl in the title and the almost all-male group chose a title that included the word man? I wonder if something like this could happen again...or has it in the past and I've just been lazy about spotting patterns?

What's your book group been up to lately?


Quinn said...

Thank you for reading my book. It's always nice to hear that that it was enjoyed.

Best, JQM

Bybee said...

Wow, thanks for stopping by. Authors are like rock stars to me. There's no way I could ever do what you do -- not in a million years.

Anonymous said...

I ended up ordering a copy off better world books of Shanghai Girls. I haven't had much energy for going into Seoul lately, and none of the Kyobo's around me have it. I could have ordered it from them, but I got a hardback copy of better world for less than $10.