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Think Outside the Box!

"Literature allows us to access the human condition in all of its complexities." comments Dr. Amy N. Ship, faciliticator of reading groups for medical professionals. She feels that literature can help them think creatively, as well as, clinically. Gathering information in a new way will assist them in connecting with their patients. Hopefully, reading and discussing literature will cause clinicians to pause, process, reflect, and think outside of the box. What a great idea!

Dr. Ship has just won the Compassionate Caregiver Award from the Kenneth B. Schwartz Center, a Boston-based foundation that honors clinicians for humanizing medical care.

In this time of uncertainty, reading groups might break down barriers in so many ways.

Congratulations, Dr. Ship!

Barbara's picture

2009 National Book Awards -- Did You Vote?

Congrats to Colum McCann for winning the 2009 National Book Award for Fiction with Let the Great World Spin!

Let the Great World Spin is the critically acclaimed author’s most ambitious novel yet: a dazzlingly rich vision of the pain, loveliness, mystery, and promise of New York City in the 1970s. A sweeping and radical social novel, Let the Great World Spin captures the spirit of America in a time of transition, extraordinary promise, and, in hindsight, heartbreaking innocence. Hailed as a “fiercely original talent” (San Francisco Chronicle), award-winning novelist McCann has delivered a triumphantly American masterpiece that awakens in us a sense of what the novel can achieve, confront, and even heal. (publisher description)

The other winners were The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt by T.J. Stiles (Non-Fiction), Transcendental Studies by Keith Waldrop (Poetry),and Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose (YA).

Flannery O'Connor's The Complete Stories won the special award for Best of National Books Award Fiction. The collection earned the special prize by 10,000 public votes. As a celebration of NBA's 60th anniversary, book lovers chose O'Connor's work in a public vote from 5 other previous National Book Awards Fiction winners. The finalists were Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, The Stories of John Cheever, The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty, Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon, and The Collected Stories of William Faulkner.

Do you vote? What book did you pick or would have picked?  

Barbara's picture

You Heard It Here First!

I'm going to NYC and Boston next week to see our publishing partners. One of my favorite trips!

It's fun and so interesting to talk with editors and marketing folks to get the scoop on their upcoming book club picks. 

And then, I hope to include You Heard It Here First posts describing to you the next season's reading group appropriate books. Be in the know and tell your friends! More details later.

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Reading Group Holiday Parties

Bonnie asked for suggestions for her book club holiday party. One idea is to read A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote. A children's book, Capote's largely autobiographical story is a look back at his Depression-era Alabama Christmases and his best friend and older cousin, Miss Sook.

The narrator, Capote (nicknamed Buddy) and Miss Sook, a sixty-ish gentle soul, celebrate Christmas by baking fruitcake and distributing them to people known and unknown to them including President Roosevelt. This short story shows Capote's masterful ability to express and reveal the enduring friendship and love of two slightly awkard people.

No spoilers here! It's a lovely Christmas tale and will pull on your heart strings! A Christmas Memory was made into a movie twice. The original film won an Emmy for Geraldine Page, who starred as Miss Sook. Read the book, see the movie, and have everyone bring their favorite fruitcake to share!  

Conversation Starters

How does the setting and time period affect the story?

What brings Buddy and Miss Sook together?

What is memory? Do we remember things as they actually were?

Does the fruitcake imply other ideas beside food? 

What about the kites? Any symbolism there?

Barbara's picture

National Bookstore Day

Bookstores across the country celebrated National Bookstore Day this weekend. I was a bookseller for 13 years. Covered Treasures in Monument, CO, McIntryes Fine Books and Bookends, Pittsboro, NC (Chapel Hill) and Market Street Books, Chapel Hill, NC. I loved those hours shelving books. I hate housecleaning but enjoyed the dusting of books and shelves to found new gems. 

All of my collegues would gather round every morning when the UPS guy delivered the new boxes of books! What a joyous time digging through those boxes finding new and wonderous titles.

Indie bookstores are green -- less packaging, less transportation, and a smaller carbon footprint. By paying local taxes,they help the local government  reinvest in your community. Support your neighbors and they will support you! And, along with your local libraries, indies have great reading group programs. 

Barbara's picture

Diva? Not Me!

Every now and again, reading groups complain of divas, know-it-alls -- any words meaning "please let others speak!"

Our group tried an egg timer. Two minute maximum in the first go-around that provided all members their say. Didn't work to well -- the vocal one still interrupted members' allotted time! So, the group, san the diva, tried something else. DON'T DO THIS AT HOME!! Unless the group is friendly and can laugh with (not at) each other. The next meeting when "the vocal one" started to drone on, the rest of us pretended to fall asleep and some members started to snore! She look around for a bit and then burst out laughing. She understood the message and all was fine!

Maybe some guidelines would help the process without going to that extreme.

Guidelines for Lively Book Discussions

Respect space—Avoid “crosstalk” or talking over others.
Allow space—Some of us are more outgoing and others more reserved. If you’ve had a chance to talk, allow others time to offer their thoughts as well.
Be open—Keep an open mind, learn from others, and acknowledge there are differences in opinion. That’s what makes it interesting!
Offer new thoughts—Try not to repeat what
others have said, but offer a new perspective
Stay on the topic—Contribute to the flow of
conversation by holding your comments to the topic of the book. Though personal references can create a great discussion, as well, please keep in mind the length of a personal reference.

I have bookmarks with these guidelines printed on them. Please let me know if you need me to send you some to distribute to your members. Might help!

How have you handle divas in your group? Please share with your comments and let me know if you want some bookmarks!

Barbara's picture

Oldie But Goodie

Do you cherish a “classic book" that you want others to read and love, as well? Ten authors, including Ruth Rendell, Hari Kunru, Joanna Trollope, Colm Toibin, relate their favorite neglected classics for BBC Radio Open Book series.

One that comes to my mind is The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. It is considered to be among the first mystery novels and is widely regarded as one of the first (and finest) in the genre of 'sensation novels'. Collins gained enduring success with this Victorian thriller–even more success at the time that his mentor, Charles Dickens.

 The novel starts with a strange midnight encounter with an artist, Walter Hartright, and a ghostly woman dressed in white. Walter tells his two pupils about the encounter and the three proceed to learn anything that can about the mystifying woman in white. They soon become involved in a quagmire of crime, violence, and international intrigue. This Victorian novel is filled with surprise and suspense! A must-read for mystery buffs and literary fiction readers.

Beginning sentence: "This is the story of what a Woman's patience can endure, and what a Man's resolution can achieve.”

What are your neglected classics?

Barbara's picture

Is it Over?

National Reading Group Month is over. Or is it? Reading groups and book clubs celebrate the book and literary conversation all year.

One case in point, reading groups have weighed in on the Guardian's First Book Award. The award recognizes the best new literary talent, whether working in the field of fiction or non-fiction. Five UK groups from Oxford, Leeds, London, Bath, and Edinburgh help choose the 5 works in the shortlist.

The Shortlist

The Enemy by Charlie Higson,
The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton
An Elegy for Easterly by Petina Gappah
The Wilderness by Samantha Harvey The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen
A Swamp Full of Dollars by Michael Peel

Three fiction, one story short collection, and a nonfiction title. These works explore personal and world issues, identity, a little bit of satire and excellent writng -- perfect for a book group lively discussion! And fiction isn't dead despite the rumor of its demise! 

The 2010 First Book Award will be announced in November. Stay tuned!


Barbara's picture

Halloween Howls

I'm going to a Halloween party tonight. With the weather, I might just stay in and glance over some of my favorite Halloween stories.

Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. I am Legend by Richard Matheson. The Haunting of the Hill House by Shirley Jackson. Something Wicked Comes This Way by Ray Bradbury. 

The Heart-Shaped Box, a contemporary thriller by Joe Hill has become one of my faves. An aging rock star with an collection of spooky and morbid objects buys a haunted suit online. Enough said! Hill takes you from horror to sublime, goulish to redemption in one book. Takes your breath away. And, lots of lively discussion points for reading group. 

Witchy You a Happy Halloween! 

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National Reading Group Month Rocks On!

National Reading Group Month Rocks On! Reading groups, libraries, and bookstores celebrate the joy of shared reading. I've wrote about the awesome event in Nashville. Let's go across the country reviewing all the great reading group authors who discussed their books at the WNBA's chapter events. Select a few of their books for your reading group list!

Boston -- Lisa Genova (Still Alice); Katherine Howe (The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane); Margot Livesey (The House on Fortune Street,).

Charlotte -- month-long program co-sponsor Park Road Books WNBA-Charlotte Picks of the Lists

Dallas -- Dixie Cash aka Pam Cumbie and Jeffery McClanahan (Curing the Blues with a New Pair of Shoes)

Detroit -- Laura Kasischke (In a Perfect World,). Thanks to bookclubgirl, read Laura's ideas about creating a novel.

Los Angeles -- Kelly Sullivan-Walden (I Had the Strangest Dream) and Paul Ryan (The Art of Comedy), with Diana Birchall (Mrs. Darcy's Dilemma: A Sequel to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice); Dori Carter (We Are Rich) Syrie James (The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen and The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë); Estherleon Schwartz (Tears of Stone: And My Deal with God: My Life Story, Estherleon Schwartz).  

Read how Syrie James' research and love of Charlotte brough her character, Charlotte, to life, compliments of bookclubgirl!  

New York City -- Rosalind Reisner (Read On. . .Life Stories and Jewish American Literature, Libraries Unlimited) and Miriam Tuliao (NYPL Asst. Dir., Central Collection Dvt.), with Eva Hoffman (Appassionata); Christina Baker Kline (Bird in Hand; C.M. Mayo (The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire); Julie Metz (Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal; Roxana Robinson (Cost). bookclubgirl has a great post about the NY event written by Stephanie Selah.

San Francisco celebrated twice -- yay!

1. Tanya Egan Gibson (How to Buy a Love of Reading; 2008 WNBA Award recipient Kathi Kamen Goldmark (And My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You); Christopher Gortner (The Last Queen).

2. Joan Gelfand (A Dreamer's Guide to Cities and Streams), with Allison Hoover Bartlett (The Man Who Loved Books Too Much); Meg Waite Clayton (The Wednesday Sisters, ) Charlie Haas (The Enthusiast); Mary Mackey (The Widow's War).

Seattle -- Nancy Pearl (Book Lust, More Book Lust and Book Crush), with Jamie Ford (Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet; Diane Hammond (Hannah's Dream); Stephanie Kallos (Sing Them Home; Jim Lynch (Border Songs); Garth Stein (The Art of Racing in the Rain).

Washington, D.C. --  "Washington Reads, P&P Reads," Edward P. Jones (The Known World)


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