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January 26, 2007



How does your bookgroup pick the next book? Turns? Consensus? Draw straws? My current bookgroup reads the "hot list" for the Newbery and Printz awards, which, because they are for older children, have the advantage of being quick reads if'n I don't like them (and the disadvantage of being available only in hardcover and not usually being at the library). When I used to belong to more ordinary bookgroups, I was often terribly frustrated by the fact that some people pick crappy books -- yes, yes, they may win the ol' Pen/Faulker or whatever, but they can still be pretty awful coughsnowfallingoncedarscoughalltheprettyhorsescoughcoughcormac
mccarthyiamtalkingtoyoucough. And there is never enough non-fiction -- someone always has a prejudice against it. I also hated it when I picked a loser (example: Penelope Fitzgerald, The Blue Flower, which had won a Nat'l Book Critics Award and is deemed a masterpiece, but I still thought it was dull -- and I've actually read Novalis and Goethe and that crowd of German Romantics). From what I have read in your blog, you aren't suffering from a similar frustration with your bookgroup pals. Maybe it's just me, or maybe I just needed a different group (eventually that group was killed off by a rash of babies). Anyhow, in self-defense, after having to read 400-plus pages of Youth in Revolt, I finally adopted my liberating 100-page rule: if I still don't like it at page 100, I have permission to stop. And I do. Life is too short. I figure, after 100 pages, I can at least articulate what the heck it was I didn't like.


We mostly choose by consensus. If someone has a strong aversion to reading a particular book, we don't do it. We try to line up a few in advance. When we reach the end of the list, I'll see if anyone has any suggestions (Waiting and Them were both suggested by other members); if not, I'll offer up a few.

We try to do some nonfiction when we can; a few months ago we did Madame Bovary because it turned out that none of us had read it! We hope to do another classic this year. We avoid short story collections because they're too hard to discuss in just one meeting; everyone always wants to talk about a different story.

Sometimes we all hate a book but enjoy discussing it (What I Loved by Suri Hustvedt comes to mind); other times we all love a book but there's nothing to talk about (like The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay).

Cormac McCarthy is so NOT my idea of a good read.

In the last year or so, I've finally started allowing myself not to finish watching a rented movie if it's truly horrible. I'm not there yet with books, though. I MUST FINISH. Sigh.

I like the idea of reading YA books; it might be even more fun in a parent-child group. Or maybe not....


When "Them" came out there were a bunch of interviews on NPR, this is the only one I remember off-hand,

The story always sounds so grim that I don't want to get started.

On the other hand, Scott Simon's Pretty Birds is very desolate, but a fabulous read. Maybe I've got a new book to read...

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