Book Clubs in the News
What do robots, dogs, singers and financial columnists have in common? They all have book clubs and they are all featured in this month’s Book Clubs in the News!NewScientist.com: The Robots’ Book Club
Who knew computers could read books? Well apparently they can. They can even tell you what the book is about and identify central themes. Sort of. What’s next, robot book clubs?KitSapSun.com: Reading Dogs?
I know I made an April Fools joke about reading dogs, but this time I’m serious. All across the country, programs are springing up where kids gain confidence in their reading skills by reading aloud to their fuzzy four legged friends.WashingtonPost.com: Color of Money Book Club
Book clubs are not just for fiction anymore. There seem to be book clubs out there for every kind of book you can think of, from software manuals to law books to your more obvious genre specific clubs. Check out this online book club run by Personal Financial Columnist Michelle Singletary of The Washington Post. Read the best books on managing your money and your life and discuss them online. You can even win a free book!MySpace.com: Like to Read? And Sing? Have I got the book club for you!
The Bushwick Book Club in Brooklyn is in their own words “Songwriters who will read a book and write songs about/relating to it and play them for an astounded and appreciative audience. And other people who like books and music and nights involving books and music at the same time.” I’m astounded. And wish I lived closer ‘cause I’d totally go.
Is your book club doing something totally different? We want to hear about it! Feel free to comment here on the blog, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
-- Dana Barrett, Contributing Editor
Authors Helping Authors
In today's guest post, regular contributor Denise Neary shares a really cool author helping author story she came across. I hope I would be willing to go out of my way for someone like Jennifer Weiner does in this story no matter how successful I became. Not everyone would. But of course, that's what makes this story so special.
I love reading Jennifer Weiner’s funny, smart, and insightful blog, A Moment of Jen
and was intrigued by this comment on the site in early March:
"If I’ve got one regret about my career, it’s that I’ll never get to be a debut novelist again, never feel the excitement and the terror that goes with it being your first time out of the gate, when you’ve got no audience, no track record, nothing but hope, and a willingness to do whatever you can to get your book into readers’ hands."
Weiner urged her readers to help spike the sale of Sarah Pekkanen’s debut novel, THE OPPOSITE OF ME. And, thanks to the considerable forces that are Weiner and Pekkanen, the book was a bestseller before it was officially published.
How did that happen?
Serendipity, talent, hard-work and generosity all around.
Writers Weiner and Pekkanen share an editor, Greer Hendricks, but don’t know each other. Pekkanen was weepy when Hendricks told her that Weiner liked the advance copy THE OPPOSITE OF ME
Pekkanen, working hard to promote her new book, created a contest, “Sarah Spike Day” on her website
to encourage people to order the book on a certain day. She announced some great prizes (As an aside, when did authors turn into human public relations machines?)
Weiner heard about the contest, and upped the ante. Weiner offered to send a signed copy of one of her books to each person who pre-ordered the book on March 3. At first, Pekkanen wrongly assumed that Weiner was generously offering to give away one copy of each of her seven best-sellers. Wrong. One copy per order. Weiner gave away hundreds of her books---all to help a new writer start off on the right foot, to share her readers with another audience, and to take delight in helping a new writer succeed.
A great book started its life as a best seller. A debut author had the moment of a lifetime. And a generous experienced author had the thrill (and the significant associated postal duties) of helping make that all happen.
It is goodness with a capital G.
-- Denise Neary, Regular Contributor
Library Lovers Unite
Earlier in the week I gave a shout out to my hometown library and libraries in general in honor of National Library Week. I was trying to keep it light and fun 'cause that's how I roll. But there are serious funding issues libraries are facing right now and if we want to keep the doors open for our children and our children's children, we need to step up. Mary Bonelli from Charlotte, NC wrote telling me about the library situation in her hometown and I thought it was something you should all be aware of. Her letter is today's post:
About a month ago, the Charlotte City Council announced that they were closing 12 of the 24 branches in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library
system. The book loving community in Charlotte were completely taken by surprise and shocked at this announcement. They had previously talked about cutting hours and closing on certain days. They needed $2,000,000 in two weeks to keep the libraries open through the end of the fiscal year; June 30th.
The community rallied to do the best the could to raise this money and to voice their sadness, concerns and disappointment about the closings. The community was able to raise approximately $235,000; not enough to save the libraries. But because to the community's outrage, City Council held an emergency meeting and came up with a plan. They went back to their original thinking and have cut 85 of the original 140 jobs, each branch will be closed 2 days a week and will have shorter hours.
This will keep the libraries safe until the next fiscal year begins on July 1st. If the funding is not available in the new fiscal year, they are saying they will only be able to keep the main branch in Uptown Charlotte open and the children's library, ImaginOn, also in Uptown Charlotte.
How sad and scary that this is happening in a city like Charlotte, NC that has enjoyed being such a boom town for the 20 years that I have lived here. We are a fairly wealthy and philanthropic city, but this is a reality for us. With the way the economy has been over the last several years, I have personally seen a huge jump in library usage. I have always used the library to get a large percentage of my reading material to keep my personal budget under control. In a time when others are looking to save money, it is truly sad that this important resource could be gone.
For more details on this story and how you can help, visit the library's website
. To donate, click here
Thanks for bringing the importance of community libraries to our attention on your website and wish us luck in getting some budget money come July!
Sincerely, Mary Bonelli
Jeffrey Stepakoff: FIREWORKS OVER TOCCOA
Today's guest author is Jeffrey Stepakoff whose debut novel FIREWORKS OVER TOCCOA is quickly becoming a bestseller. I met Jeffrey last week and liked him right away. We had one of those "small world" moments when you realize you know some of the same people and have probably unknowingly crossed paths in the past. As we talked I could see that Jeffrey was a rare breed. A guy that not only talks but actually listens. And as you'll see in this post, also one that believes in love (and will openly admit it!).
Do you believe in love at first sight? Or to put a finer point on it, do you think you know when you’ve met “the one?” I guess I’ve always been a bit of a romantic. Still, I never really believed in such things – until I met my wife. Or maybe I should say, met her the second time.
One beautiful summer night, when we were in our twenties and just starting our careers, we both went to a party and ended up sitting right next to each other outside on the patio of a restaurant in Atlanta. It was the first time we met. We talked that night, and there was a spark, but in the morning I left for Los Angeles to start a job, and she settled into a job and a life in Georgia.
Eight years later, through a series of entirely unforeseen events, she moved to Los Angeles, to an apartment right around the corner from me. A mutual friend gave her my number, which she held onto for six months. But she finally called me and we talked on the phone one night for over three hours.
We made a date for a few days later and when she opened the door, I remember thinking that I now knew what the word breathless actually meant. We sat together on her sofa for a few minutes and she showed me some photographs of our mutual friends. I just smiled and nodded, my heart pounding, as I realized that never in my life had I ever met a woman who made me feel this way. It was an instinctive involuntary thing, like breathing, only at that moment I was aware of it.
We had dinner at an Asian restaurant in Venice and we were so engulfed in conversation they had to kick us out so they could close the place.
There was a kiss, and not long after we were married.
My wife is convinced that we were meant to be together, that it was inevitable, you know, destiny. I can’t refute that. But I also wonder about why we met, but it then took destiny eight years to bring us together.
In FIREWORKS OVER TOCCOA
, Lily wonders a lot about “the simple timing of things.” She wonders about how timing played a part in everything from what happened to her brother to when she met Jake.
Do you believe in true love? Do you think timing plays a part in our how things play out in our lives? How did you meet your partner? These are some great questions to consider, along with the others in the FIREWORKS OVER TOCCOA Reading Group Discussion Guide
And when you do start thinking about these things, send me an email
. I’d love to know your thoughts!
Here’s to always believing in fireworks!
--Jeffrey Stepakoff, Author ( http://jeffreystepakoff.com/
Love Thy Library as Thyself
It's National Library Week
! Woo hoo... So, roll out the barrels, grab your party hats and run, don't walk to your nearest library.
This year National Library Week's theme is "Communities thrive @ your library" and we here at ReadingGroupGuides.com love reading and love reading communities so we're happy to take part in the celebration.
I have so many fond memories from my childhood of being in The Springfield Township Library
or the library at my elementary school. I remember being kind of in awe of the quiet and the books and feeling so lucky to have a library card. I remember the librarians as being so nice and helpful, and so very, very tall behind that big checkout counter.
And though I certainly go to the library a bit less now than I did then, I want to make sure they continue to thrive. Especially in these tough economic times when our libraries provide free access to books and computers, homework help, assistance with resumes and job searches, accurate financial information, adult education courses, assistance for new Americans, CDs, DVDs and much more.
Be a part of National Library Week by visiting your local library. And hey, take a friend a long, or your kids.
Another way you can participate is to help libraries in the US get the funding they need. There are only two days left to get in touch with your senator and ask them to sign the "Dear Appropriators" letter that will go to the Senate Appropriations Committee asking them to support the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) and the Improving Literacy Through School Libraries (ILTSL) program in the FY2011 budget. Learn more about the budget and get instructions on how to contact your Senator by clicking here
Discussing THE HELP
This month, regular contributor Heather Johnson shares her book club's discussion of THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett. Have you read it yet? Let us know what you think!
This month my book club met to discuss Kathryn Stockett’s bestseller, THE HELP
. Two members nominated it in our last round of book-choosing (that has never happened before) so we were all expecting it to be really good. This book seems to be everywhere right now! Several of our members were approached in the salon while reading it; people wanted to say either that they loved the book or that they couldn’t wait to read it. These comments from complete strangers definitely added to our high expectations.
Eight members of the club got together over brunch on a lovely, Spring-y Saturday afternoon and we jumped right in to our discussion of the book …
We all agreed that Stockett did a wonderful job with most of her characters, especially Aibileen and Hilly. Some of us felt that Skeeter’s character needed “something more” to make her completely believable, and we all wanted to see more about Celia (who we loved!)
As the conversation continued, we realized that we each had different perceptions of racism based on where we were raised. The women who were raised in Northern states felt that racism today is a far cry from what is described in the book; they view modern racism as an underlying current rather than an in-your-face reality. Those raised in Southern states disagreed. One gal shared that in her Southern hometown the local high school still has separate proms – one run by the school and one run by a parent committee – and that students understand implicitly which one they are to attend, based on their race. This was absolutely shocking to some members while others had heard of this practice. Our discussion then detoured to the current trend of racism toward people of Hispanic and Middle Eastern descent before we pulled the conversation back to the book.
We went on to discuss some of the historical events going on around that time (the murder of Medgar Evers, the murder of the New York Civil Rights workers in Mississippi, and so on) and how we expected more violence to be present in the book. We discussed whether this absence was a strength or a weakness (ie. Did Stockett cop out?), but we didn’t really come to a solid conclusion.
My club rates the books we read on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the highest). Each member uses her own criteria and usually compares the current book to others we’ve read. This book received an 8 from almost every member – it was definitely a hit with my club.
I didn’t think of this ahead of time, but this would have been a great book to pair up with a non-fiction account of the Civil Rights movement in the South. That would have given an entirely new dimension to the discussion, don’t you think?
-- Heather Johnson
, Regular Contributor
Jean Hanff Korelitz: ADMISSION
Today's guest blogger, author Jean Hanff Korelitz talks about talking. Did you know authors like to do it? Jean assures us they do...so don't be shy about asking an author to come speak at or call into your club!
For the past nine years I’ve run a “Meet the Author” book group in my home as a benefit for a local transitional housing organization in Princeton, NJ. How is it a benefit? Each member of the group makes a donation to the organization. And why are they willing to pay for an activity most people engage in for free? Because “Meet the Author” isn’t just a metaphor for reading our monthly selection; the author of the novel, memoir, non-fiction book or biography is always present for our discussion.
I mention this because people are sometimes surprised by how completely open I am to phoning book groups who are discussing my novels, when the fact is that I really believe in this rare and (generally!) wonderful exchange of ideas between author and reader. I am intensely grateful to the nearly 50 writers who have travelled to my home to speak with twenty strangers, so saying yes to book groups reading ADMISSION
or one of my earlier novels is my way of saying thank you and passing the goodwill along. (For the record, we don’t pay the authors who appear at our book group, though I guarantee that every book group member will purchase the book, a courtesy that any group inviting an author should absolutely observe.) I love speaking to readers who have forged their own relationships (sometimes good, sometimes bad) with my characters, and who sometimes see things in them that have escaped me. I love discussing the issues my novels have raised with thoughtful people, and getting their perspectives, and I love – as who would not? – hearing that I’ve touched a reader, or that the shape of the story I’ve made has been appreciated. (I’m a passionate reader – most writers are – and I know that one of the great pleasures in life is telling the author of a book I’ve loved how wonderful the experience of reading that book has been.)
One of the themes that has emerged in my own book group over the years is the fact that novelists – at least the ones who’ve appeared at the Meet the Author book group – usually do not know what will happen in their novels when they begin to write, or even, sometimes, until the writing is well underway. Again and again, authors report that they were unaware of the direction their story would take, or what their characters would do, until those elements of the novel revealed themselves. As the only writer in my book group, it isn’t news to me that we can be fairly clueless when we set out to write a novel. Sure, we may have a glimmer of an idea as we begin, a wisp of a character, a notion of a problem that needs to be solved, but the fact remains that we set out in the dark and the lights come on only gradually. By the time a novel is completed – if we’ve done our job well – our work will feel sure-footed, inevitable and unforced, but that is something we achieve along the way. “Did you know that was going to happen?” My fellow book group members always ask the visiting author. And it’s pure unadulterated fun for me to watch their amazement when the author tells them: “Actually, no.”
There’s a lot to talk over in ADMISSION
. What is it like to be one of those gatekeepers at selective universities, sifting through thousands of brilliant, exciting and promising young applicants and making such impossible decisions? What does it feel like to be actively resented by just about everyone you meet? How do you carry a secret without letting it infect you, impede you and destroy your potential for connection with other people? If your book group is reading ADMISSION
, please don’t be shy!
Get in touch with me by emailing email@example.com
and writing “Forward to Jean Hanff Korelitz” in the subject line. I’ll do my best to phone in and join the conversation.
--Jean Hanff Korelitz, Author