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May 30, 2008

What Books Would You Buy with $100?

Posted by carol
Last month Jamie Layton talked about how her reading group's selections went awry and whether or not she was going to break some book club rules. Here she updates us on the situation. She also comments on novelist Lesley Kagen's recent post and asks a provocative question. We'd love to hear YOUR answers to that question if you'd like to share them in the comments section.

Before I plunge into this month's entry, I wanted to bring everyone up to speed on the book crisis my reading group was having last month. For the record, I did not break the rules and veer off our predetermined schedule of books. We stuck to the program and just this past Wednesday met to discuss A Thread of Grace, which incidentally is Mary Doria Russell's very interesting novel about the plight of Jewish Italians and Jewish emigres in WWII Italy. Wonderful characters, a bit different writing style, we highly recommend it. Now we're on to The Canning Season by Polly Horvath (a young adult title) and then Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love in July. Silly me for even thinking about taking the train back to the station early.

I also wanted to comment on Lesley Kagen's entry from Wednesday. Our book group read Whistling in the Dark this past January, and it was a unanimous hit. To make a good book even better, we were fortunate enough to have Lesley join our discussion via phone. It was a memorable meeting our members are still talking about and one that set a standard that will be hard to beat. Whistling is a terrific book club selection and, if you're nice, you could probably convince Lesley to give your group a call! She is one dedicated author --- and funny, witty, open. I could go on and on. Hi, Lesley!

So today I was up at the bookstore and out of nowhere this question pops into my head: "If a hundred dollars turned up in the washing machine tonight, what books would I buy?" I think most of the time we buy a book here, a book there. You pick up the one you need for next month's group one week, maybe a new memoir your friend can't stop talking about the next week, and now and then you splurge on two or three you've been wanting to read. But WHAT IF you could spend $100 right now on books and only books? Would you binge on your "want to read" list? Would you buy 3 - 4 hardbacks or 6 -7 paperbacks? What about that beautiful coffee table book you just saw --- Rocking Chairs Across America? Two $50 art books?

Think of the possibilities. Think also of return on investment. Sure, the coffee table book will look great, but how often will anybody really delve into its pages more than once? Will any of the hardbacks give you more than three or four days of pleasure? Will you end up giving those "want to, have to read" books away? ONE hundred dollars unexpectedly turns up, waiting to give you complete satisfaction in the aisles of your favorite (and hopefully independent) bookstore. I took a stroll through the aisle of our tiny bookstore, and I think I figured out how to make my (imaginary) Ben Franklin last a long, long time. I found three books I've been coveting for quite awhile. Three titles that keep calling to me from their shelves.... Jaaaamie, JAAAAmie.... A trio of tomes I can see myself leafing through again and again...bringing enjoyment to the entire family! With tax I believe they would cost exactly $100, and then Top Chef: The Cookbook, How to Eat Supper and Real Simple: Meals Made Easy would be coming home with me tonight.

So, what books would YOU buy with a hundred dollars?

---Jamie Layton