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July 8, 2015

Andrea DeWerd on Her Casual (and Fun!) Book Group and Listening to Audiobooks

Posted by emily

Two things we love here at The Book Report Network are book groups and audiobooks. So when we heard that Andrea DeWerd’s loves to listen to audiobooks of her book group's selections, we couldn’t resist asking her to tell us all about it! Here, Andrea shares some background on her group --- where they meet, how they choose books, some of their best discussions --- and explains why she started listening to books in the first place...and why she's hooked. us a little bit about your group.

Andrea DeWerd: It’s funny to think about it, but my book club does not have a name! It exists primarily in a chain of emails with such subject lines as “Book Club!” and “March Book Club Pick.” I’ve been involved for just over two years now. The group, which originally grew out of my sorority’s NYC alumnae association (Alpha Delta Pi), currently has eight members. The number has fluctuated a bit over the years, but is usually somewhere between eight and 10. We are all in our late 20s to early 30s, and we meet at a different place every month. We all live in Manhattan or Brooklyn, but most of us work in Manhattan, so whoever’s pick it is for the month chooses a restaurant or bar in Manhattan that goes along (at least loosely!) with the theme of the book.

RGG: How does your group choose which books it reads?

AD: Every month, one member is in charge of choosing the book. We have a pretty official rotation to make sure everyone gets to choose about once a year --- we don’t always meet in the summer months or over the holidays, so eight ladies works out to about eight book club picks each year.

RGG: Do you have preferred genres?

AD: It’s been pretty interesting to see how widely our choices have fallen across the genres. We do read a fair amount of popular commercial and literary fiction, women’s fiction and historical fiction, but the wild cards have really been some of the nonfiction picks: humor, political autobiography and addiction memoirs.

RGG: What are you reading right now?

AD: Our current read is BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES by Tom Wolfe. We decided to break it into two meetings this summer because it’s so long!

RGG: What are the last three books you've read?

AD: ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE by Anthony Doerr (my pick), YES PLEASE by Amy Poehler and RULES OF CIVILITY by Amor Towles.

RGG: How far in advance do you plan?

AD: We can barely plan a month in advance of our next meeting! It’s a very casual group, and that seems to work for us. The next person in the choosing rotation usually picks the book the day of or the day after the current month’s meeting, then a “Book club!!” email chain starts to pick the next month’s date.

RGG: What three books that you have read with your group that you think provided the best discussion? Were these also your favorite books?

AD: We had a very heated debate about Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler! Many of us had also read THE PARIS WIFE by Paula McLain, and we had an amazing time comparing the two depictions of the women behind famous literary men that many of us have read and loved.

Another great discussion was recently for ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE by Anthony Doerr. There were so many layers of characters’ choices, ethical dilemmas and the sheer scale of the novel that lent to an in-depth, active discussion for this one. Many of us were also drawn in by the idea that it’s been 70 years since the end of WWII, but we’re still so fascinated with this war and its atrocities; they’re just as relevant and important today as ever.

The book that surprised me the most was MY BELOVED WORLD by Sonia Sotomayor. I don’t typically read a lot of autobiographies, but I’m so glad that someone chose this book. I think we were all inspired by Justice Sotomayor’s perseverance and dedication to education.

RGG: We hear you're into audiobooks! When and why did you start listening?

AD: I started listening to audiobooks a couple summers ago when I had a vision correction surgery and was unable to read for a few weeks afterward. I started downloading and listening to audiobooks while I was stuck in bed recovering.

RGG: How do you listen?

AD: Now, I download audiobooks on my iPhone and primarily listen to them at the beach.

RGG: What do you like about the audio experience?

AD: I love audiobooks for the beach --- downloading them to my iPhone saves me so much space (vs. packing paperbacks), and it’s nice to be able to close my eyes and just listen so I’m not straining my eyes to read in the bright sunlight.

I also love hearing a professional narrator pronounce characters’ names, locations, etc. For example, in ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE, I learned from the audiobook that the German boy’s name (Werner) is pronounced “Verner” with a V, and his sister’s (Jutta) is pronounced “Yutta” with a Y. I took basic German in college, but probably would not have gotten those right without the audiobook!

(The group. Front row, from L to R: Ashley Peterson Glover, Andrea DeWerd, Honey Comer, Jeanine Lavin, Giovanna Pietanza. Back row, from L to R: Stephanie Forrest, Rebecca Durday.)