What my bookgroup will be reading for the rest of 2010

Woman reading with cushion

Courtesy: Clker.com

I haven’t done this before – that is, discussed my reading group in my blog – but I thought I’d share the schedule my group decided on last night for the rest of the year. Our practice is to make our selections twice a year: 6 books for the first half of the year, and 5 books for the second half. The last meeting of the year is our Christmas meeting and we’ve discovered that scheduling a book when you are going to dine (not to mention embroiled in Christmas busy-ness) just doesn’t work. There are few rules. We focus on fiction but do occasionally read non-fiction, and the books need to be readily accessible, preferably in paperback. And, of course, it goes without saying that they need to be likely to engender discussion.

The way we create our schedule is to maintain a small – regularly pruned – list of recommendations, and call for more nominations just prior to the meeting. Then, we sit around and bandy the titles around until, through some sort of consensus (which may or may not involve bullying and bribery – of the nicest kind, of course), we come up with our list. If you are not at the meeting you just have to hope that the rest are kind enough to consider your wishes!

So, here is our list for the rest of this year:

  • Solar, by Ian McEwan
  • Truth, by Peter Temple
  • So much for that, by Lionel Shriver
  • The thousand autumns of Jacob de Zoat, by David Mitchell
  • Parrot and Olivier in America, by Peter Carey

I’m looking forward to it. It’s a pretty typical reading group list, though with only one woman and not one translated text, it’s a little more white male anglo-oriented than most of our schedules. However, it’s a list that should, I think, provide for some good discussion. Expect to see these books appear on the blog in coming months.

Are you a member of a reading group? How do you choose your books, and what sorts of books work well with your group?

30 thoughts on “What my bookgroup will be reading for the rest of 2010

    • LOL Guy, Each to his/her own as they say! My reading group is very important to me. We’ve been going for 22 years now.

      And yes, I’m interested in these which will keep me up to date with current books around the traps while I choose other books for myself. We usually do a classic – but that’s often at the beginning of the year – and we have done Asian, European and South American writers in the past. Not this half year though!

      You’re not interested in the likes of Ian McEwan and David Mitchell? I always like to read McEwan. This won has had mixed reviews which intrigues me more. Truth won this year’s Miles Franklin – also a bit controversial so am keen to find out for myself. And the Mitchell is set in Japan and the historic Dejima area which I have visited. This intrigues me – I haven’t read much western literature set in Japan. Peter Carey is an Aussie and so we like to keep up with what he’s doing these days. I’ve liked a lot of what he’s written over the years. And the Shriver – well, I think she confronts the US medical/healthcare system so I’m interested in her for that reason.

  1. I’d love to join your reading group. Mine’s female only and library-run, both of which result in a reading list very different from yours. 3 of your titles are in my TBR and I’m looking forward to reading them immensely. (McEwan, Mitchell and Templ.)

    • LOL Lizzy, I was just about to read your latest post on the Existential Detective, when I thought I’d first check my emails. My group is female only too, but is self-chosen and self-run. It’s been very successful even if I do say so myself! And, yes, I’m particularly looking forward to reading those three too. (Oh, and I’ll be reading your post in a min.)

  2. I’m a lone wolf as well as regards reading, and avoid groups of any kind. Of the books above I’ve only read the David Mitchell and thought it was great. He’s a great favourite of mine and I’ve enjoyed/been mind blown by all his books.

    • I’ve only read one Mitchell, Cloud Atlas of course, though I do have Black Swan Green on my TBR. Do you have a favourite? Anyhow, I’m greatly looking forward to this one…so it’s good to hear you liked it.

  3. We have ‘Solar’ to discuss this Friday. I chose it and I get to do a 5 min spiel on the author/book/topic/whatever, to introduce it. From now on the person who hosts the lunch gets to choose the next book and do a 5 min pres on it.

    And I was at the Peter Carey event at the Sydney Writer’s Festival when he spoke about this book as well.

    Great list!

  4. I haven’t read any of those, but McEwan, Shriver and Mitchell are all authors I want to try. I’ve also never belonged to a book group! I feel like I’m missing out.

  5. Steph: Thanks for that encouragement re the list. Your group sounds a bit like my mothers where the host chooses the book. We have always done it my consensus but we did used to have people nominate to be chair and do a little spiel, have questions ready etc, but after a while we let that drop because some never wanted to do it and we got on a roll anyhow.

    Nymeth: They are authors worth trying I think – I’d probably recommend McEwan in particular because he has quite an interesting body of work now. Enduring love and Atonement are particularly good. And as you will have realised, I LOVE my bookgroup.

  6. Another lone wolf, here – albeit through necessity. As far as I’m concerned, you can lose Lionel Shriver; but the rest? I’d love to read them, so shall look forward to the forthcoming coverage. Are you going to do solus reviews or posts consisting of one of your own that gives a selection of the whole group’s opinions?
    Bribery is nearly always effective; I’m all for bribery …

    • My reviews will be solo. I have written some group responses on our group blog – which was the first blog I ever set up – but I’d love it if the others had a go too. Some do but most don’t – which is fair enough. We don’t all like to write and blog. Anyhow, the result is that some of our discussions get written up and some don’t. I’m hoping we may get some more written up but who knows? Meanwhile, my blog here is solo. My posts here on Wolf Hall, The little stranger and The valley of grace, to name a few, were bookgroup reads.

  7. I’ve got all but the Temple on my own TBR list, too bad I don’t live in your neck of the woods, I’d love to read and discuss these books with a group. The only bookgroup I currently belong to is the online Slaves of Golconda. Someone is selected to make a short list of five or so books and then we vote on what one we want to read next. Then the list maker selects the next list maker and so and so on. It’s a good group and I’ve read some good books I would not have chosen otherwise. I do miss a good in person group though and now and then think about attending a Great Books group that meets at the university where I work but I don’t currently have time. Maybe in a year or two.

    • Oh, I hope you do find one. Online groups are great – I’m in a few (have been in one since January 1997) though writing this blog has affected my ability to take part as much as I used to! – because you can get some good discussion going when you discuss a book over a period of days/weeks. But an f2f (person) group is really special.My bookgroup is really an important part of my wellbeing. When you’ve finished your course you should have time eh?

      BTW Over what period do you discuss a book with Slaves of Golconda?

      • When I am done with classes I should have time. I hope I’ll have time!

        For the Slaves discussion time varies depending on the book and how many people read it but it’s usually over the course of a week.

  8. The only book clubs I participate in are online, when the mood strikes. I’ve always wanted to try an in-person group, but it seems I just don’t know the right people in the right places.

    I loved the new Carey book, and hated the McEwan (I usually quite like him), though I think it’d make excellent book-club fodder.

    • Welcome Isabella, nice to hear from you. Thanks for your comments on those two books. The McEwan has had very mixed reviews so I’m really rather interested to read it. Your use of the word “fodder” doesn’t auger well!

      I wish you luck in finding an in-person bookgroup. We started our own – it grew out of a number of young mums (as we were then) discovering that when we met at playgroup we liked talking about books. That playgroup formed the core of the bookgroup over 22 years ago and we still have about 5 or so original members plus a couple of others who joined within the first year or so. We are now all 50 something (we were old-ish young mums you see!) and still going strong.

      • Wow, that’s pretty impressive! Over two decades of book club getting togetherness. That’s longer than a lot of boyfriends! 🙂

  9. Our book club has a similar method for selecting books.

    We have a long list of books and everyone is encouraged to add to this list adhering to some rules (has to have a Turkish translation, cannot be longer than 500 pages and fiction only). There is also a gentleman’s rule which asks all others if they have read the book before or not – in some cases people prefer to reread books they’ve read a long time ago. Any book which did not get chosen in one year gets off this list.

    I email this list to everyone a few days before the meeting and ask everyone to add more. We try to have about 15 books minimum on this list. Just before the voting, everyone’s given one chance to veto a book – a book he/she does not prefer to read at that time. Once vetoed books are out, everyone picks 3 books. Book with most number of picks wins.

  10. They seem like nice titles but a bit too ‘now’ for my tastes. 🙂 I tried forming a book group with some uni pals last year. We got through one book (Let the Right One In by John Aqvide Lindqvist) then we couldn’t manage to plan a time for everybody else. We also lived pretty far apart from each other. I would like to try again or join a book group but, like some have mentioned, I do better by picking my books on a whim.

  11. Emin: Welcome and thanks for sharing your group’s process which as you say is a bit like ours but you have formalised it a little more. We do consider length – it’s not a deal-breaker but we’ll often schedule long ones over the summer.

    Mae: This selection is really more “now” than usual though we do do a goodly number of current books. However, in the first half of this year we did Voss for example, and last year we did an Edith Wharton. We try to do at least one classic each year. My daughter’s uni friends tried to start up a group too, but like yours it didn’t get much beyond the first book. As for reading on a whim – there is always that tension … and these days I’m trying to read more of my own choice that group choices EXCEPT for my in-person group. It tends to be my number 1 priority.

  12. My profound misanthropy makes me ill suited to reading groups.

    The only one that tempts me is the Mitchell, which I almost certainly will read at one point but which I suspect won’t generate much discussion from me. That said, I do look forward to your take.

    I don’t know the Temple, what was the pitch for that one?

    I’m not a McEwan fan, but I probably will read Solar. I work in the climate change/renewable energy space so it’s sort of a professional interest. Whether that will improve the book for me or make it worse it’ll be interesting to see…

    • Well, we certainly don’t want misanthropists in bookgroups! There is probably a gender thing going on here isn’t there? And I wouldn’t call it misanthropy-based so much as the call the socialise. In my experience bookgroups are preponderantly female based.

      Anyhow, I’ll be reading Mitchell in October so don’t hold your breath! Re Solar, yes it will be interesting to see what your take is. I like McEwan but my antennae are out for an interesting read given the mixed reviews on this one. And Temple, well he won the Miles Franklin Award this year – he’s a crime writer and this is the first time a “genre” novel has won this literary prize. The book and winning the prize has been a little controversial among the literati here so I’m keen to read it. I don’t read crime as a rule but I did read his previous book which is a bit of a companion (rather than a prequel) to this one.

      • The Temple comes back to me now you describe it. I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts.

        I think heavy readers are more likely to be women than men, no idea why, so that would skew book club demographics too.

        Re the Mitchell, I only get books in paperback anyway so you’ll still be reading it long before me I suspect.

  13. Hello! I much enjoyed reading your profile on Normblog and have just jumped in here to tell you that your reading group has at least two treats in store. TRUTH is fantastic…really gripping and exciting and brilliantly written and to someone like me who doesn’t know Australia first hand, an eye opener! Also , the Lionel Shriver book is unputdownable. A rant and a half in the shape of a novel but very interesting on all sorts of issues. I think the David Mitchell looks great too and Norm enjoyed Solar very much though I’ve still to get to it. Have fun!

    • Thanks so much Adele for commenting – and for sharing your and Norm’s experiences with those books. I think it’s going to be a good second half year for the group as far as discussion material goes. You clearly read widely too?

  14. Max, look for it in a couple of months…I think we are reading it in August.

    Who knows about the reading and gender issue? It does seem though – from my experience – that men tend to be more lone readers. Witness the number of men who have bookblogs versus those in reading groups. I’m in a few online groups and men are in a huge minority in every one of them. It feels like there are proportionally more male bloggers than there are members of bookgroups but perhaps that’s not really so?

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