I Need a Good Book

008Book clubs.  You either love them or you don’t.  There was a time several years back when it was in vogue to be in a book club.  If you weren’t in a book club, you were made to feel like you were missing out on an uber-intellectual experience.

I was in a book club once, for a few years.  It was a lovely group of women and we read some very interesting books. Some of the books were ones that I never would have picked up on my own.  After a few years, my interest waned. Instead of talking about the book, I found we talked about our children, which isn’t what I was looking for.  Also, the pressure of completing a book by the monthly meeting became a strain and a dilemma – do I skip the meeting or do I attend and find out how the book ended?  I couldn’t take the pressure.

When I quit, I felt oddly liberated.  I went on a bit of a crusade, encouraging the women of the world to rise up and say “no” to the book club.  We can be smart, savvy, popular and well-read and NOT be in a book club.  I discovered that I don’t want to sit around for an hour and dissect a book, like an English class.  The only questions I am interested in are, “did you like the book?” and “why or why not?” That’s it. The enjoyment of reading for me comes from actually reading the book, not discussing it.  I have many friends who are in book clubs and love them – the book suggestions, the discussion, the company, the food.  I get the socialization aspect.  I just choose to do my socializing elsewhere.

Having gone rogue, I continue to be an avid reader.  My friends and family recommend books in a very organic, informal way.  However, this week I hit a “wall.”  I cannot find a thing to read.  I’ve recently gone to “the other side” and am reading mostly electronically on my trusty I-pad.  I perused the library website and Amazon and haven’t found anything that excites me. It’s like watching television and not being able to find anything to watch, even though there are a gazillion channels to choose from.

Is this what happens when you get older?  It’s hard to find a book with an original theme?  Years ago I stopped reading books about abused women in the South.  While I admire their strength and perseverance and their need to tell a story, I just don’t particularly want to read about them.  Murdered and abused children is a draining topic. Holocaust-themed books, while important to remember, are brutal as well. I like travel books, especially reading about places where I do not particularly wish to visit – I prefer to read about them from the comfort of my first-world home.  Maybe I should venture into biographies and more non-fiction.

I also enjoy adventure books, like Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer and Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.  Reading Into Thin Air made me feel as if I was actually climbing that mountain – something I would never, ever do.  And Unbroken is about an American soldier serving during WWII and his experience as a pilot and a Japanese prisoner of war.  Again, it was so well written and compelling that I had to get back to it to see what happened.

Another book I really enjoyed recently was What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarity. It’s about a suburban housewife who falls off her spin bike, hits her head, and forgets the last 10 years of her life.  Interesting concept, beautifully written, and another compelling read.

Not everyone is a “reader.”  I admire the people who can just freely state that, their head held high. There is no shame in not reading books.  Some people seem so embarrassed when you ask if they are a reader.  They make excuses for why they don’t read books – they read at work all day, they read newspapers and magazines.   I am always reassuring them that it’s okay.  I know they can read. It’s like watching television; some people do and some people don’t.  Love yourself.

I’m sure I will find something soon to pique my interest in the book department.  If you are so inclined, leave a comment with one book recommendation that you really loved.  I would appreciate it.  Maybe I’ll start “Susan’s Un- Book Club….”

16 thoughts on “I Need a Good Book

  1. My back is straight and my head is high. Yes, I can read and actually learned at a young age. But, I have not a single recommendation for you. I can’t even pretend and spout off a few popular titles (let alone authors) that I have seen or heard others discussing. Absolutely NO idea. I remember your reading “the classics” phase. I so admired you going to the library to get The Scarlet Letter, etc, but never felt so inclined — although To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorite MOVIES! Xo.

  2. Try “A Pigeon and a Boy” by Meir Shalev. It ties in a few themes I think you would connect with: Israel, loss of a mother, and finding peace within yourself.

  3. I’m with you on the book club front Susan. I just don’t have the discretionary time and can’t add more pressure into my life. But I do love to read. One of my favorite books, although I read it a few years ago, is A Pidgeon and a Boy by Meir Shalev. It’s really different and a great read. Enjoy!

  4. Susan – I love reading your blog. two of my favorite books in the last year or so (I know you ask for only one) are: “The Unlikely Pigrimage of Harold Fry” by Rachel Joyce and “Americanah” by Chiamanda Adichie. Both complelling and a peak into somewhat different cultures (British and Nigerian).

  5. Susan, while I have suggestions (several of those mentioned above) I’d prefer to comment on why I ask someone about what they are reading. Recreational reading is not for everyone, no differently than others are not enamored with distance running. What I do value about the question is that it makes no assumptions about income or status, how one earns a living, whether one is straight or gay, has children or not. Some of my most interesting book conversations have been with people seeing me holding a book on the metro or in a cab. The portability of ebooks is great while on the go but takes away some of the joy of seeing a person passing you with a book you either enjoyed or were considering reading. Books and their readers keep me in touch with the world. And I’d love to know what you are reading next.

  6. I finally opened Cutting for Stone and loved it – could not put it down. I was years late on that one. And our book club (co-ed couples club where we mostly talk about carpooling our kids to sports games) just decided to read World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie Apocalypse, on the theory that reading it will help us relate better to Millennials. I assure you I would never have voted for this! But the recommender made a very persuasive argument. And at least now when the zombies come for me I will be prepared.

  7. Susan… I am reading LITTLE FAILURE, A Memoir by Gary SHTEYNGART and recommend it. It is funny and poignant and amazingly familiar. I enjoy your posts. Keep them coming!! Elaine

    Sent from my iPhone


  8. I love anything by Geraldine Brooks (People of the Book, Year of Wonders) and Emma Donoghoe (Room was genius). A Fine Balance (Mistry), Wondrous Life of Oscar Woo (Junot Diaz), The Things They Carried (brilliant short stories by Tim O’Brien), Behind the Beautiful Forevers (non-fiction by Katherine Boo), The Language of Flowers, (Diffenbaugh).

  9. I love reading your blog. Iyou have me worried b/c I am about to join a book club. At least the company will be good…
    I’ve made an effort recently to read more. I find it much more enjoyable and relaxing than watching TV. I’ve really enjoyed Philomena, The Fault is in Our Stars, The Light Between the Oceans, Cutting for Stone, Typhoid Mary and Orphan Train. These may be old, but I just read them.
    I am in the middle of The Invention of Wings and I really like it. However, my next book really needs to have a lighter theme… Let me know if you find one!

  10. My favorite way to hunt for good books is to go to the Goodreads site and see what my friends are reading. I usually pick a book my friend Penina reads because our taste is very similar. It is a great site to keep a running list of everything you want to read. Check it our goodreads.com. Happy reading.
    PS The Kindle is perfect for your trip to Israel!!

  11. I sometimes use FB as my “virtual book club” — I list a few books I’ve read and liked and then ask for suggestions. I’ve gotten some great ones. You mentioned travel books… it’s not a new one, but Sister of My Heart by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni transported me to India.

  12. I’m halfway through Anthony Marra’s A Constellation of Vital Phenomena. Marra is a Landon grad and an extremely gifted writer. takes place in Chechnya. Reminds me of City of Thieves by David Benioff. About the siege of Leningrad. Neither of these are without their share of abuse, maiming etc, but both wonderfully written and informative. Love your blogs and now a source for good reads!

  13. Finding time to read is the big issue for me. And yes, you don’t need a book club to be well read. If you like immersing yourself in a different culture and landscape, I recommend “The Mystic Masseur” by V.S. Naipaul. You will feel your sense of time shift while reading this book.

  14. Hi Susan. Nice blog. Funny lines. I’ve never been in a book club myself. If u start your non book club perhaps I’ll join! Have you read Alexander McCall Smith or Ann Patchett’s novels?

    Or auto biographies and O’Reilly’s 3 books.

    Sent from my iPhone

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