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Thursday, January 17, 2019

Book Club Report: Year Two

Despite the predictable drop-offs, year two of the No Wine or Whiners book club was more satisfying than the first. Attendance remained consistent, some new folks joined - offsetting the drop-offs - and the conversations were often more nuanced than those in year one. I was especially pleased the return rate on the end of the year feedback sheet was 100%. In my experience, the best way to keep people actively involved in most things is to provide opportunities for giving input. What techniques have you seen that work well to maintain a cohesive group?

Some surprises and highlights from year two:

* "Look At Me" - a 2001 novel by Jennifer Egan that floored me - was not well received. Although I was not persuaded by the group's mostly negative reaction to it, a thought occurred to me after the meeting ended: Did reading Egan's 2010 tour-de-force - "A Visit From The Goon Squad" - before I read "Look At Me" dull my critical eye enough that I may have overlooked some of the flaws in the earlier book?

* I was less surprised by the 50-50 split in the group's reaction to Neil Gaiman's "The Ocean At The End Of The Lane". Books requiring suspension of disbelief can be off-putting to more literal readers. But I was so energized by the conversation and inspired when two of the readers who weren't thrilled with Gaiman's fable coming into the meeting said the discussion had deepened their appreciation for it.

* On the non-fiction side, Susan Cain's "Quiet", Susan Casey's "Wave", and Michael Capuzzo's "Close to Shore" were the biggest hits in 2018. The conversation about "Wave" also provided the most salacious moments of the year. Apparently, surfer Laird Hamilton - a key player in Casey's book - is an easy-to-locate figure on the Internet, without clothes. The women in the club were duly impressed.

And, I'm still buzzing from our first meeting of 2019, when we discussed "Exit West", a stunning speculative novel by Mohsin Hamid. "The Secret History Of Wonder Woman" by Jill Lepore is next. I'm so psyched.                        

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