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  • Jeff Somers 2:53 pm on 2017/07/19 Permalink
    Tags: be the book club you wish to see in the world, , , , , , into the water, karen joy fowler, , the jane austen book club, , wine   

    The Introvert’s Guide to Being a Book Club for One 

    Reading is usually a solitary activity (unless you live in New York City and ride the subways, in which case you have been subjected to either some deranged person reading out loud from a book or someone reading along with you over your shoulder on a packed train). That’s one reason reading remains a powerful experience—you’re not part of a hive mind audience, you’re all alone, just you and the words someone else created, crossing space and time to find you.

    Sometimes that solitude gets to be a bit much, and naturally we all have the urge to discuss the books we’ve read, to share our insights and be exposed to someone else’s (or, possibly, just to make fun of the author’s penchant for ellipses or their dreadful Marty Sue addiction). Which is fine if you’re someone who enjoys being with other people—you can join or start a Book Club. A few friends, a bottle of wine, and a book and you’re set to go.

    But what if you don’t like being with other people all that much? What if the thought of offering up an opinion on a book in front of other people makes you nervous? Well, you can still get the benefits of a Book Club all on your own. Here’s our step-by-step guide to setting up an Introvert’s Book Club.

    Step One: Choose a Book

    Obviously you can’t have a book club without a book to discuss. And you might be tempted, out of efficiency or laziness, to choose a book you’ve read already, but we advise you to read a new book for this endeavor. Reading a book knowing you’re going to Book Club it is a different experience, because you’ll be reading with a slightly sharper focus, you’ll be keeping an eye out for discussion points. And, most importantly, you won’t have the option of being lazy and assuming you’ll remember a book you read five years ago. So, pick a new book, like Into the Water by Paula Hawkins.

    Step Two: Choose a Bottle of Wine

    The biggest mistake people make when setting up a Book Club is assuming that the book is the most important aspect of the Club. This is provably false. Book Clubs are all about the free exchange of ideas and the vigorous debate concerning the artistic merit and success or lack thereof regarding a work of art. Alcohol is a helpful lubricant here, a way of loosening you up so you don’t hold back about your opinion of the flashbacks. Choose the wine (or beer or whiskey or whatever) wisely. Of course, books can help here, too; why not read up on wine in Wine by Andre Domine?

    Step Three: Make Notes
    Reading a book with an eye towards discussing it formally is different from just reading it for pleasure. Make notes as you go, circle passages that affect you, scribble insults to the author in the margins, tear out whole pages and pin them to a corkboard—whatever works for you. This isn’t just an exercise; making notes as you go will force you to read thoughtfully instead of passively. You won’t just be enjoying the flow and surprise of the story, you’ll constantly be reading between lines and making connections. Which you’ll need because of…

    Step Four: Locate Discussion Questions

    While some Book Clubs, we’re sure, become mere excuses for some friends to sit around and drink with an air of literary sophistication, the point is supposed to be to expand your understanding of the work (if you’re not certain how Book Clubs work, you can read about them in novels like The Jane Austen Book Clubextra Meta Points if you choose that for your first Book Club read). That’s where the questions come in. Some books come with Book Club Discussion Questions already worked up in the back, and many more have Book Club questions available at the author’s or publisher’s website.

    If there are no prepared questions for you to use, make your own! There are plenty of suggestions for generic Book Club questions (here’s one link), but of course since this is a One Person Book Club, you can do whatever you want, so we have a few suggestions:


      • Did you ever experience the urge to throw this book across the room? Did you? Actually throw it, we mean? If you had the urge, but did not follow through, what restrained you?
      • At any point while reading this book, did you find yourself weeping uncontrollably? Were you on public transportation at the time? Did everyone get up and move away from you?
      • On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely are you to anonymously leave this book on someone’s desk at work with a note suggesting they would enjoy it?
      • If this book were adapted into a film, would you totally go to that theater downtown that’s always empty at one in the afternoon, sit all the way in the back, and watch it unless some kids came in and sat near you?
      • How likely are you to a) name pets after the characters in this book; b) begin dressing like a character from this book; c) use familiarity with this book as a way of judging new people?

    Step Five: Start a Blog

    The key to a Book Club is the expression of ideas and the debate thereon. If you don’t actually comment on the book you’ve read, there really isn’t a club, not even a club of one. So, set up a blog—anonymously if you wish—to be the repository of your bookish thoughts. It doesn’t matter if anyone actually reads it. You don’t have to promote it or send out links to everyone you know. It’s just going to be where you formally organize your drunken thoughts about a book. If you keep it anonymous and turn off comments, you won’t ever even know what other people think, so you won’t have to worry about arguing with people who turn out to be tireless 15-year old trolls whose idea of fun is to argue anonymous with people until they burst into tears. Not sure how to start a blog? Luckily, there’s a book for that.

    Book Clubs can be raucous, fun gatherings of like-minded people seeking to elevate their conversation. Or, they can be one-person efforts to be more mindful of your reading. What do you say—will you start a One Person Book Club?

    The post The Introvert’s Guide to Being a Book Club for One appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Diana-Ashley Krach 3:00 pm on 2015/06/17 Permalink
    Tags: black glass, , karen joy fowler, ,   

    The Remarkable Imagination Of Karen Joy Fowler’s Black Glass 

    Writers use dysfunctional childhoods as material; the more angst we have to work with, the better. In the new preface for this reissued edition of the story collection Black Glass, Karen Joy Fowler speaks of the turmoil of being a writer without a damaged past. Life has treated her gently; she recalls how much freedom her parents allowed her as a child. Perhaps it is this freedom that shaped her remarkable imagination, which makes the suspension of disbelief come naturally to a reader of her stories.

    Fowler weaves in and out of genres gracefully, creating a colorful quilt of suspense and fantasy. Her admitted focus on peripheral characters shows in every short story of Black Glass, a keen study of human nature that enthralls and leaves the reader wanting more. In “The View From Venus: A Case Study,” a simple yet entertaining story is viewed from the perspective of a class studying the evolution of romance, giving an added layer of insight into the mating rituals of humans.

    Barbara Kingsolver called Fowler’s writing “surreptitiously smart,” and it shows in this collection. Each piece presents a clear mission or objective, but there’s something lurking beneath the pretty prose. All 15 stories covertly tell another tale altogether, something that usually comes as a genuine surprise to the reader. In “Game Night At The Fox And Goose,” she explores an alternative version of women’s history with an odd mix of irony and inspiration. The result is alluring in an uncomfortable way.

    Fowler’s firm grasp of history, particularly women’s history, is seen in “The Elizabeth Complex,” which combines the stories of Lizzy Borden, Elizabeth Taylor, and Queen Elizabeth to create a brief glimpse of what might have been. This rewrite of history paints a vivid picture of a different future, while serving as takedown of every kind of father figure. A reader with his or her own daddy issues might find some catharsis in the sharply written tale. Fowler even pokes a little fun at herself for the consist reappearance of fathers in her work, something that became glaringly obvious to her as she compiled this collection.

    The haunting “Go Back,” with its undercurrent of sadness, captures her preoccupation with the idea of Eden lost. Childhood ends; happiness often does, too. Once we realize life isn’t the stuff of fairy tales, we often fear its ordinariness. The beauty of Fowler’s work is how she illustrates the possibility of an ordinary life with extraordinary events.

    What’s most captivating about Black Glass is the journey it takes you down the road of what might have been. “Letters From Home” is a poignant look at a tense time in our history, when young people cared more about the political temperature than pop culture. A college girl writes to her boyfriend who went to serve in the Vietnam war, while she and her girlfriends gather to do everything in their power to stop it. Years later, she looks back and reflects how differently her life turned out from what she expected. She’s looking for something, anything, to explain herself to herself.

    Black Glass gives the reader brief glimpses into another world, intense snippets that somehow feel narratively complete—Fowler is uniquely capable of packing a lot of information into a story without bogging down its narrative. And for readers who are also writers, Fowler teaches us that our character’s flaws can be their biggest assets.

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