Posts Tagged ‘book club’

Men's Book Club Summer Reading List

This post is mostly for my readers who are men in the Twin Cities, but if you’re having fun with a book club where you live, dear reader, I’d love to hear about it in the comments section.

For the last three months, I’ve been leading a new men’s book club at my local church and what follows is my Craigslist ad. Email me if you want to join.

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Our new men’s book club is growing and we’re inviting you to join us. Our members are currently men between the ages of 29 and 75 who enjoy getting together for coffee, snacks, and good discussion of great books. We’ve set up our summer reading list and schedule and hope you’ll contact us.

Join us on the third Monday evening of the month at 7:00pm at Excelsior United Methodist Church (881 3rd Ave. Excelsior, MN 55331). Any man ages 18 and up is welcome to join us whether they’re reading their first or their fiftieth novel, and regardless of whether they’re members of the church or not.

Our Summer Reading List:

The Last Picture Show by Larry McMurtry
Discussion on Monday, June 22 @ 7:00pm

On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Discussion on Monday, July 20 @ 7:00pm

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
Discussion on Monday, August 17 @ 7:00pm

Our Past Selections:
May, 2009 – Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
April, 2009 – The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
March, 2009 – The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Please email me to let me know if you plan to attend or if you need a copy of the books ($10 apiece).



Your Friday Recommendation #5

The Ron Book Team meets on Monday evening, and we’ve chosen to discuss the recent New York Times bestseller and decidedly fast read, Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen.

If you’ve set foot in a bookstore in the past year, you’ve undoubtedly seen stacks of this novel neatly laid out on a table by the front door. I often resist consciously reading bestsellers, relying on my own instincts for reading material instead of relying on what’s “popular.” I acknowledge I likely miss many great reads because of this attitude, but lucky for me, RBT gave me a good excuse to read Gruen’s novel.

Told in first-person by a ninety-year-old man (maybe ninety-three, he’s really not sure) looking back on his experiences in the circus, the story begins with an action-packed flashback and pulls back to a present-time perspective as the narrator gives the readers full disclosure.

The success of the story is the circus setting. In fact as a craft choice, the setting is the definitive piece which makes this novel unique, while the love story doesn’t leave many surprises. The characters interact with the setting, and only its specific characteristics can effectively help tell the story. Every aspect of what our protagonist does is based on how he discovers the environment around him and how to live in it. If you’re like me and you struggle to include setting as a strong storytelling component, you could do worse than read Gruen’s novel as a good example on how to do it right. If you’re looking for active protagonists who don’t have to rely on coincidence to fuel their next decisions, you won’t find that here. Still, the setting is captivating and as setting is something I’m trying to tackle, I recommend this book.

I packed away nearly half the book on the plane out to NYC and hope to finish it on the way back (edit: I finished it on the way back with time to spare). Perhaps I’ll have additional thoughts next week after the Ron Book Club discusses the novel (edit: nope, I got sick enough to miss the meeting and cancel my classes that week). In the meantime, with the above paragraph-long love letter to setting, I’m sure you can imagine what Your Monday Prompt will focus on…


Bookworms has its premiere meeting.

It appears my weeks is filled with book clubs.

Last night was the first meeting of Bookworms, a book discussion spin-off group from the main youth groups I work with on a regular basis. Attendance was only two (eight youth in all took short story packets, so I knew it would be a small group, at any rate), but we had a lot of fun. We discussed Girl by Jamaica Kincaid, The Pool Witchby Clay McCleod Chapman, Boys and Girls by Alice Munro, and Small Countryby Nick Hornby. I chose to start with short stories because a packet of thirty pages is a lot less intimidating than a book, plus school is still in session (many of my missing youth were studying for finals).

The main rule for Bookworms is it’s okay to say you like something or don’t like something, but you have to back up why. That’s the rule, and it’s what we’re trying to help each other learn how to do. The stories they liked, we talked about why. When we read Girl out loud, we laughed together and talked about why it was funny. For The Pool Witch, we went through it picking out the great action verbs, and for Small Country, we talked about three-act structure and how plotting can work. The story they didn’t care for, Boys and Girls, revolved around the vivid telling of killing and skinning foxes on a fox farm. However, we were able to determine why the act was so revolting – Munro is a sensory writer, using specific imagery and appealing to as many senses as possible. The two young women in attendance thought it was cool to pick up on that. Ninety minutes went by before we knew it. They were attentive, I was willing to listen, and all three of us were excited.

My latest Scrawl, Boy, is a shortened version of the writing exercise we did last night – using Girl as inspiration, write a short story from a father to son entitled Boy. The girls in attendance did a wonderful job, both language and humor. Lucky me, they plan to spread the word that Bookworms is the place to be this summer. Next month, we discuss Coraline by Neil Gaiman. Yes, that makes two Gaiman books I chose to read for book clubs this month – trust me, that’s not a bad thing.

Speaking of book clubs, Cormac McCarthy’s latest, The Road, was put on Oprah’s Book Club list when it hit paperback last month. Apparently, he was on the show yesterday to plug it, so I’m hoping to find a streaming clip of his interview without having to register for the OBC website. Comment if you find one, and I’ll do the same.

You can hear Nick Hornby read Small Country on “This American Life” with Ira Glass (I wrote about his storytelling tips last week). The Hornby section is at the 32:00 minute mark in the streaming feed.


Choosing a Book Club Selection

I attended a book club meeting last night filled with old friends, Caribou coffee, and discussion of Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. During the school year, I’m either in class or teaching class, so it’s rare I’m able to join the monthly Monday evening discussion. In fact, this was only my second foray into the Ron Book Team (I’m not sure how they came up with the name and I haven’t asked). I made the January meeting over winter break to discuss The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis and now this second meeting. Due to my schedule, the group decided to let me choose the book for the July meeting.

I was torn. How does one choose the one book they can suggest (and have somewhat of a guarantee) people should read? I’ve been introduced to great novels in my MFA program, I have my own favorite writers, and then there’s the thought of discussing a collection of short stories. I whittled my choices down to Tishomingo Blues by Elmore Leonard (one of his best and most accessible), The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera (a writer I was introduced to in my MFA), and American Gods by Neil Gaiman (that would make two Hugo winners in a row, following up Ender’s Game).

Eventually I settled on American Gods. It’s no secret I’m a big ol’ Gaiman fan, and I’m always up for getting others into his writing. I’ve tread through this book’s waters a few times, so it’s nothing new. However, I haven’t read it since entering my MFA in 2005, and I’m curious to see if two years of graduate school changes my perception of the novel. My hope is I end up enjoying it even more, though I see two possible negative scenarios which could emerge, too. Either I could dislike it because of my new perspective on writing, or I won’t notice any difference, which means two years in an MFA program hasn’t been all that helpful. I’m really hoping for the first of those three outcomes.

In the meantime, I begin my own book club tonight. Details to come tomorrow.


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