Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Reading is Fundamental!

Faith Lutheran Book Discussion Group
Picks for 2007
We meet the second Thursday of the month
@ The Blue Moon in Hastings.
All are welcome.
January 11
by Jonathan Safran Foer
February 8
by Kim Edwards
March 8
by Dave Eggers
April 12
by Stephen King
May 10
by William Styron
Other Recent Reads:
by Claire Tomalin
by Jane Austen
by Jane Austen
by John Irving
by Beverly Cleary
by C.S. Lewis
A Boxcar Children Mystery
by Gertrude Chandler Warren
by Bobby Lynn Maslen
I've been leading the book group for almost three years now, I think. The goal was to read "secular books" with spiritual themes for discussion. Sometimes the goal is met, sometimes not. I try very hard to strike a balance between books that are good for discussion -- which generally means literary, difficult, and with much racier subject matter than one would expect to find in a church sponsored group -- and books that are fun reads that everyone likes. Too many "fun books" and discussion is left to "Gee, that was funny. I like it." Then we all go home. Too many "tough books" and book group becomes more like work than fun.
We just read Everything is Illuminated. It was a small turnout. It was a hard book. But it was the best discussion we'd had in ages because it was just chalk-full of goodness. Have you ever read a hilarious book about the Holocaust? Is okay to laugh? One of the narrators is a Ukrainian guy writing in his second language, English, which leads to some fantastic, albeit a little off, use of language. If you think Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris is funny, Alex in Everything is Illuminated will have you rolling.
I am clearly, a Jane Austen freak. I seldom read biographies but I for some reason I felt compelled to. I wound up in stacks at Hastings Public Library that I'd never been to. About once I year a read one of these: Sense & Sensibility, Emma, or Pride & Prejudice. It's my three-year Austen lectionary. But Northanger Abbey & Mansfield Park I hadn't read in ages. I have Tana at the Well Read Book trying to get me a copy of Persuasion--the only one I don't own.
The author I've read more than my dear Jane is C.S. Lewis. We already read the Chronicles of Narnia once with the kids. Phoebe remembers much of it, but the boys don't so we thought we'd start in again.
I think I've read all of John Irving...I think. That Piggy Sneed book I just couldn't finish. Ditto for Son of the Circus. Other than those two, I get a kick out of Irving. A Prayer for Owen Meany remains at the top of my all-time list.

It was such a joy to have Phoebe read Ramona to me. Such a great character! I could take or leave the Boxcar Children, but the kids are so totally into it. Each chapter is a cliff-hanger of sorts and they can't take it. The beg to be read more. Over the course of reading a half dozen Boxcar Mysteries, they now will gather clues and make guesses. It's fun, even if the Boxcar Children are a bunch of goody-goodies who only have adventures because their rich grandfather pays for them. All three of my kids have learned to read with the Bob Books. If you have kids who know their letter sounds--this is the best set of early readers I've found, and believe me, I've looked.
What are you reading?


Mike Bevel said...

I moderate a Victorian literature book group in Bethesda, MD. I found your blog through a Jane Austen Google alert I have set up.

Based on your book group's philosophy, I'd highly recommend reading Mansfield Park. Fanny Price has a definitely solid moral code -- and, for some readers (me included) it's almost a failing on her part. But watching a woman with a strong sense of right and wrong make her way through encounters with others who don't share her beliefs is illuminating -- not just for women in the Victorian era, but for modern-day readers, too.

Just my $.02, from one reader to another.

jeremy said...

if you haven't, you should also read extremely loud and incredibly close. the protagonist, oskar, will have you rolling and crying (especially in the up-front bit about his karate teacher). i'm currently reading eggers' What is the What. delicious.

emdunbar said...

I enjoyed browsing your blog--it's Jane Austen heaven. Fanny certainly holds her ground--she will NOT be in that PLAY! Thanks for stopping by.

I can't wait to read Extremely Loud. I love Illuminated so much--the characters, the structure, the juxtaposition of the folkloric and the realistic and Alex's use of language just SLAYED me.
I haven't read any of the Egger's yet--but it's next on my list. The Memory Keeper's Daughter was so-so, but will be a crowd pleaser, I'm sure. So, I'm looking forward to Eggers.

Hope said...

Since inevitably the Austen works get all read up, another book I love from that period is George Eliot's Middlemarch. It's like Austen with it's social commentary on class and the female role, but it goes far deeper and explores so many different characters and their situations that it is sure to satisfy someone who loves Mansfield Park or Persuasion.Lately I've been getting my fill of chick lit and am currently reading the Girls guide to hunting and fishing...pretty much because I heard it was becoming a movie. Book groups are so much fun! I wish I could be there.

Melanie said...

hey, em! i love your book reviews. tell me about the bob books, or where i can find them. lucy is playing around with sounding out words and such. not pushing her, but if she's interested....

and i'm intrigued by your description of illuminated - might need to find that one next. as well as a prayer for owen meany. thanks for your input, i have been searching for something good to escape into recently.

emdunbar said...

Mel, you should be able to click the link to Bob Books at Amazon. It's 10 little booklets that come in a box. They are simply illustrated--black line drawing on white paper. The first set (I think there are three are four) is as simple as "The cat sat on a mat." It's amazing how hard it is to find a book as simple as that! I know our library doesn't carry them because of the format--it's hard to literally keep on the bookshelves. People always asked about them and I sold tons of them when I worked at Library Ltd. (Remember Library Ltd? Ahhhhh...) They are short enough that little kids can work through them without wanting to throw the towel in...I think they are the best little reading primer out there. End of commercial.

Hopi, I have had Middlemarch on my shelf since college and haven't read it. I may have to give it a go. I've picked up "A girl's guide..." in the library a couple times but haven't read it. Should I? AND (I should have called you about this AGES ago) but we have your camera and Sammy's globe.

Hope said...

"Girls guide.." is OK and loves itself for being post-modern. I can just see the author thinking she was pretty awesome for creating these unconventional characters...but not like what you described in the Illuminated book, rather, chick lit alterna-characters. I'm still with it and am curious to see how it ends. also, have you read any Paul Auster? He's got some weird ones that are quick reads but they definitely stick with you and make you think- again, very post-modern/ deconstructionist. Oh, and I realized we left the globe there like a week later. I'll call you to figure something out.