Saturday, October 5, 2013

Readings and Greetings: Book Club Celebrates Ten Years of Reading Great Books

Ten years ago four women sat on a shady patio to talk about one of our greatest loves--reading.  Before the evening was over and the wine bottles emptied we set upon a path of sharing our passion of books and reading.  Perhaps C.S. Lewis best summed up our feelings when he wrote,  "We read to know we are not alone." 
Doris, Diane, Sonya

 Since that evening a group of ten to fourteen women has met on the 2nd Monday of each month to discuss a selected book and to share our thoughts and lives through our readings, our musings, and our reflections.  It is like Edmund Burke says, "Reading without reflecting is like eating without digesting." 
Sonya, Jan, and Jeannette
And we do eat delicious treats while we share our thoughts. Occasionally,
 a single book receives  applause and accolades from all of us, but that is rare, because we are women who first speak our minds, and we share in the selection of books which often pushes us out of our comfort zone.  Although fiction books remain the most common genre, we've also read a wide range of non-fiction from biographies (Kate Remembered) to history (1776), and to current mainstream thinking (A Whole New Mind).  

This fall a list was compiled of 120 books that we have read and discussed over the last ten years.  From that list we voted on our favorite top 12 books, not an easy tasks for anyone.  My only regret is that we didn't allow an evening to read over the list, reflect and share orally why one book received a vote when another one didn't.  Sixty-two books received votes, and ONE book was the runaway favorite.  Perhaps it was the way Atticus listened and taught Scout and Jem about life that touched us deeply: "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view...until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it."  Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird climbed to the top of our list by receiving a vote from nearly everyone.  

Our Top 12 picks:

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The Help by Stockett
Light Between Oceans by Stedman

Unbroken by Hillenbrand
The Kite Runner by Hosseini

Seabiscuit by Hillenbrand (our only author to make the top 12 twice)
Killing Lincoln by O'Reilly

Seven books came in tied for 8,9,10, 11, and 12 place with each receiving four votes:

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Skloot
The Book Thief by Zusak
My Sister's Keeper by Picoult
Glass Castle by Walls
Can't Wait to Get to Heaven by Flagg
Three Cups of Tea by Mortenson
Secret Life of Bees by Kidd

As I compiled the votes, I reflected on and observed several things.  We learned that in the first two years we read two books by Jeanne Ray and a book by her daughter, Ann Patchett.  We went on to read four titles by Ann Patchett that created great discussions but didn't make our top 12. Other authors that we read more than one of their books include: Khaled Hosseini, Geraldine Brooks, Jeannette Walls, Jodi Picoult,  Dan Brown, Mitch Album, Sue Monk Kidd, and Fannie Flagg who made us laugh.  Thanks to the Dillon Lecture Series, and the independent book stories like Watermark Books and Bluebird
T.C. Boyle and Trudy at Watermark
Books, several of us have enjoyed meeting or listening to these authors--Geraldine Brooks, Daniel Pink, Lisa See, T.C. Boyle, Jeanne Ray, Jeannette Walls, Stacey Cordery, Jill Browne, M.L. Stedman, Laura Moriarty, Lisa Tucker, Greg Mortenson,  Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Senator Bob Dole.   Of the twelve classics we've read besides To Kill a Mockingbird the only other ones to receive votes were Catcher in the Rye, The Great Gatsby, My Antonia, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and Gift from the Sea. One month during the winter we meet with four to six other book clubs to discuss a classic or other notable book.  To hear another woman's point of view or experience always expands our learning.   Occasionally,  in gatherings like this we even gossip about books, "No, don't waste your time on that one."  "Oh, you've just got to read this one."  "Don't know what Oprah was thinking when she called this one great!"  Some books were never finished by a few of us, other books that we might not have read of our own choosing enlightened us to another genre, style of writing, point of view, or time in history.  Our minds, our outlooks, our experiences were changed because of the books we read.  

Dr. Seuss, in his book I Can Read with my Eyes Shut, seems to exemplify our growth as readers and as women, when he writes, "The more that you read, the more things you will know.  The more you learn, the more places you will go."  

These books received one, two, or three votes and are in no particular numerical order:

Kate Remembered by Berg
Ahab's Wife by Naslund
No Ordinary Times by Goodwin
1776 by McCullough
Water for Elephants by Jankowski
The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald
Little Bee by Cleave
Shanghai Girls by See
Eleanor and Franklin by Lash
Eat Cake by Ray
Julie and Romeo by Ray
Truth and Beauty by Patchett
Bel Canto by Patchett
Where the Heart is by Letts
DaVinci Code by Brown
Dancing at the Rascal Fair by Doig
Pilot's Wife by Shreve
What Remains by Radzwill
Take Big Bites by Ellerby
The Memory Keepers Daughter by Edwards
American Gospel by Meacham
Gift from the Sea by Morrow
Tortilla Curtain by Boyle
My Antonia by Cather
On the Road by Kerouac
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Hosseini
Escape by Jessop
The Zookeeper's Wife by Harp
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Smith
A Whole New Mind by Pink
#1 Ladies Detective Agency by McCall
Loving Frank by Horan
Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Shaffer
People of the Book by Brooks
Half Broke Horses by Walls
Man's Search for Meaning by Frankl
Last Lecture by Pausch
Their Eyes Are Watching God by Hurston
Life in France by Child
Devil in the White City by Larson
Beekeeper's Apprentice by King
The Things They Carried by O'Brien
Dove Keepers by Hoffman
Paris Wife by McLain
Heaven is for Real by Burpo
Life of Pi by Martel
Catcher in the Rye by Salinger
The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Durrow
Caleb's Crossing by Brooks

Out of 120 books read in ten years 63 received votes leaving behind another 57 books on the list or on our shelves, some that affected of us, some we never finished, and some we wondered "why did we pick this?".  In the end, we've all made connections to each other, with characters, and with places in time who will live on within our hearts and minds.  "Bon Appetite, and Cheers to another ten years of great reads."  

P.S.  We read 119 books not 120.  One title, Eleanor and Franklin, we decided to read over a two month period.  


  1. Great post!!! Now I want to stay home and read :-)

  2. What a fun list of reading. How nice that you all have been doing this for so long, too.

  3. Thanks Letty! I'm in NH with the Dearly Departed group so I shared the list with them and my other bookie pals. pmf

  4. A book club in Denver sent me this idea: We meet on the 4th Monday of the month at a restaurant that fits in with the book we are to discuss. For example, a couple of months ago we read Light Between Oceans. I couldn't find an Australian restaurant with a separate area but, with help, I made reservations at a Red Lobster--which was even decorated with pictures of lighthouses! The next month was again mine to organize for Wild by Cheryl Strayed and each brought their own lunch and we met in a city park.

  5. The Denver book club has also had the good fortune to have several authors join therm for lunch to discuss the book. Margaret Coel from Boulder who has written a series of mysteries that take place on the Wind River Reservation in southern WY. Dick Kreck who wrote a book about a mobster family who lived in the Denver area--the Smaldones and we met at a restaurant that the mobsters started and ran for many years. Helen Thorpe, wrote a non fiction book about several girls going to high school in Denver. Several were illegals and some legal--all Mexican Americans. We met at a Mexican restaurant.

  6. Love this post, Letty! I am proud to say I have read several of the books on your list. I don't have time to slip many adult books in between school and Sequoyah team, but I try to read some of the best. Keep writing. TS

  7. Thank you for this blog. We loved learning about your book club. Cindi says "it makes you want to read." We also loved your choice. To Kill a Mockingbird is a life changer. dl