Last night was my favorite book club meeting of the year, the dinner where we plan what we'll be reading for the year to come. Good food, good friends, lots of good books to anticipate . . . topped off by cheesecake and chocolate!
We're beginning our 8th year as a book club. (By the way, we've been looking for a good name for a long time--any suggestions, please comment!) Fourteen members, five of us original. The first couple of years, we didn't plan more than a month in advance. We calendared who would be hosting a given month, and then the host would have full discretion of what we read. The second year, we assigned themes to each month (YA, mystery, biography, classic) and let the host choose within those themes.
At the end of two years, we needed a radical change. We were reading far too many self-help books, far too many depressing books, and far too many books that made us feel bad about ourselves as mothers. Thus was born our December tradition.
On the first Thursday of December, we meet for dinner. Every member who wishes brings recommendations. We sell our books, much like editorial meetings in a publishing house, and then we vote by secret ballot. The eleven books with the most votes are on our schedule for the next year.
There have been slight modifications to this system over the years. For one, we now ask that every book you recommend be one you have actually read. (This after the disaster of a book that shall remain unnamed which we chose because "it sounded really interesting." It wasn't. It was one of only two books I haven't finished in book club. Both of those books had the word "Red" in the title. Coincidence?) For another, we now limit recommendations to two or three per person. This avoids having those who read more than others dominating the choices. I plead the fifth on whether I am one of those :)
The selling of our books is not for the fainthearted. As we've grown closer to each other, we've grown more outspoken as well. One book that made it on to this year's list (no, I'm not telling which one) I don't like at all. Presenters are peppered with questions and comments. "It sounds like a soap opera." "I don't like science fiction." "What exactly is a changeling?" But it works. Each year we have a wide variety of genres, lengths, and subject matters. We never entirely agree. I don't think there's ever been a book that absolutely everyone loved or detested. (Except for the aforementioned unnameable one with "Red" in the title.) But watching everyone last night, laughing and enjoying themselves and each other, I was struck by how lucky I am to have a group of friends who trust each other so entirely that disagreement is never mistaken for a personal attack. (Okay, so there was the book-throwing incident. But I plead the fifth on that as well.)
Books for 2007:
Among the Hidden—Margaret Peterson Haddix
Wuthering Heights—Emily Bronte
Stolen Child—Keith Donohue
The Chosen—Chaim Potok
Speak--Laurie Halse Anderson
Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging—Louise Rennison
The Sparrow—Mary Doria Russell
The Four Feathers—A.E.W. Mason
Beekeeper’s Apprentice—Laurie R. King
Nobody Don’t Love Nobody—Stacey Bess