The summer between fifth and sixth grade, the public library where we lived in Virginia had a summer reading program for kids.
It included lists of books for various age groups and prizes for reaching certain benchmarks that were determined by meeting with the children’s librarian and telling her a bit about the book you’d read.
I was thrilled. Wait, thrilled doesn’t really cover it.
I was obsessed.
I began ripping through the middle school list at breakneck speed. The Giver. Bridge to Terabithia. All of the Narnias. Hatchet. Watership Down.
And then it was on to the high school list. Little Women. Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde. Pride and Prejudice. Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl.
On the high school list was Gone With The Wind and I consumed the nearly 1000 pages in less than 48 hours. My 11-year-old self couldn’t get enough of Scarlett and her wartime drama. In retrospect, it was likely my first fast-read style romantic novel and my fifth grade mind was blown.
As the poor librarian (oh lord, what was her name? You’d think I’d remember given the amount of time I spent harassing her…) watched the library close around her, I droned on and on, giving her a play-by-play of Margaret Mitchell’s famous book. After more than an hour, I was still describing the first few chapters when she kindly told me that it was clear I’d read it and she was giving me credit toward the next prize.
I was utterly disappointed.
It wasn’t the prize I was after. I didn’t care at all by that point.
I’d just had my brain exploded by this book and I was dying to talk to someone who knew.
I wanted to relive the fiery wagon ride out of Atlanta and the bereft realization of lost love. I wanted to dig into details and excitedly trade moments of shock and hope and betrayal and change.
I had just climbed out of the pages of a world and experience that had left me irrevocably altered and I desperately wanted to talk to someone, anyone, who really and truly got it.
(Just for the record, I’m choosing to disregard here my current thoughts and feelings about this book…my perspectives on its romance and historical context and social underpinnings have grown quite a bit since my childhood reading…)
That’s my first clear memory of the need to share a literary experience with another person, but it’s far from the last.
I can’t tell you how many book clubs I’ve joined, showing up with my dog-eared copy of the book and all of my thoughts about it, eager to discuss, only to be met by a group of indifferent women (all of my book clubs have been women for whatever reason) who really just wanted an excuse to drink wine and talk about life, only a handful of them even cracking the spine of the book. Whomp, whomp.
On the occasions that I’ve met someone else who shares my book love, our conversations have always been far too short, marked by deep sighs of remembrance at certain passages or wild exclamations at shared revelations.
It’s the best.
I want more.
I’m starting a book club here.
It’s informal. I have no idea if anyone is interested. I don’t have a specific genre or format yet. I think the theme is simply “For the curious and adventurous of mind" because, well, that’s what we are around here.
Summer lends itself to reading. Well, actually, I say the same thing at the start of every season, so I guess I always think the weather lends itself to reading…it’s really just the where and accompanying drink that change (cool sparkling water with lime over ice and a hammock vs. a steaming latte under a cozy throw blanket by the fire…it all sounds great to me!).
This is how it will begin:
I’ll keep an ongoing list on my website here (you can also get to it from the banner at the top of the page)
Each month I will name a book to read. The genre will vary- novels, memoirs, non-fiction, short story anthologies, etc.
I will list the book of the month on the website page and also send out an email with a reminder (not on my email list? be sure to sign up!) of the upcoming book and some thoughts/discussion of the last.
In addition to the book of the month, I will name 1-2 “alternatives” that I will also read and that are of a different genre than the primary book, just for a bit of variety.
I will invite (and encourage and beg…I’m not proud!) you to share your opinions and perspectives…you can do this either by emailing me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by joining and commenting in the private Facebook Community
Like I said, I don’t have a big plan for this just yet, so PLEASE share any ideas (and book suggestions!) in the comments- I’d love to get your thoughts!
But let’s get started right away with this month!
Our book this month is Mary Oliver’s Upstream.
If you’ve never read her poetry- get thee to Google and look some up- I promise you won’t be sorry. This book isn’t poetry, though. It’s a collection of her essays. I love books like this during busy seasons in my life- full of what I think of as “two bite” stories. Each chapter stands on its own, so it lends itself to being picked up and put down without having to try to remember where you left off. Perfect for dipping into when you only have 10 minutes.
If you are looking for vacation reading or just something fun, I am freaking obsessed with Sarah Maas’s Throne of Glass series. It’s a 7-book series (+ a book of prequel short stories) that 100% rewards you for continuing to read. I am re-reading them (again) this month and I love them so much. Stop judging me. Technically considered “young adult,” I would recommend previewing them before handing them to too young an adult as there is quite a bit of sex and violence. But if you like really strong female leads and a little fairy fantasy mixed in with your assassin action stories, give this series a try!
If non-fiction is more your thing, or if you simply love really, really powerful writing and are interested in the environment in any way, Barry Lopez’s Arctic Dreams should move to the top of your “to read” list. I began this book when we were in Alaska last year and didn’t make it past the first chapter because another book with a deadline pushed it off my desk, but I’ve been dying to get back to it and it’s haunted my thoughts ever since. I confess that I can recommend it without blinking even not having read it because I’m a long-time fan of Lopez and, frankly, I’ve never read anything of his that didn’t blow me away. Plus, this won the National Book Award, so…pretty safe bet it’s awesome. Let’s find out together!
Okay. So that’s it! Let me know in the comments if you’re on board and give me any thoughts or suggestions for how to make this extra fun and community oriented!