Tag Archives: Book Groups

Back into Book Groups…

Thank you for all your nice thoughts when you popped round for tea and biscuits last week , lovely to catch up with some of you, even though I proceeded to vanish again I did read all your comments. Now that I have actually managed to be at home for a few days on the trot, though I am back off to Derbyshire to see Gran this weekend, and have actually managed a few days of no work and just ‘being’ I have to say I am feeling slightly more normal and caught up with myself a bit – not quite fully but not far off.

Anyway, today I am going to talk to you about book groups because back at the end of last year I said that I wasn’t going to join any more. In fact I think I said I would just stick to doing The Readers Book Club with the lovely Gavin every month, and we have. Oddly we had to have a small crisis meeting about this the other week as over the last few months we’ve been having a bit of a nightmare. Authors have vanished meaning we couldn’t record with them, three publishers promised us books then withdrew last minute making us look a bit stoopid and we thought ‘right, let’s sort this out’. So, we have decided to go seasonal and from now on every three months we will announce three books in advance so people have more of a change to read along and get involved. The summer selection was announced yesterday and here they are…

  • The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall (14th of June 2013)
  • Snake Ropes by Jess Richards (12th of July 2013)
  • The Last Banquet by Jonathan Grimwood (8th of August 2013)

So hopefully this will entice some of you to read along, have discussions on our blogs on the same day and even (fingers crossed) get questions to us and possibly appear on the shows when they go live. What say you?

Thinking about book groups then made me realise how much I have actually missed being in one. To be fair when Gran has been lucid we are still talking about books but as she can’t read I haven’t been able to introduce the idea of an ‘End of Your Life Book Club’ ala Will Schwalbe which we had thought to, though as we are listening to the same audiobooks when together maybe that counts? Regardless of that I decided it might be nice to join one, something I am actually rather nervous about as I have tended to start (and then leave the city within months/a year) book groups in the past rather than join one with friendships already running through it.

Yet the lovely Rosario lives in Liverpool and had invited me to join the book group she is in when I moved over here and I initially said yes but then got too busy with everything. However now, after a slightly humble email from me, I have asked to rejoin and if I can get a copy of ‘Watchmen’ from the library in time I will be joining them next week. If not I will be joining the month after for ‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd’. From Alan Moore to Agatha Christie, that sounds like my kind of book group! I also caught up with one of my best friends from secondary school, who I hadn’t seen for sixteen – yes SIXTEEN – years but now live two miles from, yesterday and we joked about one on the Wirral. Could I handle two? Well Gran was in three, so maybe it is in the genes?

So what are your thoughts on the Readers Book Club Summer Selection 2013? Have you read any and what did you think? Also do you have any tips for me as someone joining a book group that has been going a while? Are you in a book group and how are you finding it, and what are you reading, what have been your groups highlight reads? Any of you love books but can’t think of anything worse than a book club, just out of interest?

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The Persuasion of Procrastination

Why do I always do this? Whenever I have a deadline to read a book I leave it until the last minute. This is where I am currently at with reading Jane Austen’s ‘Persuasion’ for Classically Challenged and yet we are meant to be having the discussion on the novel on Sunday (well, when we will be having as I am determined to have finished it by then), oops. I shouldn’t be surprised though as reading to deadlines is something I always, just about, manage to do and yet I repeat this offense for book group reading, library books that someone else puts on hold and more. Why though, and is it actually detrimental to the book in question?

With book groups I think the main reason I leave it until last minute is the fact that I want the book fresh in my mind. I want to make sure that I don’t suddenly forget a characters name, a vital plot point, the prose style etc. In reality I actually probably forget at least one of these of feel that everyone else has understood the book so much better than I did in the first place I should simply stay schtum and not say anything too stupid or obvious. Interestingly I think that if I read them in advance my initial love/indifference/hatred for the book would have time to dissipate and settle and actually I might feel differently from the thoughts I had at the start. There would also be less pressure and less of me reading the final few pages as fast as I can as the bus turns down the street to the book group venue.

In the case of ‘Persuasion’ there might actually be a bit more to it than simply wanting to have read it in time to remember it. Realistically I like to have read a book, made notes along the way, started a review just after I finish it and then give it a week or so to settle, go back and edit what I wrote and then post my book thoughts/review. I think however with ‘Persuasion’ I have been putting it off, I genuinely believe subconsciously at first, because I think I am just a bit scared/intimidated/cynical about it.

When I first got the book, along with the other Classically Challenged titles, I was really excited. ‘Look at all these canon novels I am going to read’ was rather deliciously running through my head. Then I picked it up and was greeted by this…

“Sir Walter Elliot, of Kellynch Hall, in Somersetshire, was a man who, for his own amusement, never took up any book but the Baronetage; there he found occupation for an idle hour, and consolation in a distressed one; there his faculties were roused into admiration and respect, by contemplating the limited remnant of the earliest patents; there any unwelcome sensations, arising from domestic affairs changed naturally into pity and contempt as he turned over the almost endless creations of the last century; and there, if every other leaf were powerless, he could read his own history with an interest which never failed. This was the page at which the favourite volume always opened:

“ELLIOT OF KELLYNCH HALL.

“Walter Elliot, born March 1, 1760, married, July 15, 1784, Elizabeth, daughter of James Stevenson, Esq. of South Park, in the county of Gloucester, by which lady (who died 1800) he has issue Elizabeth, born June 1, 1785; Anne, born August 9, 1787; a still-born son, November 5, 1789; Mary, born November 20, 1791.”

Precisely such had the paragraph originally stood from the printer’s hands; but Sir Walter had improved it by adding, for the information of himself and his family, these words, after the date of Mary’s birth– “Married, December 16, 1810, Charles, son and heir of Charles Musgrove, Esq. of Uppercross, in the county of Somerset,” and by inserting most accurately the day of the month on which he had lost his wife.”

My initial thoughts were ‘oh dear, how boring is that’, followed by ‘ooh Jane Austen is as big a fan of the comma over the full stop as I am’, because it reads like an encyclopaedia entry and whilst I like to know random things the style is just a bit yawn-some. Sorry but it is true. And so, and I think this is because I actually want to like these authors and these books (I am not taking part in Classically Challenged so I can tear these authors apart laughing with delight that I knew I was right about them all along), I have put off reading it. When I went to Gran’s I ‘forgot’ to pack it, when I have had time to read I have somehow picked up something else, when I packed for Iceland alas Jane didn’t make it in my luggage. Now with days to go I am going to have to be very strict and simply sit and read it (though as you will have noticed I have now sat down and written this instead) and nothing else until it is done.

Before I go (more procrastination) though I wondered if you ever get nervous or intimidated when starting a book, and if so why do you and how do you deal with it. Austen lovers, and you recommended I start with this book, please tell me ‘Persuasion’ gets better? Oh and finally, do any of you find you leave reading a book you know you have to read by a certain date, until the last minute? Library books, challenges, book club books, whatever. Let me know.

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A Post In Memory of Jane Kelman, A Lover of Books

One of the wonderful things about books is that despite being a solitary activity in the main they can bring you together with other people. This can be through book groups, be they ones you start or ones you join at the library etc, through blogs and forums or random chats in a bookshop or on public transport. Today Gran, who I saw yesterday, has asked me if I would dedicate a post to one of her dear friends, and fellow book lovers, Jane. Here is why…

Ten years ago I attended a book event in my local small library in our small town. Sitting next to me was a young woman almost twenty years my junior. She was called Jane Kelman. With our shared interest in literature Jane and I had plenty to talk about. We both felt that our town lacked a book group, so we decided to set our own one up.

Our library offered to do all they could to help us and they did. Subsequently Jane and I spent happy hours researching a venue for the group. In the end we found an absolute gem. A lively ‘unconverted’ local pub offered us the use of one of their upstairs rooms free of charge. We decided it was ideal.

I think something like twenty five people turned up for our first meeting. Over the years membership has waxed and waned and now stands at around a regular twelve, what I consider being an ideal number for a book group. The first book we read was ’Bel Canto’ by Ann Patchett, I loved it but not everybody shared my views, our latest choice is ‘Fathers and Sons’ by Ivan Turgenev. We have read many, and varying, books over the years. I suspect, as with many  book groups, our discussions have often diverted away from the book in question to other interesting topics.

Despite the occasional fierce argument the atmosphere has always remained really friendly. There are still six founder members left one of them being Jim, our solitary male, who has never wavered in his loyalty to the group even though from time to time he is opposed by a ‘monstrous regiment’.

Unfortunately thought, within a few years of starting up the group my co-founder Jane became ill and after a relatively short illness sadly passed away.

Jane was always a warm, caring, loving friend and a devoted wife and mother. She was also a real lover of literature. She has been sorely missed in our group. So because of all she did in starting the group and because of the truly lovely person Jane was, I asked Simon if he would dedicate a post on this blog to Jane on what is our ten year anniversary. So here’s to Jane.

Dorothy aka Granny Savidge Reads.

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Can a Book Group Be Bad For a Book?

Both whilst recording the latest episode of The Readers Summer Book Club and then compiling my post on the book, ‘Bleakly Hall’ by Emlaine Di Rollo, itself afterwards has raised a question in my head… Can a book group be a bad thing for certain books and the reading experience around them?

One of the things I love most about a book group is the discussion, the gossip; chatting and wine afterwards is all a bonus. I have found with book groups in the past that discussing a book I didn’t like and hearing everyone else’s thoughts on it can sometimes make me d a complete 180 with my opinion. It can also be an utter joy, and rather bonding as I found with ‘Mary Barton’, if you all loathe a book and can sit and pick it apart. Yet what if you really enjoyed reading a book and others pick it apart, can it kill it for you?

This has very rarely happened to me before in any book groups that I can think of. Why is this so? Well I think it is because I tend to be more critical about books I am reading with my ‘book group’ brain on, yes even more so than when I am reading a book to review. With reviews I analyse the way a book made me feel and the questions it raises itself of makes me ask myself, yet with a book group book I tend to pick it apart all the more. Or maybe I do this all the time and yet am only aware of it when prepping for a book club – yes indeed, I prep.

It is this very reason why I have never suggested reading a Daphne Du Maurier book as a choice of my own to any group I have been part of, other members have and I have always been quite fearful that my favourite authors work will be picked to death and my love of Daphers altered. Fortunately Daphne tends to be so wonderful that this rarely happens.

Yet for the first time ever recently as I read a book I was thoroughly enjoying, the aforementioned ‘Bleakly Hall’, I found that as I knew I would be discussing it in detail I started to pick it apart as I read not afterwards. Normally I always do this afterwards, not during, and I am not sure why it changed with this book but I ended up almost sabotaging reading it because I was pre-empting the questions/reactions/subjects that the book would raise. It had a house of cards effect/loose thread effect and I started picking.

This then made me wonder if some books are just not book group books. For example, and I am not comparing ‘Bleakly Hall’ to this series it is just an example, I would never take an Agatha Raisin mystery to a book group. It and I would be annihilated and those, for me, are just books I read for pleasure, no more no less and there is nothing wrong with books that you simply read and are entertained by the whole way through. I think ‘Bleakly Hall’ would have been just such a book if I wasn’t reading it in the context I did.

So I wondered if any of you had found that there are some books that simply should be avoided as book group choices. Obviously with book group books the idea is no one has read them and so there is always the risk it won’t work I suppose but maybe some experiences/titles stick out in particular? Do you agree some books should simply be read and enjoyed, not picked apart or should all books be treated with the same analytical internal eye of a reader?

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How Many Book Groups Make Too Many?

I love books. I know that sounds like a rather obvious thing to say with a book blog, but sometimes my love of books gets me into trouble. For example at the moment I am in the midst of reading the Green Carnation Prize submissions, of which we have easily had double or maybe treble what we did last year and there are more to come. I also have a big pile of books on the bedside table which I keep ‘meaning to read next’, some advance reading to do for ‘Discovering Daphne’ and another project for the blog which starts in August. Phew! So you might think considering I am part of two book groups the very thought of joining another would seem idiotic… and yet I think I have.

It’s not the fault of the other two book groups that have made my eyes wander. It’s definitely me.

You see with the book group I first joined (that in my own head I call ‘the lovely ladies of Levenshulme book group’ because it is lots of lovely women and me and Paul Magrs) I love the banter and I love the people but until this month a lot of the choices have been re-reads for me. This is of course my fault for reading too much frankly and not theirs at all. However this month, though I have no idea what day it’s happening, we are reading ‘The Lost Daughter’ by Diane Chamberlain which is a book I have never read and would go as far as to say from the cover looks like a book I would possibly avoid. It looks a bit Jodi Piccoult. However this is the very point of a book group isn’t it?

Sadly at the moment the book seems to be avoiding me. I ordered it from the library, they went and loaned it after I ordered it. I have tried book shops and no avail. I could go online, but I feel all funny about online sales after the latest Book Depository news. So if I get it and if I find out when the meeting is I shall of course be going.

The next book group I joined in part because it was organised by one of my lovely new friends up in the north and secondly because I hadn’t read the book, which was ‘Purple Hibiscus’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, one I had wanted to read for ages and ages but not quite got around to. The only issue is that I have read the next book that’s been chosen (again my fault not theirs) but I really don’t want to read it again. What is it? ‘The God of Small Things’ by Arundhati Roy. This seems odd, especially as you can see from a review of it back in 2008, when I had read it for a book group too, I came away confused but overall liking it. So wouldn’t this be just the sort of book that could do with a re-read? After all this was a few years ago. The answer screaming at me is no. I don’t want to be confused by it again, and one thing I missed in that review was how long that book took to read. I have it by the bed in case but I will see, I did love the people who went so much – a really lovely mixture. Can I not go without having to re-read it and see if I can remember it fully? I admit I remember one horrid scene in a cinema all too well.

Fate seemed to extend a hand when I found a new book group in Manchester through twitter completely randomly. I think Waterstones Deansgate retweeted them, they are the @NQbookclub. This group are a little specific with what books they choose, which is what attracts me so much – as well as meeting new book lovers that is, as they only read post war classics it seems… Classics such as ‘Revolutionary Road’ by Richard Yates, ‘Things Fall Apart’ by Chinua Achebe and next up to read is ‘Rabbit, Run’ by John Updike. Many of you will of course have read these, but I haven’t and yet they have always been books I have fancied (I did read Updike’s ‘Couples’ for a book group and was impressed with the read and the discussion was great) so should I add another book group to my reading schedule?

I am torn, especially as with ‘Bookmarked’ starting soon (exciting announcement about that soon) and the reading I will need to do for that… maybe it is too much? Do I need to give up one? I don’t really want to. How many book groups are too many? Has anyone else found that they go to a book group and each month it’s a book they have read? Does it matter if you pick and choose which meetings you attend, what are your thoughts on etiquette?

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Savidge Reads and the RNIB

I am a big fan of doing as much for charity as I can, in fact the best non media job I have ever had was working for Breast Cancer Care, so when I had an email from Melanie at the RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People) asking if I would like to be involved in a new initiative, as a guest speaker, of people talking to book groups for blind and partially sighted people… I didn’t need any persuading.

So in the next few months I will be taking part in Special Interest telephone book groups. This is the chance for people who already have regular book groups via the phone, also through RNIB, get the chance to ask people in varying parts of the ‘book world’ any questions that they have. I also get the chance to ask them about their reading habits and the pro’s and con’s of the audio book industry. I have already got a list of questions about how the industry is doing, be it good or bad, in terms of resources for those people who might not be able to read a book in its traditional form. I think its going to be an interesting set of discussions.

As always, with any new exciting thing I get to do via Savidge Reads, I like to put out there to all of you for your thoughts and comments. So I was wondering if you had any questions that you would like me to ask these lovely readers in advance? I also know they are very keen to hear about great audio books, which aren’t so much my forte – though I have been really enjoying listening to Sarah Winman reading her own novel ‘When God Was A Rabbit’ since I finished the book – yet I am sure you will all know of some fantastic audio reads. Do let me know.

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Happy Easter

I thought that the day slap bang between Good Friday and Easter Sunday might just be the perfect time to schedule a post wishing you all a very Happy Easter wherever you are and whatever you are doing.

I myself have no idea what I will be doing, though not being religious in the traditional sense I am sure I will be turning to my own mini-religion which is of course books and two in particular… My latest book group choices. Strangely enough both of the choices this month happen to have been my own and am am dangerously behind in reading both of them, typical. Thank goodness for a long bank holiday weekend (we are having two long four day weekends on the trott in the UK) which seems the perfect time to be tucking into both ‘Cat’s Eye’ by Margaret Atwood and ‘The Eyre Affair’ by Jasper Fforde, and possibly tucking into some chocolate too.

Wherever you are, whatever your doing and whatever your reading (and do feel free to let me know what all these three might entail) I hope you have a lovely time be you visiting church, spending time with loved ones, eating chocolate, having an adventure, reading or simply having a nice rest!

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