Remember my New Year’s resolution to read more and connect with other readers from this post? I’m taking concrete steps toward that goal by reinstating and idea I had several years ago: The Round Robin Book Club.
In its original incarnation, it was my girls, my sister and myself. We are all readers, but separated by distance. We were each going to take a quarter, choose four books, order and distribute the books, each read our assigned book then include a review with it before mailing it off to the next person in a designated order so that by the end of the quarter we would have all read all four and could get together and have a group phone call to discuss them all. I threw out some sample items to address in the reviews but the one that stuck was “Which character would you most like to punch in the face?” Our first books were “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt (If you’ve read it, we all wanted to punch Boris!), The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (amazing little book!), The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (which I don’t think any of us ever recovered from). It started off so well!
Then came the first of our darling grands. We never made it past that first quarter.
Now my girls have four beautiful children between the two of them, with number five set for arrival in June. They are deep in the throes of young motherhood and any reading they get to do that doesn’t involve Gossie, Goodnight Moon or parenting advice is completely for their own pleasure and at their own schedule.
So I’ve regrouped with a new cast of characters! My sister Nichole (who lives in the Dallas area) and me of course, my friends Erin & Jen (who live in the Boston are and are participating as a unit) and my friend Cynthia who is local to me.
Since I started this, I took the first quarter (actually 2 months since we got a little bit of a late start). I had a framework with the books I chose the first time and stuck with it for the rebirth: one work of literary fiction, one work of fantasy, magical realism or magic, one lighter fluffier book and a wildcard. So without further ado, hear are the books that the Round Robin Book Club will be reading for the first quarter of 2017:
A Work of Literary Fiction:
Commonwealth by Ann Patchet
The acclaimed, bestselling author—winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize—tells the enthralling story of how an unexpected romantic encounter irrevocably changes two families’ lives. One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating’s christening party uninvited. Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny’s mother, Beverly—thus setting in motion the dissolution of their marriages and the joining of two families. Spanning five decades, Commonwealth explores how this chance encounter reverberates through the lives of the four parents and six children involved. Spending summers together in Virginia, the Keating and Cousins children forge a lasting bond that is based on a shared disillusionment with their parents and the strange and genuine affection that grows up between them. When, in her twenties, Franny begins an affair with the legendary author Leon Posen and tells him about her family, the story of her siblings is no longer hers to control. Their childhood becomes the basis for his wildly successful book, ultimately forcing them to come to terms with their losses, their guilt, and the deeply loyal connection they feel for one another. Told with equal measures of humor and heartbreak, Commonwealth is a meditation on inspiration, interpretation, and the ownership of stories. It is a brilliant and tender tale of the far-reaching ties of love and responsibility that bind us together.
A Work of Fantasy, Magical Realism or Magic:
The #1 New York Times bestselling author’s ultimate edition of his wildly successful first novel featuring his “preferred text”—and including the special “Neverwhere” tale “How the Marquis Got His Coat Back.” Published in 1997, Neil Gaiman’s darkly hypnotic first novel, Neverwhere, heralded the arrival of this major talent and became a touchstone of urban fantasy. Over the years, a number of versions were produced both in the U.S. and the U.K. Now, this author’s preferred edition of his classic novel reconciles these versions and reinstates a number of scenes cut from the original published books. Neverwhere is the story of Richard Mayhew, a young London businessman with a good heart and an ordinary life, which is changed forever when he is plunged through the cracks of reality into a world of shadows and darkness—the Neverwhere. If he is ever to return to the London Above, Richard must join the battle to save this strange underworld kingdom from the malevolence that means to destroy it.
A Lighter, Fluffier Piece:
The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick
(This one went to Cynthia and involved a lovely brunch at The Beckery.)
Don’t miss this curiously charming debut! In this hauntingly beautiful story of love, loneliness and self-discovery, an endearing widower embarks on a life-changing adventure. Sixty-nine-year-old Arthur Pepper lives a simple life. He gets out of bed at precisely 7:30 a.m., just as he did when his wife, Miriam, was alive. He dresses in the same gray slacks and mustard sweater vest, waters his fern, Frederica, and heads out to his garden. But on the one-year anniversary of Miriam’s death, something changes. Sorting through Miriam’s possessions, Arthur finds an exquisite gold charm bracelet he’s never seen before. What follows is a surprising and unforgettable odyssey that takes Arthur from London to Paris and as far as India in an epic quest to find out the truth about his wife’s secret life before they met—a journey that leads him to find hope, healing and self-discovery in the most unexpected places. Featuring an unforgettable cast of characters with big hearts and irresistible flaws, The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper is a joyous celebration of life’s infinite possibilities.
And a Wildcard:
The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by The Dalai Lama & Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams
An instant New York Times Bestseller. Two Spiritual Giants. Five Days. One Timeless Question. Nobel Peace Prize Laureates His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have survived more than fifty years of exile and the soul-crushing violence of oppression. Despite their hardships—or, as they would say, because of them—they are two of the most joyful people on the planet. In April 2015, Archbishop Tutu traveled to the Dalai Lama’s home in Dharamsala, India, to celebrate His Holiness’s eightieth birthday and to create what they hoped would be a gift for others. They looked back on their long lives to answer a single burning question: How do we find joy in the face of life’s inevitable suffering? They traded intimate stories, teased each other continually, and shared their spiritual practices. By the end of a week filled with laughter and punctuated with tears, these two global heroes had stared into the abyss and despair of our time and revealed how to live a life brimming with joy. This book offers us a rare opportunity to experience their astonishing and unprecendented week together, from the first embrace to the final good-bye. We get to listen as they explore the Nature of True Joy and confront each of the Obstacles of Joy—from fear, stress, and anger to grief, illness, and death. They then offer us the Eight Pillars of Joy, which provide the foundation for lasting happiness. Throughout, they include stories, wisdom, and science. Finally, they share their daily Joy Practices that anchor their own emotional and spiritual lives. The Archbishop has never claimed sainthood, and the Dalai Lama considers himself a simple monk. In this unique collaboration, they offer us the reflection of real lives filled with pain and turmoil in the midst of which they have been able to discover a level of peace, of courage, and of joy to which we can all aspire in our own lives.
(All book detail information from Amazon.)
So, have you read any of these? What did you think? No spoilers, please! Do you belong to a book club? What’s next on your reading list? Let’s chat books!
Until next time!