When judging a book by its cover pays off

In addition to seeing a handful of tweets about book covers this week, I got an email from a friend about a great book cover, and overheard a conversation in a local book store about whether it was worth buying an unknown book based on the cover alone. All of which got me thinking of my (current) favourite book cover:

 

NightCircus

 

An amazing, creative cover for an amazing, creative book!

 

 

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Brenda

Brenda is our newbie. She’s been with us just over two years but is already an important part of the book club family.

I very clearly remember Brenda’s first meeting. It was at Hyedie’s place which means that in addition to having to deal with the rest of us crazies, she had Hyedie’s dogs to deal with. She came in and charmed us all in minutes with her open, friendly manner, her big heart, her knowledge of books and her passion for reading. Brenda is open to reading anything, and genuinely interested to hear what the rest of us have to say about a book. You’ll often look her way when discussing a book and know from the look on her face that she doesn’t agree with your point of view, but she’s honestly trying to understand where you’re coming from.

Brenda joins us from well outside the city, which means that in order to attend a meeting she has to commute up to two hours each way, often getting home well after midnight if we get together on a week night! And she does it with her trademark smile and laugh. If book club were high school, Brenda would definitely win the “Most Dedicated” title.

Here’s what Brenda had to say about her book club experience.

Lindsay: What prompted you to join the book club?

Brenda: I lost my husband and  needed to build a new life. My dear friend Stella invited me to join the club and it has enriched my life. I read books I would not normally read and they transport me to a new place. More importantly I have met some wonderful women and I cherish those new relationships.

Lindsay: What has been your favourite book club book so far and why?

Brenda: The Language of Flowers. The characters are so rich and the story is easy to read yet complex.

Brenda


Lindsay:
What’s your favourite book club memory?

Brenda: I couldn’t possibly single out one. Every time we are together the beautiful food and company are great. I love it – it is so different from my daily routine.

Lindsay: In an ideal world, what would we be reading next?

Brenda: I think it’s time for a great murder mystery if the other members like that sort of thing.

Lindsay: How do you think the book club should celebrate 10 years?

Brenda: A great dinner at a great restaurant.

Margaret

Meet Margaret – our optimist.

Margaret can find something nice to say about anyone (and any book) she meets. She’s positive, enthusiastic, talkative like you wouldn’t believe, funny, and one of the most genuinely “glass half full” people you’ll ever know. She brings the positive outlook to the book club – even if she hates a book, she can find a silver lining – and her book choices tend to take our group off in new and interesting directions. Our one and only non-fiction read has been thanks to Margaret, as was a run of spiritual-focused fiction that we had a few years ago.

And in typical Margaret fashion, when I asked her to send me her answers to my five questions and begged her to include a photo, she jumped at my “I’ll even take a photo of your feet” offer!

Margaret

Here are Margaret’s thoughts on our book club.

Lindsay: What has been your favorite book club book and why?

Margaret: There have been so many wonderful book club books, but if I had to pick just one, I would go with Lawrence Hill’s The Book of Negroes. I still remember the main character’s first name and can approximate her last name. Sometimes I have trouble just remembering book titles, so this is saying a lot.

There are a few reasons why this book is a standout for me. Aminata’s character was brought to life in such a powerful and vivid way, that as a reader, I was able to connect with her so strongly. When I read a book, I need to feel something—for better or worse. I want to be moved. I want my emotions ruffled in some way. This book made me feel many things on a deep level. I especially enjoy books which have story lines in which there is a triumph of the human spirit in transcending the most difficult of challenges that are served up. What I loved most, was being a witness to Aminata’s journey, the choices she made and how they defined her life and purpose.

Lindsay: What’s your favourite book club memory?

Margaret: My favourite book club memory is when a bunch of us visited a Chapters book store, in search of our next book club pick. I enjoyed this because we went “old school” (no electronic gadgets involved). It was just us, connecting with the books “real time”, on a very tactile level. As much as I’d like to think that I wouldn’t judge a book by its cover, I discovered from this experience, that covers do have a bigger impact on me than I realized or would care to admit.

That wasn’t my only discovery, however. During that book store visit, it came up that one of our members had a unique “litmus test” for deciding whether a book was going to be worthwhile to continue reading. I thought it was the most interesting thing ever, that she was able to zero in on a particular page number and had a whole rationale to back it up!

Lindsay: In an ideal world, what would we be reading next?

Margaret: Well, I’m not sure how ideal this would be, but I love the idea of breaking the mold and doing something VERY different and outside of the box. I wonder what it would be like to pick a book that was a well-known childhood favorite that we had either read or had exposure to like Blubber, Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret or a Nancy Drew mystery. I think it would be interesting to have a discussion about the book from a childhood perspective and now as an adult. I’m not sure what my pick would be, but I’m thinking that Charlie and The Chocolate Factory is a strong contender at the moment.

Lindsay: What advice would you give, to someone looking to join a book club?

Margaret: I would suggest that the person do some self-reflection and be very clear on WHY they want to join a book club and what their vision is of how they want it to operate. Not all book clubs are alike and one size does not necessarily fit all. Armed with this information, they can ask the right questions to see if a particular book club will be the right fit for them.

Above all else, they should ensure that whatever book club they join, it is one in which every member is respected, gets to have a voice and can freely express themselves without fear of judgment.

Lindsay: How do you think the book club should celebrate 10 years?

Margaret: I think it would be nice if the festivities included some kind of walk down memory lane, in terms of the books we’ve read or the memories we’ve shared. Not too long ago, we collectively tried to piece together as complete of a list as possible, of all the books we had read. I also think it would be fantastic for all of us to participate in some kind of literary event like Word on the Street, something in connection to Canada Reads or just going to see an author speak.

Reader’s Resolutions

A few years ago, a friend sent me a link to the Reader’s Resolutions post on the Shelf Talk blog. I came across the link again a few weeks ago when I was cleaning out my old emails, and am so glad I did! It’s a great list to help expand your reading.

Shelf Talk

Every New Year resolutions are made. Some go on diets. Some pledge to save. Some pledge to write those thank you cards in a timely manner.  Me, I resolve to do all of those things, but I usually also resolve to read more and more broadly. Not that I always succeed.

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Emily Bronte – 1; Lindsay – 0

WutheringHeights

After close to 15 years of trying on and off, I finally gave up on reading Wuthering Heights.

Usually, no matter how hard/boring/pointless I’m finding a book, I power through. It takes quite the book to make me give up entirely, but Emily Bronte did it.

I have cracked open the cover of Wuthering Heights a number of times, but just can’t get through more than about 110 pages. I don’t know if it’s the characters that I don’t connect with, the prose that I can’t get my head around, or the pacing that I find too slow. Whatever it is, it combines to produce an unreadable book for me. (And just to be sure, I’ve even tried to watch the movie. Not happening.)

And so Wuthering Heights has officially been moved from my “to be read” shelf, to my “to be donated” box. It’s humbling to be taken down by a book that most people polished off in high school.

What books have bested you? Any tips for powering through when you’re just not connecting with a book?

(post updated July 21 – photo added)

Know the book club rules

Thank goodness our book club has a “please read the book, but if you didn’t, feel free to just come for the wine and great company” policy! But not all book clubs are so laid back. If you’re joining a new club, know the rules and make sure they fit with your reading style and what you’re looking for  from a club.

An oldie but a goodie from Funny of Die on the perils of not following the book club rules:

 

Cookbooks count as non-fiction right?

I don’t cook. The whole process frustrates me, and the results are rarely good – although I haven’t actually poisoned myself yet, so that’s something.  My mom, on the other hand, probably should have been a chef or a baker. Her food is delicious, and she gets genuine enjoyment from spending time in the kitchen (and, I suspect, genuine frustration from my lack of interest in all things culinary).

As a result of my mom’s passion for cooking, and my passion for eating, I’ve started to acquire quite the impressive collection of cookbooks.

cookbooks

I keep my cookbooks on my coffee table or book shelf instead of in my kitchen because let’s face it, when you don’t cook a cookbook is really nothing more than a beautifully illustrated series of non-fiction stories.

I’ve often spent a lazy Sunday afternoon flipping through the introductions, write-ups and recipe lists, salivating over the photos, and flagging recipes that I can take home to mom just in time for the next family dinner. I love finding out more about why a chef picked one ingredient over another, how this herb or that root is harvested, why butter really is better, etc.

I may not be a fan of non-fiction, but I’m definitely a fan of food fiction.

Have you come across a cookbook that’s worth the read?