I did it again! I read 12 books in one year! And this year, I actually read even more!
I’m a member in good standing of my local book club. Since we started in November 2012, I’ve only missed two actual book clubs AND I still made sure I read the books so that I could stay in the loop.
I’m also a member in good standing of Goodreads, a social network for readers that are more casual (like me) or super avid (like many of you). It helps me keep track of what I read, whether I liked it or not, and more importantly, see what my friends thought of the books. It’s almost like its own little online book club. Almost. Because Goodreads doesn’t provide wine.
It’s funny because Goodreads has reading challenges for those that want to participate. It’s usually something like “Read 500 Books in a Year” or something insane like that. Maybe it’s more like 100 but it might as well be 500 because I’m lucky if I can do 12 (which is better than my record over the past few years of maybe one, along with a lot of magazines).
In my community, we’re fortunate to have women that love to read, love to socialize, and actually have a brain. Yes, we do drink wine when we get together. Yes, the first hour usually is strictly social. But yes, we do actually sit and discuss the book. And surprisingly, it hasn’t fizzled out one bit. Some months are smaller than others but for the most part, we’ve kept it going since we started.
And tonight is MY night! I’ve only hosted once and thought I was due. I also thought there was no better time to host than for our Holiday Book Club! So tonight, as we munch on Slow Cooker Balsamic Honey Pulled Pork sliders, coconut cream pie, a spice cake shaped like a Christmas tree, and lots more food and wine, we’ll be talking about my selection and reminiscing about all the books we experience together this year.
If you’re looking for a whole new variety of books to read over the holidays, over the coming year, or for your own book club, may I present our book club selections over the past year (along with my review from Goodreads.
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
My review: “An amazing complex relationship develops over 6 months and it all seemed believable. Another story about how a twist of fate and the smallest actions can have a huge impact on someone else’s life. Expect to shed a few tears.”
While we all love to read, one of our members suggested we have a night devoted strictly to play. Yes, play. We ate and drank wine and brought out all our best games and ended up playing Heads Up! all night and laughing ourselves silly. And according to game designer, Jane McGonigal, we most likely extended our lives.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
My review: “Surprisingly I didn’t cry but I felt the despair of teenagers living a life doomed to be cut short. Cancer sucks but this book showed some of the day to day realities of living with cancer. It takes a while to get used to the style of language but it’s a beautifully written book that makes you think the Deep Thoughts.”
We got off track this month and went from end of February book club to beginning of April book club.
The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
My review: “So many characters I almost wanted a flowchart to track their relationships! At first read, it seems like chick lit but it’s more than that. Asking ethical questions along the way, the attention to detail provides for a great continuity throughout this well written book.”
The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore
My review: “Certainly not a literary masterpiece, it’s an interesting nonfiction look at two lives with a shared name. It’s fascinating to see the ways in which these two men were similar, the moments at which their lives could have taken the same turn, and the major factors that resulted in one achieving high success and the other ending up in prison.”
Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan
My review: “Not a book club favorite as many thought it was too medical. I, on the other hand, thought it was bizarre and fascinating and frightening all at the same time. It’s scary how easily our sanity can turn for reasons that doctors are quick to dismiss. It actually makes you rethink a lot about mental illness. If you’re fascinated by psychology and enjoy the medical side of things too, give it a read.”
All Fall Down: A Novel by Jennifer Weiner
My review: “A book of particular interest to someone who works professionally as a blogger. I could relate on so many levels to the main character but found the ease of her descent into addiction quite disturbing. The marriage dynamic was the only part I didn’t like but maybe that makes it more realistic.”
Reconstructing Amelia: A Novel by Kimberley McCreight
My review: “An easy read in a style reminiscent of “Where’d You Go, Bernadette?” I read this book in under a week (fast for me!). It’s really a murder mystery with enough suspense to keep me turning pages but the book has an overarching sense of sadness that stays with you.”
Someone Else’s Love Story: A Novel (P.S.) by Joshilyn Jackson
My review: “I know, I know. It’s fiction. But something about this story just didn’t fit right for me. It was written well but I just didn’t believe in the characters. They were almost caricatures for me and the story had a few problems with the flow. I needed to believe in the story more and honestly none of the characters resonated with me.”
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
My review: “This was definitely a difficult read (but thankfully short). The author wrote from the perspective of an autistic (perhaps Asperger’s teen) and captured the voice pretty authentically. However, as you might imagine, it was difficult to get emotionally involved in the characters. It did, however, spark some great discussion about parenting an autistic child at our book club.”
Mean Streak by Sandra Brown
My review: “I think this book should renamed “Hot & Bothered.” What started as something like felt like a cross between a romance novel and a Lifetime movie turned into a sexy and suspenseful mystery. After learning the secrets of the book, it makes me want to go back and read it again! A good thrilling page turner – a little clichéd but very enjoyable.”
We’ve already read our December selection and planned for something shorter and lighter to keep it simple around the holidays (my choice “Eleanor & Park” by Rainbow Rowell). After tonight, though, we’ll be getting ready to dive back in with another year of reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’ve read any of these books or you recommendations for a good book club selection. We’ve got 12 more selections to make!
BONUS SECTION: If you’re into audio books (which TOTALLY count as reading), I have my own personal top three recommendations for you. These may be great reads but listening to all three of these books simply took my breath away.
11/22/63 by Stephen King
My review: “I’ve been a Stephen King fan for a long time but generally gravitate towards stories involving less gore. Having previously finished “Under the Dome,” I thought I had read his best work to date. Until I read this one.
Part historical fiction, part science fiction, part love story, this book filled every corner of my literary mind. It inspired me to research history (which I did as I read the book) and it also helped me capture, as a writer, the importance of detail.
I listened to this as an audiobook, read by Craig Wasson. I was slow to warm up to his style but his ability to deliver discerning characters was amazing. He literally painted the picture for me and made me long to live in 1958. At 30 hours, it’s a long listen but hearing it come alive really envelopes you in the story.
I found a few holes in the story as we went but found the storyline plausible (for those with an imaginative mind) and the ending exactly how it should be, even if it wasn’t what I, as a sentimentalist, really wanted.
While this book felt like a very long emotional journey, this is probably one of the best books I’ve read in a long, if ever.”
We Are Water by Wally Lamb
My review: “After reading other people who gave up on this book, I can see why. It’s written in present tense and is very much a stream of consciousness type book from the perspective of several characters. I listened to this on audiobook and I think it made all the difference. Hearing the characters pulled me into their stories and providing me a surprising amount of empathy even when I didn’t want to give it. Once of the best books I’ve ever listened to (with the author reading one of the main characters).”
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
My review: “I’d heard so much about this book but the only detail was that it was really good. I downloaded the audiobook quite some time ago and was worried about the slow start when I heard Allen Corduner start the narration as “Death.”
My worry was for nothing. Not only did he bring the story to life with amazing character voices and German accents, but he captured the appropriate emotion of each moment.
As for the story, it’s clear that the author is incredibly gifted with words. He paints a poignant picture of Nazi Germany that allows you to look beyond the Germans and the Jews and focus primarily on the humans. This was a masterpiece that kept me dry-eyed until the book was just about over when I then wanted to weep at the enormity of emotions that I felt. It’s the story, the war, the suffering, the inhumanity, and the beauty all rolled into one.
As for Death? The Grim Reaper doesn’t take our lives with malice. Instead, he gently carries our souls away from our suffering. This book is an absolute must-read.”
Happy reading in 2015!!!
Disclosure: All of the images above are Amazon affiliate links. But mainly, it made it easy to embed an image of the book.