Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Looming Tower, Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11

This winner of the Pulitzer Prize had us talking. While it wasn't the light read that most of us prefer this time of year we did think it was worth the read.

This non-fiction gem by Lawrence Wright explains the history of (or rather the development of) Islamic fundamentalism, the origins of al-Qaeda, and the (our words) criminal breakdown between U.S. agencies that failed several times over to stop the horrific events of 9/11.

Wright gives us a reference list of the cast of characters, but even with this tool it is daunting to follow all the folks who influenced and impacted bin laden (no capitals for that guy) and his ominous rise to leader of this organization.

As a counter point to bin laden the reader is introduced to an individual so interesting that he seems fictional. One of the key FBI players responsible for investigating the Embassy attacks in Kenya and Tanzania, John O'Neil is so colorful and interesting in his personal life that he makes a complex and tragic foe to bin laden, who in spite of his unique interpretation of the Koran believes himself to be righteous.

This book is by no means easy to read, the history is long and complicated and the failures at every turn to stop the growth of al-Qaeda and their misguided displays of "revenge" are maddening. Hind side is 20/20 - but Wright is unforgiving in his critisim of the failures of our government agencies.

Next up... Book of the Year!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


Wow, usually I'm johnny-on-the-spot with the book group recaps but not this month. Please forgive the posting if it seems vague and too high level.

So, we finally met on the correct night, after some good natured ribbing about calendars and personal updates we got to it.

Snow, by Orhan Pamuk is the tale of an exiled poet who returns to Kars, his home town in Turkey to cover an uncomfortable story that the locals and government would prefer remain untold. During his journey an epic snow storm isolates the town and a "military" coup takes place. Ka, the poet is an observer, but manages to get very involved in all the activities and (we thought) recklessly influences events without much thought to the consequences.

Ka is overcome with the return of his gift for poetry during his time in Kars and Orhan taunts us with conceptual descriptions of poem after poem. While not a huge fan of reading the poetry of others, the lack of any Ka's poetry in Snow is a disappointment that I'm sure is intended.

While the book resulted in a lively discussion we had some complaints. In spite of the fact that the book jacket touts a rave review from John Updike (The New Yorker) that states the book has "suspense at every dimpled vortex..." we were less than thrilled with Orhans style and how he managed to kill the suspense the moment it started to build. He builds a moment where the reader is anxious to read how the events will unfold, but before the story lead us to the answer, Orhan uses the narrator to give it away.

As a fictional example, a character injured in an accident and the doctor will be in to tell him the prognosis. Will he ever walk again? Will he be able to walk down the isle to marry his one true love? Suspense, suspense.... this is where Orhan would drop a line like "Ka, in extraordinary pain, waited anxiously to learn if he would ever walk again. He never would." COME ON MAN, give us a few moments to agonize over the suspense you built!

Another (albeit much more minor) complaint is the inconsistent use of the first person narrator. The story is told third person until page 180-something when we start to hear the narrator talk about "I" and his role in the story. It was jarring. We hoped that it was a translation issue.

These items aside, we enjoyed the read and were pleased to see a novel about Turkey. The backdrop of the coup was a good device to describe the complex inner workings of this community. The isolation of the town by the snow was also an interesting metaphor for Ka's struggle with his belief in God.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


I drove to work today so that I could be at Christine's on time tonight for book club. There was plenty of parking in front of her house and it made me wonder the same thought I always have... "hmm, 7:00 or 7:30... I can never remember. I hope I'm not a half an hour early."

Knocking on the door I heard the dog go bonkers and children scramble for the door. "Children, odd usually it's a kids free zone, oh well no matter." The door opened and a very capable looking teen aged girl looked me over with trepidation and then acceptance. Without inviting me in we established that book club wasn't tonight but she couldn't confirm if it was happening elsewhere or on another night.

When I wondered aloud "I wonder if I'm at the wrong house." Big D (all of 6 years old) let me know that I wasn't at the "wrong house, you're at my house." I told Mr. D. that I knew this was his house and that I'd probably see him tomorrow.

A quick round of phone calls confirmed that indeed this gal (who spent the afternoon power reading to finish on time) had arrived on the wrong danged day.

So... I guess we'll start over tomorrow.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Water for Elephants

Catching up with one another consumed the first hour (or so) of our early Sunday evening book group. With the summer wrapping up there was lots to discuss, vacations, family, jobs, movies oh, and a book.

Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen details the surprisingly likable world of a tier two circus troop in the hard luck 20's and 30's. Told through the eyes of a young college aged boy we are treated to characters who although fit for a circus are well rounded and unique.

Gruen adeptly describes the hierarchy of the troop, the menagerie folks don't eat with the performers, but nobody gets paid and nobody complains lest they get red-lighted (aka tossed from the train while its moving to the next town.)

Jacob is remembering his first years with the circus while he waits for his family to visit him in his retirement home. We are quickly drawn into a world of tents, horses and dancing elephants. Neither world is all that perfect but in the end we appreciate both for what they are.

We felt that the author captured the male voice and thought process well and only a couple times crossed the boundaries into dialog that was more apt to be female than male.

While we all liked the book and the story presented we universally took issue with the journey of the modern day Jacob and thought the end to his storyline was unrealistic. Well, as unrealistic as a story about a veterinarian hopping aboard an unknown train and landing a job with a traveling circus could be.

All in all, thumbs up and an enjoyable read.

(If we direct you to Amazon to buy the book do you think they will sue us for borrowing a picture of the same book from their web site? I hope not; if they sue us then I'll stop buying my books there. tlp)

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Peony In Love

Scheduling is always hard, but is especially hard in the summer. We found a night, only two weeks from the previous meeting, and amazingly everyone finished the book.

Peony In Love, by Lisa See is the follow up novel to her first and well liked bookd Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. Set in China during the transition between the Ming and the Manchu dynasties (roughly 1644 give or take a day), PIL tells the story of a young woman who is enchanted by an opera and which sets in motion a lifetime of lessons about love and happiness.

The protagonist, Peony is young, (15) betrothed to a man she has never met and in love with a poet. While the story takes place over the course of 30 years or so her voice never really changes and while she does mature in some ways she remains fifteen.

General consensus was that P.I.L. was a quick read, an interesting view into the mythical beliefs of Chinese culture and the afterlife, but that many parts of the story were predictable, or maybe it's better to say that the plot points were extremely well foreshadowed.

We stopped to compare the isolation of women in 17th century China who lived a sequestered life and were hobbled by foot binding (photos) to the isolation of the women in our last book A Thousand Splendid Sons. Cultural acceptance of the caste of women as a lower less valued being appears to be universal. This book touches on the topic but isn't a study in the evils of inequality. The author addresses the issue but the women accept their fate as a part of life, although she does give us a character that is more than a little angry about the failure to value the ladies.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

A Thousand Splendid Suns

We met at the Wallingford restaurant Kabul to discuss A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini.

Over plates of warm bolani we first listed the numbers of book fair books we'd each completed. On average we each read about 4 of the books. Reaction was mixed on all titles. Some of us liked a title while others felt it earned the award for "worst. book. ever." (We'll wait until everyone has had a chance to make their own decision before posting our "recommend" or "skip" rating.)

Once that chatter died down, we ordered dinner and started in on ATSS. On this book we were in agreement that it is a worthy second effort by the author of the Kite Runner. The story was compelling, engaging and we felt that Dr. Hosseini captured the voice, emotions and thoughts of women well.

We struggled a little with the bright red bow wrapped around the end of the story but didn't feel it detracted too much. After the brutal almost unbearable ending of the Kite Runner it was nice to see that Hosseini's stories don't appear to be formulaic.

While the male / female relationships are the driving plot line the true beauty of this story is the evolution of the relationship between Miriam and Laila.

Try as we might it is hard to understand the culture of the Burhka and how it can be anything other than oppression. It is clear to us that if a society could up end itself in Afghanistan in our lifetime than it could happen anywhere. Just because we are free today to live our lives in any way we see fit, including *gasp* working outside the home, leading companies, being doctors or walking in public without male escort doesn't mean that it won't always be that way. Diligent participation in our government is important.

One of the themes of the book is the relationship between Rasheed, a pretty unlikeable man and the women in his life. The story of spousal abuse is unfortunately timeless, but a religious culture that enables it is a pretty clear sign that somewhere something is off track.

Our hope for the author is that he continues to write, we are fans!

As for dinner, next time you're in Seattle and are in the mood for a casual atmosphere and good food stop by Kabul. I recommend the Lamb Kabobs. SO GOOD!

Can't linger, we had to change the date of our next meeting so we only have two weeks to read it. Normally, it would not be a problem but Harry Potter arrives on doorsteps Saturday morning.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Amazing Lincoln

Terri --- Thanks for recapping our book club discussion. Fine job.

I’m still marveling over this book. I feel like I learned more about the Civil War in this 754 pages then I ever did in junior high.

Then again, maybe like A. J. Jacobs I was smarter back then or I’ve just forgotten a lot.

I still can’t believe the timing of his presidency. That the Civil War started within weeks of him being elected and that he was assassinated just days after the surrender.

I very much enjoyed reading about the deliberations made over every word in a speech and how the impact of all each cabinet member helped in the evolution of large announcements.

And I have much admiration for Lincoln and many of the cabinet members and generals after reading this book.


Team of Rivals, The political genius of Abraham Lincoln

You can't say that Ms. Kearns Goodwin isn't thorough. She spent over ten years researching and writing this 916 page book, the narrative ends on page 754 and she includes over 150 pages of sourcing and index. (Accuse a gal once of plagiarism and her next out will have one heck of a bibliography.)

Ms. KG gets kudos from us for bringing to life the Unions perspective of the Civil War and the machinations of the United States Government. We had some complaints about the editing. The editing was done by Ms. KG's husband which might explain the lack of brevity. It's probably hard to ask your spouse to make you dinner after you tell her the 15 pages she just wrote on some dudes luggage is extraneous. She also languished with pre-presidential candidate Lincoln. While she did an excellent job of bringing some of the early stories back there were some that while interesting didn't impact the political side of Mr. Lincoln.

In similar fashion to the Fitzgerald & Kennedy book the photographs included are placed in an unfortunate order. They give away (in non-fiction?) events that haven't happened yet. A minor complaint to be sure.

We all agreed that no leader today would dare to run their business or political cabinet like Mr. Lincoln. He brought the best of men to the table to achieve goals that were important for the country. His opinion of who was the best did not hinge on men he liked or were his advocates. A couple of these guys were down right anti-Lincoln but continued to do their jobs well so he kept them around. AMAZING!

The description of Lincoln signing the Emancipation proclamation was moving. It was impressive to learn that he had an acute awareness of the magnitude of that action. He also waited to sign it for the right moment, he has the ability to time things to achieve maximum support.

As the book drew to a close we were filled with dread. It is cruel to transform this man from the high school history version into a man of character and heart and then have him yanked away. Perhaps the lesson isn't in his death but in how he lead.

One amazing example was at the close of the civil war he chose to allow the men of the south to return home without facing retribution for their actions, and he let them return home with their weapons as long as they promised never to rise up against their country again. He immediately recognized them as fellow Americans rather than defeated enemies.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Extra Curricular Reading

Hey all


If anyone is looking for a quick read that's well written with good characterization and engaging contemporary themes, I recommend The Abstinence Teacher.  Let me know if you read it.  I'd be curious to hear what you think.


Mostly I just want to brag about having already finished one of the books.  I was so excited last night I stayed up reading long past my bedtime, and I finished this afternoon when I should have been making dinner.  Ah, fiction.  How I love thee!


Thanks again Melinda.



Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Thank You Book Faerie!

Each year Melinda is lucky enough to travel to New York to attend the Annual Book Expo. This is an amazing event for book lovers, it's the pre-publication promotional expose for the new season of books. The publishers bring in their heavy hitters to promote their upcoming (or newly released) books to book sellers from all over. This is one of the main events that decides what titles end up in the local bookstore.

Part of the draw is that the publishers give copies of the books to the attendees in order to promote their titles. To a book fan the idea of cruising around a huge convention center and grabbing any book you like is equivalent to that scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory where everything from the grass to the river is totally edible! Sign me up please. In fact, let's sit under a cotton candy tree and read the next Michael Chambon book.

You're really only supposed to grab one or two books, but there are plenty of opportunities to snatch more. Each attendee of an authors speech will get a copy of the book they are promoting and once the talk is over there are generally copies left behind. The savvy attendee (Melinda and her co-conspirator Mark) casually make the rounds and snap up some extras to bring back home.

Last year, Melinda bestowed upon us a number of titles, and it was so much fun during the year to pass the Hard Back, just-released Philip Roth book and mention to the shop keeper, oh yeah, I read that ages ago.

This year, Mel was fortunate to get to hear about some exciting upcoming books from authors that we have read and loved, Ian McEwan (Atonement, Saturday) , Graham Swift (Last Orders), Alice Sebold (Lovely Bones, Lucky) , Khaled Hosseini, (The Kite Runner)**, and the legendary Hip Hop producer Russel Simmons. We had a robust discussion about how excited we are to read Hosseini's new book (which is in stores now) but some of us (Christine) have decided to wait to buy it until she knows she can read it as having it around the house would be torture. Mel said something like she wished she could have gotten some of those books.

We knew we were in for a treat tonight because when Mel arrived at Deborah's she had a sizable box. But WOW what a fun night as she pulled out book after book after book.

Here's the Ian McEwan! (claps of joy as the little hard backed On Chesil Beach was passed around.)

Here's Matrimony by Joshua Henkin. (squeal)

And The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold (stop, you're killing us)

And Tomorrow by Graham Swift

And The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta (He wrote Little Children - amazing)

And (seriously...AND!?) Land of Lincoln, Andrew Ferguson

And (oh man, I feel like a Chicago housewife who got tickets to the Oprah show on the day she's giving away tv's.) Peony In Love, Lisa See

The excitement around the table was palpable. We each stacked our new books in order, some by size, others in order of to be read. Melinda was obviously enjoying our reaction and then she bent down into the box and pulled out the Khaled Hosseini A Thousand Splendid Suns and giggled, I lied, here's a copy for you, and you , and you... (more hand clapping.)

We smartly abandoned the proposed book for the next meeting and chose our next selection from the pile. (Can you guess? A Thousand Splendid Suns - duh)

Thanks Melinda! What fun!

**Seriously people, if you haven't read the Kite Runner, please go get it, it's wonderful!

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Know It All

Thursday Evening, Beth's

Once again we gathered to discuss the latest book, The Know It All. The premise is one man's quest to become the smartest person on earth by reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. It's a clever, cute, funny and sometimes educational work of non-fiction.

The author's tone is conversational and personal as he describes how big of an ass he truly is. He highlights some of the more quirky facts in the EB, and like most people comments on the gossipy funny stuff like who had multiple wives or why there are ridges on the edged of coins. He also goes into wonderful detail about his participation in Mensa activities, his attempts to get on Jeopardy and a fun trip back to the sixth grade where he wasn't all that popular.

Consensus was the book was fun, light and would be a great summer beach read. Nobody said they were going to run out and try to read the EB themselves.

We debated the time line of the book and whether the author wrote as he read and then edited or read the whole EB and then started to write. We ended solidly on the wrote as he read side, and firmly believed that his "road to enlightenment" was a tad contrived. He starts out trying to be smarter than everyone in the world and ends up enlightened because there is still so much to learn. You're humble, we get it.

There were no dissenting opinions or great debates, just rousing chatter about sections that made us laugh. It was a nice palate cleanser after the depressing (but great) dust bowl book.

In perfect thematic pitch, this was the menu from our hostess Beth:

The menu features a red lentil soup with kale (a form of cabbage, green in color, in which the central leaves do not form a head. It is considered to be closer to wild cabbage than most domesticated forms.) A green salad with garbanzo beans (variously known as chickpea, chick pea, ceci bean, bengal gram, hummus, chana or channa) and sunflower seeds (used by Native Americans for more than 5,000 years - they were brought to Europe by the Spanish conquistadors) and bread will round out the meal.

Soup and cookie recipes have been requested.

Our next book is massive, so there's no time to dwaddle.

(I'm told the meeting order is still wrong, but I can not find my notes so it will be updated as soon as someone posts the true order or replies with the error.)

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Hearty Peasant Soup

Serves: 4
Preptime: 10 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes

Definitely not a salad green, broccoli rabe needs cooking to round out its flavors. This rustic soup is an excellent way to do so. But before you add the greens to the pot, clean them thoroughly. After cutting the broccoli rabe as indicated in the recipe below, place it in a large bowl of cold water and then agitate to loosen dirt. Lift broccoli rabe from the bowl (leaving dirt and silt behind) and repeat if necessary.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
course salt and ground pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, plus more for seasoning if desired
2 cans (14.5 ounces each) diced tomatoes in juice
2 cans (14.5 ounces each) cannellini beans or chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 punch (about 1 pound) broccoli rabe, cut crosswise 1 inch thick and well washed, with water still clinging to it (blanched if desired)
4 thick slices of rustic whole-wheat bread, toasted

1) heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and add onion and garlic. Season with salt and pepper; cook stirring frequently, until onion is softened - 4 to 5 minutes
2) Add tomato paste and vinegar; cook stirring frequently, until slightly darkened, 2 to 3 minutes
3) Add tomates (with their juice), beans, broccoli rabe, and 4 cuts of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until broccoli rabe is tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Season with balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.
4) to serve, place a slice of toasted bread in the bottom of each serving bowl; ladle soup over toast.

per serving: 403 calories; 18 g protein; 9 g fat; 65 g carb; 11 g fiber

Recipe found in body+soul
Cooked by Christine

Footnote: in searching for references on broccoli rabe another blogger's entry on this soup was located and it's linked here for your enjoyment. (Also note the odd similarity of his picture of the soup and ours. Thanks man!)

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Worst Hard Time, Timothy Egan

Sunday afternoon, Melinda's

This book describes the history of the dust bowl, it's origins and the folks that survived or didn't survive. We generally agreed that our understanding of this time in American history was woefully inadequate, and were astounded to learn that the dust bowl could have been completely avoided had our arrogance not exceeded our common sense.

After the American's moved the Native American's to the plains they discovered there was money to be made and moved them right back off. Seas of native grass were plowed to make way for wheat. Wheat was considered the savior crop and was shipped to Russia as fast as it could be harvested.

The collapse of the stock market in '29, the end of the Russian demand for wheat dramatically lowered the price of wheat. So, to make ends meet the farmers actually increased their growing capacity to sell more wheat at the lower price. (Golly... that sounds a lot like how the corn farmers are working these days.) Once the market totally collapsed many farmers left and headed elsewhere to make the next big dollar. These folks left behind thousands and thousands of acres of unplanted land. Then, as if things weren't just awful enough, a draught began. All that dry, unplanted soil was ripe for the blowing in the great plains winds.

Some of us were put off by the pacing of the book, but others didn't mind (or notice) the jumping from character to character. We agreed that it was a little hard to get through the first few chapters, but once we were in it was compelling.

After reading this it became clear why President Roosevelt was seen as such a savior to the common man, although the plan to plant trees from Canada to Mexico seems a little misguided, but who are we to judge? We are expecting to see more written on the New Deal in the near future due to the popularity of this book.

It appears that perhaps we've learned nothing from our past, as the region now is largely watered from the underground Ogallala Aquifer, which according to Egan "is the nation's biggest source of underground freshwater" and that today's agribusiness is "drawing the water down eight times faster than nature can refill it. In parts of the Texas Panhandle, hydrologists say, the water will be gone by 2010."

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan

Tonights book group was a short one, but very good. We gathered at 7pm at Deborah's (a last minute venue change due to an unfortunate skiing mishap) where Christine, our official hostess was putting the finishing touches on a delightful soup.

Where possible we try to use our book selection as inspiration for the meals and Christine's task required little extrapolation. The Omnivore's Dilemma (TOD) describes the science, agriculture and industrialization of the American Dinner table. Pollan has researched the origins of four meals for his family, the typical McDonalds meal, the grass fed beef meal, an organic outing, and a meal that he 'hunted and gathered' .

We ate our organic, Washington grown chicken, in season hearty vegetable soup, local cheeses with bread from the Central Baking Company in Fremont. Over our Washington wines we opted to catch up with each other rather than diving head first into the discussion. No major announcements (no new babies, jobs or marital shifting) and we were on our way.

Everyone finished the book and other than the first seventeen pages of how corn grows, and the consensus was that the book was very enjoyable. Heather liked Pollan's ability to draw the reader into his experiences so as to feel like you were experiencing it with him. It was agreed that he wasn't preachy and that if he had an agenda for writing the book that he was able to set it aside. Mel commented that if he hadn't been so likeable that he probably wouldn't have gotten the access he did to the more industrial aspects of food production. I thought he was funny and appreciated his willingness to be laughed at. A running theme was how most of the outings were before six in the morning, and the week he spent on the farm he tried to get up early, but wasn't successful.

We discussed the aspects of food production that made us stop and think. For example, does buying Organic actually help the environment if it's trucked to your store from 1500 miles away? How often do we think about the amount of oil it takes to bring us strawberries in February? How is it that most industrial corn growers sell corn for a dollar a (pound, barrel, bushel?) less than it costs them to grow it? Why is it that if the average corn fed cow could spend the last two weeks of its life dining on grass that our risk of E. coli by 80% that we don't demand it?

We felt that the book left us with hope and a realistic call to action. Everyone - even Terri the queen of frozen food acknowledged that the book has affected their relationship with food. We're reading labels more, choosing grass fed over corn fed beef, and encouraging you to check out www.eatwild.com for a list of resources for locally grown food.

At the end of the day, the moral of TOD isn't to eat a certain way, but to know and be thoughtful about the decisions you make. Oh, and McDonalds "chicken" McNuggets are bad bad bad for you!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Book List 1992 - 2005

August 4 Autobiography of Malcolm X, Alex Haley (Christine) (First meeting)
Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man, Fanny Flagg (Jennifer)
Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe (Christine)
Yellow Raft on A Blue River, Michael Dorris

Ask the Dust, John Fante
Bridges of Madison County, Robert James Waller (cindy)
The Plague, Albert Camus (lisa)
The Age of Innocence, Edith Warton (cindy)
One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley

January – Jennifer pick???
All the Pretty Horses, Cormac McCarthy (lisa)
Confessions of Nat Turner, William Styron (Christine)
Man and Superman, Bernard Shaw (brigid)
Pigs in Heaven, Barbara Kingsolver (terri)
Jonah’s Gourd Vine, Zora Neale Hurston (cindy)
The Living, Annie Dillard (jennifer)
I, Rigoberta Menchu, Rigoberta Menchu (christine)
The Gate to Women’s Country, Sheri S. Tepper (bridgit)

The Road from Coraine, Jill Ker Conway
Shipping News, Annie Proulx
The Crossing
The book of Ruth
This Boy’s Life, Tobias Wolfe
Spring Snow, Yukio Mishima (terri)

Runaway Horses, Yukio Mishima -- Christine
Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen -- Paula
In the Time of the Butterflies, Julia Alvarez (Kristen)
English Patient, Michael Ondaatje – Cindy
Snow Falling on Cedars, David Guterson (terri)
Autobiography of Alice B. Tolkas, Gertrude Stein (Christine) (Tea Party)
Regeneration, Pat Barker (Kristin)
Razor’s Edge, Somerset Maugham (cindy)

A Lesson Before Dying, Ernest Gaines (paula)
Hotel Du Lac, Anita Brookner (terri)
April 6 -- West with the night, Beryl Markham (Heather) – Deborah’s first book club
May You be the Mother of a 1000 Sons, Elizabeth Buhmiller (Christine)
Correlli’s Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres (Kristin)
Martin Dressler, Steven Millhauser (paula)
Angle of Repose, Wallace Stegner (Cindy)
To The Wedding (terri)
Ishmael, Daniel Quinn (Deborah)

January16 -- Love in the Time of the Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez (heather) Whidbey get away
Temple of my Familiar, Alice Walker (Christine)
The God of Small Things, Aryundati Roy (laura)
Last Orders, Graham Swift (cindy)
Stones from the River, Ursula Hegi (Terri)
She’s Come Undone, Wally Lamb (Deborah)
The Moor’s Last Sigh, Salman Rushdie (heather)
No Ordinary Time, Doris Kearns Goodwin (Christine)

The Lover, Marguerite Duras (laura)
Charming Billy, Alice McDermott (cindy)
Memoirs of a Geisha (terri)
The Reader, Bernard Schlink (Deborah)
As I lay Dying William Faulkner (heather)
The Beach, Alex Garland (Christine)
Pale View of the Hills, Kazuo Ishiguro (laura)
Frankenstein, Mary Shelly (cindy)
The Bone People, Keri Hulme (terri)

Wait Till Next Year, Doris Kearns Goodwin (Deborah)
Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Anne Fadiman (heather)
Personal History, Katherine Graham (christine) *2nd best of pick of the year
Who Will Run the Frog Hospital, Lorrie Moore (laura)
Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver (Rebecca)* Best pick of the year
King Leopold’s Ghost, Adam Hochschild (cindy)
The Hours, Michael Cunningham and Mrs. Dalloway Virginia Wolfe (teri)


The Red Tent, Anita Diamant (Deborah)
Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri (Heather) * Best pick of the Year
Guns, Germs and Steel, Jared Diamond (Christine)
A Quiet Life, Kenzaburo Oe (Laura)
Kate Vaiden, Reynolds Price (Melinda)
The Patron St. of Liars, Ann Patchett (Cindy)
Blindness, Jose Seramago (Terri)
Becoming Madame Mao, Anchee Min * 2nd Best Pick of the Year (Deborah)

A Border Passage, Leila Ahmed (Heather) Beth’s first book club
A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry (Christine)* Best pick of the Year
White Teeth by Zadie Smith (Laura)
Revolutionary Road, Richard Yates (Melinda)
Empire Falls, Richard Russo (beth) *2nd Choice Best Pick of the Year
Evensong, Gail Goodwin (Terri)
How to be Good, Nick Hornby (Deborah, after “killing” Killing Dr. Watson)
Honeymoon in Purda, Alison Wearing

Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Her Life, Susan Hertog (Christine) *2nd Choice Best Pick of the Year
Timbuktu, Paul Aster (Melinda)
Seabiscuit, Laura Hillenbrand – (Deborah)
Atonement, Ian McEwan
Bel Canto, Anne Patchett (Terri)*Best Pick of the Year
The DaVinci Code, Dan Brown
Moral Animal (Beth)
The Book of Illusions, Paul Auster (Melinda)

Professor and the Madman (Beth)
The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath (Terri)
The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys, Doris Kearns Goodwin – (Deborah) * Best Pick of the Year
Power of the Dog – Thomas Savage (Heather)
The Farming of Bones, Edwidge Danticat
Old Griot, Honore De Balzac (Christine)

Three Junes, Julia Glass (Melinda?)
Time Travelers Wife, Audrey Niffenegger (Terri)
The Magician’s Assistant, Anne Patchett (Deborah)
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith (Michelle)
Mountains Beyond Mountains, Tracy Kidder (Heather)
The Working Poor, David Shipler (Christine)
The Book Borrower, Alice Mattison (Melinda?)
The Kite Runner, Khaled Husseini (Whose pick was this??)
The Cave, Jose Seramago (Terri)

Best Fiction: Time Traveler (4) and Kite Runner (3)
Best Non Fiction: Mountains Beyond Mountains (4)
Worst: Book Borrower (6)
Best Overall: Time Traveler #1 and Mountains Beyond Mountains #2

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Ode to Former Members

We wanted to send a shout out to our former members. Over time ladies naturally cycle in and out as time and life changes priorities, locations and friendships.

Jennifer - a charter member who left Seattle for a job in Portland.
Kristin - left Seattle to marry and live all over the world, Spain, Chile, Ireland, and now Mexico
Lisa - the craziness of life took over.
Cindy - had to make the difficult choice between family and book club.
Laura - activities and committments at the co-op kept her away.
Brigidt - dropped out after being accused of embezzling money from the company where she and another member worked.
Paula - life changes
Rebecca - left to form her own bookclub.
Michelle -moving to Connecticut.

We miss your insight and opinions.

There has been a whole host of guests and no way to list them all.

Friday, January 5, 2007

2006 Favorites & Least Liked

2006 SGBG Book of the Year:

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

2006 Stinker / Overrated Book of the Year:
Herzog by Saul Bellow

2006 Reading List


Waiting: A Novel by Ha Jin

Herzog by Saul Bellow

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins

Terrorist by John Updike

My Sister's Keeper: A Novel by Jodi Picoult

The News from Paraguay: A Novel by Lily Tuc

Master Butchers Singing Club by Louise Erdrich

The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

How does it work?

The question that we get most often when people learn of our book group is how do we manage it. These are the "rules" that we've sort of adopted over time:

How often do you meet?
We shoot for every six weeks, but are flexible about schedules, vacations, business trips, school events.

Where do you meet?
We rotate hosting. The last person to join is added in behind the newest gal.

If my memory is right the rotation goes:


How many people in the book club?
We've found that six to seven is a manageable number, it makes hosting easy because most of us can easily find seating for 6 or 7 in our homes, and it doesn't take days on end to prepare to host.

Why are you all women, do you hate men?
We love men! Men are so wonderful but we were looking for a boyfriend free zone when we first started and have found that it works for us. Sometimes a husband or boyfriend will join if they have read the book and if they can get a word in edgewise it's fine but it does change the dynamic of the discussions.

Who picks the books?
Some book clubs make a reading list at the beginning of the year and that's what they read, but we rotate picking. When it's your turn to host next you bring a book to preview at the previous meeting. Sometimes a hostess will bring a few selections and will let the group vote for what they want to read, but there's nothing to prevent someone from bringing THE selection and letting that be the final word.

What do you do when you can't come or you haven't finished the book by the next meeting?
If a conflict comes up we contact the hostess directly and if she starts to get a lot of requests she can propose to the group to change the date. We don't want the hostess to feel like she has to publicly choose between people, but we've all missed at one time or another because of last minute things.
As for not finishing the book, that actually happens a lot. We're a busy group, we're running our own businesses, raising kids, working on political campaigns, traveling for work, going to school and things come up. If we've given it the college try and the book just isn't readable in the 6 week window we're raised the white flag to ask for more time.

Do you allow new members?
This is a tough one for us as we like to keep the number manageable, but over the years we've had many wonderful ladies rotate in and out. We've had some gals tell us it was hard to break in because we've been together for so long that when discussing books we circle back to things we read five or six years ago. We also had an unfortunate situation where a gal wanted to join but we didn't have chemistry and we hurt her feelings. We tried to evoke a "guest" rule, but we've relaxed a little and have been delighted by the last few ladies that have joined us.

Are there any hard and fast rules about what to discuss?
The only real rule we have is that we DO NOT DISCUSS THE BOOK BEFORE THE MEETING. Every once in a while a "I love this book" or "Man, do I have something to say on Tuesday" ekes out. Our best discussions are when someone feels passionately about the book. Only once have we ever dumped a book pre-meeting. Meeting Mr. Watson - NOT RECOMMENDED.


Our book group has been meeting every six weeks to discuss books since 1992, and we've decided that now that some of our members have scattered to the ends of the earth that this would be a good way to share our reading lists, opinions and anything else we like.