The art of the book club

As we’ve mentioned on the blog before, we have a DGLM book club. Unlike most book clubs, we usually read different books, then report back to each other on what we’ve read. Some of us are better at book club than others.  Jane, for instance, usually finishes her books so far in advance of our meeting that she needs to read her report to remember what the book was about.  Others spend their lunch breaks day of, furiously typing away.

While I hate book club (it always seems to creep up on me), I also love book club. First off, it forces me to do some extracurricular reading. Not that I don’t read outside books, mind you. Right now I’m reading Those Across the River by Christopher Buehlman and Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt, and can’t wait to start The Stranger’s Child by my favorite, Alan Hollinghurst. But with book club, I’m forced to read things I’d never have picked up on my own. For instance, it was book club that introduced me to Hollinghurst, when I would up with The Line of Beauty, a behemoth of a book that I probably would have used as a doorstop, what with my love of short books.

This month, we’ve actually all read the same book, The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, which has been a great surprise for me. Yeah, I know, it’s gotten tons of acclaim, and I read all the rave reviews. But I hate baseball. Maybe even loathe it. It’s a sport I’ve never understood. But as the reviews have pointed out, it’s not a book about baseball, even when it is, and I’m happy that I was forced to read it, because it was one hell of a read.

How about you all: any favorites that started out as required reading, either through a book club or school?

7 Responses to The art of the book club

  1. Is it sort of like how Jerry Maguire isn’t a movie about football? I’ve heard great things about the Art of Fielding, and I’m going to add it to my Goodreads list. Ron Hansen required those of us in his Short Story course at UC Santa Cruz in the late 80’s to read a compilation called The Art of the Tale (speaking of art). I still love that book, and I’d consider using it for the short story courses I teach now. Don’t know if it’s still in print, but what a keeper.

  2. A good number of my favorites started out as required reading in high school or college! SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE; CRY, THE BELOVED COUNTRY; THE NAME OF THE ROSE, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE; THE CAVES OF STEEL… There are probably more that I just don’t remember right now, because I don’t think of them as “school” books, just books I happened to read first for school and ended up loving. I imagine this is somewhat typical for twenty-somethings who didn’t hate school, though.

    It always seems most sports-related books or movies don’t end up being about the sport, though. They end up being about a dream or teamwork or friendship or fighting the odds, etc.

  3. ryan field says:

    I recently promised an author a blurb, which I don’t like doing because I have to read a book I normally wouldn’t. Turned out I loved everything about the book.

  4. Back in high school, I was assigned to read stories and novels by Nathaniel Hawthorne. I never thought that I would love it as much as I did.

    From Hawthorne–who addressed some rather creepy topics for his time–I moved, in some of my recreational reading, to more outright horror fiction, and then to the backstories to the horror fiction, and so on and so on.

    Result? Now, when I put my non-fiction to the side for a moment, I work on screenplays about Cthulhu and Aleister Crowley.

    Wherever they are, I hope my high school English teachers are proud.

  5. Tamara says:

    Oh! I was assigned to read The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett for my reading list exam. What lovely book. Right up there with To Kill a Mockingbird.

  6. Rachael says:

    In an undergrad journalism course, my instructor assigned us each a narrative journalist to read and profile. I was assigned Gay Talese and read “Thy Neighbor’s Wife.” I’ve been a major Talese fan ever since.

  7. Kim says:

    I read Geraldine Brooks’ PEOPLE OF THE BOOK for book club (insert bad Chuck Palahniuk joke here) and when I saw she had edited the last Best American Short Stories anthology, I had to buy it. Her observations on the state of short fiction in the intro is, to me, right on target.

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