Book Clubs, Digressions, and (Several) Links to Young MC

There is an article in the NY Times from December 5 about the troubles people face in book clubs. Click here to read it.   And click here to watch Young MC bust a move.

…Part of me wanted to make that my entire entry, just for the awkwardness, but that part of me is a jerk, frankly, and I wouldn’t really do that to you, friends. You know that. Anyway, the article talks all about issues faced when in a book club. The nut graf is this: Yes, it’s a nice, high-minded idea to join a book group, a way to make
friends and read books that might otherwise sit untouched. But what
happens when you wind up hating all the literary selections — or the
other members? Breaking up isn’t so hard to do when it means freedom
from inane critical commentary, political maneuvering, hurt feelings,
bad chick lit and even worse chardonnay.

The article goes on to cite a number of women who left their book groups for various reasons (not reading the types of books they liked, not being allowed to talk about politics, only talking about politics, discussions of poopy diapers overtaking anything else, etc), but also talks about how the number of groups (which stands, apparently, somewhere between 4 and 5 million) tend to increase during hard economic times, most likely due to the solidarity and free-ish wine. 

But why are we still talking about that when we can just as easily talk about me?

I, friends, have never been a part of a book club. Some of the editorial staff at Boston Magazine have an appealing group that they call book club, but it involves magazine articles and leaving work early on a Friday to drink. And all the other ones I know about (two, actually) are girls-only, and unlike that guy who ended up suing so he could go to Wellesley College and document the orgies for Rolling Stone, I have no motivation to interrupt their single-sex solidarity.

As for the more important question: “Kevin, would you even want to join a book club if one was made available to you?” I remain balanced precariously on the non-electric part of the fence. One could argue that I just spent the last three years of my life in a high-minded $30K a year book club that also involved writing, and I certainly don’t miss the infighting, and the vicious passive aggression, and that harrowingly angry young lady who told me she couldn’t read my stuff anymore bc I “kept doing the same not-funny bulls***”, but I do miss that rare class when everyone actually got along, and the talks would be productive, and the points would be thoughtful, and everyone would retire to The Tam post-class to speculate about who was sleeping with who and lose to a group of Trivia Night ringers clearly using some sort of web-phone.

But most importantly, where, friends, do you fall on the book club debate? Are you in a club? Do you like it? Do you non-like it?  Is there a particularly compelling anecdote that will serve as a great example of your opinion and is shorter than the average Tom-based comment (jokes, Tom, just jokes)?

If so, please place your comment in the overhead bin with the wheels sticking out, as to give other commenters room. We’ve got a very full flight this evening.

It’s Off To The,
Principal’s Office You Go

Young MC (Again)

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40 thoughts on “Book Clubs, Digressions, and (Several) Links to Young MC

  1. Stephanie Allen

    OK, SO THIS BLOG HAS GONE UNTOUCHED FOR…WHAT?…TWO WEEKS NOW. THAT’S SO SAD.

    Kevin, speaking of book clubs…I hear one book Oprah recommended recently (a non-fiction) has turned up not so non-fiction. What has this book club world come to?

  2. Olivia

    Cookbooks are my favorite non-fiction books to read. Especially when there’s a picture with every recipe…

    How about a Cookbook Book Club, complete with taste testing? Any takers?

  3. Stephanie Allen

    Cookbooks are books too. If you open one, does it not teach? If you learn from it, will you not cook? If you cook from it, will you not return to its wisdom? (Shakespeare a la Food Network.)

  4. Mohadoha

    Kevin:

    The "bananas" discussion is exactly the kind of intriguing subject that has a tendency to take over the conversation in the two book clubs I’ve been a part of since moving to Doha, Qatar.

    Both have involved ex-pat women who said that they wanted to get together to read and discuss, but really it turned out that they wanted to discuss. Themselves.

    So I have returned to the world of reading whatever I want, book club recommendations aside. The best year of one of the clubs was when we had a great organizer, Emma, who really did love to read, read every title, and had great questions to guide our discussion. It was much easier to stay ‘on task’. But sadly, as everyone eventually does here, Emma left to go back home.

    And I’ve been reading alone mostly since then.

  5. Stephanie Allen

    Kevin,

    Henceforth I shall refer to bananas, old or not, as "old ass". It has such a special charm to it, an edgy Martha Stewart quality.

    Another tip: Never keep bananas near any kind of citrus fruit. It ages them faster. And if aging the bananas is what you’re going for, keep them in a brown paper bag. Bright yellow banans will turn "old ass" in a day or two.

    Oh, and I put extra chopped pecans in mine. The yum continues…

  6. Christine

    I just spent the day baking 7 different kinds of Christmas cookies. That’s down from the usual 12, but times are tough and ingredients are expensive. I say use those old ass bananas! We can’t afford to trash them.

  7. Kristan C.

    Olivia, I bet he’s just being modest. He was intentionally aging those bananas so as to make banana bread from an old family recipe … but it’s just not a guy "thing" to admit you know and do stuff like that.

    Next up: creme brulee from some old cream in the back of the fridge!

  8. Olivia

    Time to ‘fess up, Kevin…How long were they sitting on your countertop, and were there any flies involved?…Did your girlfriend tell you to throw them out and, out of the typical guy motto of "Never dispose of anything", did you spend an hour on recipes.com searching for a recipe with less than five ingredients (including the bananas) and only two steps — 1)mix well 2)bake…just to show her those old-ass b-na’s were worth something?…along with the ripped up white Hanes (pocketless) tees that have been relegated to the shelf of "emergency" rags in the closet and the rubber band ball that will someday be considered "fine art."

  9. Kevin Alexander

    oooohhhhh Stephanie– now you’re talking! I’m finally achieving what I’ve always wanted out of this blog– recipe tips!!!
    (Seriously, i’m probably going to do that next time…)

  10. Stephanie Allen

    Kevin,

    Where might one find "old ass bananas"? They sound…non-appetizing. By the way, next time you make it sprinkle cinnamon and sugar in the bottom of the loaf pan before you pour the batter in. After the batter is in sprinkle more cinnamon and sugar on top then bake. Yum…

  11. Nikki

    I have never been a part of a book club. At work I have a filling cabinet of about 100 books that myself and all of the girls on my team and some other teams reead. I dont think I could be a pary of a book club. One, I read faster than most and would be ready to move on when others had not finished half their book. Two, I dont want to feel obligated to finish a book that I absolutley hated.

  12. Writer's Coin

    Interesting that mostly women are in book clubs. Anyway, my wife is in one and, like Kendra said, it has definitely extended her reach of things she’s read. And it forces her to read a book every month.

    What I don’t like about it is that it hijacks your reading. She sometimes doesn’t have time to read a book that she wants to read in between. So I can see the benefit of doing it once every two months or something like that. But if I did it every month, it wouldn’t work.

    Plus I don’t like people telling me what to read.

  13. Olivia

    Kevin,

    If you can’t admit to random acts of baking on your own blog, then where can you?

    Interestingly enough, banana bread was the first thing I ever baked as well…but I think I was seven or eight. That’s okay, though, since I (like said girlfriend) have also just recently sparked a love of watching basketball. I think we live in rival cities…

    Go Cavs!

    …back to the banana bread. It’s usually better the next day anyway, with some melted butter and a cup of coffee. It’s hard to mess up banana bread, so I wouldn’t worry.

    Although, in the first year I was married, (and perhaps this is the reason for the "was" in that phrase) and I tried to cook real food for the first time (yes, cooking and baking are two totally different things — one uses the oven, the other uses the stovetop…the stovetop is not my friend), I messed up rice. That’s right. Plain white rice. All you have to do is boil water and then let it simmer for twenty minutes. How the hell to do you mess up rice? Well, I managed to ruin the whole batch somehow.

    Here’s to trying new things and making an ass of yourself. : )

  14. Kevin Alexander

    This is totally unrelated to books, clubs, Young MC, Dutch fiction, or nut grafs, but I have to admit something and I’m not sure where else to do it: I made banana bread last night. Like, I had these old ass bananas that I was going to throw away, and then I felt guilty about it (I’m green, nbd), and then I looked up banana bread via the interweb and then i found a recipe, and then i bought the ingredients, and then I cooked it. Probably the weirdest part about this: I’ve never baked anything before in my life, so this wasn’t just like the way I vent or one of those peculiar things I do. It was a completely random act of curiosity fueled by guilt and the sneaking suspicion that it’s not hard to bake, even if you don’t have mixing bowls so you put stuff in a salad bowl, and a big pot. Also slightly weird, in a stereotypical gender role reversal type way: my girlfriend was in the other room, watching basketball.

    And if you’re sitting on the edge of your bed, wondering how it was, I’ll tell you: I ate some while it was too hot, and so I can’t really tell.

    Anyway, um… carry on.

  15. Kristan C.

    Some friends at work and I decided to start a book club once. We had good intentions, and each chose a book in our turn and and faithfully read the selections, and tried to discuss it, but after a few months we finally admited that we were really all just getting together for the French fries.

  16. Christine

    Olivia,

    I’m all for your version of the book club. Anything that leaves more time to see live bands has got to be a GREAT idea. Went to see the Trans-Siberian Orchestra last night and it rocked more than most books I’ve ever read. All of you, if you haven’t seen TSO, what the heck are you waiting for? Go. Go now!

    Kevin,

    Sometimes, when I’m walking down the street, Young MC lyrics just pop into my head and affect the way I strut along the sidewalk. Is that a symptom of too much Young MC? Is there such a thing? Should I switch to Salt N Pepa for a little while?

    Tom,

    If you could manage to take a good book and perform it like a rock concert to an all female book club, you’d be the biggest STUD ever.

    Christine

  17. bill

    Kevin, I have to admit that I have looked for book clubs to join for years and they always seem to be female focused. For the last 2 years a good friend of mine has been in one and I have been a little envious – but am not allowed to join because 1. it’s women only and 2. I haven’t been invited. She does however, keep me up to date on the books they are reading and in the last 2 years, there has only been one I have taken the time to read myself (Lovely Bones – and I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that the didn’t enjoy it, I enjoyed the book, but that is because it intrigued that disturbing subtle thriller side of me that most who are into reading chick-lit or the memoir/auto-biography kind of thing are usually interested in.

    For now I find myself enjoying goodreads.com – where I can read the books I want to read, in the order I want to read them and if I can’t find some like minds to discuss it, I can usually find at least one or two.

    p.s. thanks for making me ‘bust a move’, it’s been awhile

  18. A Super Girl

    First, I just had to comment because you used "nut graf". I have a journalism degree, but have always worked in PR/Communications. I was in a meeting this week with PR folks and others and in talking I said, "what you need is a nut graf."

    They all proceeded to look at me like I was crazy and had just come up with the strangest words ever uttered.

    It’s nice to know there are people like me in the world who do know the meaning of these strange phrases.

    As for book clubs, yeah I usually am not a fan of most of the selections in mine. It’s all about the social aspect that keeps me coming back for more.

  19. Judith

    The first time I heard about a book group (when I lived in the Netherlands) I couldn’t have thought of a worse idea.

    The next time someone mentioned "it" was in the U.S., and because I am from the Netherlands, and since there was another Dutch person in the group, perhaps I would like to join? That should have been the warning sign.
    The few times we all met most of the women hadn’t read the book that was supposed to be discussed. The first time coincided with a glass art sale at the condo of the hostess. The other guests immediately pulled out their checkbooks. Thank goodness I didn’t bring mine, I might have felt obliged to buy something (I didn’t care to have or give away).
    For the second meeting only three of us met and that was enough reason to call off talking about the book all together.
    Then one of the members send an email whose recommendation for the next book to read, "I kind of like this book", wasn’t enough to trigger my curiosity.
    Writing back, "I don’t care to read a book you "kind of like", I want to hear about a book that rock, one that makes you want to stay up through the night to finish it, and then to put away three pages before the end because you don’t want the story to end, for the adventure to have come to an end. Pffh. That was the end of my affiliation with that group.

    Finally I joined a group of people who only read original Dutch fiction. At first it seemed to be more of a koffie klatsch. Nobody, except for the one person who stated how things were, what they meant and how everybody needed to see the intend of the author (period), had much to say about what they had read other than nice, not so nice et cetera.

    These days I approach reading the books on our list as review items and instead of telling people what I think, I fashion the questions, giving the others a chance to come up with the answers.

    My ulterior motive is to find out more about the Dutch readership (it’s a diverse group) and along the way I’ve received some kudos. As we learn in Social Studies, you get more answers when you ask questions then when show off what you know.

  20. Alicia

    Work has confiscated my speakers, so watching Young MC wouldn’t help, but I now have Bust a Move in my head on repeat. Thanks, Kevin.

    I’ve never been in a book club, unless you count college lit classes, and if you do, they were a toss up. My thoughts usually differed from everyone else in class. They couldn’t find the humor in things when I could and would get offended when I pointed them out. I did read books that I would never have read on my own, but the upside of that is that I can appear more "cultured" than the rest of my neighborhood or family.

    A couple of my friends and I have sort of an informal one going. One of us reads a book, then we pass it on to the next person. Once all of us are done reading it, we have a week long email discussion to disect every aspect of the book or to make fun of it if it was horrible. Once and a while one of us disagrees with the other two and we debate.

    And Tom, I’m with the majority here – stick with the band to get chicks.

  21. Olivia

    After reading through this again, I think I want to start my own version of a book club. Instead of everyone reading the same book, we would choose a genre, and then each read a book of our own individual choosing. That way, if the book is horrible, you have no one to blame but yourself. And if you don’t finish it, no one will really know, so you can make stuff up and sound fascinating and brilliant. If there are five (hot!) women in the club, we read five times as many books in a week than we would otherwise, therefore allowing more time on the weekend to see a live band.

    More fun for us, more fun for the band, and more books being read. Everybody wins.

  22. Kevin Alexander

    Christine- There is never anything wrong with Young MC. I’ve been busting a move since a long time before I technically should’ve been busting anything, and look at me! Totally normal, not strange, no parent issues, image problems or insecurities to speak off…

    And Olivia is right, Tom– dudes in bands get more ladies than dudes in lady oriented book clubs, but that could strictly be a numbers issue for the book clubs… plus, Erin made me do the audible laughing noise when she dropped the Jane Austen comment… well played.

  23. Stephanie Allen

    The closest thing I have to a book club is the lady at my orthodontist’s office who adjusts my braces. (Yeah, I’m almost thirty and I have braces…think Ugly Betty. It’s okay to laugh, I do.) She recommends books to me, I recommend books to her, then neither of us reads what the other recommended. Her name is Mrs. Vicki, sweet lady. My teeth are coming along nicely too.

    What? Oprah can read? I thought she spent all her time counting her money.

    New fashion trend: Tight pants with stuffed animals sewn all over them. BUST A MOVE!

  24. Donna

    I have to agree with Kendra. I’ve been in a book for a number of years now and it has broaden the scoop of my reading. I have been "forced" to read books that may have sat on a shelf untouched and found them enjoyable. I never fail to come away with something from a book. I read everything I can put my hands on and still someone comes up with something different to read. I also enjoy discussing the books with other women and if we had men who wanted to join the group, I’d gladly welcome them. I enjoy hearing what everyone thought about the book and what they came away with. And, if you don’t like a book, sooner or later, it will be your turn to pick the book. The problem is finding enough people who truly enjoy reading. What has happened to all the readers?

  25. Christine

    I’ve never been in a leisure reading book club. I’ve been in professional reading book clubs on teaching topics that were a real snooze so I guess that’s colored my opinion of book clubs in general. Besides, I usually can’t find other people who want to read the books I read. I listen to my colleagues at work talk about the books they are reading and they are not my style usually. I don’t like realistic fiction where you have a story of someone battling cancer and what not. I read to escape (usually to a world where people have threesomes with sexy werewolves and vampires) so I don’t want to read books about depressing topics.

    BTW, is it incredibly wrong if I remembered every word of "Bust a Move" and sang along without missing a beat? Just checking…

  26. Stacey

    Well I’ve never been in a book club, but there’s one in my school. Personally, I wouldn’t want to be in one unless I got to pick the literature because I wouldn’t want to have any reading deadlines with stuff that simply don’t want to read. That’d be awful. But if the books were good and the dissection of them would be worth it, sure, I’d love to be in a book club. I think it would be interesting to hear a variety of opinions.

  27. VanessaW

    I have an online reading community, which is low key. As in, no meetings, just asks the question, "What are you reading?" Hmmm, maybe I should get on that a bit more and find some real questions.

    But to be honest, I like that it’s not super-stressful or overdone. I like that we can post the answer to the questions if we like, whenever we like, and others can start their own threads. I just want to sit back and get some occasional insight into one of my two favorite things.

  28. Kendra

    Apparently someone should weigh in who has actually been in a book club, so here I am. Let me introduce myself – I’m a wannabe writer, a voracious reader, and have been in a highly functional book club for six years now. We gather once a month and talk about a book someone in the group forced us to read. I’ve been exposed to tons of books I wouldn’t otherwise read if it hadn’t been for our diverse tastes in literature, as well as had the pleasure of recommending some of my favorites to my friends. We’ve been through babies, war, trauma, job loss and other follies of life together. Sometimes the book hardly gets mentioned, but we’re always happy to have read something new, and we’re even happier to travel through this time of our lives together. We’re a diverse bunch, and we respect each other’s differences, as well as have a laugh at one another’s expense when the comments go over the top. There’s no back-stabbing, and no well dressed women watching Oprah. We’re just people, reading some good novels, some bad ones, and traveling through life together. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

  29. Olivia

    Kevin–
    I’ve never been part of a book club. Too much peer pressure, I think, and I’ve don’t do well with that. I would much rather form my own opinion on a book, and not be forced to finish a book that I didn’t feel deserved it. And yes, most women who get together for any length of time, at some point will have a coversation about poopy diapers, even if they don’t have kids.
    I agree with Gen — you need to stick up for yourself in a perfectly Kevin-ish way.

    Tom–
    Joining a book club for the chicks? Might work. Although personally, I’d urge you to stick with the band, for reasons I can’t mention in a public forum.

  30. Genevieve

    Tom – dude! You should totally join a book club for the chicks! Just don’t tell them that I gave you that advice. "Hi, my name is Tom and my friend Genevieve told me to join this group for the honeys. What, do you guys do, like, read or something?"

  31. Tom

    Where have these clever comment-based signoffs come from, Kev? I’m envious. They are, as my friends and I say, "funny."

    My mom is on her second book club, sort of. In the beginning, the club was great. Then the leader got miffed over certain book choices. Then leader quit going to meetings at homes of members she did not like. Then leader left, attempting to "steal" members. Most of old group stayed together. Happiness resumed.

    I’m not in a book club. My buddy is in one. They meet on weekends. I play in a band on weekends. They drink a lot, apparently, and some wives are not pleased. I think it wise to not attempt any book club as such at this point.

    In a coffee shop on Sunday I met a girl who was reading a book for her book club. I wish I was in her book club.

  32. Erin

    I’ve been in writing groups since I was in high school, but never a book club. The writing groups have always fulfilled my needs for both scoial drama and literary-based conversation. However, the whole time I lived in Connecticut I had this doctor who had gotten a BA in English before studying medicine. He would spend most of the time during my check-ups asking me about my writing, lamenting his life choices, and "prescribing" me books to read (literally. He wrote me lists of books to read on his prescription pad.) When I was in high school it was mostly classics like The Great Gatsby, but once I graduated, he started recommending things his book club was reading. I have this doctor (and his book club) to thank for introducing me to some really good books like The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. …I live in New York now, so he’s no longer my doctor anymore, but I have a good friend who’s in a book club, and she tells me about what they read. So I guess although I’ve never been a book club member, I’ve always been kind of a book club groupie.

  33. Genevieve

    No, I’ve never been part of a book club, and actually I don’t know anyone who is. Writing groups? Tons. Reading groups? Oddly, no. Perhaps I have a stereotypical idea of them, but I imagine a group of well dressed women sitting in a circle around Oprah. Not that I don’t like Oprah, it just seems like it would be boring. I can see why people would join though. Perhaps to discover good books and to have intelligent conversation. But I can also see the potential for ruffled feathers.

    Kevin, someone actually said that to you? What the hell? You should have said, "But darling, your not-productive, childish criticism has been so helpful. Please. Oh please come back and read more of my bull****."

  34. Paige

    Not really a part of a "book club" but here in the office we do share books and during inappropriate times we talk about them and recommend others. We also do not talk about poopie britches unless someone called in sick with the Monday or Friday Montezuma’s disease. We do talk Polly-tricks as all but 1 of us are on the same page and that 1 doesn’t read so obviously she is wrong anyway.
    I don’t intend on joining 1, as I like the non-commitment of reading what I want, when and where I want. I also reserve the right to toss a book to the side if I don’t care for it.

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