The Third Monday of the Month
For nearly 15 years my book group has met in my living room to eat cheese and cookies and to talk about books, life, and friendship. These are some of the people I love most in the world, and the regular chance to see them once a month makes me happier than I can say.
We've been together through thick (Gravity's Rainbow by Pynchon) and thin (anything other than Gravity's Rainbow). And whether the book delights or appalls, the discussion never fails to entertain.
I love it. I love everything about it. Here are our few rules:
* We only read fiction. Within that broad distinction we've read everything from mysteries to romances, sci-fi to westerns, classics to new so-called masterpieces.
* It can't be part of a series. Everything must be a self-contained book. (We broke this rule once to read the first two Harry Potter novels).
* It has to be something busy people can easily read in a month. We've occasionally read longer books over a two-month period, but for the most part we make sure it's something we can finish.
That's about it. We take turns choosing the books, so we're each on the hot seat once or twice a year to select what we read. And that's probably my favorite part of it all. My friends are all fascinating, intelligent people so over the years they've exposed me to many authors I wouldn't pick up on my own.
And our group is diverse. There have been members who have come and gone (due to death or moving away) but we've always been a mixed blend. Male and female. Gay and straight. Religious and atheist. We have had conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats. We have people who have grown up in wealth and privilege, and people who have grown up on welfare. We're culturally diverse as well. And this diversity makes for wonderful discussions.
There have been some books we've universally hated (each year we give The Bellow Award for our least favorite book -- named in honor of the atrociously dull Humboldt's Gift by Saul Bellow) and books we've universally loved (check out Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Luis Zafron). Mostly we have a nice divide -- enough for a good debate.
There have been some books where we've only found an hour's worth of talk, and we spend the second hour catching up as friends. And those meetings are just as enjoyable as those where we spend the entire two hours debating characters, plot, writing styles, and symbolism.
Sometimes people don't finish the book and they just "come for the cheese." And there have definitely been a few books where the reason people didn't finish wasn't because they ran out of time, but because the book sucked. But it's been a hell of a lot of fun. Going back over the list of titles we've read there are certainly some I cannot recall and yet there are others that I will never forget.
I know several members of my book group check this blog occasionally. And I just want to thank them for all the years of discussions, friendship, and cheese. I love you all.