A few years ago a friend of mine named Saeed asked me if I was interested in joining a book club he was starting. I was reluctant to get involved as I didn’t want someone else telling me what books I should be reading each month. This reminded me too much of English classes in school and being forced to write essays.
After a few months of reading Saeed’s email messages with details of his upcoming meetings, I cautiously accepted an invitation. Since then I have enjoyed reading Richard Branson’s autobiography, Barack Obama’s Dreams of my Father and many more non-fiction works.
This year we read the following books:
January – no assigned book but we met to discuss the year ahead. Saeed had read John Grisham’s The Runaway Jury.
February – Why Men are Necessary – Richard Glover – Australian Humour.
March – American Journeys – Don Watson – Travelling in the United States to off-beat places using the American Amtrak system.
April – When You are engulfed in flames – David Sedaris – Humour.
May – Leonardo, the first Scientist – Michael White. I didn’t read this book because I couldn’t find it in the library but I talked about Michael Gelb’s book How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci.
June – a meeting was held but no specific books discussed.
July – The Idiot – Fyodor Dostoyevsky – Fiction. This enormous Russian classic was Ian’s recommendation and I persevered for around 200 pages but gave up due to boredom. I much prefer reading Tolstoy. This meeting was hosted by Maria and Sergei where we enjoyed fine Russian vodkas and savoury food. A most enjoyable meeting although none of us had read Dostoyevksy. Marie read a short extract of Dostoyevskyin Russian which set the mood for the meeting.
August – Once Upon a time in Beirut – Catherine Taylor. We were fortunate to have the author (who worked as a journalist for the ABC) join our meeting and talk about her experiences in the Middle East. Following the meeting we had a sumptuous feast of Lebanese food and extra guests including a lady from Lebanon.
September – The Happiest Refugee – Anh Do – biography of a the Vietnamese Australian comedian. I loved this book and it was my recommendation for the club. Unfortunately I had a bad cold on the day of the meeting and couldn’t attend.
October – We read Brent Taylor’s Outsider’s Edge which was the a collection of biographical profiles and analysis of successful (by the author’s definition this means rich and being on the Forbes list) asserting they were successful because they were outsiders with a chip on their shoulder. We also read some poetry by Les Murray.
November – Five People you meet in Heaven – Mitch Albom (author of Tuesdays with Morrie) – a fable about how our lives touch others in expected ways. I couldn’t attend the meeting as I had double booked with a concert.
December – Age Proof your Brain – Tony Buzan. Not readily available so Charles reported on Brain Rules by John Medina and Saeed read Rob Eastaway’s “How to Remember”. The theme of our discussion was the Brain, memory and how we can keep our brains in top condition as we get older.
Do I enjoy the bookclub?
I have hundreds of books I want to read and I enjoy reading on subjects of interest and relevance to my life. At first I thought taking on the commitment of a book club would gobble up my precious reading time.
Fortunately this is not the case. The members of the book clubs are friends with different backgrounds – other countries, professions, interests and goals. Our club membership is closed but we do add new members by invitation. I enjoy the social aspects of our monthly meetings and learning and sharing with others.
I have read other books recommended by members as well as the assigned bookds. Ian recommended Bomb, Book and Compass the story of Joseph Needham’s life in China as well as Ronnie Corbett’s book about Ronnie Barker and himself.
There is no pressure to finish the book of the month. If I don’t like a book, then I make a point of noting why I disliked it then give my opinion at the club. Last year we read Robin Sharma’s The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari. I hated this book and thought it was a poor rehash of other self-development books which are far superior.
Usually our books can be read in under two weeks and I am quite a fast reader making the most of my train travel to work. Choosing the book for the following month is a democratic process and usually I am happy with the decicions.
Next month we are reading John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath which is on reading list. I want to see the film after I have read the book.