Saturday, 18 March 2017

BLOB's Book Club

As I was thinking about writing another blog post, it occurred to me that I am a BLOB – Blogger to Lovers of Books. So welcome to the first meeting of the BLOB book club, with me doing all the talking. (There’s often someone like that in every book club, isn’t there? Today I get the honour. But please talk back in the comments section.)

Until recently, I didn’t have a lot of interest in book clubs – tried it once, but it didn’t work for me.

But now I’ve just joined a book club with a difference: only two members, hence the name: TWITS: Two Women Investigating TextS. We meet once a month over supper in a cozy restaurant with very tolerant owners (the meetings have lasted more than 2 hours, and the waiter keeps saying, “Take your time, take your time!”) We do not have assigned reading – instead, we just talk about what we’ve read this month. And talk. And talk.

Would you believe the title of this picture refers to these women as OLD women? Not us!
A book club with only two members? But it works. At our first “meeting” (and I use the term loosely), my fellow TWIT handed me The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe. Schwalbe and his mom, a two-member club, met in the hospital periodically and shared books and ideas  as she was undergoing chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer. This heart-tugging memoir  is like a fruitcake studded with goodies, each chapter full of ideas for further pursuit. I’ve been gobbling up the goodies full tilt lately.

One of them features another two-member book club. In The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett, Queen Elizabeth (yes, THAT queen Elizabeth) discovers a bookmobile by the back door of Windsor Castle when she is out walking her Corgis. She pokes her head inside and discovers one of her kitchen staff browsing the shelves on his lunch break.

This gets the queen thinking. “She’d never taken much interest in reading. She read, of course, as one did (throughout this short book, the Q refers to herself as “one”), but liking books was something she left to other people. It was a hobby, and it was in the nature of her job that she didn’t  have hobbies...And besides, reading wasn’t doing. She was a doer.”  Doing involved  reading briefing notes, reports, speeches from the throne. However, as a polite gesture,  she asks the library technician, “Is one allowed to borrow a book? One doesn’t have a ticket.” Although, she adds, “one is a pensioner”, not sure that would make a difference. That simple act changes her life.

“Briefing is not reading,” she tells her secretary. “In fact, it is the antithesis of reading. Briefing is terse, factual, and to the point. Reading is untidy, discursive and perpetually inviting. Briefing closes down a subject; reading opens it up.”

Nicely put, old girl.

Her Majesty promotes her eager-reader kitchen helper to become her personal book assistant, and they have a wonderful time sharing ideas and following rabbit trails from one author to the other, until the rest of the staff gets their knickers in a knot...ah, but you need to read it for yourself to enjoy the surprise ending.

Her Majesty is right: reading opens up your world. Reading has been opening up my world for as long as I can remember, and even before that. As a toddler,  I used to pull all the adult books off the bookshelf and look inside each one, over and over again in spite of being disciplined for it. It was an act of exploration, I think. Somewhere in those books, I sensed, were other worlds to experience.

I became a besotted reader. Saturday mornings were library mornings. Bedtime was reading time. So was almost any other time. I alienated a lot of would-be friends because I wouldn’t get my nose out of a book when they visited. Finally, I found a friend who loved reading and read at the same pace as I did. We would sit side by side on the sofa, reading the same book, nodding when we were ready to turn the page. It was another two-person book club. Ah, bliss. And so my reading habit has continued right up to now – just ask the resident sweetie. “Did you finish it?” he mumbles sleepily when I stumble to bed way after midnight. Of course. But he’s back to sleep already, before I can tell him all the gory details.

The RS and I might also be called a two-person book club, although it’s a little lopsided. He’s a good listener, but an indifferent reader. I read the best parts of my discoveries to him, which we discuss as we sit side by side in our easy chairs, a la Dagwood and Blondie.
Couldn't find an appropriate Dagwood and Blondie cartoon on the net, but this works, too!

Occasionally he decides he’ll try reading too. His interest was twigged by my reading excerpts from Post Traumatic Church Syndrome by Reba Riley. Riley was raised in a fundamentalist Christian home and church, and she has the scars to show for it. Actually, most of us have scars to show from growing up, no matter what religion or no religion we were raised in, and no matter how idyllic our childhood. But Riley is brave enough to undergo a quest to heal these scars by visiting thirty different worshiping communities that range from Native vision quests to Buddhist and Hindu temples, and everything in between. In the end she finds...ah, but that would spoil the ending. Read it for yourself – it’s a good one. And, as Her Majesty says, it opens up your world.

It’s always a grand day when I discover a new novelist that makes my heart sing. My latest discovery, recommended by my TWIT pal, is Kaya McLaren.  I read On the Divinity of Second Chances, about a polarized family that eventually transforms itself into a strong and healthy unit. Their individual journeys prove that there is a God of second chances who smiles when we get it right. “I know time can never go back,” says Phil, the dad. “The past can never be revisited. At best, I can take elements I enjoyed in the past and re-create them in the present. I am no longer in a state of retirement; I am in a state of reinvention.”

Oh, gee, where has the time gone? Look at that, we’re the last ones left in the restaurant. Reluctantly, we pack up our books and set a date for our next meeting.

Reflecting on TWITS, the associate TWIT says, “I've loved being able to talk about whatever I'm reading and am doubly delighted when we both enjoy something. I also pay closer attention to what I'm reading so I can talk about it somewhat intelligently. And that's a good thing.”

Nicely put, old girl!


  1. Wow, I love this post! Exactly my hesitation about book clubs...half the people I hear talking about book clubs don't get around to reading the book!! Love the idea of a two person book club. Chuckled at the description of your friend sitting side by side on the couch! That was me too :-). That book about the that a true story? I have it on my amazon wish list for my next order :-). Thanks for the tip...sounds like a great read. But, I have a stack of about 15 books to read yet beside my easy chair LOL.

  2. Thanks for the comments, Jacqui. No, Uncommon Reader is not a true story, but it is delightful and gives you another slant on what it's like to live as a Queen. Not so much fun as you'd think. I got my copy from the library.

  3. I love my 2 person book club with my sister-in-law in Winnipeg! We 'meet' through email and share our thoughts/critiques on our books. It's been a great way for us to stay in touch. Love your book picks; will search them out. Thanks, as always!!

    1. You're welcome! I think wherever book lovers get together and discuss books, it's a club. By e-mail sounds like a good way to go, too.

  4. Years ago when living in Thunder Bay, I worked as coordinator of the programs of the Christian Community Centre, a gathering place where we provided food for the hungry, clubs for kids, a few things like that. There was a native woman who always came to help prepare the food hampers on Tuesday mornings. She was quiet, friendly, with an occasional smile. We had a bookshelf in the corner of one of the rooms and an open invitation to borrow books. Daisy would often take a book and read it while we waited for the moment when the doors opened to give out food. I think she would occasionally take a book home with her, too. I also love to read, always have a book or three on the go, but had never been in a book club. One day I said to Daisy, why don’t we start a book club here? I still remember the look of horror (or maybe terror) in her eyes. I continued by saying, “yes, we’ll all take the book we’re currently reading and go sit upstairs in the ‘library’ on the easy chairs and read for a while. “ I never heard Daisy laugh out loud until that moment. Your story of sitting on the couch with your friend reading together reminded me of that day!

  5. I'm loving that we can stay in touch this way, Rose. Your story about Daisy is touching -- I think too often book clubs of the conventional variety can be intimidating to book lovers, especially if there are some book gurus who have all the answers. And life is too short to spend time reading assigned books that you have no interest in. Well, that's how I feel, anyway,although I admit that sometimes it is good to be forced to read something outside your comfort range.

    1. Jessie, reading Crow: Day One is like hearing your voice again, witty, wise and wonderful. It reminds me how much I miss you! It is lovely to have this window into your life again.

    2. Likewise, Rose! I'm going to be in Ontario to get together with my sisters and visit aunties etc. May 1-17. Any chance we can get together? May 1-8 or thereabouts are booked for sister week, but the rest of the time has not been spoken for, yet.

    3. We'll be in Ottawa (grandparents day!) from May 11-15, but 9 & 10 look good and 16 & 17. Where will you be?

    4. Let's start chatting by e-mail: