Change is an inevitable part of life. Important things in life often have a shelf-life, a certain period of time when they are relevant and useful to you, when you love being a part of them and appreciate what they bring to your life. But then time passes and sometimes you have to say good-bye to something that has been important to your life. Sometimes these things just die a natural death. That time has come for my Book Club and I am sad to see it go.
I have always been a reader but not necessarily a reader of Classics. I have gone through different phases in reading. There was the Sci Fi phase in college (I still love Ray Bradbury), there was the romance phase in high school (OK, OK I occasionally read one now and then, so sue me) and then there were all the years when the girls were growing up and it was a good day when I got to read anything at all beside "Sammy's Special Day" or "The Hungry Thing".
At Kelly's cookie exchange in December 2000 I sat next to my friend Anita at dinner. We were chatting about various things, nothing amazing, when we got to the topic of books. Anita is another reader and we both admitted that we really were woefully deficient in reading "classics". We sort of looked at each other and said, "Hey why don't we start a Classics Book Club!" You could call it our "Andy Hardy moment", you know the moment when they turn to each other and say, "Hey, we can put on that Broadway Show in OUR barn. It won't be any problem!" Yeah right.
So, we had made the decision to start this thing and we thought February would be the perfect time to start because in January you are still recovering from all the Christmas stuff. We thought that once a month would be a good spacing for reading the books. We decided where we would meet, at a common location so that no one had to worry that it was their turn to host book club (too much social pressure). We took the time to define what was a "classic" for us. We were not interested in reading the current NYTimes best seller or Oprah's latest pick, it needed to be something with more "staying power" than that. We even decided what we should start with, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. It was OK not to finish a book if you just couldn't stand it. If by the middle of the book you were still wanting to throw it against the wall then put it down and leave it. Life is too short to be made to finish a book that you really hate. We were not, and are not, literary scholars but we all felt that this would be something to expand our minds and give us something to think about and discuss beyond our kids. We were right.
Over time we evolved a system of picking books that seemed to work for us. The first year we would read the assigned book, come together to discuss it and at that time pick the book for the next month. That quickly became cumbersome. We would all look at each other and go, "Well, what should we read next." And we just didn't know half the time. So in December of that first year we made the decision that we would pick the whole reading list for the next year in one fell swoop. We all came to the December meeting armed with a list of suggestions. Then we discussed them and made our final picks. A much better way to do things I have to say. That way we knew what was coming and if you wanted to get all your books at once you could do that.
We never really had a "leader" who guided the discussion, we were all the leaders. Some of us would come with background information or questions to direct the discussion but we were all participants.
Through the years we have read a total of 69 books from various genres, of various lengths and with varying degrees of lovability. I think we would all say that there have been some books that everyone loved except for one person or we all hated a book but for different reasons or we all loved a book. There has never been a dull moment that is for sure. Members of the book club have come and gone for various reasons but we have had fun with whoever was there.
But now the time has come to say goodbye. Some of us have family commitments that make it difficult to make the meetings, some of us have gone back to work, some of us have gone back to school. It is painful to say good bye but it is the right thing to do and I think that all of us heaved a sigh of relief in one way and cried a little too.
Here is the list of all the books that we have read over the years. Look them over, you might find something to inspire you.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
An Old Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott
Gullivers Travels by Jonatha Swift
Screwtape Letters by C.S.Lewis
Middlemarch by George Elliot
Nemesis by Agatha Christie
Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
The Time Machine by H.G.Wells
The Chosen by Chaim Potok
Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon
The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare
Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
Dracula by Bram Stoker
A Room With a View by E.M.Forster
The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
Surprised by Joy by C.S.Lewis
The Baronet's Song by George MacDonald
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
A Nun's Story by Kathryn Hulme
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss
How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llwellyn
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
Hind's Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurard
Call of the Wild by Jack London
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell
The House of Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Persuasion by Jane Austen
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Plain Tales From the Hills by Rudyard Kipling
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
The Cricket on the Hearth by Charles Dickens
Code of the Woosters by P.G.Wodehouse
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton
Anne of Green Gables by L.M.Montgomery
Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
War of the Worlds by H.G.Wells
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Bette Smith
Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome
I Claudius by Robert Graves
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
1001 Nights the Richard Burton translation
Sister of My Heart by Chitra Divakaruni
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
A Death at Christmas by Agatha Christie
The Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters
My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok
Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden
The Fountain Overflows by Rebecca West
Towers of Trebizond by Rose Macalay
Kim by Rudyard Kipling
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