Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Why the book club may or may not break the bank

For the past 7 years, I've been part of this wonderful little group known as a book club. Now when I mention this bit to people, I'm sure they imagine a group of lonely, pseudo intellectuals who engage in cerebral masturbation. Or a motley assortment of persons who are just bored out of their lives and just want to talk about the stuff they've read. Or probably a gathering of snobs who meet to sneer at what the rest of the world is reading.

I guess these thoughts have a grain of truth in them, however small. And I guess I've committed a few instances of book snobbery every now and then. (I've read all the Twilight books and I hated them all after finishing them. I bashed it like there's no tomorrow. But if it got lots of people to read, then Twilight is our "savior," yes? Now I love, love, love Twilight. Ditto Fifty Shades of Grey. Ditto all those young adult vampire/werewolf/angel/fairy novels.)

No self-respecting wide reader would say that he or she wouldn't come close to a book just because it's at the top of the bestseller list. Come on, that's just plain stupid. Thinking that "literary" novels are better than genre novels (romance, sci-fi and fantasy, horror, thriller) just reeks of elitism. Just gag me with a spoon.

But I digress, and I believe that I'm writing about the book club. If there's one thing that the book club has something going for it, it's that it'll force reading materials down your throat. And some of these books belong to the kind that you've been staying away from all your life. So let me share some of the books we've read and talked about through the years, dear reader. And let's begin with 2012, the year I started taking pictures of all our books of the month.
2012 was heavy on the classics. We read The Count of Monte Cristo, The House of Mirth, and Noli Me Tangere. I particularly enjoyed TCoMC, which was basically a revenge story. Also, Ready Player One was a blast; R. moderated it, and it was one of the best attended discussions of the club. Interesting story: it was I who forced RPO down R.'s throat; I just knew that he'd like it.

From this set, I was disappointed with Diana Wynne Jones's Howl's Moving Castle. I died of boredom. Perhaps I was expecting too much from it, which is due to the terrific movie adaptation by Hayao Miyazaki. Also, Habibi got the group divided. I enjoyed it though. Also The Geography of Bliss, which is like a wonderful travel book of the world's happiest and least happy countries. Looking back, 2012 was a good year, reading wise.
2013 had me co-moderating Stephen King's Night Shift with R. We had the book discussion at a very old house in Manila, and made sure that the discussion went into the early evening hours. You know, just for that creepy feel. From this set, I enjoyed Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Gaiman's Season of Mists, which is part of the Sandman graphic novels.

I had mixed feelings about Vonnegut's The Sirens of Titan. It's well written, of course, but it didn't pull me in like what Cat's Cradle and Slaughterhouse Five did. The discussion for Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game was an interesting one. The novel was unquestionably thrilling; however, the author's homophobic remarks have put a dark cloud over it. Can you really separate an author's work from his personal beliefs? 
2014 was the year I faced so many challenges, so I was able to attend only a few book club events. It was also the year we tackled our first audio book, Bill Bryson's Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe. The book club even went away out of town for the weekend just for the discussion. I just came out of the hospital at that time, so I wasn't able to go.

Another first for the book club was our discussion on the screenplay of a classic Filipino movie, Sa Puso ng Himala by Ricky Lee. Orly, the moderator, even had a short screenplay writing workshop at the end of the discussion. I couldn't get into Neville's The Eight though. I found it too slow and ridden with a lot of details. But I will always have a soft spot for Morgenstern's The Night Circus. It will always be one of the most magical and romantic novels that I've ever read.

I didn't read that much last year. All I remember was I hungry most of the time. 
So now we get to 2015. And still I haven't been reading that much. What's surprising is that I'm not bothered by this at all. Still, I'm glad that early this year, we discussed the works of one of my favorite writers, Ernest Hemingway. Who doesn't love a handsome guy who could write? And then there's Levithan's Boy Meets Boy, which I think everyone should read. It's just so damn beautiful.

I'm not really looking forward to reading Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman. I didn't even plan to buy a copy. (The hardcover in the picture was given to me as a gift.) How the book came to be published just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

More and more people from the book club don't buy the print versions anymore. They prefer the (gasp!) the ebooks. I love paper so much, that I can't bear the thought of reading a story on a screen. I'm not going to get into the ebook vs. print thing though. (It's moot and academic.) Both versions get people to read, so everything's fine by me. What bugs me is that books are getting more and more expensive. And that, dear readers, is a topic for another day.


Tracie Nelson said...

I love reading your blog! Your book reviews that give are pretty straight on and I like that! I do agree with you on the Twilight series. I wasn't a thrilled with it at all, in fact, I loathed it. With Fifty Shades of Grey, I got as far as the lead female finding out who/what Mr. Grey actually is. I have both eBooks and actual books. There are certain books that are better read in hand than on a ereader. My mom has to use a ereader because her vision is declining and she also uses audio books as well. She hates the fact that she can no longer hold a book to read unless the print is very large.
I am rereading The Hunger Games trilogy again and I either schemed over it the first time so I can watch the movies with my mom or I had simply forgotten certain parts. Game of Thrones is still by far my favorite series by far. I love the detail that Mr. Martin puts into each book (even though he has a way of killing off some of my favorite characters).

Peter S. said...

Hi, Tracie! Thanks so much for your wonderful comment! I love A Game of Thrones as well. It's just so gritty, and it's so different from the other fantasy series that I've read. In fact, you could take away the fantasy elements from the book and it would still work, yes?

Tracie Nelson said...

Yes AGoT would still work without all the fantasy elements. The story lines that is in the series still will draw you in.

Jeane said...

Your club sure does read a lot of books! It's nice to have reading buddies who stretch your boundaries.

Peter S. said...

Hello, Jeane! Yes, that's what's so great about belonging to a club, yes? A solitary endeavor (i.e., reading) has now turned into something social!

Anonymous said...

Hello, how are you? I love your blog, one of my favorite places on the Internet. Like you, I also prefer books in print. It's a comfort to see them in special nooks at home. But I use my Kindle a lot too, because there are not many books in English in Chile. Books here are too expensive, even the ones that are published here. Well anyway, you take care. Good day and happy reading!


Peter S. said...

Hi, Kami! I'm doing good, thanks for asking. I hope you're doing well too. Oh, we have the same situation here in the Philippines--books can be really expensive here too.