Sunday, June 29, 2014

Starting a Book Club, Part 2

Starting a book club begins with a desire to read a good book and share it with friends. If you're apprehensive, learning the basics will help you launch your book club.

I don’t know how to start a book club.
If you’re not sure how to begin your book club, go to your public library for suggestions. Some public libraries provide book club kits that include several copies of a book, information about the author, and discussion questions. Ask your librarian about the availability and guidelines regarding the kits.

I don’t know what we should read.
Consider starting a genre specific book club if all members are interested in the same genre. Some common genres appropriate for adult book clubs include the following:
  • Historical fiction
  • Fantasy
  • Mythology
  • Biography
  • Autobiography
  • Science Fiction
  • Realistic Fiction
  • Folklore
  • Narrative Nonfiction
  • Mystery
  • Horror
If you and your book club members have a favorite author, read multiple books written by one author, such as Maya Angelou, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Truman Capote, Virginia Woolf, Toni Morrison, and Zora Neale Hurston among others.

What excites you and your book club members? Identifying specific themes and conflicts will help you select books that will hold your interest, such as crime doesn’t pay, man against nature, man against society, man against self, man against the supernatural, and man against man.

I don’t know what we should discuss.
If you don’t know what to say during your book club meetings, start by allowing each member to express their likes and dislikes. But don’t forget to include Why? Consider discussing these questions:
How did the book make you feel?
Why did the characters do, feel, or react the way they did?
Are you similar or different from the main character?
Does the main character experience a metamorphosis?
How does the setting affect the plot?
Would the plot be different if the action had taken place in a different time period?

You can also discuss any literary devices the author used:
Foreshadowing—when the author provides a hint of what will happen.
Symbols—when a character, object, or place signifies something other than itself.
Flashbacks—when the author describes an event that happened in the past.

I may not have time to keep up with the readings.
If you think you might not have time to read, try audible books. They are available for purchase along with an ebook download or by itself. Additionally, you can download an audio book from your public library's Website. You can also check out books on CD from your public library. Just pop the CD into the CD player in your vehicle while you're driving to work, or listen to an audible book on your tablet, laptop, or smart phone.

Starting a book club begins with a simple desire.

How has reading helped to shape your life? This is the story in you. Share it.


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Starting a Book Club

Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter, Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, and so many other literature classics are only a free download away. 
Gabrielle Bordwin, cover design
Gail Belenson, cover design

Today I talked with my Aunt Ernestine (affectionately known as Tina), and she told me that she reads
the classics all the time. She became an avid reader of the classics when she bought a Nook a few years ago and learned that she could download classic ebooks for free. We had an interesting conversation about how her interpretations of books are always different from interpretations of others. I explained that this is quite normal. Actually, this is what makes book clubs so momentous and curious because book club members bring their own unique interpretations to the meeting place.  

In her transactional theory, Louise Rosenblatt describes the fascinating relationship between the reader, the text, and the resulting transaction between the two: 
The reader brings to the work personality traits, memories of past events, present needs and preoccupations, a particular mood of the moment, and a particular physical condition. These and many other elements in a never-to-be-duplicated combination determine his response to the peculiar contributions of the text. (as cited in Church, 1997, pp. 30-31) 

The diversity of our responses to the books we read is the perfect recipe for a stimulating book club, which is why I suggested to Tina that she start a book club--one that focuses on classic literature. We brainstormed for ideas on how we could make this an exciting book club. Here are some of our ideas:
  • Meet every other month so members will not think of it as a chore but rather miss it and look eagerly to the upcoming sessions.
  • Meet at the library or take turns hosting at members' homes.
  • Celebrate an era by arriving in costume.
  • Celebrate a cuisine by serving food specific to the setting of the featured book.
  • Pay tribute to a character by throwing a party for him or her.
  • Listen to music specific to the era of the featured book.
  • Watch the movie based on the book.
  • Perform a skit based on a passage.
  • Re-write the ending.
  • Describe what the sequel or prequel should be.
  • Erase long-distant boundaries by making use of technology: use Skype, FaceTime, and/or Google Hangouts to allow those living in various cities to participate.
  • My personal favorite—Create a "found" poem by writing down aesthetically pleasing short phrases from the book and arranging them into a poem. 
One of my favorite authors is Lisa See. As I read her book Peony in Love, I highlighted phrases that I thought were beautifully woven together. Here is a portion of the “found” poem I pieced together with the words:
"My eyes were shaped like bamboo leaves; my brows were like gentle brushstrokes limned by a calligrapher. My cheeks glowed the pale pink of a peony petal"  (pp. 3-4)
"I envisioned my lily feet—hidden under my flowing skirt—blooming with each step" (p. 35)
"My mind was dense with memories of the young man’s breath against my cheek and his whispered words" (p. 41)

See Starting a Book Club, Part 2 for more ideas.

Stay tuned for updates on this future classic literature book club.

How have books made an impact on your life? This is the story in you. Share it.



Church, G. (1997, Spring). The significance of Louise Rosenblatt on the field of teaching literature. Inquiry, 1(1), 71-77. Retrieved from

Hawthorne, N. (2000). The scarlet letter. New York: N.Y. Modern Library.

Miller, A. (1982). The crucible. New York: N.Y. Penguin Group.

See, L. (2008). Peony in love. New York, NY: Random House Trade Paperbacks

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Jade's Journey

Seventeen-year-old Charged with Beating Motorist
Teen Arrested in the Death of Stepfather
Seventeen-Year-Old Arrested for First Degree Murder

Headlines like these occur too frequently in newspapers all across the nation. Teens like these face  difficult journeys in their lives because of the choices they make. We learn about their arrests, trials, sentences, and sometimes their repeat offenses.

Unfortunately, we don’t see enough good news, which is why I wanted to write about the journey of a special 17-year-old young lady. Jade’s journey over the past 17 years has been filled with goal setting, achievements, and opportunities. She is actively involved in her high school and in her community:
  • president of one of the foreign language culture clubs
  • teacher’s aid
  • peer tutor

Jade is also enrolled in a dual high school and college program and has already set goals for her upcoming senior year:
  • Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) Sorority program for high school girls
  • National Honor Society

One of the highlights of Jade’s journey is being one of the 18 winners of the Palazzo Strozzi High School Renaissance Award. She will travel overseas to study the Renaissance--its history, science, art, language, and literature. Family and friends gathered together today at a local park to celebrate her triumph.

Jade’s journey goes beyond the immediate future. Her long-term goals include college in which she will continue her foreign language study along with environmental design. Eventually Jade would like to help educate children in environmental science to encourage them to become involved in the environment.

Jade attributes her success to being responsible for her own destiny. She doesn’t have a problem saying no when the consequences could be undesirable, and Jade believes saying no is not hard. If people threaten to break off a friendship because you would not give in, she affirms that they weren’t your friends in the first place. Jade believes you have power over yourself. No one can make you do anything. She has been inspired by her dad, who has encouraged her to pick good friends—people who aren’t followers and to think independently.

Jade is aware of the serious challenges teens face today. Many, she says, don’t know who they are, so they hang out with people who have gang mindsets. Someone will be the queen bee—the controller, but Jade warns, “Don’t follow the crowd.”

What other advice does Jade have for teens?
Surround yourself with positive people who have goals.
Establish your own goals, and focus on them.
Stay away from people who might negatively influence you.

Jade’s dad has been a positive influence in her life. She says he is positive even when she doesn’t do as well as she would like to do on a task. Her dad says, “You can do better next time. Tomorrow’s a new day.” With enough negatively in the world already, Jade embraces her dad’s positive advice. 

Jade, we wish you success on your journey overseas and beyond.

Who has been an inspiration to you? This is the story in you. Share it.