Book Clubs Respond

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Thanks to all of you who responded to our invitation to tell us about the book that sparked your club's best discussion. We've collected your messages and put them on Book World's Web site ( Here are a few excerpts to entice you to look at the submissions and to add to the list, which you can do through the comments section at the end of it.

* The book that sparked our group's best discussion had to have been The Liars' Club, by Mary Karr. It's a funny, razor-edged memoir, in which the author looks back at her upbringing in a swampy East Texas refinery town with a volatile, defiantly loving family. An inheritance was squandered, endless bottles emptied, and guns leveled at the deserving and undeserving. Although some of us in the group were reluctant to read a book from the memoir genre, it nevertheless pushed a surprising number of our own buttons.

-- Julie Philpot, Jill Reuter, and Kiki Roddy, Washington, D.C.

* No matter what the book being discussed, two years later Mario Vargas Llosa's In Praise of the Stepmother is still mentioned at meetings. That makes it not only the most discussed but also the longest discussion.

-- Kathleen Nolan, Arnold, Md.

* The book that sparked our best discussion was Iain Pears's The Dream of Scipio, a novel in triptych form. It has unity of place, a small town in southern France/Gaul, and three distinct periods -- the dissolution of the Roman empire, the beginning of the Dark Ages and the Nazi occupation. The novel poses the question: What is a civilized man to do when civilization as he knows it is disintegrating? One of the many nice surprises of a book group is reading some fantastic books that would have otherwise gone undiscovered and unread.

-- Catherine Krebs, Alexandria, Va.

Others submitted:

* Our book club of Cobb Island, MD. has been in existence since August 1997 and we are now on our 87th book. It started with 4 people who kept finding themselves standing outside the local post office discussing what we were reading. We keep our numbers small (6-9) so that we can each have ample opportunity to talk. Our current book is the biography of Gertrude Bell by Georgina Howell and we meet every 6-7 weeks. When I asked for nominations of books that yielded the best discussions I received two:

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak yielded a particularly interesting discussion because one of our members grew up in Europe and could give us an especially rich picture of what it was like to be a child during these events. And An Island Out of Time: A Memoir of Smith Island in the Chesapeake by Tom Horton was also intriguing because our own island has undergone a transition of watermen-based economics to a mix of all kinds of people and t he location and events were something we could relate to.

It was our first book.

-- Terry Hedrick

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