Book Club Books

Tonight marked one of my favorite nights of the year:  choosing books for next year’s book club reading.   This September will be eleven years since our first meeting, when we discussed Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns.  There are four members from that first meeting that still come:  Barrie, Charlie, Lynn, and me.  Others have come and gone over the years, and right now we’ve got a great combo of 6-8 people who make it really fun while providing great conversation.  We mostly read classics, but we mix it up with philosophy, history, religion, biography, science, political theory, and psychology.

 Tonight we discussed Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure.  How have I missed this treasure for so many years?   I suppose after reading Tess of the D’Urbervilles (my #1 I-wish-I-could-change-the-ending book), I was wary of Hardy’s fatalism and reluctant to read another of his tragedies.  On the other hand, Tess prepared me for Hardy’s unblinking examination of the human condition as he saw it, so I was better prepared to step into Jude’s world of shattered ambitions and rigid social and moral codes.  I could enjoy and ponder the characters’ critique of societal conventions even as those conventions destroyed their lives.  I also enjoyed what I consider Jude’s feminism, in that the two main female characters, Arabella and Sue, not only believe that they have choices, but insist on acting on those choices.  While each of them had their faults (boy, did they ever!), I couldn’t help but applaud their dogged determination to make their way, in their own way.   There were two attending tonight who didn’t like the book on the grounds of its dark themes and tragic story lines–I certainly understand that but I loved the book nevertheless.

 After the discussion, everyone pulled out their lists of books to read next year.  After two rounds of voting, we narrowed 31 prospectives down to twelve:

September: Gilead: A Novel   Marilynne Robinson

October:  Moll Flanders     Daniel Defoe

November:  The Historian      Elizabeth Kostova

December:  City of God      St. Augustine

January:  A New Atlantis        Francis Bacon

February:  Eleanor Roosevelt    (choose any biography)

March:  Let the Trumpet Sound       Stephen B. Oates

April:  A Tree Grows in Brooklyn       Betty Smith

May:  The Price of Motherhood       Anne Crittenden

June:  Far From the Madding Crowd    Thomas Hardy

July:  Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance      Robert M. Pirsig

August:  Human Motivation    Dale Drum

I’ve already read Gilead, Moll, Tree, and Zen, and look forward to discussing those.  The rest will be new, several of which I’ve been wanting to read for some time.

 I would love to see lists from your book clubs, if you care to share!



  1. Mark IV said,

    July 16, 2007 at 12:01 am


    I have an almost new copy of Crittenden’s The Price of Motherhood that is yours gratis. Just email me and tell me where to send it.

  2. idahospud said,

    July 16, 2007 at 11:08 am

    Mark, thank you! I would love to take you up on that. I hope you underlined your favorite parts and wrote copious marginalia.

    Unfortunately, I no longer have your address, and I couldn’t find it at BCC (don’t you guys have individual BCC addys?). So here’s mine: spudnikk at gmail dot com.

  3. Stephanieeeeeee said,

    July 16, 2007 at 4:17 pm

    Coincidentally, my book club’s list looks exactly like yours! 🙂

    I had no idea you had been meeting for eleven years. What an accomplishment. Here’s hoping for eleven more!

  4. fMhLisa said,

    July 22, 2007 at 2:02 pm

    So, I know that memories are tricky and fallible, I’m almost positive that “Far from the Maddening Crowd” didn’t make it (I was relieved because I’m feeling done with Hardy), and I am pretty positive that “Canterbury Tales” did make it (because I voted it in, and Pilgrams’ Progress out, and I remember my thrill of triumph).

    Also, and I think I told you this already, you have Women’s(Mar)/Black(Feb) History months backwards.

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