Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Book Clubzilla?

You guys catch the story in the New York Times about book clubs? I'm a little appalled by, well, everything in it. Some choice passages ...

From a woman who was too good for Oprah books and "pop-lit":
“It was bad enough that they wanted to read ‘Da Vinci Code’ in the first place,” Ms. Bowie said, “but then they wanted to talk about it.”
Okay, I admit it: I liked "The Da Vinci Code." I got it before it became a sensation after hearing the author on "The Diane Rehm Show." But I'd like to think I wouldn't force the club to read it ...

The thesis of the article:
Yes, it’s a nice, high-minded idea to join a book group, a way to make friends and read books that might otherwise sit untouched. But what happens when you wind up hating all the literary selections — or the other members?
Oh, jeez. That's when you leave the club! If it hasn't been clear before, I'll state it again: Lazy Book Club is meant to be pressure-free. That includes a no-worries opt-out clause: If you don't want to get the invites anymore, just say the word, no offense taken.

Then there is the article's description of Esther Bushell, "a professional book-group facilitator who leads a dozen suburban New York groups and charges $250 to $300 a member annually for her services. ... Like other facilitators, she is hired for the express purpose of bringing long-winded types in line." Holy crap!

On a book group called the IlluminaTea:
“When it was your month to host a meeting, you would do your interpretation of a tea, and the teas got very competitive,” Ms. Farewell said. Homemade scones and Devonshire cream were par for the course, and Ms. Farewell recalls spending the day before her hostess stint making watercress and smoked salmon sandwiches.
Actually, I was thinking of making the next meeting a competition for best smoke salmon sandwich.

If our group ever becomes anything like the ones in this story, y'all have my permission to do an intervention.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Hot Chocolatella!

So our December meeting was book-free but by no means fun-free. Vibha, Jenny, Kendra and I dropped off donations at Books for America and then headed to Crepes-a-Go-Go down the street. Despite all the seemingly draconian restrictions on the Books for America Web site, dropping off all our books, CDs and DVDs was easy-peasy. I expected a thorough inspection for dog-eared covers and yellowed pages. Instead the guy just was like, Dump 'em in this bin, thanks! (Special props to Doris for donating in absentia.)

Then it was off to the creperie and, more important, four yummy cups of ... wait for it ... Nutella hot chocolate. How is this not the next big thing? It inspired my idea for an all-Nutella shop: shakes, cookies, cakes, candy -- someone needs to put this in action and then pay me for thinking of it. (By the way, I didn't intend for that Nutella picture to be so huge. But now that it's there, I kind of love it.)

Anyway, thanks for a fun meeting, gals! If we can keep the book club going for another year, I think I might copy this end-of-year strategy: No book for December, but assign a book in early November for the January meeting, so we have plenty of time to read over the crazy holidays. Let me know your thoughts on this -- open to any and all ideas!

Hope folks can make it next month to discuss "Dreams From My Father." I just started and am really enjoying it. Dude can write.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Catching Up and Looking Ahead

I'm giving Kendra the prize for Best Book Choices of the Year. "Blindness" back in June was unusual and gripping, and "The Year of Living Biblically" is hilarious and unexpectedly informative. She, Doris, Jenny and I had fun going over all the crazy things A.J. Jacobs (that's him in those pics) did on his religious journey (Hasidic rave, anyone?).

As for the coming month, let's skip a book and get in the holiday spirit with a book-donation gathering. Books for America is a local group whose mission is "Building and improving libraries in Washington, DC area schools, shelters, hospitals and more; supporting reading programs; and providing children in the Nation's Capital with their first take-home books!" It accepts certain books, CDs and DVDs. Here are the donation parameters. I thought we could meet at a coffee or yogurt shop near the store (west of Dupont Circle), then drop off the stuff after. See the Evite for details.

And looking ahead to January: I'll be hosting, and I've chosen Barack Obama's "Dreams From My Father." Why? Well, I guess partly to ease my election withdrawal, and partly to get to know our new prez. The town's gonna have inauguration fever, anyway -- might as well dive right in!

I know folks are swamped during these holiday months, but I'm hoping the longer lead time will help us get to the book -- and possibly even finish before the meeting (or Inauguration Day).

Thursday, October 9, 2008

November's Book: "The Year of Living Biblically"

After reading the first seven pages of this book, I decided it should be our choice for the November meeting. It looks to be hilarious.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

An Evening With Nick and Norah

I deem the second book club moving outing ... a success! Doris, Jenny, Kendra and Angie made it to the Sunday matinee of "Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist." Cute movie! I really enjoyed it. And we all agreed the music is great. Tempted to get the soundtrack, though when I asked if anyone was curious to read the book, the response was a resounding "No." I might check it out from the library one of these days.

I found both the leads real and charming, and there were plenty of hilarious scenes ("12 Gays of Christmas," just about anything involving Norah's drunk best friend). Just one warning: You might not think of chewing gum the same way after seeing this.

Next month: Kendra is hosting at her new place in Mount Pleasant! Book TBA. See ya then!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Our fun September meeting

As my last act as host of the September meeting of the Lazy Woman's Book Club, I thought I would write a short summary of our meeting on Sunday. Four of us met up at Peregrine espresso and chatted about "The Jane Austen Book Club."

We spent time trying to figure out which characters were supposed to be Austen characters. Obviously, Jocelyn and Grigg played out the Elizabeth and Darcy story from "Pride and Prejudice." Jocelyn also seem to be a little bit like Emma Woodhouse in that she was constantly trying to matchmake. Allegra seemed very like Marianne from "Sense and Sensibility." Bernadette subbed in for the many kind but overly talkative characters that the protagonists had to despise before learning to value.

We also discussed the movie that was made based on the book. Jenny was the only person who had seen it and said that a lot of the story had been left out. I don't really know if I want to see it now, since I would probably be sad to see the story gutted.

We spent time chatting about the difficulties involved in Angie's hunt for a reasonably priced yet lovely wedding dress. That was a lot of fun, and I'm not just saying that because I got to use my new toy to look at various dresses she had tried on at store Web sites.

The host and book for the October meeting is still unknown. Volunteers should contact Angie.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

An open casting call

I love books. I might love movies more. (What?) This morning my blog reader informed me of this little tidbit: Fox 2000 beat out Warner Bros., Paramount and Universal to adapt one of our past books, Water for Elephants, into a movie.

Fun! Francis Lawrence is signed to direct; the interesting thing is that he last did I Am Legend. Makes me curious to see what he does with this book. Can you imagine some post-apocalyptic circus? Hee.

So. Your picks for the cast? I'm sticking with Ryan Gosling as the lead. I think he could still pull off the young-man-on-a-journey-of-self-discovery look.

The girl? Maybe Rachel McAdams. That could be because I love them together. Keira Knightley if she can pull off the American accent? What about the girl's moody, volatile hubby?

OR. What about the worst casting choices? Shia! Lindsey Lohan!

Who are your choices?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

'Jane Austen Book Club' for September

Hi everyone. No, I haven't been to an actual meeting except for last week's tea time. Yes, I have decided my first meeting will be one I host. (:

I'm going to guess that many of us have read the Austen novels and hope that people are interested in "The Jane Austen Book Club" by Karen Joy Fowler, available in paperback: http://www.amazon.com/Jane-Austen-Book-Club-Novel/dp/0452286530

It's supposed to be a charming, sad, silly book in the vein of Ms. Austen's novels. The Evite has gone out. The suggested date and time for the meeting is Sunday, September 14 at 2 pm. Coffee/tea/bakery place is yet to be determined, and I'll happily take any suggestions.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

'Shock' and Ew

Well, our experiment with Movie Month was a bust. I blame August. And the terrible screenplay and/or direction of the chosen flick, "Bottle Shock." There was potential in the subject matter (in fact, another movie, titled "Judgement of Paris" and based on a book of the same name, is being made on the topic), but it had too much pointless love triangle and not enough awesome Alan Rickman. (I saw the movie early because I had a conflict with the planned show time. Grr.)

So, I consider my canceling the screening a public service, but I'm sorry for all the last-minute plan changes. Melissa, Catherine and I met up for the non-after-movie gathering, though, and had a great time discussing the latest in literature, performing arts and politics. Kidding! I pretty much just yammered about my engagement and wedding stuff the whole time. Hey, I hadn't seen these gals in ages, so I think it was okay in this case. ;)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Letter From the Director

I knew there was a time when my parents were no longer ashamed to serve California wine to their dinner guests, when it actually became chic to do so. I had no idea what happened to cause that change. And so, when I was first told this story of how a group of California farmers took on the exalted French wines and bested them, I was intrigued. Maybe there was a movie in this.

Here was an underdog story that wasn’t about sports or war. And when I flew up to Chateau Montelena, the vineyard we focus on, and met with Jim and Bo Barrett, I realized what rich characters I had before me. The story of a lawyer who risked everything in the pursuit of an artistic dream (to make fine hand-crafted wine) is what initially hooked me into wanting to make Bottle Shock. I had directed studio movies and some TV before I convinced Jody (my wife and partner) to mortgage our house so we could make a movie we felt passionate about. That movie, our first indie, was called Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School. Bottle Shock is the heir to that choice.

I am drawn to stories of passion or risk. Stories about men or women who realize they only have one shot at this experience that is life and who set forth into an unknown in pursuit of a dream—or a dream of a dream. Jim Barrett was one of those men and I admire the choices he made and the journey he chose. It was an honor to work in his shadow.

With Bottle Shock, I was also intrigued by the story of a little blind tasting that lit the spark that ignited the enological fire that burnt down the cronyistic forest that triggered the creative earthquake that upset the status quo and opened the world to new pioneers of viniculture and viticulture around the globe. In the film, Alan Rickman quotes Galileo: “Wine is sunlight held together by water.” Alan, Bill Pullman, Chris Pine, Rachael Taylor, Freddy Rodriguez, Dennis Farina and Eliza Dushku are my sunlight, each perfectly capturing the moment and making me look like a better director than I am. And Michael Ozier’s cinematography makes every image captivating, from the intimacy of a bedroom mirror to the lush fields of grapes sweeping by. Brilliant cinematography in the service of Craig Stearns’ magical production design puts us in the ‘70s in both Napa and France. Mark Adler’s luminous score ties the story together and gives a musical heart to the film. My collaborator, my partner, my wife, Jody Savin, is the rudder. She was the one who compiled the hundreds of pages of source material and shaped them into what became the shooting draft of the script. This is my creative family with whom I continue to collaborate on upcoming projects and future pursuits.

Best, Randall Miller, director

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Let's Go to the Movies!

Here are some possibilities for our next meeting, the laziest one yet. We're keeping the books closed and headed to the movie theater. The idea is to see a flick together, then gab about it (and anything else) afterward. Any of these appeal to you? Know of another film we should see?

Brick Lane
Nazneen’s life is turned upside down at the tender age of 17. Forced into an arranged marriage to an older man, she exchanges her Bangladeshi village home for a block of flats in London’s East End. In this new world, pining for her home and her sister, she struggles to make sense of her existence — and to do her duty to her husband. Based on the novel by Monica Ali.
We could read the book down the road to compare and contrast.

Brideshead Revisited
This heartbreaking romantic epic, based on Evelyn Waugh's classic novel, tells an evocative story of forbidden love and the loss of innocence in the pre-WWII era. In the film, Charles Ryder (Matt
hew Goode) becomes entranced with the noble Marchmain family, first through the charming and provocative Sebastian Marchmain (Ben Whishaw), and then his sophisticated sister, Julia (Hayley Atwell).
Also stars Emma Thompson. Not sure why this recap doesn't mention that. Also? Matthew Goode = hott.

American Teen
This heartbreaking and hilarious Sundance Film Festival hit follows the lives of four teenagers—a jock, the popular girl, the artsy girl and the geek—in one small town in Indiana through their senior year of high school. With extraordinary intimacy and a great deal of humor, the film captures the pressures of growing up—pressures that come from one's peers, one's parents, and not least, oneself.
I saw the trailer for this. Looked pretty good!

Man on Wire
On August 7, 1974 a young Frenchman named Philippe Petit stepped out on a wire illegally rigged between New York's twin towers, then the world's tallest buildings. After nearly an hour dancing on the wire, he was arrested, taken for psychological evaluation and brought to jail. James Marsh's documentary brings Petit's extraordinary adventure to life through the testimony of Philippe himself, and some of the co-conspirators who helped him create the unique and magnificent spectacle that became known as "the artistic crime of the century."
What's up with French people and scaling buildings?

Bottle Shock
In 1976, a small American winery sent shock waves through the industry by besting the exalted French wines in a blind tasting, putting California wines on the map for good. Novice vintner Jim Barrett (Bill Pullman) risked everything to realize his dream of creating the perfect hand-crafted California Chardonnay. Meanwhile in Paris, struggling wine seller Steven Spurrier (Alan Rickman) came up with an idea for a publicity stunt to help his floundering shop. Little did Spurrier and Barrett realize they were about to change the history of wine forever. A dramatic comedy, co-starring Chris Pine, Rachael Taylor, Freddy Rodriguez, Eliza Dushku and Dennis Farina.
Not a documentary. With Faith from "Buffy"!

So Whattaya Wanna See?

Thought I'd put up a posting where everybody can give their opinion on what movie we should watch. My top choice is Bottle Shock. You?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Milestone for LWBC's Founder

Congrats to Angie (and Neil)!

Maybe we should be reading one of these for next time?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

sex, pigs and videotape

Saturday's book club meeting was a smidge more risque than usual, as the topic was Mary Roach's "Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex." Those of us in attendance are by no means prudes; still, it was a little hard to find things to discuss without blushing. Many comments along the lines of, "Can you believe they did that? With a toothbrush?" Another highlight: the black-and-white pictures at the start of each chapter, particularly the Dutch diagram of a man trying to stimulate a pig by putting his finger in its ... well, you can imagine. Not its mouth.

Remember the book's cover with two ladybugs gettin' it on? Peugeot produced a video version. Here's the steamy ladybug-love commercial that Kendra told us about:

Overall, folks thought the book was entertaining and interesting, though Marta said it wasn't as funny as Roach's previous book, "Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers." Thanks to Marta for hosting and providing such a tasty spread for Jenny, Angie, Amanda, Kendra and Katrina.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Going Bonkers

One of the blogs I read, Jezebel, has a post about our next book! It's based on an article at ABCnews.com. Highlights:
In 2007, she [author Mary Roach] had sex with her husband while a British doctor waved an ultrasound wand over their private parts testing their genital responses to the soundtrack of "Les Miserables." ...

The 49-year-old is no stranger to strange topics. She has written about Eskimo food, flatulence, vaginal weight-lifting, carrot addiction and amputee bowling leagues. Her two previous books also explore oddities with humor: "Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers" (2003) and "Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife" (2005). ...

Roach has discovered the term "boner" is also a misnomer. Unlike dogs and other mammals, men don't have penile bones. The walrus sports the largest one, and Inuits use it for war clubs.
Heh. Wow, this will be one very interesting and hopefully not too uncomfortable discussion!

One other note: This is our first hardcover. If you don't feel like splurging, I noticed one copy available from the D.C. library (maybe we could pass it around!). Or, I'm happy to order it from Amazon for folks ($16.47 vs. $24.95) -- I have Amazon Prime, so shipping is free (and fast). And I can try to hook up folks who want to share the book (Jenny and I are splitting a copy, for instance). Just let me know!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

We Were Blind, but Now We Can See

Hey, gals! On Sunday, Lisa, Angie, Jenny, Marta and I gathered at our place in Adams Morgan to talk about "Blindness" and eat some brunchy yumminess. (See pic.) We agreed that Jose Saramago's punctuation (or lack thereof) had a neat effect and that there was a lot of poop. We also discussed (and watched the trailer for) the upcoming movie version of the book, which comes out in September, I think. We should go see!

Thursday, May 29, 2008


Does anyone have recommendations for a cross-country plane ride (and then a five-hour drive to Vegas)? Suggestions of audiobooks are most welcome. I'm about to attempt a trip sans laptop, so I won't have my usual access to DVD entertainment for 10 days.

I'm especially interested in portable books (no "War and Peace").

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Our Next Book

"Blindness" it is! Prepare yourselves for some crazy punctuation...

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Take Your Pick

Hey, ladies! Lisa and I need your help. We're hosting next month (7 p.m. June 7) and we can't decide between two very different books. So you have to decide for us (feel free to post in comments). Here are your options:

"I Was Told There'd Be Cake," by Sloane Crosley

"Blindness," by Jose Saramago

Sorry, I was gonna put in reviews, but I had issues copying and pasting. So follow the links!

Monday, May 12, 2008


Spotted in Adams Morgan: L, J, K, A and D, giving up the wait at the Diner and venturing for good eats at Bourbon instead. As befits a group of gals lazing about, brunch cocktails were ordered (with the waiter delivering a "backup Bloody Mary" by accident).

K mentioned liking "Gossip Girl" more than she had expected. Everyone at the table had seen the CW series, so how scripts diverge from the novel was fodder for conversation. The consensus was that the Vanessa character seems a lot cooler in the book, but the Humphreys lose something in paperback by living on the Upper West Side instead of in Brooklyn.

References to boozing, sex and bulimia were mentioned as turnoffs for recommending the book to the younger set (ironic, as that's the target audience). Serena's "diet plate" of lettuce, lemon yogurt and hot tea didn't appeal to anyone. (A mentioned celebrity diets seeming to fall into line with that nutritionally questionable assemblage, and the table agreed that teenage girls eat weird things.) One thing the book taught us is that hotel bars don't card. Who knew! If only we could turn back time -- and gain Upper East Side penthouse apartments in the process.

The remainder of a leisurely lunch was spent on actual gossip. Shh, I'll never tell.

Btw, for a peek into the TV wedding plans of Lily van der Woodsen, check this out.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Book Ideas: True Stories Edition, Part 1

Sorry for dearth of blog posts. What can I say? I've been lazy!

It occurred to me that after a run of novels, we might be ripe for a nonfiction tale. Here are some ideas, all available in paperback!

Something to plug us into the eco-friendly trend: Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle." Time magazine named it one of its top 10 nonfiction books of 2007. Cribbing from its review:
When Kingsolver and her family moved from arid Tuscon, Ariz., to verdant Appalachia, they upped the ante by deciding to eat only food they grew themselves, or which grew locally, for a full calendar year. They're not the first to try it, but they may be the funniest. Kingsolver and her family — who chip in on the writing — are never shrill or scoldy about their project, just quietly convincing, and they make the food in their agricultural epic practically vibrate with seductive organic intensity.

Hungry for the great outdoors? We could take on "Into the Wild" or "Into Thin Air" by Jon Krakauer. The former follows the adventures of Christopher McCandless, who was born in Annandale, took off after college and ended up in the Alaskan wilderness, where he died at age 24. You no doubt know about last year's movie adaptation by Sean Penn -- we could do a DVD screening as a tie-in! "Into Thin Air" is another wilderness adventure tale that details Krakauer's ascent of Mount Everest. He survived (obviously), but let's just say things did not go well. A good friend recommends both.

I know I don't have to sell this once, since we were all excited about reading it at the first book club meeting: "Kabul Beauty School" by Deborah Rodriguez. Amanda has even bought the book already! Tie-ins include a documentary, "The Beauty Academy of Kabul," and an NPR report.

Want any of these to be a book club pick? Host a meeting! (Hint, hint.)

I've got a few more nonfiction suggestions that I'll try to write up soon. Stay tuned! And if you have your own, let us know in the comments!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Say What?

New York Magazine's cover story is about "Gossip Girl," the TV show. I admit I didn't have the patience to slog through the whole thing, but I thought I'd post in case you all were interested. Beyond the cover headline at right, the magazine calls the show "genius." I have three words to say to both those comments: Friday. Night. Lights.

Anyway, we're supposed to be focusing on the book, right? The women-centric blog Jezebel comments on the article but also has some insight on how the show's portrayals of characters compare to those of the book. Could be fodder for discussion next month!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

OMG! A Tween Pick!

I've been loving "Gossip Girl" on CW and wanted to check out the book that inspired the guilty-pleasure TV show. It's such a hit that author Cecily von Ziegesar has her own site.

The early May meeting date/time is TBA (so please vote on the Evite!) We'll be meeting at The Diner in Adams Morgan, so bring your appetite and your hunger for good scoop.

No worries if you haven't read the book or seen the show.

Your wannebe UES* resident,

*Upper East Side of Manhattan

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Persuasion: We're Convinced

We had a small but pleasant turnout for April's meeting: Jenny, Catherine and myself. So a consensus wasn't difficult: We all liked "Persuasion." It was the second time reading the book for me. The last time was in high school, I think, and I didn't really appreciate it then. We talked about reading books too young -- before you have the life experience to understand or fully empathize with characters. Can you really feel the emotion of such a romantic story if you've never been in love? All I know is I was super-swoony at the end of "Persuasion," and I don't recall feeling the same the first go-round.

If you're a Jane Austen virgin, "Pride and Prejudice" is probably the best place to start. But this one is right up there -- short and very romantic.

Speaking of swooning: For a while there, it was threatening to become the James McAvoy Fan Club instead of Lazy Woman's Book Club. Jenny and Catherine both enjoyed the movie "Becoming Jane," the fictionalized imagining of Jane Austen's romantic life that James starred in. I'm adding it to my Netflix queue! We're also looking forward to his upcoming decidedly un-Austen-esque role in the summer action flick "Wanted," with Angelina Jolie.

Anyhoo, back to books. Catherine brought up Goodreads, the book-centered social networking site Doris recommended a while back. Yeah, I begged off at the time, citing laziness. I sucked it up tonight and created a profile, adding a paltry 18 books to my "have read these" virtual bookshelf. (Seven of those are Harry Potter!) Catherine has 119 books. Doris has a shelf-busting 259! Look us up if you join!

No time to read? Would you rather be read to? Jenny mentioned the Web site LibriVox, which has free audiobook downloads of titles in the public domain. The catalogue was down when I checked, but Jenny has Austen books on her iPod. Fun!

Hope to see you all next month! Hosting slot and book choice are open for May, so if you're up for it or have a book idea, let us know. I'll also send an e-mail about it soon.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Forget the book. Where's the movie?

So one of the billion blogs I keep up with (thanks, Google Blog Reader!) is the AustenBlog. Yes, I know: I am a geek. The blog is all about Jane, from books to plays to music to movies.

Anyway, it has this piece of news: "A poll reveals that one in ten British students confess to watching film adaptations rather than reading the books for class assignments."

That sounds about right. I've probably done it, though I can't remember any one time specifically. I think I watched Frankenstein with Kenneth Branagh (one of my many fave Brit actors) shortly after reading the book my senior year of high school, just to make more sense of the crazy novel. Bottom line: I was kinda meh about the book and the movie.

Anyone else want to cop to watching a movie instead reading its original book? It's okay; we won't judge.

Oh, like I said before: If anyone's interested, I've got two film versions of Persuasion and am happy to host a screening...

And remember: Book club meeting coming soon; see the details at right!

Monday, March 24, 2008

What Does Your Bookshelf Say About You?

The New York Times has a blog about books called Paper Cuts. I'm not sure I get the name. Sounds ... painful. And it's a bit too high-minded for me; I'm just not into books enough to subscribe to it on my RSS reader.

I did happen upon a recent posting that's interesting, about bookshelf etiquette. Folks debate what books are okay to display on your bookshelves: only ones you've read? (That seems a bit strict.) Do you consider what party guests will think when you're arranging your books? Neil and I have gotten around this by displaying only CDs and DVDs in our living room, leaving the books in the den. We did relegate a good chunk of the sci-fi and textbooks to the top shelf.

From the comments:

I would agree that most people display books in an attempt to construct their identity. I am guilty of shelving my 18th and 19th century British novels and hiding my “beach books”

Let’s start with the First Commandment: Bookshelves are for books. Thou shalt not place photographs, nor souvenirs, nor any manner of knick-knack upon thy bookshelves, for they are shelves for books. [Angie: Puh-leeze.]

The grand statement my library is making is this: These are the books I’ve bought. [Heh. Amen!]

By the way, the photo is a random shot I found of someone who arranges their books by color! I will admit to organizing ours by genre, then alphabetically by author. But I'm intrigued by the book rainbow!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Talk About "Killer Heels"!

Check out this crazy story about a reported maiming at an exotic dance emporium.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Chinese for St. Patrick's Day

Come out Monday to hear my friend Jenny (the famous Jennifer 8. Lee of The New York Times) do a reading from her new book, The Fortune Cookie Chronicles. You might have seen her on "The Colbert Report" last week?

She'll be at the Library of Congress at noon, then at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue at 7 p.m. (kosher Chinese served at the second event).

Stop by for food and food for thought, plus a really fun person.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Book Ideas: Other People's Suggestions

So when I mention to folks that I've started a book club, they invariably offer suggestions for books to read. Here are some ideas:

"Suite Francaise" by Irene Nemirovsky: The wife of one of my boyfriend's colleagues read this in her book club and said she was surprised by how much she liked it. (I trust her because she is German and artsy.) It was written in the early 1940s, but the manuscript went unread for 60 years. Could be another interesting tale written of a time, in that time. Another good sign: On the novel's Amazon page, "Water for Elephants" is listed under "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought"!

"The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" by Alexander McCall Smith: A friend in Dallas recommends this, the first in a series. The Amazon review says:
If Miss Marple were fat and jolly and lived in Botswana--and decided to go against any conventional notion of what an unmarried woman should do, spending the money she got from selling her late father's cattle to set up a Ladies' Detective Agency--then you have an idea of how Precious sets herself up as her country's first female detective.

Apparently this was also a "Today" show book club pick. And it's being made into an HBO series. A two-hour pilot was directed by Oscar winner Anthony Minghella ("The English Patient") and stars Jill Scott and Anika Noni Rose.

And an entertainment-news blog I read, Buzz Sugar, picked Richard Yates's "Revolutionary Road" for its book-club-via-blog this month. (They assign chapters to read by each Friday, eek!) It's about a couple in the Connecticut suburbs in the 1950s. You may have heard of the movie it's based on, starring Leo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, together again for the first time since "Titanic"! Slated to be released in December.

So what books have you heard good things about recently?

Monday, March 3, 2008

Free Books!

Okay, as promised, here are the books I'm trying to give away. Please take as much as you want. The rest will be Freecycled. I'd rather not wait until the next meeting to get rid of them, so if you can pick them up at my place or at The Post, that would be great! Just e-mail or put a comment on this post.

Oh, and these should never be sold. A few are uncorrected page proofs from The Post's freebie areas. All of the books are in good or great shape. A couple are hardbacks.

The Books
  1. "Touchy Subjects," by Emma Donoghue -- short stories
  2. "Veil of Roses," by Laura Fitzgerald -- kind of reads as young-adult fiction, maybe good for a teen? cute story, tho.
  3. "The Mermaid Chair," by Sue Monk Kidd (who wrote "The Secret Life of Bees")
  4. "My Horizontal Life: A Collection of One-Night Stands," by Chelsea Handler --kinda funny
  5. "The Year of Yes," by Maria Dahvana Headley -- memoir, hardback
  6. "The Pelican Brief," by John Grisham
  7. "A Woman's Passion for Travel: True Stories of World Wanderlust," by a buncha ladies
  8. "The King of Torts," by John Grisham
  9. "The Contenders" -- bunch of contemporary writers on the Democratic candidates -- you can skip to Obama and Clinton, I guess.
  10. "The Street Lawyer," by John Grisham
  11. "Words Fail Me," by Teresa Monachino -- a strange book for word nerds
  12. "The First Horseman," by John Case
  13. "The Reading Group," by Elizabeth Noble -- very cute
  14. "The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing," by Melissa Bank
  15. Student's Life Application Bible -- probably best for teens, has some writing on the inside of the front and back covers.
  16. "Father Knows Less OR 'Can I Cook My Sister?': One Dad's Quest to Answer His Son's Most Baffling Questions," by Wendell Jamieson -- He gets experts to answer questions like "Why is the sky blue" and "How did the pineapple get its name?" Pretty neat.
  17. "I Love You, Beth Cooper," by Larry Doyle -- This book is really cute, and I highly recommend it. I just don't think I'll read it again.
  18. "Strawberry Fields," by Marina Lewycka -- novel, never read it
  19. "Mass Media Law," from 2005-06
  20. "Our Family Tree" Record Book -- sort of like a scrapbook, has places for pictures and info about your parents, children, etc.

Ooh I love that. An even 20! Come and get 'em!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

'Water for Elephants': A Three-Ring Hit!

Thanks to everyone who made it to the second book club meeting: Doris, Ramya, Kendra, Krista, Marta and Amanda. Man, that's a lotta names that end in "a"! We all really enjoyed the book, especially its vivid descriptions of such a charismatic world, and how it was so well-researched. If you're looking for a fast read that's hard to put down, check it out!

If you still haven't had your fill of circus fun, you're in luck: The circus is coming to town. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey's "Greatest Show on Earth" will be in Baltimore March 12-23 and at Verizon Center March 27-30. They also usually do an Elephant Walk somewhere in town before each run.

Farther afield: I'm guessing this is the Ringling museum Ramya mentioned visiting in Sarasota, Fla. And here's Circus World, the museum in Baraboo, Wis., that Krista talked about. It's on the site of the original Ringling Bros. winter quarters. (Also, the Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Fla., is the second hit when you search "Ringling" on Google. Amanda knows someone who went there! No mention of elephants in the course descriptions.)

And to get a circusy fix without leaving home, there's the HBO series "Carnivale," which Marta recommends. It ran for two seasons in 2003 and 2005. Its Web site says:
CARNIVALE follows a traveling carnival as it wends its way across the Dust Bowl, focusing on Ben Hawkins, a mysterious 18-year-old fugitive with hidden talents who is taken in by the carnival, and Brother Justin, the charismatic, shadowy evangelist who will ultimately cross his path. The series takes place at a time of worldwide unrest, with evil on the rise around the globe and the Great Depression wreaking economic and social havoc here at home.

In non-circus news:
  • Stay tuned for an e-mail from Jenny about the April book and meeting details.
  • For May, Amanda and Marta (who live in an awesome house in Mount Pleasant -- with a deck!) have agreed to host.
  • We talked about being a little looser on the "first Sunday" guideline -- could be more like "first 10 days or so" going forward each month.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Book Ideas: Oscar Edition

I thought the Oscars were a little snoozy the other night, but it reminded me that films could be a source of ideas for us down the road. Just throwing out some books have been adapted into movies, with Academy Award-nominated screenplays:
  • "Atonement" by Ian McEwan
  • "Little Children" by Tom Perrotta
  • "Notes on a Scandal" by Zoe Heller
  • "About a Boy" by Nick Hornby

You know, I'm using Wikipedia to find the adapted-screenplay nominees from the past few years, and there's a sad dearth of women writers. Not that that's a requirement. I was just looking for ideas of a different vein from, say, "No Country for Old Men."

And, yes, this post is partly an excuse to display a photo of James McAvoy. Could he have been any cuter when he was presenting at the Oscars? More on point: What other books-turned-movie have you been curious about?

Friday, February 22, 2008

Running Out of Shelf Space?

Maybe the answer is to avoid buying new tomes. My friend in Bradenton, Fla., swears by PaperbackSwap. I barely have time for leisure reading as is, but if you try it out, lemme know what you think!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

That's Good Readin'

Another way we might consider keeping track of book suggestions is through a virtual bookshelf. (There are many, and I'm shilling the one for which I already have a good amount of data input.)

Try it out. See if you like it!

And, in case you're wondering, I'm pretty sure I've read more than the measly 100-plus books on my list. Either that, or I've wasted a lot more of my time with movies, TV and the Interwebs than I previously thought!


Monday, February 11, 2008

Why I Picked 'Elephants'

I'm burying Jenny's call-out for feedback on "Persuasion" with this post, so be sure to check out the next entry and let her know what you think: to Austen or not to Austen?

On to the business at hand. I chose Sara Gruen's "Water for Elephants" (2006) for our March meeting based on a recommendation from my friend Jamie, who lives in Dallas and who encouraged me to start this book club. She has a club of her own, and that group read "Elephants" and liked it. So it was an easy pick, especially since I had to make one quickly after bumping "Kabul Beauty School" on the fly.

If you think it's too late to start reading it now, take heart: I haven't started either! I just got the book Friday and somehow keep putting it off. I'm going on a week-long trip next week -- counting on that for some prime reading time. (Plus: Remember, you don't have to read or finish the book to come to the meeting!) UPDATE, Feb. 25: I finished the book! A quick read, and I'm kind of a slow reader.

If you're still on the fence about it, here's some critical feedback: Out of the 1,107 customer reviews on Amazon.com (that's a lot!), 723 gave it five stars, 232 gave it four (out of five).

And praise from book reviews:
"So compelling, so detailed and vivid, that I couldn’t bear to be torn away from it for a single minute.” — Chicago Tribune

“Gruen unearths a lost world with her rich and surprising portrayal of life in a traveling circus in the ’30s. An emotional tale that will please history buffs — and others.” — People

“[This] sprightly tale has a ringmaster’s crowd-pleasing pace.” — Entertainment Weekly

“You’ll get lost in the tatty glamour of Gruen’s meticulously researched world, from spangled equestrian pageantry and the sleazy side show to an ill-fated night at a Chicago speak-easy.” — The Washington Post

Hope you can make it! Lemme know via Evite or e-mail.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Can I Persuade You...?

So I was sitting there pondering what my choice for the April book will be (yes, already, because I can be an excessive planner), and I hit upon Jane Austen's "Persuasion," a classic -- and short-ish -- tale about lost loves and second chances. I read it a good while ago and have wanted to revisit it with fresh eyes and get others' POVs. And I thought it'd be nice to do a classic, and you can't get much more classic chick lit than my girl Jane.

So a few questions:

1. Have you read it (recently)? If a lot of people have, I'll find an alternative.
2. Would you like to?
3. Would you be even more inclined to read it if you could picture either of these two guys as the dashing hero ? Wink, wink. (They were in the last two movie versions.)

I need some validation, people! Or it's back to the drawing board for me. Leave comments below...

"Killer Heels" Postmortem

Thanks to all who came to the inaugural meeting! It was great to gab with Jenny, Vibha, Brandi, Lisa, Kendra, Tanya and Amanda.

Some of us liked the book better than others. I thought it was entertaining, as far as chick lit goes, if a little predictable on the murder-mystery side. Most of us agreed the author tried too hard with the multitude of pop culture references.

The conversation veered to other topics, of course. Amanda made the point that one problem with the Spice Girls reunion is that they're not spicy enough this time around. The next day, Jenny passed along this follow-up:

The Spice Girls are cutting short their reunion world tour, blaming "family and personal commitments."

The UK band said they would end their tour in Toronto on 26 February, with planned shows in Beijing, Sydney, Cape Town and Buenos Aires being axed.

Reports had suggested a lack of interest in some of the cities.

And a lack of spiciness!

One more follow-up: The book's main character is given a brandy alexander to drink after a traumatic incident. Apparently its fats and carbs are soothing. So we wondered, what's in a brandy alexander? I even pulled out the laptop but never got around to finding the recipe. Here it is, according to Wikipedia:

1.5 ounce brandy
1 ounce dark crème de cacao
1 ounce half-and-half or heavy cream
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
I also found versions that used milk and ice cream, yum!

Help Blog Help You

So, what's the point of this blog, aside from being an excuse for me to waste a lot of time? I have a few ideas (time wasting being just one) for ways this site can be useful. See, I really hope you all think of this as your book club, not just mine, and perhaps some interactivity can help.

Everyone is welcome and encouraged to not only comment on posts (hint hint, nudge nudge), but to post themselves. You can do so by (A) asking me to add you to the list of users allowed to post or (B) e-mailing me something to post on your behalf.

Here are my ideas for the blog. Add your own!
  • Book proposals: A few folks have already mentioned ideas for future books. Could post these and see what the response is like, especially if you're unsure.
  • Book previews: No one has to do this, but if you want to elaborate on a book choice, this could be a place to do it.
  • Follow-ups on meetings: Does this happen to you? You have a conversation about a random topic, then the next day it comes up in the news or with an unrelated group of friends. That happened with our last meeting (post to come). Anyway, I'll try to post highlights and impressions from each get-together.
  • Random (and not necessarily relevant) thoughts, tidbits: Anything you want to share with the group? Post away!
  • Virtual book club: For those who can't make meetings but still want to feel connected to the group. You can still chime in, through the blog!

Okay, at this point, you're probably as tired of reading all this administrative mumbo jumbo as I am of writing it. Just want to add: I'm open to any suggestions and critiques you have about how the book club is run. (Yes, that's the best Cuba Gooding Jr.-in-"Jerry Maguire" photo I could find. Yes, I realize it's a 12-year-old reference. Sue me!) I'm trying hard not to be bossy book club lady, but feel free to remind me if I'm not being "lazy" enough.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Who You Callin' Lazy?

Okay, I admit that creating a blog for the book club seems to go against any claims of laziness on my part. Let me explain: My philosophy for the book club is that it shouldn't be a source of stress. We have enough of that in our lives, right? So the "lazy" label is a reminder that there's no pressure involved: No worries if you haven't finished the book or even read the book (or hate the book). We just want your company! No worries about hosting if you don't want to, or coming if you don't want to. The idea is to have fun, enjoy some female bonding and maybe learn a thing or two.

To keep up with a book club, this lazy woman needed a few guidelines. Here they are:

1) The club meets the first Sunday of the month, as long as there's a quorum. If not, it can be rescheduled at the host's discretion.

2) Hosting duties rotate among members who want to host. You decide the book, the time of day and location, and send out an Evite or e-mail with the info. (Angie can help with this last part if you want.)

3) Each book selection should be announced within a week of the previous meeting, if not earlier, to allow time to procure and read it.

4) Meeting spots don't have to be the host's home: Restaurants, coffee shops and parks are other options.

5) No pressure if you haven't read the book!

You may recall that I originally didn't want to go outside D.C. for meetings. I felt bad about that from the start, so I'm dropping it. Heck, I'll just get a Zipcar and round all y'all up if/when we end up going to Arlington.

Welcome to the club!