My Rules for a Book Group

Year 2018 standing on library shelf

Last night was the first meeting of the book group.

At this first meeting, I felt I needed to leverage my power as Group Instigator and Generous Benefactor Of Meeting Space, to impose a vision, my vision, of how this should roll.

Without being too overbearing, but, I hope, making it clear that my continuing membership is contingent on adherence to these principles, this is what I hoped I got across:

1. I don’t want to read anything I’ve already read. And I don’t think anybody else should either. This means we have to pick something nobody has already read.  Even if you say you could happily re-read something, I don’t think you should. Unless it’s something you read in your callow youth and didn’t really get when you first read it.

2. I will never bring cupcakes. Or wine. Or snacks. Ever. However if you want to bring snacks, knock yourself out. Surprise us.

3. I want to talk about ideas. I have heard of Book Groups who get together and never talk about the book. I don’t want that.  There’s nothing wrong with socializing. I love it. But I want a Book Group to meet another need: a need for intellectual stim and an interesting discussion of ideas.

4. I want to to talk to people who’ve recently read a book. When we’re both still reeling from a book, our convo about it is going to be fresh, and alive, and relevant, and exciting. But if you’re still reeling, and I read it two years ago, this isn’t going to be as much fun. I’ve gone stale and you’re fresh from the oven. That’s why book groups are so fun. We’re all still fresh.

Ten people showed up last night. A whole bunch more contacted me wanting to be kept in the loop.

We picked Lincoln In The Bardo by George Saunders as our first book.

Here were the other contenders:

(someday when I have more time, I’ll link to all these, but today is NOT the day.)

The Odyssey

The Name of the Wind

No is Not Enough

Sing Unburied Sing

Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics

The Great Alone

Strangers In Their Own Land

White Rose, Black Forest

The Power Within

The Woman In The Window

Guns, Germs and Steel

Stiff

Thinking Fast and Slow

Sapiens

Putting Your Passion Into Print

All The Light We Cannot See

A Wild Sheep Chase

The Witch of Portobello

The History of Love

A Discovery of Witches

Our first meeting to talk about this book is scheduled for March 11th at 4:30 in the MSY Lounge. Plan an hour and a half. If you’re interested, and local, come.

Digital Declutter Week 2: News Creep

Charming female texting on her tablet after waking up

I’m succumbing to a little bit more  “news feed creep” than is probably “legal.”

It’s hard to escape.

Even when I think I’ve barred all the entrances, I’ll find myself innocently opening a Google Search, and bam, right there below the search bar, sits a tantalizing bit of “Trending News.”

And what do I do?  I hit it. Especially if it’s from The Times or The Post.

I never actually took those newspaper apps off my iPad, just my phone, and now I just don’t open my Ipad at all anymore for fear I won’t be able to resist.

It’s funny, because I’m now reading The Odyssey instead of The Times and The Post and  I just read the part where Odysseus puts wax in the ears of his oarsmen and has them tie him to the mast so he can hear the Siren’s song, but they can’t, thereby saving them all from certain death.

Those icons for The Times and The Post are my Siren songs. I have voluntarily tied myself to the mast, so this means I can just as easily untie myself, so it’s best if I just don’t open the iPad at all this month and risk seeing them. I know I wouldn’t resist.

The latest missive from Cal was about leisure. He’s assuming that we all have more of it now that we’re not dinking around in social media all the time.

He had this great line about, “rediscovering the types of old school, dirt-under-the-fingernails, defiantly analog activities that used to fill our most satisfying leisure hours.”

Among the list of those kinds of things he mentioned as “defiantly analog” was starting a book club.

This is something I have been thinking about for well over a year now, but have never acted on. I was talking  to Nicole Parsons after yoga the other day about this new Odyssey translation and she said, “You should really start a book group, Kath. If you did, I’d join.”

So yesterday I spent a good amount of time moodling and scribbling  about this: how it might work, what the rules should be, etc. and  I got it pretty much nailed down to the point where I think it would be an unquestionable new source of joy for me. I now have a rough draft of an email I’m going to send out to my peeps soon, and start to make it happen.

I think without this media break, I might have thought: I don’t have time for this. And I would have been right.

For me, this whole experiment has been all about reclaiming my time.

I still have worries about where news reading is going to fit back into my life after this, though.  I need a slot for it. A place. I need guide rails, or bright lines, or constraints, or whatever you want to call them, where I can just relax about the news knowing that it all can wait. I’ll get to it, but it will be have to be on my terms.

This is still to be worked out.