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.

This Getaway Brought To You By The Letter “B”

Everyone has their own recipe for the perfect getaway. Here’s mine::

B is for Beach. 

This morning we took a long walk down the beach to the lighthouse. This beach is famous for its shells, so much so that people walking along, looking down, are known for their slouching posture, named the “Sanibel Stoop.” G was guilty of this poture, but not me. I strode along with perfect posture looking for…

  
B is for Birds

I especially loved the pelicans. They are so graceful in flight but they land like a US Airways pilot (i.e. clumsily and hard!) But then we spied this pink-footed and beaked lovely. Who can identify her?

  
B is for Books

I finished Resilience on the plane and started this one today. It’s okay. Nothing that I didn’t know and hadn’t already read in Seth Godin’s Linchpin. I have another non-fiction book in my bag, and a novel. I think I’ll start the novel tomorrow. I brought Euphoria, which Emily is reading at the moment, too.

  
B is for Bikes

After lunch we went exploring on the rental bikes our condo provides. Destination? Pinocchio’s for ice cream (I got gelato.) No need for gears. No hand brakes either. Made me nostalgic for the Schwinn I had as a kid. Fun.

  
B is for Beer

G loves to try new beers. She picked up a craft-pack at the grocery store the first day. (A craft-pack is a selection of individual bottles.) We have a late dinner reservation tonight so we are having appetizers here at the condo now, and we just split this:

  
I prefer Porters or Stouts, but this isn’t bad.

“B” is also for Blogging and Big Naps which I also enjoy  during these little adventures but they are harder to take pictures of. So for now, I’ll say…

BYE.

What are you reading these days?

One of the things I love most about G’s dad, Owen, is his love of reading. He always has a book going and when he is not out fishing, or fixing something in our house, or making a run to the dump with G (all things that happened this morning) he is on the couch engrossed in a book (he loves thrillers and mysteries). I think he must go through a book a week.

When I see him reading, I feel like it gives me permission to curl up with my own book for awhile. And I just love that.

As I child, I was an avid reader, but reading wasn’t encouraged. When my mother “caught” me reading, she would yell about all the stuff I should be doing instead: cleaning my room, washing the dishes, vacuuming, mowing the lawn.

Reading was goofing off, being idle, doing nothing. So I had to fit my reading in at night or when she wasn’t around.

(My mother was an idiot. Clearly.)

My daughter is a reader. So is my son-in-law. If I give them a Powell’s gift card for their birthdays, they are in heaven.

These days I see more people messing on computers or phones than reading books. When I mention the books I am reading, no one tells me about the books they are reading. I just have to assume that they don’t have a book going. It’s okay I guess, but I really miss talking about books.

I should start a book group. I have seriously thought about it. It would be have to be a group that likes to read the same kind of stuff I do, though, which is mainly non-fiction about finding your passion, peak performance, the search for self, navigating uncertainties, developing focus, and inspired leadership.

I should really do that. Put something out on Facebook. See who responds. In the fall, maybe.

When summer comes though, I like to take a break from all the non-fiction and lose myself in novels. So I am asking for some recommendations. What should I read this summer? No junky fiction, please. Last summer I read The Goldfinch, The Bees, and The Signature of All Things. I am looking for fiction of that ilk. Great fiction. The new Haruki Murakami isn’t coming out until August, so I need something NOW.

Suggestions? Please?

Reading

I often catch myself wishing I could talk to someone who reads the same kinds of books I  read: non-fiction, self-development, new business paradigm-books.  Also, books about the latest in neuroscience or the positive psychology movement, or mindfulness, or the place where spirituality and technology meet.

Nobody I know reads those kinds of books. Nobody I come into contact on a daily basis reads anything, as far as I know. If they do read, they never mention what they are reading. What they are reading doesn’t seem to obsess them or it would probably come up in conversation, right?

I used to ask people what they are reading. I still do and it is surprising how few people are reading anything.

When I engage with a book for a while, writing in the margins, writing my own questions and thoughts about what I am reading, trying out those ideas in my life, I feel  enriched in ways that I never could be by just reading articles that happen to pop up on my Facebook feed.

I am reading Resilience by Eric Greitens now. I’m not even 50 pages in and already it is heavily marked up and dog-eared.

I am trying to muster energy to slay the resistance monster that is preventing me from finishing my book. I need to cultivate both focus and beginner’s mind again. Greitens says to begin with humility. He himself starts every day with this humility mantra:

“ I begin with humility. I act with humility. I end with humility. Humility leads to clarity. Humility leads to an open mind and a forgiving heart. I see every person as superior to me in some way; with every person as my teacher, I grow in wisdom. As I grow in wisdom, humility becomes ever more my guide. I begin with humility. I act with humility. I end with humility.”  ~P. 33.

Everybody has something to teach me. I need to approach people with that attitude, that orientation.

This is what is inspiring me today.

Namaste.

How I am surviving this hellish winter

This has been a very long winter. But surprisingly, I am okay. I am not great, but I am fine. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being overjoyed and 1 being suicidal, I have maintained a solid 7 all winter.

This is huge. (This is weird.)

This is what has helped.

Vitamin D3. 5000 iu

Royal Glow Facial Moisturizer

Strength training w/Vince

Kitchari

Yorkholo pizza on Mondays

Yoga (teaching)

Yoga (doing)

Meditation

Writing my book, “Amp Your Vibe”

Introducing people to the exercises in my book

FaceTiming with my daughter and my grandson, Obie (obielouis on Instagram)

Sleep

Good books, like: Daring Greatly, The Art of Asking, Distraction Addiction, What To Do When It’s Your Turn, Make Your Own Rules Diet, The Compound Effect, Rise of the Machines, Eat, Taste, Heal, The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up

My space heater

Time spent up in my cozy lair in my space chair (with the space heater running)

I appreciate the interiority of winter to an extent, but it has overstayed its welcome. Not only that, it has often been an icy blowhard, hurtful, rude and and disrespectful.

Trouble is, I can’t kick it out. I have to wait until it decides to leave.

*sigh*

The Life-Changing Magic of Everything

Life-Changing Magic

I bought this book because of the title.

I am a sucker for life-changing magic of any kind.

(Tidying up is the least of it.)

How about instead of “Tidying up” we go with “The Life-Changing Magic of:

Getting Your Work Done

Overcoming Obstacles

Walking the Edges

Weaving a Latticework of Community

Hacking the Follow-Through

Staying in The Game

Making Stuff Happen

Doing What You’re Good At

I would buy all of those books. I could even write most of them.

I have a raw draft of a book I wrote during NaNoWriMo crying to be “cooked” and no time to cook it at the moment because of all the hoo-hah that is Christmas.

My book is a workbook for people who feel they are not maximizing their full human potential, but want to. It gives them a surefire method for finding what they should be doing with their time, with their “one wild and precious life” if you will.

This book needs a sexy title though, and I have yet to hit upon it, so I am super jealous of this title. I think as soon as you put “life-changing” and “magic” in your title, you win.

That, and “belly fat.”

A Book Snob Finds Love On the Bestseller List

This year I set a goal to read a book a month, which seems pretty wimpy considering that I used to read a book a week in my college and grad school years.

But the thing about reading now, as opposed to then, is that now I am reading for me, for my own edification, curiosity, and pleasure, and not to write a paper about the book.

In college I didn’t so much read, as process books into papers. Armed with a pen, I would take copious notes on thematic approaches, character development, and how this novel might illustrate the philosophy of Aristotle or Nietzche. I was on the hunt for the meaning in those books, and also to be able to manufacture enough verbal garbage to fill up 10 double-spaced pages.

If, god forbid, I got to the end of a novel and I didn’t have a thesis statement and a rough paragraph plan for a paper, I knew I was totally screwed.

Even back then I knew this wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing with these books. Even back then I knew this was a travesty. I longed to let those books marinate, to seep into my psyche, into my life, my soul. I wanted to enjoy them, and understand them, not dissect them like a frog.

But I couldn’t. There was no time. I had a list, a syllabus, other classes to deal with. I couldn’t muse about anything. There was no time to let a book rattle around in my brain for a while, because hot on the heels of one book, was yet another one to be read and “papered.”

When I think back to all the classic Lit. I read between the ages of 16 and 23, I could positively weep. I was too young for Tristram Shandy, for the Red and the Black for Anna Karenina for Ulysses.

I couldn’t even maneuver my car onto the turnpike let alone follow Leopold Bloom around Dublin for a thousand pages.

Now that I am free of academia, I long to go back and re-read everything I read there. Nabokov said that the best reader, the only good reader, is the re-reader, but do I want to start over again? Now? At this late date? I don’t have that much life left, and even if I did, do I really want to go back and re-read the classics? I am out of shape for iambic pentameter. I’d have to work back up to Shakespeare, to Proust. I no longer have the attention span for the semi-colon. I twitter now.

But one thing I have become painfully aware of in the last few months is that, probably due to all that reading of classic Lit in my “childhood” I have become an insufferable literary snob. I expect a lot from books. I may not have gone deep into the classics, but I went wide enough to know what real artistry is, and I know how to appreciate it.

Funny, I am not this picky about any other art: not music, not painting, not theater. But when it comes to books, I have my standards; I make demands.

I expect structure and voice and poetry and beautifully articulated ideas. I want to be lured down the rabbit hole of a book and feel happy to live in that world  for a long, long time.

I don’t pay attention to themes or motifs or character development or (god forbid) meaning anymore, all I want from a book is to learn something new about the world, and possibly a new way to look at my life.

Even though I am not consciously on the lookout for theme and motif anymore, I still care about them. I still care about character development and pacing and poetry. And I especially care about those delicious silences built in between the words, and the way when things are left out, that makes all the remaining things glow.

I am not often disappointed in anything I read nowadays because one, I don’t read much, and two, my policy is if I get to page 3 and I am not entranced, I will close the book and quietly donate it to the library’s book sale. I don’t waste my time on anything that doesn’t thrill me. And this is why I call myself a snob.

I am a snob because I don’t want to be disappointed, and for that reason I tend to limit myself to Pen/Faulkner Award winners, National Book award winners, Booker Prize winners, and Pulitzer Prize winners. (And yoga books, good and bad.)

I get all squinty-eyed and smirky-faced when it comes to the New York Times Bestseller list, especially when it is littered with the likes of Fifty Shades of Grey.

But recently I have read and really enjoyed “Bestsellers” in both the fiction and non-fiction categories that friends have recommended. I found Haruki Murakami on a friend’s recommendation, for example

Recently Emily (my daughter) said she was reading Gone Girl so I picked it up just to see, and got sucked down its rabbit hole. I admired Gillian Flynn’s storytelling, and especially how meticulously crafted her story was, and was flabbergasted when I saw her picture on the back cover. So young!  I could not believe someone that young could craft such a remarkable book.

The book I am reading now, Quiet, is also on the Non-fiction bestseller list (NYTimes) but for some reason I don’t feel as embarrassed reading bestseller non-fiction. Is this just being snobbish? I don’t know.

I recently ordered Louise Erdrich’s The Round House (the 2012 National Book Award winner) so I can compare it to Gone Girl in terms of its artistry. I really wouldn’t mind being called out on my snobbery if Gone Girl holds up against The Round House.

All I know is that I love living in someone else’s dream, in their word world. I love the interiority of reading, the listening inside that it requires. It’s such a relief to have the voice in my head not be my own for a while.

This winter has been especially long, and tiring, and dreary, but I have been consoled immeasurably by the books I have read. I am happy I have mustered the self control to put down the IPad for awhile and let my brain marinate in books. I feel nourished in a new way already, and it’s only the end of March.

Here’s a list of what I’ve read since January.

Alone Together by Sherry Turkle

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a Worlk that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

Have you read anything lately that has made you feel nourished? Care to share?