Ten Reasons I Love Book Talking (And Maybe You Will, Too!)

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First, let me clarify. I love book discussion in all its varieties – one-on-one, online, group discussion about one title, panel discussion – you name it.  If it’s about books, I’m there!

My favorite format is book talking. I learned the term when I was a new librarian attending my first Oklahoma Library Association conference.  There was a session going on that seemed to be attracting a large audience.

I scanned the room and found an empty seat; it might have been the last one. I sat and waited for the speaker. When the session began and the introductions were done, I could see that there would be more than a dozen speakers.  I wondered how they would all fit themselves in during the one allotted hour.

Then it started.  Each speaker went to the center of the stage with one book (in this case, the books showcased were Oklahoma’s Sequoyah Award Nominees) and spoke about it. No, that is not quite accurate.  They sold it.

The audience around me was busy writing notes and I decided it was time to do the same. Each presenter spoke for a couple of minutes  –something about their passion for the book, for what made interesting, and just enough to draw us in and want to read it ourselves and recommend it to others. It drew us in and kept us there.

One after another, without a break in between, we heard from readers who loved books, but more importantly, loved the book he/she was holding.

I was almost out of breath when I left the session, after learning something else about what librarians do – what I would be doing for the next 25 years. I would be talking about books and telling our customers why they might like them – why the book I was holding might be their “next best book” or their favorite book of all time.

I still love to do that (even though I am retired) and I still love to listen to book talks. I especially look forward to the “Book Buzz” presentations done at the Pioneer Library System branches by the Penguin Random House representatives, when they book talk the latest and upcoming books for the season. (It doesn’t hurt that they give away advanced readers copies and book bags, or that the librarians and the Friends of the Library prepare delicious food for us.)

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What I love best, though, is “Ravenous Readers”, a group of about 20 members who meet each month at the McLoud Library to talk about the books we’ve read. It’s always fast and furious around the table because several of us bring more than one to share.

The book talks are as individual as the members who present them and each member has his/her own style of presentation. Some read passages, some talk about the author, and some tell us about their own emotional response to the book.

Someday, someone will probably put their book talk to music, as I did once during my librarian days. We also share or lend our own personal books and share items such as bookmarks and pens provided by indie book stores we visit. Again, the wonderful pot luck dinner we enjoy is “icing on the cake” (pun intended).

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What I am suggesting is that you consider the “book talk” format if you’re planning to join or begin a book group.  Here are some reasons you might enjoy book talking as much as I do:

  1. Book talk groups put very little pressure on the members. Each can choose his/her own title(s) to read and share.
  2. It isn’t necessary to gather multiple copies of one single title for discussion. (Pioneer Library System makes book discussion kits with multiple copies of the same title available to book groups, but not every library can provide this service.)
  3. Book talking doesn’t require a moderator or that discussion questions be prepared.
  4. Each meeting provides several recommended titles for each member’s “to read” list.
  5. Members can often trade books on the spot if a title sounds interesting to another member.
  6. There is a lot of flexibility for groups as far as desired number of members, locations (homes, restaurants, the library, community meeting rooms), etc.
  7. Refreshments can range from pot luck or restaurant fare, from desserts and coffee to wine and cheese, but food and drink enhances the experience!
  8. Book talking can be integrated into an existing group’s discussion format. A twice-a-year book talk session can result in multiple titles to consider for traditional book discussion sessions.
  9. Members can focus on subject areas for specific meetings. For example, Women’s History Month in March, or Christmas titles in December.
  10. Enthusiasm for book talk groups doesn’t seem to waver. Just ask the members of the Ravenous Readers – 20 years and going strong!

I hope to see you one day at a book talk group, or better yet, hear that you have begun one!

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My Mid-Year Five-Star Fiction Favorites

It hardly seems possible that 2017 is more than half over. I have read 27 books so far this year, which is pretty close to my average of one book per week. As mentioned in the “About Me” section, my reading preferences include southern fiction; books about family relationships and friendships; books with connections to Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas; memoir and history. I do read outside my “preferences” and have discovered many wonderful books and authors through recommendations, award nominees and winners, and reading reviews.

I keep track of my books on Goodreads and would encourage you to connect with me there. My ratings on Goodreads and Amazon are rarely lower than four or five stars, because there are so many wonderful books available that I usually won’t continue with a book that doesn’t captivate me in some way. I have also fine-tuned my selection process to the point that most of the books I read please me greatly. That doesn’t mean that they will please every reader; that’s why I’m happy that there are so many to choose from!

 

The Feathered Bone

The Feathered Bone by Julie Cantrell

A young girl disappears on a New Orleans school outing just before Hurricane Katrina.  The tumult and tragedy of the entire city frame the fate of one child during the months, then years that follow.

 

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Flight Patterns by Karen White

Southern women’s fiction at its best.  Two sisters with such a bone to pick that they don’t see each other for ten years, a beautiful mother who isn’t as loony as she seems, and interesting tidbits about beekeeping fill out the plot nicely.

 

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I Will Send Rain by Rae Meadows

A region and a family in crisis. Beautifully-told story of the Dust Bowl with nuggets of truth and wisdom that I won’t forget.  Oklahoma Book Award finalist.

 

Mudbound

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

A superb book, recently released as a movie and already receiving Oscar buzz.  The story of two families — the owners of a Mississippi Delta farm at the end of World War II and the sharecroppers who live and work on it.  Winner of the Bellwether Prize for fiction (promoting social responsibility).

 

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Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Based on accounts of an adoption ring which operated in Memphis from the 1930’s until the 1950’s. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings are stolen from their parents and turned over to an orphanage without fair representation or recourse.

 

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Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

Two families, five decades, two married couples, six children who only agree on their hatred for their parents after the dissolution of two marriages.  Anyone who has been divorced and remarried, been a part of a blended or dysfunctional family, and created their own narrative about the situation will identify with this story and each characters’ interpretations of what happened and why.

 

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The Risen by Ron Rash

A “summer of love” for two teenaged North Carolina brothers comes back to haunt them decades later when the fate of the girl who bewitched them both comes to light.

 

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The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish

Two women of remarkable intellect are separated by centuries but united through history and seventeenth-century documents. The “weight of ink” takes on new meaning through this absorbing and thought-provoking book.

Are you a member of Goodreads? If so, please connect with me there.  In the meantime, consider commenting on your own book selection or ratings method. Please share with anyone who might enjoy any of these reading selections. 

 

 

 

Book Recommendation for June 2017

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This month’s recommended title, By the Book: Writers on Literature and the Literary Life from The New York Times Book Review, is one from a subcategory of books I collect about reading, writing, libraries, bookstores, book collecting, and related subjects.  Many of these books reside on my shelves at home while others are in the branches of our Pioneer Library System.  (Yes, I understand that I don’t personally own the library books, but I consider them mine just the same.  I just don’t have room for all of them to live with me.) The books about what other readers and writers enjoy are among my favorites because they give me insight on their choices and preferences and because I inevitably discover new titles to add to my “must read” list.

I understand that I don’t personally own the library books, but I consider them mine just the same.  I just don’t have room for all of them to live with me.

It took me some time to read By the Book, but that didn’t diminish my pleasure in it. It’s the kind of book that is best taken in small bites; to do otherwise would be, for me, like eating the entire Thanksgiving turkey in one sitting. (I do like turkey and look forward to leftovers. Any perceived implication that authors’ opinions should be compared to helpings of turkey is entirely coincidental).

The layout of the book lends itself to reading about three, four, or ten (the reader’s decision) author responses to many of the same questions. Some typical questions include “When and where do you like to read?”, “What were your favorite books as a child?”, “Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel you were supposed to like and didn’t?”, “If you could require the president to read just one book, what would it be?”

I found that reading about three authors’ responses was what I could absorb without getting them confused. Of course, it helped when an author like David Sedaris followed someone like Colin Powell.

Special sections included compiled responses on subjects such as “My Library”, “On Poetry”, “On Not Having Read”, and “Laugh-Out-Loud Funny”. Sixty-five authors were interviewed for the book, including several of my favorites: Elizabeth Gilbert, Anne Lamott, Marilynne Robinson, Hilary Mantel, Khaled Hosseini, James McBride, Ann Patchett and others.

I will end with my favorite response to the question “If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be”? from Gary Shteyngart: “Definitely Don’t Bump the Glump by Shel Silverstein. It’s about how a great many creatures you encounter will try to eat you, even if you start acting all bipartisan.”

Added Note: Pamela Paul, who edited By the Book, has recently released a new title: My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues. Bob is Paul’s journal, her “book of books” in which she has recorded every book she has read from high school forward. Those of us who record our books in journals or on Goodreads will be interested in the long list of titles, but even more so in the relationship between the Paul and the books she has read.  I have added this title to my own “must read” list.

Reading Resource of the Month: Shelf Awareness is a website and newsletter that helps readers discover the 25 best books of the week, as chosen by booksellers, librarians and other industry experts. They also feature news about books and authors, author interviews and more of interest to readers and book lovers.