On Books and Book Clubs

Truth time: it’s been a slog these past weeks.  As I dance on the edge of depression, I have taken to “catching” myself being happy so I can keep on the right side of the recovery road.  Books make me happy. I am also happy Craig and I donated a ton of books before we moved, as it makes me feel that some form of our history before The Fire exists.  About 200 of our favorites were burned up, and I don’t have the heart to replace them.  Fortunately, one of my amazing book clubs from Johnson City just gifted me with a Kindle, so I can retrieve the books that “lived” on that device from the cloud.  Presuming curiosity on your part, I will tell you: I am re-reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman and The Last Hope by Nora Roberts. I just picked up Agility at Any Age by a dear college friend Mary Derbyshire about the Alexander technique.  Seeing my Mom who just turned 86 struggle with balance, hurting herself with falls, I want to take the steps NOW to make sure that is not my future.  I toggle back and forth between them, depending on my mood.  I also attempt to read what my boys are reading so we can discuss them, but honestly, the reading list generated by George Washington University is above my pay grade.

In Johnson City, I belonged to two book clubs and they were quite different from one another. One of them was with the Moms of Kids My Kids’ Ages, which we never named.  We always thought about naming it but then drank a lot of wine and never got around to it. We met every other month on a weeknight.  The in-between months were for Bunco with the same group.  As a side note, if you can find your way into a Bunco group I highly recommend it.  You’ll have to sub for a while first, so the Bunco group can determine if you can hang with them.  I was an occasional sub for a few groups, but at the end of the day, never quite cut the mustard (or had the stamina for the late nights) to be in one for real.  Both Book Club and Bunco involved good snacks (I mean Really Good snacks, the kind made with butter and love that you really should only enjoy once a month and then work out steadily until the next debauch), and lots of wine and hilarious conversations, which got funnier as the night went on. Over the course of ten years, we read 60 books, which I find impressive. Most of us read most of the books, and as we were a mixed bag of tastes, the books ran the gamut from 50 Shades of Gray to the The Life of Pi.  I disliked both of those for different reasons, and stopped reading one of them after about two chapters. I’ll let you guess which one.  My favorite book I never would have picked up on my own and read was The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. Thanks Pat!

My other book club met in the afternoons, and had been going for over 45 years when I was invited to join. The addition of myself and a couple of my friends who overlapped with the Moms of Kids My Kids’ Ages group brought the age curve down by 20 years or so, but don’t go getting any preconceived notions.  This is one sharp group, and I felt very lucky to be allowed to join them.  They are dubbed the Questers. The members are women who back in the day burned bras, and went on marches, and who became educators and Senator’s mothers and supporters of the arts.  In Questers we read books and had Programs on various topics. These stretched my intellectual capacity to the fullest – books of poetry and Appalachian Heritage, and History and Real Literature.  I often would sit to the side, observing friendships that had lasted over 60 years, seeing mothers and daughters, dear friends and in-laws who knew who they were and probably where all the bodies are buried.  There is a tone of conversation between women who have known each other for decades which is rarely found, so on my Questers days, I kept my ears open. They had the art of agreeing to disagree down beautifully.  The Questers group embraced me and my dubious intelligence with grace and kindness and very good cookies.  I in return did “different” things like bringing in the designers and actors in from plays I directed, or led conversations about being a Reader in Hollywood and the arcane path a script or book must take to be turned into a movie.  They supported my theatrical endeavors monetarily (Thank you Lynda!) and by showing up at the theatre to see the plays I wrote and/or directed.

My book club friends have been enormously supportive after The Fire.  In the very first days they were calling, writing, texting, sending money. Questers pulled together a large package of hand-picked books, and this past week as mentioned, sent me a Kindle.  I love my new Kindle, not only because I get back the 179 books that lived on the old one, but because it reminds me daily of the kindness, the thoughtfulness, and the love of that remarkable group of women.

Here in Dallas, I recently have been invited to another Book Club, via Masters Swimming.  When the opportunity was extended to me, I was so very grateful.  I haven’t been to it yet, but I have picked up the book for the May meeting, a pretty substantial read by David McCullough called Brave Companions.  I don’t know what sort of group to expect, but am pretty sure I’m going to find thoughtful people, interesting and fun conversation, good snacks and wine.  And that makes me happy.

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5 thoughts on “On Books and Book Clubs”

  1. I LOVED being invited to talk with your book club, and I totally agree with your description of them. I can close my eyes and see those women sitting in that living room, listening to us talk about bringing your play to life and how my Appalachian heritage played such a large part in my inspiration for the set design and character portrayal. I remember being jealous of the opportunity to be in a group like that (afternoon meetings won’t work for me, because career), and I’m not at all surprised to hear of their generosity and the form that it took in the Kindle and books. I am looking at a book club here in town that meets at lunch time. I’m hoping to make that one work and see if I find anything like that group of women. #booksrule
    Glad to read another entry in your blog. I miss you, my friend.

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