Category Archives: Book Club

12 Books My Book Club Loved

August 4, 2015

book club pics use this oneWhen I was newly married I started a book club. I thought it would be a great way to socialize, get book recommendations, and eat fancy desserts. Because if there’s anything I love as much as a book recommendation, it’s a fancy dessert.

At the first meeting approximately 386 people showed up. We sat on my super ugly couch in my super ugly first apartment and ate crepes that were super ugly but full of Nutella and whipped cream and were therefore deemed a success. The first book we chose was The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. It was an excellent first choice.

At the second meeting a more reasonable 279 people showed up. It was held at a much cuter (and cleaner) apartment and we ate a much cuter dessert that was also very delicious. I looked up a reader’s discussion guide online and we talked about what we’d loved about the book. (The characters! The important themes!) It was a great discussion and we made plans to meet the following month.

[Unfortunately, about 270 of our book club members formally resigned that night. They were super interested in the socializing and the fancy desserts, but it had just come to their attention that the remaining nine of us planned to actually discuss books at our book club meetings.]

That was four years ago. And book club is still one of my most favorite nights of the month. We’ve read many, many books and interestingly, I’ve found that not all good/enjoyable books make good book club books. A good book club book has to be not only good/enjoyable, it has to prompt discussion. Otherwise you’re  going to spend 5 minutes exchanging pleasantries about how lovely the book was and then spend the rest of the night gossiping about where your super hot 6th grade teacher ended up. (She really was super hot, you should have seen her do the Macarena.)

Unfortunately my memory is on par with a goldfish’s, but I’ve pulled together a year’s worth of book club books that I remember inciting interesting discussion and  general admiration:

JANUARY: The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg. Fascinating, and perfect for kicking off your superhero resolutions.

FEBRUARY: Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden. An old one, but so incredibly engaging. One of those stories that stays with you, and the story and culture made for a great discussion.

MARCH: The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. We read this one then watched the movie. Loved it both ways!

APRIL: Between Friends, by Kristy Kiernan. We thought this was just going to be a light read but ended up having one of our best discussions to date.

MAY: The Female Brain, by Louann Brizendine, MD. Step by step look at how our brains form then function. Very interesting and great to talk about with a a group of women.

JUNE: Loving Frank, by Nancy Horan. Our club is a big fan of historical fiction–meaning books based on people and actual events but with some creative liberties. The (true) ending to this story blew our minds.

JULY: The Piano Teacher, by Janice Y.K. Lee. Very interesting setting.

AUGUST: Necessary Lies, by Diane Chamberlaine. Great read with tons of social issues to discuss.

SEPTEMBER: A Girl Named Zippy, by Haven Kimmel. Laugh out loud memoir. A delight and fun to discuss.

OCTOBER: Second Glance, by Jodi Picoult. Something spooky for Halloween.

NOVEMBER: Wild, by Cheryl Strayed. This book is an experience.

DECEMBER: Holidays on Ice, by David Sedaris. This is a (hilarious) collection of essays/short stories, and we actually read it two Decembers in a row. One year we got a hold of an audio version and listened to our favorite story: “Dinah, The Christmas Whore.” If that title doesn’t make you laugh I simply can’t help you.

You Have to Read: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

March 27, 2012

This is a weird book.

You still with me? Because I loved it. I absolutely head over heels loved it. I hope I don’t discredit it by saying that it may not be for everyone, but it certainly was for me. This is the story of Rose, who as a 9 year old takes a big bite of her normally cheerful mother’s homemade lemon cake and tastes her mother’s desperation and despair. She has the gift (and curse) of tasting the emotions of the person who prepares her food.

This is a story quite unlike any other. It is classified as magical realism (which is just like it sounds, a novel based in reality with a touch of unrealistic). There’s also a lot of food in it. And I love to hear people talk about food. I love food and I love words, and it fascinates me to hear people describe taste–something I don’t have the ability to do.

Try this book. I found it rather delicious.

 

You Have to Read: A Yellow Raft in Blue Water

March 8, 2012

Need something awesome to read? Of course you do. In fact, you’ve probably been reduced to reading things like shampoo bottles and that ancient copy of Body for Life you found laying around (you know you’re only reading it to laugh at the spray-tanned “after” pictures that you secretly find inspirational).

Never fear, the green lemon is here.

With a book I wish I could forget about so I could read it again for the first time. But don’t worry. The second time is also good. And the third. And the fourth? I’m not sure. I’ll let you know.

This is a book that shows every angle. A family’s story from the viewpoint of the grandmother, mother and daughter. These are characters you won’t forget.  This is writing you won’t forget. This is a book you should read.

And can we ooh and aah for a minute over this beautiful artwork? It has taken me ages to post it. Possibly because I am intimidated by how utterly perfect I find it. Snarrfish, you are one of the green lemon’s very best friends.

You Have to Read: The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, by Bill Bryson

November 4, 2011


 People, listen up.

I feel the need. The need to read.

Please know that every book I recommend I am downright passionate about. This one is no exception.

I read Bill Bryson’s The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid at the recommendation of my dad who kept referring to a character named “Milton Milton” and then cracking up. Clearly I needed to investigate.

It is a memoir of Bryson’s life growing up in the 50′s smack dab in the middle of suburban USA. He looks at all the ridiculousness of that time period (think people picnicking at nuclear bomb testing sites and bragging about their Nimbus 5000 refrigerators) with such an affection that it made me wish I’d been there to see it.

Hilarious content aside, this man can write. Really really write. I kept getting fixated on sentences that were just so perfect and whitty that I could feel my skin turning a delicate shade of emerald green.

And if all that doesn’t convince you, this book contains the single greatest belly flop scene in the history of American literature. That alone is worth a read.

You can also check out this animated excerpt of the book, which shows one of the funniest scenes in the novel.  Enjoy!

What is the funniest book you have ever read?

Deliciously Girly: Nine Chick Lit Novels I Loved

August 24, 2011

It’s like reality TV without the shame. It’s like calling your best friend to gossip for hours. It’s like reading—in pink. Yes, I’m talking about Chick Lit.

I don’t read a lot of it. Call me snobby, but after years of voracious reading I have little patience with anything I deem so-so. And I’ve found most Chick Lit to be so-so. But every so often I’ve found a gem that has put me on Reading Cloud Nine.

Chick Lit novels get a bad rap for their “light” or “fluffy” content. But I’ve found several that are riveting, insightful, and downright delicious. And there’s nothing wrong with reading something that doesn’t leave you sniveling in the bathtub over a devastating ending.

I’m not saying you’re off the hook for reading more substantial books: autobiographies, memoirs, classics, and really good fiction. But just because Chick Lit books are generally more cupcake than bran muffin doesn’t mean they don’t have their place in a healthy reading diet.

This list constitutes 100% of the chick lit books I have made it through (sure sign that I liked them).

1. Bridget Jones’s Diary, by Helen Fielding

I think about this book at least once a week. The first time I read it I was in high school and I recruited a friend to guide me around the halls between classes so I could read during every free second I had. Good law it is funny. And if you haven’t watched the movie yet, then PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER and go rent it. (Yes, that was yelling.) The second book, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, is just as awesome as the first (particularly the jail/tampon scene—trust me) but the second movie is an absolute abomination. Don’t see it.

2. The Devil Wears Prada: A Novel, by Lauren Weisberger

Okay, fine, so you’ve all seen the movie. But have you read the book? I’m not a particularly fashionable girl, so all the brand-dropping didn’t set my heart a flutter, but this book was great. Andrea, an ambitious but hopelessly style-less young woman become assistant to the terrifying dictator of Runway Magazine—Amanda Priestly. If you thought your boss was bad, read this. The villain is glorious—she makes you want to pull your perfectly highlighted hair out, and the book doesn’t get all wrapped up in a nice, neat package at the end, which I always like.

 3. Something Borrowed /  Something Blue, by Emily Giffin

I read Something Borrowed in about 4 hours. I could not stop reading it. Yes, this is chick lit. But this feels like smart chick lit. I didn’t know if I agreed with anything that was going on in this book (“good girl” Rachel White finds herself entangled with the fiancée of her best but sickeningly overshadowing friend Darcy) and that’s what made it so delicious. Something Blue is also excellent—I might have liked it even better than Something Borrowed. It picks up with Darcy’s side of the story, somehow showing a story you thought you knew in a totally different light.

4. The Nanny Diaries, by Emma Mclaughlin & Nicola Kraus

I read this while working as a nanny so I probably enjoyed this more than I should have, but my goodness this is great. This gives a glimpse into the bizarre world of Manhattan social-light child-rearing. Great characters, great plot, dreamy boyfriend, and some really annoying protagonists. Loved it.

 5. You’ll Never Nanny in this town Again: The True Adventures of a Hollywood Nanny, by Suzanne Hansen

This is a fun read. It’s an autobiography of a woman who was a “nanny to the stars” in LA. Every chapter is headed with celebrity parenting quotes that will make you gasp with righteous indignation. You get all the juicy details of who was great, who was horrifying, and just how awesome the DeVito family is.

 6. Good in Bed, by Jennifer Weiner

Cannie is a late 20 something who after breaking up with her loser boyfriend learns he is writing an article about her using lines such as “loving a larger woman is an act of courage in our world.” She’s devastated, but manages to pull off a pretty awesome comeback.

 7. In Her Shoes, (also) by Jennifer Weiner

You’ve probably seen this movie too. This is a story of two very different sisters—one a beautiful train wreck, the other a practical, unhappy lawyer. When their sisterly bond is devastated by an act of betrayal they both have to find their way.

 8. Little Earthquakes, (yes, another one) by Jennifer Weiner

This is Chick Lit for mothers. Three women meet in a prenatal yoga class and despite their differences become fast friends. Ayinde is a gorgeous, ambitious biracial woman married to an NBA player who she suspects of cheating. Becky is an overweight chef with a mother in law from you-know-where. Kelly, is a super-organized idealist with problems in her past. Their group is joined by Lia, a once-famous actress who leaves her husband unexpectedly. Every single one of their stories could be a book in their own, bring them together, you get Chick Lit magic.

 9. All We Ever Wanted Was Everything: A Novel, by Janelle Brown

This is the story of 3 women—a mother and 2 daughters—trying to survive Silicon Valley. When the family patriarch’s business goes public he announces to his wife that he is leaving her for her tennis partner. Meanwhile, 20 something daughter Margaret struggles to drag herself (and her gigantic credit card debt) into an ideal Hollywood lifestyle, and 14 year old Lizzie gets introduced to the world of men (via other 14 year old boys.) It was either the great story or the picture of the sundae on the front, but I couldn‘t put this one down.

 

Now go get yourself something with frosting, chocolate, sprinkles and/or ice cream and indulge in a little Chick Lit.  It’s good to be a girl. And PLEASE, leave me some recommendations for good chick lit. I am tapped out.

You Have to Read: “One Day” by David Nicholls

August 7, 2011

Right now I feel like I’m made of brownie. Gooey, warm and a tiny bit sad. (Does chocolate taste melancholy to anyone but me?)

Only really good love stories give me this feeling. And I just finished one. It’s called One Day, by David Nicholls.

I just finished the book in a bubble bath (I’ve got to stop doing these, you should see all the library books I’ve ruined), and the ending was so good that even though my water drained and I was sitting in a chilly, empty tub for the last 10 pages I couldn’t move. I had to finish it.

Now that’s a story.

I was drawn to this book by its concept. It is the story of a relationship between two people, Emma and Dexter. But this isn’t your average boy meets girl. Instead of telling what happened (A), which led to (B) and ultimately ended in (C), this story is told over a 20 year span, but only on one day of every year, July 15.

I loved the feeling of being thrown into the story, every July 15, and being made to figure out what was going on. I loved how witty and interesting the characters were. And I loved how real it felt. This is the story not only of a relationship, but of how life turns out different than you’d always imagined. And how you cope with the expectations of who you once thought you’d be.

A couple of lines made my heart stop. More than a few made me laugh. And all of it entertained me. I couldn’t put it down. It was unexpected and refreshing and delightful and…gritty. Did I use that word yet?

But don’t take my word for it, check out this review by Tony Parsons:

A totally brilliant book about the heart breaking gap between the way we were and the way we are… The best weird love story since The Time Traveler’s Wife. Every reader will fall in love with it. And every writer will wish they had written it.

I can tell you one thing, this writer sure wishes she’d written it.

 

You Have to Read: “A Girl Named Zippy” by Haven Kimmel

July 27, 2011

I have an announcement.

And who better to bring you this news than Microsoft Clip Image 427772 “Man in Suit Cheering Into Megaphone.”

You see what I mean.

But here it is: I’m going to be recommending books, and lots of them, right here on The Green Lemon.

My reasons for this are 1) I read an unbelievable amount of books, 2) I am always looking for people to force my book recommendations on, and 3) here you are.

I’m not promising a strict dedication to this new venture, say every Wednesday or twice a month, because if there’s one thing I know about myself it’s that the best way for me to not do something is to claim that I will do it religiously. Some of you may remember the promise I made a few months back to blog every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. And the 3 month void of silence that immediately followed.

I’m starting with something random, but lovely nonetheless.

My book club chose this book last summer. I downloaded it on my iPod and listened to it while taking long, exuberant walks around the neighborhood. This wasn’t my cleverest idea because 1) It made me laugh so hard and so often that I looked like a lunatic, and 2) laughing made my walks less exuberant and less of a rationale for why I could eat an extra Knock Em Naked Brownie.

A Girl Called Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland, Indiana, is a memoir, told through Haven Kimmel’s 3rd grade self, and each chapter is a mini novella about her growing up years. It’s the story of a uniquely magical childhood. I know, normally we’re not interested in that sort of thing. Give us danger, give us grief, give us horror, but whatever you do, don’t give us magical.

But Zippy surprised me, because in each of these little stories she tells about her tiny town, horrible hair and sometimes downright unlovable parents you somehow get that little ache in the back of your throat that reminds you of how good life really can be. And it is so funny. There have been about 7 books that have made me laugh like this.

Take Zippy’s view on Jesus:

“Everyone around me was flat-out in love with him, and who wouldn’t be? He was good with animals, he loved his mother, and he wasn’t afraid of blind people.”

Amen, sister.

Equally as good is Haven Kimmel’s follow up book She Got Up Off the Couch and Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana.

This is the story of Zippy’s mother, who one day after years of hiding from her depression on the couch with a cardboard box of novels and 100 extra pounds, decides to make a change. And off she goes.

Please read these. Or even better, listen to them. If you walk by my house cackling like a lunatic I will at least give you the benefit of the doubt.