Monday, 7 November 2011

Book Club - Step by Step

I LOVE my book club. I do. I'm not afraid to admit it. Every 4 to 6 weeks, a group of ladies get together to discuss a book we chose at the last meeting, answer predefined questions, argue, eat, drink and generally leave life at home.

Would you like to experience a little bit of my book club? Then follow along as we go through Meeting #32 of the Artichoke and Asiago Book Club.

1. Who are you?
We are a group of about 12 women [some months we're only 5, others 15, but there is a core of 8 die-hard, never-miss clubbers] ranging in age from 25-60. Lots of different opinions, lots of arguments, lots of experience to draw on.

2. Where do you meet?
Every meeting, we choose who will host the next one. That person is delighted to provide us with appropriate food and libation for the meeting. Sometimes, as in the case of this meeting, the food is themed! Oooh! So, we were treated to various Indian delicacies in addition to the required artichoke and asiago dip.

3. Why #32?
That's the most recent book club meeting I attended. That's right! Over the last 3 years, the Asiago and Artichoke Book Club has met 32 times to discuss a particular book.

4. What do you do?
Our meetings generally follow this flow:
- Gather, gossip and prepare. So while we wait for everyone to arrive, we prepare our drinks, talk about what's happened since the last time we met. (Several people, we only see on book club night, rarely elsewhere.) Eat.
- Call to order. It sounds formal, but really, someone just tells everyone to pipe down so we can begin.
- The host has usually prepared questions (or searched online) related to the book. At the last meeting we discussed: The Secret Daughter, by Shilpi Somaya Gowda. Here is the description from Amazon:
Secret Daughter

On the eve of the monsoons, in a remote Indian village, Kavita gives birth to Asha. But in a culture that favours sons, the only way for Kavita to save her newborn daughter's life is to give her away. It is a decision that will haunt her and her husband for the rest of their lives, even after the arrival of their cherished son. Halfway around the globe, Somer, an American doctor, decides to adopt a child after making the wrenching discovery that she will never have one of her own. When she and her husband Krishnan see a photo of baby Asha from a Mumbai orphanage, they are overwhelmed with emotion for her. Somer knows life will change with the adoption, but is convinced that the love they already feel will overcome all obstacles. Interweaving the stories of Kavita, Somer, and Asha, "Secret Daughter" poignantly explores issues of culture and belonging. Moving between two worlds and two families, one struggling to survive in the fetid slums of Mumbai, the other grappling to forge a cohesive family despite their diverging cultural identities, this powerful debut novel marks the arrival of a fresh talent poised for great success.

We answer the questions in the order they are presented. When we have a large group, there can be some overlapping conversations and we can get quite loud. Mostly though, everyone has a chance to speak without needing to resort to a "talking stick" or similar. While, we're very respectful of each other, we still have differing opinions, and most ladies are not afraid to voice them. Our space is safe so what we talk about in book club, stays in book club. :)

Once we've exhausted the questions, we go around the table and each person has the floor for a couple minutes. We each give our favourite character and why, how well we liked the book (or not) and give it a rating out 5.

This last book, in my opinion, was amazing. For the first 5 or so chapters, I could barely see the words because of the tears. As someone who has gone through miscarriage several times, this reliving/retelling was so accurate, it was, at times, difficult to read through. However, I couldn't put it down once I started. The story was captivating, the characters believable and the descriptions were lush without being wordy. I rated it a rare 5. :)

This is the recap from our elected scribe that night:

Thank you to C. for hosting the last meeting on the 16th. We almost had a full house, so thankfully there was enough food to feed a small army.. and then some. It was all delicious and I apologize if you didn't get a chance to try to the onion dip - I pretty much had the bowl on lock down. 
To recap the last meeting, we discussed The Secret Daughter by Shilipi Somaya Gowda and overall, everyone really liked it. The story had everyone hooked from early on and the flow kept us interested and engaged to the last page. While we're not always fans of some authors switching between different characters' points of view, we thought that style suited this story and the author did in it a way that was easy to follow. The short chapters were pretty excellent and made for an easy read as well. From the relationship struggles, to fertility problems, to the different family dynamics and stresses, there was a lot of emotion that we could relate to. The experiences described may be far outside our world but we could empathize with the characters and they decisions they had to make. Favourites included the strong female characters of Kavita and Sarla and also a few votes for the underdog, Somer. The book finished with a rating of 4.6 (yowza) which puts it as one our highest rated books so far.

Once everyone has said their piece, we take a break to get dessert! After preparing coffee or tea and picking up a cookie or 5, we decide on the next book. We have a box that we fill with titles that we've all agreed on. Once we've picked a title, we ask if anyone has any titles to add to the box. We discuss the merits of each and vote. If the title doesn't get 100% of the votes, it doesn't go in. Having said that, though, we have a LOT of titles in our box. :) We then choose who will host the next book club meeting and when. We keep track of who hosts when so we don't have one or two people hosting all the time. The timeframe has to work with the length of the novel and when people are available. The new host is also responsible for sending out an email with the last meeting recap and a description of the next book.

There you have it. 2.5 hours of awesome, in a few paragraphs. :) Do you have your own book club? How often do you meet? What type of books do you read?


  1. Sounds Awesome! But i wouldn't be able to commit to something like this for a few more years : (

  2. It's not so much a "commitment" as a "come as you are" deal. We have guests every month. :)

  3. Hi, new follower here from MOnday Blog HOp
    Hope you can Follow back


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