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Book Clubs

October 25, 2013

I’m technically in four book clubs.  Only one is in the physical world, or meatspace, or whatever you want to call it.  It’s actually a book club I run at the book store and we switch off between fiction and non-fiction.
marsThis month we’re reading Packing for Mars by Mary Roach.  It’s an interesting and solid book, although unfortunately dated since it was written in 2010 before the new NASA budget was approved or the Curiosity rover was even launched.  (By the way, I’m a little bit in love with Curiosity.  It’s just so cute.  And leaves messages in its tire tracks.  And it was partially built by one of my professors!  Also, I’ve anthropomorphized it and it’s totally a ‘him‘.)  Felix Baumgartner has done the space jump he was rehearsing for in the book.  It went just fine and you can find it all over YouTube.  It’s hard to know how far we are from a manned mission to Mars, but I can still hope for it.  And yes, if I had the money I’d totally buy a ticket on VirginGalactic.  Next month we’re reading The Cloud Atlas by Liam Callanan.  No, it’s not the one they made a movie out of, although he did an accidental boost in sales.  This Cloud Atlas is set in Alaska during World War II and deals, at least in part, with Japanese balloon bombs.  I haven’t read it yet, so I can’t tell you too much about it.  I’ll let you know how it is next month.
boneshakerThe other three book clubs that I’m in are all hosted on Goodreads.  The first one I joined is the Sword and Laser book club.  I started listening to the podcast and then joined the online book club.  Sword & Laser is a sci-fi/fantasy book club hosted by Tom Merritt and Veronica Belmont.  I’m something of a Veronica Belmont fangirl.  Sword & Laser was on the Geek & Sundry network on YouTube last year, but did not renew their video show for a second year.  However!  They’re doing a kickstarter campaign to produce a second season.  I’ve already backed it because I loved the video show and they have a space dragon named Lem as part of their set.  How could I not back something like that?  This month Sword & Laser is reading Boneshaker by Cherie Priest.  It’s Civil War era steampunk.  Also, there are zombies!
I followed Veronica into her next book club project, Vaginal Fantasy.  It both is and isn’t what you’re thinking.  It’s a sci-fi/fantasy (seeing a pattern yet?) romance book club hosted by Veronica, Felicia Day, Kayla Kazebee, and Bonnie Burton.  The ladies meet once a month (on average) on a Google Hangout to discuss the month’s book and alternate pick.  The club is the brain child of Felicia, who reads at a truly insane rate.  This month the books are Dark Currents and Autumn Bones by Jacqueline Carey.  I’ve already read and enjoyed both of them.  I’m very much looking forward to getting the ladies’ thoughts on them.  I’m betting Bonnie will object to the lack of “sexy times” in book one.
The last book club that I’m a member of is the Nothing But Reading Challenges group.  This one is pretty much what it sounds like.  There are official group reads, Buddy Reads, monthly challenges, and on-going challenges.  You can be as involved or as un-involved as it suits you.  I’m just a hair above being a lurker, but no one seems to mind.
I’m even thinking about starting another book club.  I enjoy running a book club, but the Little Professor club members are not particularly interested in sci-fi and fantasy, which I am.  That’s probably pretty obvious if you’ve been on this blog much.  So, I’m considering starting another group in January that focuses on sci-fi and fantasy.  I’m thinking of starting off with Hounded.  Anyone in the are is welcome to weigh in or join in the fun.

labyrinthBut, here’s the thing about book clubs… You’re not an autonomous reader once you’re in a book club.  You’re reading things that other people have had a hand in selecting.  Even in the book club that I run I don’t get to be a dictatrix.  I pick out a selection of books and then the club in general votes on which one to read.  I have very little input in the other clubs; even in the ones where we do vote I’m just one voice among thousands.  It’s a trade-off.  I have a certain amount of accountability, which helps me to read things I wouldn’t normally choose to, but at the same time I have to read things that I’m not necessarily interested in.  I don’t tend to read non-fiction outside of my book club obligations.  The rare exception to this was The Riddle of the Labyrinth by Margalit Fox.  It’s a fascinating examination of the efforts to decipher Linear B and the American woman who made major, though forgotten contributions to the efforts.  If you’re at all interested in archaeology or linguistics I recommend it.  It’s very readable, though very biased in favor of Alice Kober, the forgotten American researcher.
I’ll be honest, I don’t always finish my book club books.  (I’m sure you’re shocked.)  I should probably feel bad, since I don’t have to be in any of the book clubs, but here’s the thing… I finished every book I ever started all the way through college with very few exceptions (The Brothers Karamazov and Ivanhoe being two notable exceptions.)  And, frankly, life is too short to read books you don’t enjoy.  I’m not really better for having slogged through most of them.  So now I have a pretty firm rule, unless it’s for the book club I actually run I’ll give a book 100 pages.  If I can’t take it after that I get to put it aside and move on to something else.  I’m probably missing out one some things, but I’ll never live long enough to read all the books I want to anyway, so I suppose if a few slip through my fingers, it’s not the end of the world.
How about you?  Are you in a book club?  Do you always finish the books you start?

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