Friday, November 19, 2010

book club dilemmas and gratuitous photos

Last night the Bumble Book Club ran into a dilemma: we couldn't find any new books to read! We're all fairly avid and voracious readers, so the desire to read good books isn't the issue. You know what the issue is? We cannot find any good books to read. We scanned lists and lists of suggested book club picks and settled on Freedom for January, a short story collection for next month and The Hunger Games for March--but beyond that? Nothing. Not a single title grabbed us, not a single book description made us exclaim, "I want to read that one! I've heard it's awesome!"

The trouble, you see, is that we're weary of sad stories. We don't want to read about abuse at the hands of bad parents, Nazis, corrupt governments, evil corporations. We don't want to read about heartbreak, death, depression, illness, or loss. Unlike Oprah, who has a fixation on all books with miserable endings, we want an infusion of lightness and joy in our reading. We want a happy ending. And all the lists of book club reading suggest things like Room (about an abusive parent) or Sarah's Key (Holocaust) or Cutting for Stone (poverty, addiction, betrayal). It's not that these aren't worthwhile topics to explore and discuss, it's just that we believe in balance--we don't want to read only books about Bad Things. We want a little sweetness with our bitter, a little chocolate cake after the steamed broccoli.

Our last book was The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. Well written and fascinating, but the bottom line is this: the book's about a dysfunctional family. So dysfunctional, in fact, that the brother ends up becoming (SPOILER ALERT) a metal folding chair, stored in his sister's closet. I mean, really, is that any way to end a book? Where is the hope? How does one go on? We're collectively sick of the heavy stuff. We're desperately seeking a good book club read that leaves us inspired and optimistic and laughing. Reader, can you suggest anything along those lines?

Now, in other news, that red blob dancing on the corner of the stage is Mr. B's big solo debut at the 1st-2nd grade concert at Happyland Elementary. I'm so proud of him.


Gratuitous photo of Jax and Mr. G and Mr. B:

Oh hell, one more:


That's it, now. No more. Sit.
Happy weekend, reader. And feel free to share any happy, uplifting book titles in the comment box!

27 comments:

  1. Try reading some Young Adult stuff..
    "Out of my Mind" by Susan Draper or "If I Stay" by Gayle Forman
    Did your group read "The Help"?

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  2. You know that's why I read so much garbage aka "series romance". Because who wants to be depressed? I don't watch tv shows or movies like that, so I surely don't want to read those kinds of books either. It's frustrating.

    I did find a good book called "Searching for Pemberley" by Mary Lydon Simonsen. Not your typical Jane Austen fan lit at all. Actually pretty good story set in England and Pennsylvania immediately following WW2. I enjoyed it anyway.

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  3. we are wisconsin wimps...what are we doing living here anyway ?

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  4. The last good booky book that I read was C.S. Lewis' Till We Have Faces. It's a good read, deep in some spots and definitely reflective...not happy go lucky cake, but worth the reflecting. (everything else has seemed to revolve around food...and its depressing what we put in our bodies...I've found that most people would rather stay blissfully ignorant)

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  5. I agree with you about "What to read?" I stood in the bookstore for hours this week, looking for a good book for my trip. Someting you don't want to put down, but isn't depressing. I walked out of the store empty handed. I roam thru Amazon... looking!

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  6. I agree with the YA recommendation. Tamora Pierce writes some good stuff.
    Also, sometimes it is fun to go back and read children's classics
    OR, what about the Sherlock Holmes stories? Then you could have a movie night as well!

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  7. Do you only read non-fiction or fiction also? I particularly enjoyed "Kabbalah: A Love Story" by Lawrence Kushner.

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  8. You will LOVE The Hunger Games! Great story! Have you read any Philippa Gregory - great for historical fiction! And what about Sacred Hearts or The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant? Love Walked In and Belong to Me by Maria De Los Santos are lovely!

    Cutest dog ever, by the way!!

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  9. Yay for Mr. B!! He looks great! ;)

    I'd recommend The School of Essential Ingredients. It's got little bits of sadness, but mostly is inspiring, I think. I loved it.

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  10. I just finished Safe Haven. It wasn't as sad as most Nicholas Sparks books.

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  11. I suppose the Dragon Tattoo series is out, then, if you're looking for happy endings. I liked "The Help." Have you read "Water for Elephants"? Dramatic and surprising.

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  12. what kind of books do you like? have you read shannara books by terry brooks? i read them years ago and thought they were pretty good - if you like druids and stuff like that. or, eugenia price wrote some really good historical fiction stuff - interlaced with real people. she was one of my favorites. or, the outlander series by diana gabaldon.

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  14. my bookclub struggles with the same thing. I'll be interested to check out the suggestions of others. We are definitely stuck in the abusive/dysfunctional family genre, as well as the Nazi Germany genre.

    In other news, Jax is ADORABLE. Thanks for the photos. Is he part flat-coat retriever?

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  15. I have to say that I did not find "Room" depressing--strange, but true. I can't say that about "Freedom."

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  16. Terry Pratchett's Tiffany Aching series is uplifting... but for teens!

    Ummm... I can only think of non-uplifting ones: Half of a Yellow Sun, by Chimamanda Adichie is about Biafra but VERY good.

    I'm reading all the grownup Terry Pratchett books I haven't read yet, because I want to laugh too. Must be in the air. I have a heap of 'To Read' stuff that I've been avoiding: Wolf Hall, White Woman on a Green Bicycle, and others, which all look like they are going to end in tears!

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  17. I agree with Alyssa. The School of Essential Ingredients is a wonderful book. It was the first book in a very long time which made me sit down in the bookstore and get into it. I did not want to stop reading it once I had started.

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  18. The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King

    Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

    Bill Bryson has a new one out, but I can't think of the title right now.

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  19. Get a copy of Book Lust by Nancy Pearl and your book club will have enough suggestions to keep itself busy for years and years.

    If you want something happy--one of the all-time funniest novels ever written is "My Family and Other Animals" by Gerald Durrell, which is also a movie now. I have read it at least fifteen times and it still makes me laugh out loud.

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  20. I finished all of Philippa Gregory series this year. The most recent is very 'art of war' and wasn't as good as her past novels. I found The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society to be a very smart book but it did deal with some depressing subject matter with a twist of sorts. My book now is American Wife - looks to be getting into the depression stage but so far has been a decent read.

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  21. Haven't done much reading lately, I am ashamed to admit. Even my dad thinks I should get back at it, he sent me three books for my birthday. Cannot think of any titles, when I read them, I'll let you know how they are.

    Cute puppy!

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  22. One that I've recommended for our book club this month is "Bel Canto" by Anne Patchett. Don't be fooled by the description -- it's a drama, but strangely uplifting. Also (non-fiction) Three Cups of Tea was amazing, if only to know that there are wonderful people like that out there. Not great for discussion, but still a great read.

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  23. I may steal from these ideas. I went back to my romance series books because I was tired of being depressed. I did read Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt that someone else suggested and really liked it.

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  24. A World Such as Heaven Intended is one step closer to being published! It's a great story with an amazing ending. I'll let you know when I get word back from the publisher. They've asked for an extra month. I'm taking that as a good sign! I'll even come and chat with your book club and sign a few autographs when it's printed! This book would have never been written if it hadn't been for you, my wonderful writing partner!

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  25. I know what you mean. I have been stuck on Jodi Piccoult for a while and while I love her writing, I am always emotionally drained when I get done. I went back and read a Janet Evanovich I had missed. No thinking required!! Of course, not much to discuss there either.

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  26. Have you looked back at any of Madeline L'Engle's grownup books? The Crosswicks Journal was excellent, and certainly not depressing. It's actually three books together: A Circle of Quiet, The Summer of the Great-Grandmother, and The Irrational Season. It's not Boy Meets Girl, but it's uplifting.

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  27. How about The Help by Kathryn Stockett or The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer? The Cailiffs of Baghdad Georgia is a new title that is a good story.

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Spill it, reader.