Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Summer rejuvenation for readers

It's the season of summer reading, and many book clubs take a hiatus, with the intention of reading for pure fun, or future discussion, during the warm months. Gone is the imperative to finish a book before the next monthly meeting. Instead, folks will relax with a book they’ve been meaning to read for months—but couldn’t manage to squeeze between club reads. Or they’ll grab up a potboiler paperback they don’t mind getting a little wet while reading at the pool.
When your group has chosen its readings for late summer or fall, share with us by sending an e-mail to my address, at the end of this column. Let us know the reason for your selections as well, and feel free to send in club updates to be shared. New groups in the central Massachusetts region are also asked to check in!
Writer Hollis Shore of Lancaster facilitates a reading group specifically for writers. The Thayer Memorial Library sponsors this group, which meets every month, beginning in September, from 6 to 8 p.m. on the first Thursday. Members read and discuss a book chosen by Shore, looking at it from a writer’s perspective, with an eye toward writing style, effectiveness, imagery, and other writing methods. There are male and female members, who write everything from poetry to memoir, to fiction and nonfiction. Fall selection will be announced soon. For more information contact Nancy Clune, assistant director of Thayer Memorial Library at 978-368-8928, e-mail Shore at Hollisplus@yahoo.com.
Summer also affords time for exploring new sources of information—and books. Here are a few sources that may prove helpful to readers.
Library Thing, http://www.librarything.com/, is an online community rating, reviewing and passing out books. A clear list of blogs is in use on this 1.5 million-member book group site. And, since there’s power in numbers, the site includes information on where to get free books from publishers, and features giveaway contests as well. Subgroups at librarything break up into dozens of discussion groups, ranging from scifi to children’s books, history, crime, even a group for librarians.
Another innovative way to share and obtain books, for free, is available through bookcrossing.com, a site quite unlike any I’ve seen. It’s a great place to spend a little of that free time this summer. At bookcrossing, members can label a book with its own club i.d., which enables whoever gets it to log in and say where it is now. There are agreed-upon book drop sites, mail exchanges from titles listed on the site, and even something dubbed “wild release.” (We’ve all done it: leaving a book at a Starbucks or coffee house with collection space.) It’s fun to watch your book travel, and obtain some free ones yourself.
Don’t ignore publishers, either.
There are lots of free e-books out there, serving as marketing tools, but publishers’ web sites also offer innovative services to book club readers.
ENC Press (www.encpress.com) offers downloadable pdfs of books in the public domain (copyrited before 1923). There are some gems. Currently, ENC is offering F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Curious Life of Benjamin Bean,” (not at all like the movie starring Brad Pitt), and “The Lost World,” a classic by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Knopfdoubleday.com offers reading groups its own section on their site, with book excerpts, author interviews and now and then a free book. Better yet, the site offers clubs a connection to set up a phone meeting with a Vintage or Anchor Press author, including writers such as Sue Miller, Julia Glass, Ann Packer, Jane Smiley, John Vaillant.
They’re hardly alone. Random House, Penguin Books all offer author interviews, tickets to book events, freebies and chat rooms. HarperCollins.com offers many guides for book groups to use in discussion, or reading, ranging from ethnic topics to biographies, history, the classic writers, contemporary fiction, mother-daughter relationships, nonfiction, spirituality, etc.
These sites also offer free books occasionally to market an author’s latest book. At Bantam Dell, for instance, home to John Grisham, Dean Koontz and Lisa Gardner, offers a chance to win Alan Bradley’s latest Flavia de Luce (“Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie”) mystery, and clues New York City area readers to a special Nov. 17 evening with noted mystery writers.
You just never know what you’ll find. Check out your favorite author’s site as well, for possibilities like free books, fun give-aways and opportunities to have that author talk with your club by Skype or phone, or even in person, next season. For example, Alexander McCall Smith, author of an intriguing (and humorous) collection of mysteries set in Botswana (“The Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency” series) will appear at the Boston Book Festival Oct. 27. His site lists that and other appearances, background, interviews, and more about his popular books (http://www.alexandermccallsmith.com/).
Ann Connery Frantz writes from Lancaster. Contact her at ann.frantz@gmail.com.