Sunday, October 28, 2012

Websites offer ideas to jazz up book club meetings

Here are a couple of websites that may interest book club members, particularly if you’re hoping to go beyond the average meeting. One of them offers ideas for enriching the meeting experience (this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea), while the other delves more deeply into books and authors. Check these out.

At, there are unique ideas for meeting décor, food, dress and
discussion, all aligned with the book being discussed. For instance, Ann Patchett’s novel, “State of Wonder,” is about a pharmaceutical scientist searching in Brazil for the body of a former colleague. She encounters far more than a tropical paradise. To go with this book, the site suggests recipes for foods typically served in the region, discussion questions, the book’s various ratings, music that may bring the setting to life, and suggestions for decorating the house as a backdrop to the discussion. Thanks to Brenda Yates of Sutton’s Full Court Press book group for suggesting this site; she said the jungle noises she provided “added a nice touch to the ambiance of the party.”

For Chris Bohjalian’s “The Sandcastle Girls,” the “décor” suggestions are more than lame — I mean, how does one outfit the living room for a genocide? — but there’s a useful suggestion for Armenian folk songs and a tempting Armenian menu. The page also includes info on this popular Vermont writer and his other novels.

There is even a page for David Mitchell’s “Cloud Atlas,” (the subject of a newly released film) — journey through past and future — that suggests music and food for your meeting.

A second interesting site is dubbed “library thing.” Two words apply here: free books. Reach it by calling up and browse the interactive options — from listing your favorite books to reviewing new ones, such as J.K. Rowling’s “The Casual Vacancy.” There is always a long list of books available at no cost to members (free to join) interested in posting a review — a lot of readers vie for them, so add your name and see what comes up. Options range from new authors to known writers in fields like mystery, current events, women’s fiction, nonfiction, memoirs, self-help, diet, sports and more.

One of the best features of this site is its linkage to many more blogs, info sources and other book-related materials. It’s easy to find one you like and track it down. On the other hand, if you’re as busy as I am, you may want to focus on one thing and let that be enough. Sometimes, you have to know when to cut the things crying for your attention! (I marvel at some of the bloggers, who claim to read dozens of books a month — just when do they sleep and eat?)

Oh — and if you’re one of those “list makers” out there, the site provides places to list your “books read,” “books loaned,” “books reviewed,” “books owned,” books whatever … Go for it.

Worcester’s Women’s Issues Book Group, affiliated with the National Organization for Women’s Worcester chapter, will discuss works by Jeanette Walls (read either “The Glass Castle: A Memoir” or “Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel”) at its Nov. 12 meeting. Both deal with Walls’ harrowing early life and family, one through a fictional venue, and the former as a memoir. Meetings are held at Barnes & Noble Booksellers, 541 Lincoln St., Worcester, at 7 p.m. on the second Monday each month. The group will also hold its annual Celebration of Worcester Area Women Poets on Dec. 10. No book to read; just come and listen, or read your own work, or the work of local women poets, past or living.

Worcester Audio Journal’s “Speaking Volumes” call-in book group airs on the first Tuesday of the month at 8 p.m. All are welcome to listen live at Past sessions are available online, and include a summary, panel members’ reactions to the book, and callers. For details, plus the archive of past programs, go to

The Reading Group at Levi Heywood Library in Gardner will discuss Bill O’Reilly’s “Killing Lincoln” or James Swanson’s “Manhunt” beginning at 4:30 p.m. Nov. 28. Members may read either one.

On Nov. 6, Shrewsbury’s New Earth Book Club will discuss “The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present in the Life You Have,” by Mark Nepo. Members meet at Shewsbury Public Library at 6:30 p.m.

Author David Gillham will join members of the O’Connor’s Books, Brews and Banter Reading Group at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 28, for dinner and discussion of his novel, “City of Women”— think Berlin in 1943. Since the group is limited in size, membership is by invitation — members meet at O’Connors Restaurant on West Boylston Street. Find details at

Members of Lancaster’s Thayer Memorial Library writers group will read from their work at a 2 to 4 p.m. showcase Nov. 4 in the library on the Town Green. It’s free, and demonstrates how a little boost in creativity makes a writer out of many readers.