(or as inspiration to start one!)
Reading is what I do best, so indulge me while I share a list of some of the books I’ve recently enjoyed. And, of course, allow me to extol the pleasures of being part of a book club, which has opened my eyes to so many books I may never have found on my own. Reading the same thing as your coworker or neighbor brings such an enjoyable facet to your own interpretations, and hearing what others thought of the story you just finished is plain delightful.
My Recent Favorites: A Highly Subjective Guide
This is How it Always Is, by Laurie Frankel
Alternate title suggestion: This is How to Win Book Club Picks
This was such a universally highly-praised book in our group that it created one of those magical book club moments where you look around at your peers and think: YES–this “all reading and loving the same book thing” is worth it. It’s a novel with a big heart, impeccable character development, and a fairytale woven into the complexities of a modern family.
The Whisper Man, by Alex North
Well. I started this book, got scared out of my mind, had lots of nightmares, couldn’t finish it, and then the library took it back before I worked up any courage. To be fair, I listened to the audiobook, and found myself constantly playing it while driving in the dark, and just… no. It came from a reliable book recommendation source, and I wanted to push through. I got back on the library waitlist and the second time around, my perseverance paid off. Sure, I opted to listen one weekend while taking long walks in the daylight, but that’s another story. As for this story… it was a dark, twisty, intriguing thriller with characters that got inside you and a plot that made you NEED TO KNOW THE ANSWERS. Worth the nightmares for sure.
Behind Closed Doors, by B.A. Paris
Such an engaging read! You will pick up this psychological thriller, and then not put it down until you are done. But that’s okay—it’s a quickie. The plot is well thought-out and told in an interesting past/present way that gives you just enough hints throughout.
Spoiler alert: their marriage isn’t as perfect as it initially seems.
The Outsider/Mr. Mercedes/Finders Keepers/End of Watch/The Stand… okay fine, I just learned who Stephen King is and it’s revolutionized my life
The Outsider was an office book club pick, and my first novel by Mr. King. It’s a thriller that starts with a gruesome murder in a small town, and pretty quickly goes in unexpected directions. The plot, the characters, and the writing itself opened my eyes to this genre I had so carelessly ruled out until now. Admittedly, I then went on a bit of a King bender, with my favorites being those that had a character tie in to The Outsider (the amazing Bill Hodges trilogy). Two things that I need to reiterate here:
- Everyone in our book club was anxiously asking each other, “did you get to this part yet?” and “what do you think will happen next?” during the month we read this book. It was just such a fun experience (um, minus the actual subject matter…).
- This book did what book clubs do best: opened my eyes to something I would have never chosen myself. And then turned me on to a whole genre of stories that I was shying away from, but now can’t get enough of.
At Home, by Bill Bryson
I love a good non-fiction book. I have been a frequent fan of Mr. Bryson’s travel writing and, of course, A Short History of Nearly Everything. I picked up At Home and was not disappointed. How does an author make everyday household objects utterly fascinating? I don’t know how this guy does it, but I never want him to stop. Full disclosure: I don’t know that I’d pick this for a book club, so maybe just do this one on your own. I suspect you’ll be glad you did.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman
This book. An office book club pick selected by an exceptionally creative designer; I had no idea what to expect when I got started. This book… gave me back something that I didn’t know I had been missing. Neil’s imagination brought such vivid clarity to my own, and the book was not simply read, but experienced. It’s not uncommon for me to read books twice. I read this three times in the last six months, and already know I’ll read it three more times throughout 2020.
There are lots of books I’ve read recently that wouldn’t make my personal favorites list, but were definitely good reads. I find myself saying, after just about every book I consume, “I’m happy I read that.” All of these titles fit that bill; they just might not get a second read by me.
Starting an Office Book Club?
Please do. It’s a great way to interact with your colleagues outside of the day-to-day client work. Some notes on what we’ve found to work well:
- Aim for a consistent day and time–for us, it’s the last Wednesday of the month after work. Being consistent means everyone can setup a recurring event in their calendar and the group isn’t constantly dealing with logistics (except in December–consider this fair warning that you may reschedule your December meeting two or three times and still end up not actually meeting until January).
- Location is key–or, more accurately, limiting the need to travel is key. We have our club right in our conference room, which means nobody has to travel anywhere. The convenience factor definitely helps everyone with scheduling, and it’s kind of nice that by the time book club ends… rush hour is over!
- Decide how to pick–for us, we take turns picking a book, and the picker announces their selection at the previous month’s meeting. Some clubs do a full calendar for the year set in advance, others pick 3 months out… figure out what works for your group.
- Have a snack plan–our arrangement is that whoever is picking the NEXT book brings snacks the month before. So, if Liz picks after me, she’d be supplying her (always epic) cheese plate on the night we discuss my book (she turned us on to this amazing cheese by numbers Instagram account). This plan means you’re buying the supplies once or twice a year and don’t have to worry about a thing the other times–except ensuring that you can take a break from all of the yummy snacks to make some good points about the book. (This should actually be tip #1–sometimes the cheese is more important than the book!)
Whatever your plans are though, the most important thing is to have them. Ensuring everyone is clear on the flow (meeting schedule, location, book selections, snacks) keeps everything running smoothly.
One More Thing
This is something I am going to be pushy about. Get a library card! It’s kind of my mission to drive people to take this simple, yet life-changing step. You can download ten (10!) books at a time, audiobooks are a commuter’s dream, and even a good ole’ hard copy is easy as pie to reserve and pick up. Maximizing your library use has so many benefits, including the fact that it’s guaranteed to get you reading all different things. You’ll be more open to trying a book that is free to borrow, versus making a purchasing decision to add something to your shelf. Might I also suggest you consider giving something back to your library though, if you already do rely on yours as much as I do mine?