Get ready for the first book for the Bucket List Book Club!! I chose A Tree Grows in Brooklyn because I got several responses on Instagram (@texasgirlreads) when I talked about this being on my unread shelf and wanting to make sure I read it this year for The Unread Shelf Project. (Check out my post about The Unread Shelf Project HERE!) Apparently I’m not the only person who hasn’t read it, as I previously thought, and a lot of people want to re-read it this year as well. There was enough interest that I decided to set up a giant, Instagram buddy read of it, and start the Bucket List Book Club as a way for us all to connect and discuss these types of bucket list books together.
If you want to join in on this book, we will be reading it from January 31 to March 1, with a discussion over on my Instagram account the following week. If you’ve already read it, come join us in the discussion! If you plan to read it in the future, the discussion will stay up on my Instagram page, so jump in at any time.
You can also follow the hashtag #bucketlistbookclub on Instagram to see other people’s posts as we get started.
Have you read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn? I’ve had this on my shelf for at least 20 years. My childhood best friend gave it to me in high school, and has been bugging me to read it for longer than that. I’m very happy that I will finally be reading it this year!
I’ll post my review here when I’m finished, and you can also use the comments section on that post, and this one, to discuss it.
Happy reading, and may our unread piles get a little bit smaller in 2018!
But she did not know how to explain what had happened, how everything had changed in just one day, how someone she loved so dearly could be there one minute, and the next minute: gone.
Celeste Ng was a new author to me, but she is certainly at the top of my list now. Everything I Never Told You is a beautiful and heartbreaking novel about family, love, and the secrets people keep from each other. It is solidly literary fiction, but with a mystery, which is one of my favorite genres. So while the subject is certainly a heavy one (a teenager dies), Ng writes about it in a way that will keep up late reading.
“Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” This is the striking beginning to Ng’s story about a Chinese-American family living in Ohio in the 1970s. Lydia is the favorite middle child of James and Marilyn Lee, and when her body is found at the bottom of a nearby lake, no one in her family understands how it could have happened. Throughout the story, we find out how Lydia’s parents met, and what her brother and sister might know about what really happened to her the night she died.
This story broke my heart over and over, but the writing was so good that I had to keep going back in for more. The subject of a child dying was tough to read at times, especially being a parent, but Ng is such a skilled storyteller, and I trusted where she was taking the story. And while the novel does center on a tragedy, it’s really about the bigger picture of familial relationships: husband and wife, parent and child, brother and sister. It is a delicate, poignant look at what it looks like when parents place their own insecurities onto their children, and how negatively that can affect them, even with the best of intentions. Lydia’s parents each placed pressure on her that they didn’t really mean to, without ever asking what she wanted for herself. (And making some rather selfish decisions themselves, which made me angry.) Ng does a wonderful job showing the long-term ripple effect that even the smallest of choices can make.
Everything I Never Told You is a wonderfully-written novel about family and family secrets, long-lost dreams and expectations. If you like literary fiction with a little mystery and a lot of heart, I cannot recommend this one enough.
Celeste Ng’s second novel, Little Fires Everywhere, will be out on September 12, 2017, and you can bet I’m pre-ordering it!
These are some great book club picks!
As a bookish person, it’s surprising to me that I have never been in a book club. The closest I’ve ever come was the way my childhood best friend and I shared our love of books. We talked about books (a lot of Baby-Sitter’s Club, Louise Rennison, and classics such as Bridge to Terebithia), suggested books for each other (I still refuse to read Old Yeller), and viewed each other’s bookshelves as our own personal libraries. Every play date and sleepover ended with trading books, and we still send each other books every once in awhile. (And after her urging me to read it for at least 20 years, I’m finally going to read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn this year.)
All that to say: I decided to start a book club in my neighborhood because we didn’t have one, and I missed talking about books in person! I posted about it and our first book choice, A Man Called Ove, on Instagram and received so many positive comments and questions that I wanted to write about a few things I’ve learned so far about starting a book club from scratch. Hopefully some of this will be helpful to you, and if you have any suggestions for me PLEASE send me a message or leave a comment!
(Read my 5-star review of A Man Called Ove HERE.)
Who Do You Want in Your Book Club?
By this question, I don’t mean for anyone to be ultra-exclusive about their book club membership. But it is helpful if you have people in mind: friends, neighbors, strangers? Decide who you want to ask first! (And if it’s strangers, this could be as simple as posting a flier in your local library with your book pick and meeting there!) I chose my neighborhood because I knew there was a lot of interest in starting a book club.
What Kind of Book Club Do You Want?
What do you want out of your book club? Do you want a serious book discussion with pre-planned questions and no chitchat? Do you prefer a more relaxed discussion, with time for book talk and neighborhood gossip? This decision will probably help determine the answer to the next question.
Where Do You Want to Meet?
If you want to stick to a more serious book discussion, I would suggest meeting with your group at a library-the setting is quiet, you won’t be too distracted, and most libraries have conference rooms available to use for things like this. If you want a relaxed book club, you can get away with a few different locations. Having different people host in their homes each month seems to be the most popular choice, and that’s what our book club is doing. We all bring food and drinks, hang out for a bit, then talk about the book. No planned discussion, unless there’s something specific someone wants to talk about. If you want something even easier, you could meet at a restaurant each month, a coffee shop, a dessert bar, really anywhere with enough seating for your group. (Can you tell that food is a must for me at these events?) You should also decide how often you want to meet, and try to pre-plan meeting dates a couple of months in advance.
How to Pick the Books
This can be tricky. We all want everyone to like the book, but that just doesn’t always happen. My favorite way to choose a book each month is to have whoever is hosting that month pick. (If you’re meeting in a public place, just have people volunteer to choose a book each month.) I like this because it’s a great way to be introduced to books you might not usually go for. In our group, several people were afraid that they wouldn’t like Ove, but they ended up loving the book! (Who wouldn’t?!) You could also theme your book club, or change the theme each year. Best sellers, classics, Modern Mrs. Darcy book club or summer reading picks. The sky is really the limit here.
*A few people in my neighborhood book club wanted to host but didn’t want to pick a book, so they asked for suggestions. I made a list of books (some best sellers, some classics, some lesser-known books) and added it to our Facebook group. If someone doesn’t want to choose a book on their own, they can just pick one from the list! And anyone can add books to the list if they see something interesting, so the list of suggestions is always growing.
Serious or Relaxed, Keep It Organized!
I know, I know, organization. So tedious. But it’s really not! I use a simple spreadsheet in Excel to keep track of members, addresses, who’s hosting each month, which books we’ve picked, our list of book suggestions, and who RSVPs each month. Once you get it set up, it’s so quick and easy to update. Would you all be interested in a free download of this? Let me know!
I also created a private Facebook group for our book club, and I keep it updated with book selections, meeting dates, book suggestions, and a thread for extra discussion for each book. It’s a simple way to keep connected in between meetings.
Are you in a book club? Do you want your book club to be different? Let us know how your book club works and what suggestions you have for making book club even more fun!
If an in-person book club just isn’t an option because of time, location, or any other reason, consider joining the Instagram bookstagram community. (Bookstagram is just a fun name for all the wonderfully bookish accounts there. Mine is @texasgirlreads.) There are so many online book clubs that choose a book each month and discuss on Instagram in the comments. So easy!! (My favorite is @saltwaterreads! We’re reading Cocoa Beach for July’s selection.)[Top]