Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Choose Your Own Adventure Book Club (Adventure 1)

My book club has been meeting for over a year now and we've tried lots of different methods for choosing our books.  When we first started and we didn't know each other as well, we just let one person pick each month.  As we got to know each other better, we started just tossing ideas around.  Then we participated in a six month experience as Book Club Girl ambassadors and chose a book each month from a pool of available titles provided by Harper Collins.

All experiences were good, even when we didn't like the book, but we realized that while we'd discuss the group read for a bit, we spent the majority of our time just talking about everything else we'd been reading.  We have fairly diverse tastes, but there are places of overlap for all of us, so we'd spend hours at each meeting (our meetings are EPIC in length) just talking about books.

We decided after finishing Book Club Girl that we were all feeling pressured in our reading and guilty when we didn't get the assigned book finished.  I should mention here that we are also all in our local FYA Book Club chapter, so we were working with two required books each month.  I'm also in a church group that meets weekly to discuss a book we choose together and of course I've got review commitments here.  It all added up to less enjoyment of the books because we felt pushed to read them.

HAVING to read steals joy, so we came up with a plan.  We'd each brainstorm a list of reading prompts/themes and write them on slips of paper.  Then we'd put them all in my lovely Tardis cookie jar.  Each month we'd choose one prompt and could read anything in any genre that fit that prompt.  At book club we'd just discuss whatever we chose that month as appropriate for the prompt - along with anything else we've read that is amazing.

And so begins the tale of the Choose Your Own Adventure Book Club.  I'm going to post each month what our prompt was and what we each chose, because I'm proud of how clever we are and because it makes for a great book list.  For our inaugural month, we chose "Guilty Pleasures."  Here's the list of what we read:

I spent the entire month waffling between Lace by Shirley Conran, about four elegant sophisticated women living it up in the big city, written in the 80's, and, I was assured, full of scandal and reality-defying escapades,

and Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife by Linda Berdoll, a continuation of Pride and Prejudice that I've heard is absolutely bawdy and terribly written.

Unfortunately I wound up reading neither, since I spent a huge portion of the month with my niece and nephews and just ran out of time and energy for reading something racy and poorly written.  Rest assured, I will still read both of these in my own good time.

Rachel chose For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund.  She's a huge fan of Persuasion and Jane Austen retellings, so this was right up her alley - especially since she thought it was set in space.  It is actually not at all set in space, but she did like it enough to take the second book in the series home with her from my shelf and I've added both books to my TBR list.

Courtney read The Duff  by Kody Keplinger.  We had a book club outing to see the movie and she enjoyed it enough that she decided to indulge herself with a read of the novel, about a teenage girl who struggles with her feelings for a boy who referred to her at one point as the DUFF: Designated Ugly Fat Friend.  It's a YA Contemporary and everyone who had read it seemed to be in agreement that it's awesome.

Halina's guilty pleasure was a reread of a book called Gamer Girl by Mari Mancusi.  She'd read it and loved it, but wanted to try it again to see if it lived up to her memory.  It's about a manga fan who is an outcast at school, but finds herself falling in love in an online game similar to Warcraft.  It's earned a fair share of single stars on Goodreads, but Halina loved it anyway, which made it the perfect guilty pleasure.

And Stephanie is a sucker for rock stars and Wuthering Heights retellings, so she read Catherine by April Lidner.  It's pretty much as it sounds - Wuthering Heights but with Catherine's family owning an exclusive club and Heathcliff as a rock star in the making.  She loved it and it also inspired a great discussion about coming to books (WH in this case) as a teenager versus as an adult and how that affects your reading.  Our conclusion was that the WH type story of obsessive love needs to be read as a fifteen year old girl to be seen as romantic - and that most of us who read it as fifteen year old girls full of angst and longing still love it to this day.

So that's the Choose Your Own Adventure Book Club list of guilty pleasures.  Stay tuned for next month when we'll be reading things from the prompt "Not a novel" - which would include anything from non-fiction to poetry to graphic novels to drama.  I've got quite a list going already!

  What's your favorite guilty pleasure read?


  1. It's interesting to read how different book clubs form, grow and problem solve the concern that so many face--individuals loosing joy by reading what they're really not interested in reading.

  2. This is the best idea EVER. Would you mind terribly if I suggested it to my friend who wants to start a book club locally? We've been hesitant since we have very diverse reading tastes. I think it would make for excellent discussions!

    1. Not at all! We're having so much fun with it and the discussions have been much more lively!