May 6, 2009

Review: Good Books Lately by Ellen Moore and Kira Stevens

BOOK #: 37
RATING: 4 Stars

This gem of a book is a book group's best friend. Moore and Stevens share hundreds of ideas for your book group from reading selections to discussion ideas to how to liven up a serious group to starting your own book group and how to keep it going.

There were so many morsels of wisdom in this book. Take a look at these:

"A reader is not like a critic, who reads for professional judgment. The reader seeks pleasure, enlightenment, self-identification, seduction."

"The whole point of being in a book group is to see the world through someone else's eyes. That happens in discussion, of course, when you discover just how different your friends' reactions to a certain book are from your own. But it starts in the act of reading itself, when by opening the book you open yourself to another human experience that may be nothing like your own."

They discuss passive vs. active reading, with passive reading being basic consumption and active reading being engaged in the story. They discuss what "literary fiction" means. They found a pretty good answer: "Popular fiction gives you all the answers. Literary fiction just makes us ask more and more questions."

There are discussion questions to consider for all kinds of books from historical fiction to Latin American fiction to memoirs. They include information on the background of book groups and salons. They also give helpful tips, collected from real book group members, on everything from how to pick a new location to meet at to dealing with a difficult or unpleasant member.

I picked up several new books for Mt. TBR myself:

  • July's People by Nadine Gordimer: about a white couple in South Africa who have to run for their lives but are dependent on their black servant, July, to get out alive.
  • Moth Smoke by Mohsin Hamid: about a man in Pakistan named Daru who gets fired from his job at a bank, sulks over his failure to keep up with the Land Cruiser and cell phone set, mistreats his servant, falls in love with his best friend's wife, and gets hooked on heroin. Not your typical Eastern culture novel.
  • Homestead by Rosina Lippi: short stories that take place in a tiny, insular, rural Alpine village in a remote corner of Austria. It tells of the intimate domestic details of the village life and how as the twentieth-century moves on, the established traditions and fixed expectations of the villagers becomes increasingly subject to intrusions of the modern world.
  • Flight of the Maidens by Jane Gardam: a tale of three young women coming-of-age in post WWII Britain. It is an "easy" read that nonetheless captures emotions and issues of real and lasting importance.
Go to your local library and borrow this book. It gives greedy readers and book club members a lot to chew on.


  1. I enjoyed this blog and your book recommendations.

    I have added July's People and Moth Smoke to my very long TBR list.

  2. Thanks! My TBR list is very long as well...but 'tis the life of a reader, right!

  3. That's the best definition I've read of the difference between popular and literary fiction. Used to think I only liked popular fiction, but I'm changing a little.

  4. I've just joined a book club and we rotate moderating books so this sounds like a great way to get ideas on how to do so! Thanks for sharing.


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