Book Reviews

The Virtual Book Club

If you have read many of my posts, you might have gathered that I am a big reader. So I’d be a natural for a book club, wouldn’t I?

It turns out that in theory a book club is a great idea, but in practice I can never seem to keep it up. It’s all my fault. I’m just no good at clubs.

Inevitably, I end up getting ticked off with one or members of the club, such as Light Reading Girl (the girl with the perfect manicure, whose children wear matching smocked clothes even at playtime. She suggests that the club devote a month reading and an entire evening discussing such challenging books as “Bergdorf Blondes.”) or Complaining Girl (She is quick to criticize other members’ book suggestions, but oddly, does not offer up any of her own. Her mere presence dampens the festivities, as all other members become afraid to suggest future reading material and become the target of her biting tongue.)

My idea of the perfect club would be one in which I was the queen. (I’m always happiest when I am the queen.) I could suggest good books for others to read, and listen to suggestions from others.

Then it occurred to me that I already have a kingdom, and plenty of visitors who do not fall into the above categories. So every now and then I’ll put out a few books I have loved, and you can do the same. On your own time!

If it makes you feel better, pour yourself a glass of wine and get some cheese and crackers while you join The Virtual Book Club. I have a couple of categories you may not use in your run-of-the-mill book groups.

1. Dusty Books I Should Read But Have Not

You know how there’s a book with a lot of buzz and you just can’t get fired up about it? This happened to me with The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. Everyone I knew recommended it to me, and my sister gave me her copy and I put it on my bedside table. And there it sat. For months and months, until finally I packed only that book on a trip and was forced to read it. Guess what. I loved it. You should read it, too. I know– the cover is boring, and it’s about Afghanistan. Get over it. Just read the first chapter and you might love it, too.

Now, here are a couple of dusty books that are still staring at me, waiting for me to crack the cover. Are they worth it?

Memoirs of a Geisha : A Novel by Arthur Golden

A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin

2. Some all time favorites:

The Secret History by Donna Tartt. I describe it as a cross between “Dead Poet’s Society” and “Lord of the Flies.” I hear her second book wasn’t nearly as good.

Two-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage (The Crosswicks Journal, Book 4) by Madeleine L’Engle – yes, the “Wrinkle in Time” author. A beautiful story of her marriage.

Middlemarch by George Eliot. Long, but worth it.

Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year by Anne Lamott. A must for any new mother, so you know you’re not the only one who has considered throwing that crying baby out the window in the middle of the night.

Second Opinions: Stories of Intuition and Choice in the Changing World of Medicine by Jerome Groopman. I’ve had too much personal experience with doctors and hospitals, and this book drives home the importance of following your intuition, asking questions, and taking charge of your own health care, not simply relying on everything the doctor tells you. Each chapter is a separate patient story, so it is easy to read.

Parent Power! by John Rosemond. He can be hardcore at times, so modify as needed. I have worn out this book with my three boys. And when I watch them break a glass and immediately go get the broom, or sort the laundry into lights and darks, I feel good for myself and my future daughters-in-law. Give yourself permission to make your kids vacuum!

3. The Book That Will Not Die

Many years ago, I read and enjoyed The Alienist by Caleb Carr. It’s a murder mystery set in New York City in the late 1800s. I really thought Bill would like it. He took it on our honeymoon and read two chapters. The next year, he took it to the beach and read the same two chapters. He took it on golf trips (back when he golfed) beach trips, and trips to see his family every holiday. He threw it in the suitcase when we went on out tenth anniversary trip, and did not open it at all.

He still takes it on every vacation we go on, and I am optimistic that he will conquer The Alienist before Finn goes to college.

4. Mindless Beach Read

Daughter of God by Lewis Perdue was a good read. It’s a thriller along the lines of The Rule of Four or The Da Vinci Code, but I thought it was better.

Okay, book club members. I have shared about 1% of my book recommendations with you, so stay tuned for more. In the meantime, help me out!

Anne Glamore, Book Club Queen


  • lisa

    Memoirs of a Geisha was fabulous. So was Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler, Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri (short stories so easy reading) and The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd.

    Now, I have The DaVinci Code on my nightstand (for months), do I read it? I still have books 4 & 5 of Harry Potter to read, an MFK Fisher book and a multitude of others that keep calling my name.

    So many books, so little time…

  • steph

    Thanks for the recommendations! 🙂 Here’s one for you: Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon. It’s a whole series, really, but the first is the best so far (by far!). It falls into the “long, but worth it” category. It’s sort of a romance, but not your typical one. It’s not light, but it is easy to read (and WELL written). If you don’t love it, I’ll buy it from you! (Where are you going to get a deal like that?)

    Other favorites: Contact (Carl Sagan), Out of Africa (Isaak Denisen), The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)…

    I’ve got lots and lots of other books piling up, too. Sooo hard to prioritize…

  • Laurie

    I hated The Secret Life of Bees…but everyone else that I know who read it really enjoyed it. Did I miss some grand underlying message in the book? Was I just too tired to really get into it? Probably both.

    I’m a huge Harry Potter fan and have even taken the time to re-read the series in preparation for July 17th (when book 6 comes out).

    I also really enjoyed The DaVinci Code…and Demons and Angels.

    I’m reading a book on Benjamin Franklin now called The First American, but I can’t remember the author. I’m also reading Blacklist by Sara Paretsky. It’s a good fictional book that requires little to no brain power to consume. Sometimes I just need a book like that to get me through the day!

  • Veselka

    I LOVED Memoirs of a Geisha. It took awhile to get into it, but it was a great view into a world that I never knew existed. Are you ever alone in your car enough to do an Audiobook? That is the easiest way for me to get into books I know I should read. It is better than the radio unless “All Things Considered” is on NPR.

  • Carmen

    I thought I was the only one who hated Secret Life of Bees!

    Outlander is, without a doubt, one of my favorite books. The entir series is wonderful.

    I am, sadly, the person who doesn’t read the books in book club. I hosted it for years at my house, and with kid #6, who has some brain delays and such, the really long hard books were too overwhelming. Rather than make myself feel stupid because I couldn’t get into the books, I quit reading them. I pissed off a member of the club, and so I dropped out. I’ll join your virtual club, as long as I don’t have to report on anything I read.


  • MistressMary

    I am another Secret Life of Bees hater! I am always afraid to say so, because everyone seems to love it. Oh, as long as I’m being honest: DaVinci Code? Hated it.

    I just finished The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad, which is a fascinating look at daily life in Afghanistan – especially the lives of the women. I have just started Name All the Animals by Alison Smith, which I am really enjoying so far.

    The best book I read recently: Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut. Somehow I had missed it in high school and college. It’s really fabulous.

  • Steph

    I had to force myself to read The Kite Runner- finally did and enjoyed it!
    I also liked The Red Tent. If you like historical fiction, I would highly recc The Other Boleyn Girl(about Henry 8th’s wife-Anne and her sister)!!! and The Queen’s Fool both by Philippa Gregory. I have also read the Josphnine Trilogies (about Napolean’s wife)and several books by Tracy Chevalier, one being The Girl with the Pearl Earring. These are great must reads!

    As far as southern authors, The Secret Life of Bees is a warm summer book. The style reminds me of Beach Music by Pat Conroy. If you want to try some other southern authors, Paula Windle recently did a book signing in B’ham. Her book The Rock Orchard is about being a strong southern women! It is funny and contains some great southern ‘quotables’. Years ago, I read the YA Ya’s and Little Alters Everywhere, but have not read the latest one.

    Angels and Demons was better than the DaVinci Code. The plot was not as transparent. ENJOY!

  • Amie

    I, also, did not care for The Secret Life of Bees. I liked The Red Tent, and the DaVinci Code (even more after I read Truth and Fiction in the Da Vinci Code). I enjoy Francine River’s books and also anything by Brodie and Brock Thoene.

  • Chantal

    Memoirs of a Geisha was just so-so for me, but I couldn’t put down the Dan Brown books. I hesitated to read Davinci Code for years to be a reading rebel, but I loved it. Angels and Demons and Deception Point don’t dissappoint either.

    For light fun reads I like Janet Evanovich anything.

    I can’t seem to get any all time favourites out right now, except for Harry Potter of course, but even I had a hard time getting through #5.

  • dollymama

    I’m in a book group and love it. I also write some reviews of books on my blog.

    Recent read that I enjoyed is The Time Traveler’s Wife. Very different, and although it has the time travel in it, it’s not too weird or hard to follow.

    Loved The Goddesses of Kitchen Avenue by Barbara Samuel.

    Anna Quindlen’s Loud and Clear is a great collection of essays that are so well expressed that even if you disagree with the opinions expressed, they are interesting to read.

  • eileen

    book clubs ARE difficult. but reading… oh how i love it. some of my favorites:
    crossing to safety by wallace stegner
    the annunciation by ellen gilchrist
    (literally) everything by anne lamott
    you make me feel like an unnatural woman by judith newman — especially for anything (a) who has gone through IVF and (b) older women with twins. hilarious!