Friday, June 29, 2012

Oprah's Book Club and Mine

As I have been happily ensconced in two book clubs in my life, I can attest to the many pleasures of membership. Twenty two years in my current group has enabled me to know and share life's gifts with some of the wisest and wittiest women anywhere. For many years, we had no name until one evening, at the home of a beloved caterer, we hit upon it at last: Greatest Food Ever Book Club. Our numbers have had to ebb and flow with time, sometimes due to circumstances beyond our control. Yet with all the changes, one constant remains true; we will never be in complete agreement about any given novel. It is the differences of opinion that have provided some of the more irksome and also illuminating evenings. Whether we are at a member's house, or we gather around a table in a restaurant, the conversation is lively, the minds are engaged, and the disagreements fly freely.

What makes people, all reading the same material, vary in their likes and dislikes? As a former English major, we were trained to discuss theme, content and style. Our personal preferences had no place in academia, so I often chafe at those who say they dislike a book, because they do not admire the character. It is the darker strains, the sinners and the sorry who often drive the action of the story, so whether we tend to 'like' them or not, they will be with us forever.

While I have my local group, I often venture into other, larger venues, as it is so pleasurable for me to share in the reading experience with others. To this end, I jumped into the ressurrection of Oprah's hugely successful book club. Her first selection, Wild, by Cheryl Strayed is a fascinating read. Depicting a journey through grief that becomes a literal hike along the Pacific Coast Trail, the author captures the experience with breathtaking clarity. As a veteran of long canoe trips myself, and a person who carried a ninety pound pack, I can vouch for the realism involved in every detail. While on those trips through the wilderness of northern Ontario, I often longed to be able to describe the experience. Lacking both the skill and the time to get enough words on paper, my trip journals tend to be patchy and brief. How much can be said about a walk in the woods? In Strayed's case, plenty, it turns out, and my hat goes off to her for managing a feat that has eluded me. I have not, however traveled alone, but even if I were to attempt such a thing, I still feel I would come up short, compared to Wild.

Oprah Winfrey single handedly changed publishing history with her book club. Most of us choose books through word of mouth. Newspapers, magazines, and interviews come next, but no matter what the marketing budget, nothing tops hearing someone describe their experience. Having a book selected by Oprah can be likened to being tapped on the shoulder with a golden wand. Her greatest success lies in getting people who didn't read, or who had stopped reading years ago, back into the joy of curling up with a good book.

Here at this web site, we love to share old favorites and books we are reading, as well as tips about writing and learning the craft. We hope you will visit us often to keep abreast of the cornucopia of books from which to choose. Have fun and let us know what you think.

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