Book Club

What We’ve Read

Our list of books read over the past six years can be found here.

Books that were the most successful as club reads, because we enjoyed them and they fostered interesting and vigorous discussions: Atonement, The Trial, Lolita, Reading Lolita in Tehran, Wild Swans.

Books we found difficult either because people had trouble finishing them or because we didn’t have much to say about them: Brick Lane, Invisible Cities, Death Comes to the Archbishop, A House for Mr. Biswas.

I’ll have more to say on the blog.

How We Started

Priscilla and I had originally wanted to read classics together. We both had fairly young children at the time. We decided to start with Plato’s Republic. She succeeded, and I failed.

A few years later she called and asked if I wanted to join a new reading group, I said yes. By then our kids were in high school, and maybe this was what made the difference. At any rate, second time turned out to be the charm.

The group is a lively mix of native New Englanders, emigrées from around the globe, and transplants from not-so-distant places, like New York and Indiana. Our international members hail from Iran and Russia, and members emeritus came originally from China and Egypt. One thing I appreciate is that with this mix of backgrounds we have enlightening, multi-dimensional discussions of world literature and contemporary social divisions, particularly in recent readings of books by Middle Eastern authors.

Who We Are, in order of when we first joined

Priscilla, the founding member, is a Russian scholar who grew up in New England. Her specialty is literature and iconography. She also has trained in the Alexander technique. Her two children–now in their early twenties–went to preschool with my daughters, which is how we met. Her favorite books include: Wild Swans, Embers, Independent People, The Known World, and The Trial.

Mina grew up in Iran. She is a professor of sociology, specializing in gender studies. Two of her three children studied violin with my daughter’s Suzuki violin teacher, so we know each other from umpteen recitals and group lessons. Her favorites included Love in the Time of Cholera and Dreams of Trespass. Her biggest surprise was that she found much more to like in Durrell’s Justine than she had expected.

Mary Ellen, who has four adult children and two grandchildren, is the romantic among us—she likes a good love story. She is an ex-marathon runner (and still cuts a fine figure in a bathing suit!), former nurse, and was recently widowed. She enjoyed The End of the Affair, Wild Swans, and Embers. She’s been pressing us to read Anna Karenina, and maybe someday we will.

Terry is a published poet and a fifth-grade teacher, and has two grown children. Her daughter, now in college, played cello in the high school orchestra with both my daughters. She liked Savage Beauty, Love in the Time of Cholera, and Vindication .

Sveta, currently a real estate agent, grew up in Russia. I admire her tremendously because her English is better than mine, by far. Although she has lived in many countries, she seems to have found a home in Amherst. Her son, who went to high school here, is in college. Pasternak’s poetic prose in Dr. Zhivago, which she read in the original Russian, of course, is at the top of her list, along with Embers, Wild Swans, Wide Sargasso Sea, and The Yacoubian Building .

Barbara is a social historian, a widely published author, and an expert on marriage. Her three children are grown. Middlemarch and The Known World are her favorites of our book club reads.

Olga, our newest member, grew up in Russia. She specializes in conflict resolution, has published scholarly work, and has translated novels from English to Russian. Her favorite of our recent reads: Lolita, All Quiet on the Western Front, and Love in the Time of Cholera.

For my bio you can go elsewhere. My favorites are: Atonement, The Yacoubian Building , and Wide Sargasso Sea (which everyone else, other than Sveta, hated).

Emeritus members:

Betsy is a pediatrician with two grown children, the same age as mine. She recently quit the group to focus on getting a masters in public health. Alas, she’s the one with the projection TV. One of my favorite meetings was the one where she screened the Bollywood film, Bride and Prejudice. She loved A Fine Balance.

Joalie is a former physician. She spent her early childhood in Egypt, but as a Jew she was forced to emigrate with her family after the Six-Day War. She left the Amherst area in search of warmer climates and now lives in Hawaii. She enjoyed The Kite Runner.

3 responses to “Book Club

  1. Congratulations on a wonderful new blog!
    What an amazing group of readers! I’ll bet the discussions are incredible.

    Of course, now you’ll hear from all the devoted fans of Brick Lane, Invisible Cities, Death Comes to the Archbishop, and A House for Mr. Biswas.

  2. I’d love to hear from folks who have different opinions on these novels!

    In fact, Invisible Cities is a wonderful work–just not an easy read.

  3. Yes, it is a wonderful group of readers, fabulous blog! I admire your hard work.
    And I am with Mary Ellen. I think you should read Anna Karenina (in translation!)

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