A few weeks ago, a group of friends and I did the impossible: we had the first meeting of our new book club. That's right, we chose a book, set a meeting date, and, when we gathered at my apartment a month later, not only had everyone finished the book (!) but we actually managed to discuss our inaugural title, Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan, for almost 30 minutes. The book's reception was rather lukewarm but the meeting itself got rave reviews.
As a group of girls who are smart, opinionated, and serious proponents of wine and cheese, a book club is something we have always talked about, and have made a few failed attempts at. And, now that we're into our second book, I have to say that as cheesy and cliché the idea of an all-female book club has become, ours is pretty awesome. Whether or not you love the book at hand, it feels really good to get together with your friends and have an honest discussion about something other than dating woes, being broke, working too hard, crappy weather, or Facebook feeds full of engagements, weddings, and babies. Even if you have amazing, supportive friends who are happy to spend hours talking you through bouts of twenty-something angst, it can be really refreshing to have an intellectual discussion about something outside of your daily grind. Which, unlike in college, just doesn't happen every day.
Winter is the perfect time to tackle some serious (or not so serious) literature. With days getting colder and shorter, spending your Friday night or Sunday afternoon curled up on the couch with a good book, a warm drink, and maybe a fire burning if you're super lucky, seems to me a perfect way to pass the weekend.
I have a running To-Read list, which is overwhelmingly lengthy, but the books below are my current top 5. I'd love to hear some of yours. Finished any must-reads recently? Great book club suggestions? Bring it on!
How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are - Anne Berest, et al.
I had a treat yourself moment a few weeks ago and threw this book in my Amazon shopping cart and am so glad I did. It's everything you would expect from a tongue-in-cheek exposé of the French woman's mystique written by four super chic Parisian women. It's smart, sexy, playful, and, at times pretty insightful. With the holidays right around the corner, How to Be Parisian would make a perfect gift for the woman in your life who has that certain je ne sais quoi.
Night Film - Marisha Pessl
This high-brow(ish) murder mystery has been on my radar for a while now and has since received high praise from people whose literary taste I trust implicitly. Opening on a scene where a young woman is found dead in a warehouse in downtown Manhattan, Night Film has been described to me as a haunting, and highly suspenseful literary thriller. The perfect book to devour over a chilly long weekend.
Kafka on the Shore - Haruki Murakami
I'm embarrassed to say I've never read anything by Murakami but I think that needs to change before the year is over. Kafka on the Shore is a favorite of my friend Sam's, who is a self-proclaimed Murakami super fan, so that seems as good a place as any to start my journey through Murakami's surrealist oeuvre. Plus, any story grounded on a premonition of an Oedipal situation is probably something I could get into.
My Brilliant Friend - Elena Ferrante
The first book in Elena Ferrante's trilogy, which follows the lives of two girls, growing up in Naples in the 1950s, is this month's book club selection and thus, my current read. I'm only 75 pages in so I haven't drawn any major conclusions, but, I did have a woman sitting next to me on the subway platform tell me she had "forced herself" to finish it the night before so...I'm hoping my experience is better than that. So far, My Brilliant Friend has been engaging, vividly portrayed and, contrary to my fellow Brooklynite's experience, totally painless.
The Secret History - Donna Tartt
I know. I haven't read The Secret History. It's weird. My friend Jane has been telling me to read it for over a year and I somehow just haven't gotten around to it. Of Tartt's three novels, this story of a group of New England college students' fall from grace seems to be the most widely adored--as opposed to the highly polarizing The Goldfinch and The Little Friend, which most of my friends have reviewed with a simple "ehhh." I've got a copy of The Secret History sitting on my bookshelf and the moment I close My Brilliant Friend, I'll be cracking the spine on that bad boy.