“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies…the man who never reads only lives once.”
George R.R. Martin
I remember as a child I would be excited for trips to the library, I would get lost in the different sections and eventually emerge with a stack of books in my hand.
“I’m ready to go!” I’d say with a grin.
My mum would look at the heap I was struggling to carry and suggest we only take half of them because we were walking back home that day. “We can always come back for more azizam.”
After managing to negotiate one more book to take back with me, I was still left with a difficult decision to make.
Which books do I leave behind?!
After careful consideration, I’d return to the shelves and put back the ones that didn’t make the cut. I’d make sure to scribble down their names, so I could pick them up next week (but to be faced with the same dilemma I had encountered that day).
Years later and my love for books grew and it became harder to carry several of them around, especially when travelling, so I invested in a Kindle. Granted, I did miss that new book smell and feeling the pages as I turned them. But I got used to it and it was great to be able to get my hands on a new book on the go without having to seek out the nearest Waterstones.
Over the years, I’ve talked about books with friends who shared the same passion for them. We’d exchange book suggestions and update each other on what we were reading. But that was about it.
Until very recently, when one of my friends suggested starting a book club and meeting once a month to discuss the book we chose to read.
I had never thought about it before and I must admit upon hearing it my mind immediately went to Sex and the City. There were four of them and four of us, all with different personalities, but united in our humour, ambition and love for good food. I imagined we’d all read the book, spend a few minutes discussing how great (or bad) it was and then talk about the things women like to talk about over bottomless brunch.
So, we all agreed to the “Book Club”. Our first meet up was a couple of Fridays ago and it didn’t go how I had thought it would. It was so much better.
But how does it work?
Here are some ideas (we tried to keep it simple):
- Take turns in choosing a book
- Choose a day to meet up and try to stick to it (last Friday of every month aka Pay day is always a good choice)
- Choose a different genre each time – step out of your comfort zone
- Resist discussing before the meetup
- Food must always be present at the meetup
Our first book was, “The Tattooist of Auschwitz.”
I was sold. Any book to do with World War II instantly has my attention, and this one was no exception. It’s based on a true story of the Slovakian Jew, Lali Sokolov, and how he fell in love with a woman (Gita) he tattooed in the camp.
The night started in a bar until we got a text message from Din Tai Fung telling us our table was ready. The food was a m a z i n g. I was in dumpling heaven. Armed with chopsticks and soy sauce we decided to kick off our discussion. Usually, at the end of a book, there is a list of questions designed for book clubs (googling them also works albeit they’re more generic) so we went through those. I was amazed at how deep in conversation we were, in agreement on some points but not on others. What I loved the most was seeing the different ways of thinking and how we linked in ideas from other books and experiences. It was eye opening to learn about the ways we had chosen to read the book (along to music, using audio books or in silence) and how it affected the experience.
We summarised and rated the book by a tour de table. We agreed that one of the most powerful things about it was Lali’s love for Gita, however, the book felt rushed and would have benefited from more detail on important events (Warning! Spoiler Alert) such as how Lali found Gita after the evacuation of Auschwitz or the relationship between Jewish prisoner, Cilka, and the SS officer. It can be argued that this leaves room for the imagination as it was only the recollection of one man’s memory, but perhaps the author (Heather Morris) could have done a bit more digging to fill in the blanks. There were a few significant historical inaccuracies (i.e. around the availability of antibiotics) which inadvertently makes us question how much of the book is fiction, which doesn’t do justice to Lali’s experience in the camp. Having said that, I would definitely recommend this book, I felt incredibly moved by it, but it did have potential to be so much better.
Slightly buzzed from how well our first meetup had gone, we all went to Amorino to celebrate (because it can’t really be a night out if ice-cream isn’t involved). Once the sugar rush kicked in we went to Blame Gloria.
Covent Garden on a Friday night is usually lively and that night was no different. We danced (I will shamelessly admit I love Cha Cha slide) and met new people who were intrigued by the unconventional book club club, which proved to be a great conversation starter (I guess Honoré Balzac was right on another level when he said “Reading brings us unknown friends”).
It was a great night out – filled with food, deep chats and lots of dancing. And I cannot wait for the next one.
For anyone who has ever thought about starting a book club, I would definitely recommend it. On top of everything else I’ve mentioned, it’s another way to have a lot of fun with some of your closest friends.
And if that’s not convinced you then I’ll leave you with a quote I sincerely believe, from the American philosopher, Mortimer J. Adler:
“Reading is a basic tool in living a good life.”
So pick up a book and start living that good life!
(NB. This blog post has used the spelling Lali, as “Gary told the New York Times that it bothered him his father’s name had been misspelled “Lale”, rather than “Lali” in the novel”)