The Only Clubbing I Do on Friday Nights

I’m in a book club! I’m 50 and this is only the second book club I’ve belonged to, so you get some idea of what a trend-follower I am. It also tells you something about my social life that we meet on Friday nights and that will now be my most thrilling thing to do on Friday nights.

My new book club is for smart people who like to read books worth reading. We vary in age and everything else, but we all have busy lives that are too filled with things that have the words “pre-soak” and “ASAP” in them. We can’t waste our precious time reading something that doesn’t knock our socks off and make us better people.

The only other book club I’ve belonged to is the Mother Daughter Book Club in New Jersey. It was a select group, invitation only, and we read the best fifth grade reading level books on the market. I use “we” super loosely. The girls and most of the moms read the best fifth grade reading level books on the market. I scanned and sped-read the best fifth grade reading level books on the market at red lights on the way to the book club meetings and in the driveway while the other moms were organizing the craft and setting out theme-related refreshments. I wasn’t always sure what the theme was, especially if there was a price tag covering the description on the back cover.

“You had a whole month to read the book,” my daughter would lecture me, as she tied my shoes and reached over to turn on the car ignition while I flipped pages. “Didn’t you say last month that you were never going to wait until the last minute again? You’d think that incident where you didn’t know the main character’s name in The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle would have taught you a lesson, missy. Now just go in there and fake it the best you can and promise yourself you’ll do better next time.”

It wasn’t my finest hour as a mom.

I’m hoping to do better with this new book club. I’d like to model it after my friend and literature advisor Rick’s book club in Chicago. They read classics and anything that doesn’t bring out the sarcastic criticism in Rick, who can melt cheese with his opinions.

Back at the turn of the century (I love saying that), I was talking to Rick about the new list that had just come out - The 100 Best Books of the 20th Century. We each got a copy and began going over it. Some of them weren’t good enough for him, so we decided to make up our own list. Our summer reading project that year was to make a new list and read as many as we could.

We had a pool back in the late 1900s (love saying that, too), so I spent most of my summer lifeguarding my kids and half the neighborhood children 15 and under, so I checked out a stack of books from the library and spent 2 1/2 months reading The Man in the Iron Mask while blowing up floaties, A Light in the Forest while scooping bugs out of the pool filter, Sons and Lovers while giving fake CPR to the 7-year-old drama queen from across the street (“You’re fine. Now get back in there and yell ‘Marco’ louder!”), and a series of 1930s detective stories (I have no idea how these slipped through Rick’s filter) while applying sunscreen to the non-Italian kids. It was a very confusing summer, what with the variety of genres and the kids realizing that they could do almost anything without me caring, except splash on my book.

Since then, my summer reading projects have been not nearly as focused. One summer I vowed to read Ulysses. It turned out the summer lasted 17 months and, yes, I know it normally doesn’t snow in the summer, but that year it did. I went through an Indian summer once and got so depressed with stories about handicapped urchins begging in the streets of Bombay that to this day, I can’t eat curry with the same zeal. Another summer I got all into the French Revolution and the Elizabethan England era and I read too fast and still have a hard time remembering who was burned at the stake and who was beheaded. (Is it ‘French guillotine and Brits burn’? Or ‘French burn and Brits guillotine’?)

I’m super psyched about my new book club. I will read the books on time. I will not wait until the last minute and cram. I will not buy or download CliffsNotes. I will leave enough time after finishing the book to brush my own teeth before leaving for book club. I will not allow my minor children to run to the liquor store to buy me a bottle of wine to take to the meeting.

I hope I’m successful enough to make it last longer than the summer. The last fall/winter reading project I did was skimming the DVD jacket of The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle.

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