Thursday, October 29, 2009

Book Club Exchange - Joanne of Jo-Jo Loves to Read!

Today, I'd like to welcome Joanne from Jo-Jo Loves to Read to Book Club Exchange, a new (and hopefully) regular feature on Booking Mama which highlights anything and everything book club-related! I so enjoy reading about other book clubs and how they got started. Plus, I like to see what everyone else out there is reading each month. I hope you enjoy Joanne's guest post as much as I did!

How Sweet Connections Came To Be

I think it’s interesting how a person’s reading habits and preferred genres evolve as we get older. I did enjoy reading as a teenager, but I can’t say that there was a particular genre that caught my eye. In my early twenties I found myself immersed in historical romances and I couldn’t get enough of those! Finally, in my early thirties, a good friend that I worked with introduced me to more serious fiction and I thank her for opening that door for me! I think that Anita Shreve was one of the first authors that I read during that time and she has been one of my favorites since then.

After a couple of years of reading all of these fabulous books I found myself wanting to do more than read them. Upon completing books like The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreve, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, and Stones From the River by Ursula Hegi, I just wanted to delve into some of the topics these books presented by discussing them with others that read them also. Since I didn’t belong to a book club I kept reading, although a bit uninspired knowing that I was not going to be able to participate in an in-depth conversation upon completing the current book I was reading.

During this period of time, the co-worker that I mentioned earlier was a part of a book group and I remember just hoping that she would invite me to join her group. My feelings of envy grew as she would come into work and tell me about how their latest discussion went. I never did come right out and ask her if I could join her group, but I thought I made it clearly evident that I would love to be a part of it.

Then one summer I was spending a lazy day at the lake with some friends and we started talking about the books that we have been reading. We found ourselves passing books around to each other because it appeared we had similar reading interests. It wasn’t until we had all read Angry Housewives Eating Bon-Bons by Lorna Landvik , at which time I said, “Hey, why don’t we start our own book club?” And it’s all history from there! We’ve just started our sixth year together and we have even added a couple of members along the way.
Our book club started in a September and we basically follow the school year since we do not regularly meet in the summer. We meet the first Wednesday of every month from September to June and we usually have our books selected for at least six months. We don’t have a complicated selection process as we all just bring in ideas and we choose from those. We have found that there are authors that we just love and will definitely read whatever that author publishes next, like Khaled Housseini or Billie Letts. When I think back to our very first meeting at how we struggled to come up with book selections it amazes me, because we certainly don’t have that problem now!

We do have some special get-togethers sometimes, besides our regular monthly meetings. Since we do not meet regularly in the summer we usually choose a date that we will get together and have a dinner and movie night. This will consist of a potluck meal and then we will watch a movie in one of our homes that happened to be a book that we read together. We have also had the opportunity to have author chats over the telephone with some books that we have won. This is always a fun evening as we usually have a potluck dinner before these conference calls. I think our next one is scheduled for February with Joshua Henkin.

We alternate hosting our meetings, so whoever is hosting is in charge of leading the discussion and providing dessert and refreshments. We use discussion questions, but do not limit ourselves to those. I feel that this is a good way to put the hostess at ease if she happens to be a little nervous about leading the group. I usually don’t have a problem finding questions-If they are not available in the book you can sometimes find them at the websites for the author or publisher, and Reading Group also has a great database with over 2800 discussion guides available. This is also a great website to get ideas for future book club selections and even win books for your entire group-we’ve been lucky enough to win a couple different books. We also started using the Book Movement website to post future selections and meetings. This is a helpful website as you can set it up to automatically send meeting reminders to the members and they can just check on-line at any time to find out what they have to read next or three months from now. And they also give away books to entire groups!

As you can tell, I just love my book club and could probably gush on about it all day long! We’ve read some classics, memoirs, mysteries, and literary fiction, and one thing that we have found is that if we find that we really didn’t enjoy reading the book, it usually still provides a great discussion! Some of our favorites include both A Thousand Splendid Suns and The Kite Runner by Khaled Housseini, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See, The Good Earth by Pearl Buck, Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, My Sisters Keeper by Jodi Piccoult, and most recently, Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. You can view a complete list of the books that my group read together on my blog here.

Early on we knew that we would want to have dessert at every meeting so we came up with the name Sweet Connections for our group. And every once and awhile we throw in the comment that we are so grateful that I wasn’t asked to be a part of that other book club! We had the opportunity to meet a few new gals that have joined our group and we really do consider ourselves a family. I honestly love all the ladies in my group and know that we are there for each other if we need it.

Joanne is a recent empty nester as her daughter is starting her first year of college and her son is starting his first year of law school. Besides being a member of the Sweet Connections book club, she also manage her blog, Jo-Jo Loves to Read! She has a full-time job, but being fearful of not having enough to do with her empty nest at home, she decided to take a part-time job at a local video store. She is fortunate enough to live on the beautiful shores of Lake Superior, which unfortunately is a frozen tundra in the winter. But that’s ok, as those cold winter nights are just the best to cuddle up with a cup of hot tea and a good book.

I am so grateful to Joanne for sharing her some of her book club experiences with us. If you are interested in participating in a future Book Club Exchange, please contact me at bookingmama(at)gmail(dot)com.


Unknown said...

This is a fantastic feature on your blog!

I love Jo-Jo's blog but confess I didn't know alot about her book club. I love the story of how it came to be and of how close Jo-Jo is with the women in her book club. That;s wonderful. And Anita Shreve is one of my favorite authors!

Beth F said...

I love the name of Jo-Jo's club! I grew up on the Lakes and I know that some of the best people come that area of the country. Thanks so much for this great guest post.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I love this feature too! And I love the story about hinting and hinting about being invited to join a bookclub - I recognized myself in that story! :--) And I agree, the name of the group is great!

bermudaonion said...

I love Joanne's blog, so I'm wondering where she is in that picture. Her book club sounds like a great group of ladies!

Julie P. said...


I probably should have included this in the post. The picture is part of Kathy's group.

There are actually about 9 regular members but this picture starting from left and going around the table includes Bonnie, Joanne (that's me), Alice, Linda, and Donna.

Jo-Jo said...

Thanks so much for posting about my group today Julie. I'm going to have to send the rest of the book club members here to let them know we are famous!

Serena said...

Wonderful to get to know Jo-JO and her book club. I'm still searching for the write book club...and members.

Amused said...

What a wonderful book club! It was such a good story!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Jo-Jo is an awesome person!
Now I want to go start a book club... or crash hers!

Stephanie said...

I really like this feature! I haven't seen anything like it on other blogs. Thank you for the lovely guest post.

tilliek said...

I just love being apart Sweet Connections. Being 39, a wife and a mother of 6, I didn't think I would have the time to do this but the ladies are like family. Thank you again Joanne for inviting me in. hillary