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What're You Reading This Month?

October 15, 1995

The Book Review invites readers to send us a few paragraphs about their book clubs and particularly to send in lists of the books that have made for the best (and worst) discussions.

Grace Allen, Brawley: If our book club is unique, it is because of its longevity. It was founded in 1938 and has always met twice monthly at 9:30 a.m. in the reviewer's home, October through May. Each member has her own style of reviewing her choice of book; the only specification being that it be nonfiction.

Some of our books: "Music at the White House" by Elise Kirk; "Sleeping Arrangements," a memoir by Laura Cunningham, and "Second Sight" by Robert V. Hine, a moving account of his loss of sight and triumph over such.

Susan Shields, Santa Barbara: Only mothers of preschoolers would invent a book group where you don't actually have to read a book before each meeting. Thus was born 30 years ago our unique book group, in which one member reads a book and then reports on it to the others.

We have reported on "The Toughlove Manual," "Let's Cook It Right," "The Gospel According to Matthew," "Your Child's Self-Esteem" and Helen Hoover Santmyer's "And Ladies of the Club," so that we could compare that literary group with ours.

Christina Jennings, Van Nuys: The name on our bookplates reads Les Liseuses (female readers). Chosen titles range from "London Fields" by Martin Amis and "When Mama Makes Up Her Mind" by Bailey White to four comedies by Aristophanes and "Coming Into the Country" by John McPhee. Some of us read books in their original languages, like "Paula" by Isabel Allende and Camus' "The Plague."

Catherine Anthony Tkach, San Diego: "A Year in Provence" by Peter Mayle evoked tales of college sojourns and honeymoons in Europe. Autobiography has not lent itself to good discussions, whether by nature of the genre or our selections ("Life and Death in Shanghai" by Nien Cheng, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou), which have been penned by people overcoming extraordinary circumstances. Universally loved has been Edith Wharton ("House of Mirth," "Age of Innocence"), with a Wharton evening complete with themed dinner.

Kelly Shobe O'Rourke, Santa Barbara: We choose only books in paperback and have stuck hard and fast to our pizza rule. Our most gripping discussions have come from "World's End" by T.C. Boyle and "The Prince of Tides" by Pat Conroy. When I hear about other book clubs, I wonder about their intellectual names, gourmet menus and Ph.D.-level analysis. Suddenly it becomes as crucial to see my friends as to discuss the allusions to "King Lear" in Jane Smiley's "1,000 Acres." Then I know that never again will I finish a book and think, "I wish I knew someone who's read this book."

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