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Archive for the ‘Book Club’ Category

I’ve been reading a  lot in French lately.

[My that sounds pretentious. My apologies. I’ve been studying la belle langue for work, and my own pleasure, and I read. Seems logical]

Last fall, I read Ensemble, c’est tout by Anna Gavalda…a lovely story of 4 unlikely friends who find themselves sharing an elegant apartment in Paris for a time. It’s an absolutely lovely book, the characters are fascinating and realistic, and some moments will move you to tears. I mentioned it awhile ago on this blog, where the only thing I really said about it is that they’d made a movie out of it. I’ve since read the book and seen the movie — my suggestion? Forget the film. Find the book. The movie hits the bulk of the plot points without delving into the characters at all deeply — and the characters make the story truly live. (The English title chosen was Hunting and Gathering — odd.)

So then the book L’Élégance du hérisson by Muriel Barbery was recommended to me by my tutor. And I would like to thank her deeply for both (1) pointing me in the direction of this brilliant book and (2) assuming that my French was up to the high-brow erudition of this novel en français!

From the first chapter, first paragraph:

I live alone with my cat, a big lazy tom who has no distinguishing features other than the fact that his paws smell bad when he is annoyed. Neither he nor I make any effort to take part in the social doings of our respective kindred species. Because I am rarely friendly—though always polite—I am not liked, but am tolerated nonetheless: I correspond so very well to what social
prejudice has collectively construed to be a typical French concierge that I am one of the multiple cogs that make the great universal illusion turn, the illusion according to which life has a meaning that can be easily deciphered. And since it has been written somewhere that concierges are old, ugly and
sour, so has it been branded in fiery letters on the pediment of that same imbecilic firmament that the aforementioned concierges have rather large dithering cats who sleep all day on cushions that have been covered with crocheted cases.

(Source: the sample chapter on the US publisher’s site)

So there I was, reading this in French, marveling at the gorgeous sentence structure, and then I got bogged down and unfortunately had to put it aside. I found it in the wonderful English translation, and continued reading…and was not disappointed.

The publisher’s reading group guide is available, for those that enjoy filtering their reading through themes.

Any other suggestions pour des livres en français pour moi?


Deep Economy

Posted on: May 8, 2007

Well, Booktalk.org is at it again. This time, one of the books is Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future by Bill McKibben. (Here’s the link to the Booktalk.org discussion forum.)

This one is hitting me close to home. I worked the opening day of the local Farmers’ Market (I’m the manager), came home, and picked up Deep Economy to read McKibben’s discussion on farmers’ markets — and the studied fact that people have 10 more social interactions there than they do in a supermarket.

I could’ve told  him that!!

McKibben believes in communities — the idea that as individuals we make decisions that (seem to) affect only us, but with an awareness of our community, we make decisions that have deeper consequences. [It’s a big book, lots of ideas, and I’m writing this in an office with no circulation on a hot day at 6 p.m.. Bear with me on my simplistic synopses. 🙂 ]

For example, if I’m just thinking of myself, then I’ll go to the local Walmart and buy the cheapest coffee on the shelf. But, if I were aware of my local community, I’d go to the grocery store in town that may have a higher price tag, but where I know that the management cares about their staff and pay good wages. If I were thinking of the broader community, I’d go out of my way to buy fair trade, shade-grown coffee, and by-pass the big corporations abusing the people of the coffee-growing nations. But, if I were really thinking of the greater community, I’d stop drinking coffee altogether, as the fossil fuels needed to bring that coffee to me, no matter how it’s grown, are damaging our environment. (Plus, they’re running out. Might as well overcome the coffee addiction now, before I’m forced to, down the road!)

This is a huge discussion…that I don’t feel like undertaking at this moment. Perhaps in the comments??


Did you know that we (not le gorille) are the chimp’s closest cousin on the hominid family tree? It’s a fascinating idea…and one of the questions that Jared Diamond’s The Third Chimpanzee is based on: If we are so similar, DNA-wise, what constituted the changes that created us — innovative, artistic, destructive humans?

So far it’s fascinating, somewhat eye-opening, and worth reading. And worth discussing — it’s the latest book for the BookTalk.org crew. We’re getting into it, and while still early in the quarter, some insightful comments have already been made (unfortunately, not necessarily by me!).

Read along with us!

My hubby sent me a link today that he thought might interest me. It’s a post on James Sherrett’s blog, on his website for his book “Up in Ontario”.  The blog post in question is about Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma, and other writing he’s done.

Now, as my loyal reader(s) will know, I’m reading Pollan’s book right now, with the crew at BookTalk.org — and it’s a very readable book.

What you may also know is that I’m currently producing a forum on food security — this book is so damned relevant that I’m going to get a bookstore in town to cross-promote his store with our event, and come to the event with a number of the books to sell.

But what you may not know is that James Sherrett was one of the first presenters at the Shebeen Club in its inaugural first few months (before it had its own name!) — a club that I helped found, and unfortunately, I am no longer close enough to go to every month.

Everything is connected.

BookTalk.org, a wonderful on-line book club, needs an influx of new blood.

  • Are you a discerning reader?
  • Do you enjoy intellectual discussion?
  • Do you write in full sentences with decent spelling? [Alternate question: Are you annoyed by the proliferation of ‘text speak’ on the Internet?]
  • When you disagree with someone, are you prone to engaging that person in calm discussion?

Then BookTalk.org is great for you! Flames, ad hominem attacks, and irrelevance are discouraged, while intelligence, inclusiveness, and freethinking flourish. (Silliness is acceptable, but in it’s rightful place.) Tell ’em I sent ya!
And you’re just in time for the next book discussion! This time it is Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. [Buy it here, to support BookTalk.org]

I’m looking forward to this one, as it reminds me a little of Margaret Visser‘s The Rituals of Dinner and Much Depends on Dinner, where she investigates the cultural history of manners and various foodstuffs.

Pollan, from what I understand of his book, is investigating how our omnivore status has changed over the centuries as agricultural & social concerns mutated. I’m involved with an upcoming conference on the topic of Food Security, and I believe that this will be a useful book to have in my repertoire.

Type “personal essay” into the Google search bar and you get pages upon pages of links to tips on how to write your college/university entrance essay…and lots of people linking to what seems to be the definitive book of essays, Phillip Lopate’s The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present. (Oh, and if you’re of the Book Club ilk, you can even find a book club guide at Random House.)

Funny that. Pretty much exactly how I ended up with a copy of the book in my library. I was working on an application to a grad program, and wanted to write something more than the ‘this is what I’ve been up to’ style essay, so I picked up Lopate’s book, and lost myself in some of the essays. Used some of the rhetorical tricks therein, had a couple of grad student friends give it a vicious going over, and was pretty proud of the end result. (It landed me the interview, but I don’t think I was hungry enough for academia in person.)

I like reading personal narrative essays, in magazines, online…if, and only if, they are good. You all know what I’m talking about — I want meaty insight, intense story, thunderclap of recognition…no wimpy stories about lessons learned from your cat/dog/precocious child.

This ramble today was triggered by my StumblingUpon this essay site: Fresh Yarn: the Online Salon for Personal Essays. I haven’t fully delved yet, maybe you can all help me.

Book Discussion Pages

Here on the Book Nook you can discuss: The Fifth Business by Robertson Davies, as well as the next two books in the Deptford Trilogy, The Manticore and World of Wonders, and if that's not enough for you, see what's up on the forums at BookTalk.org!