Book Club Bytes

17 Sep

I really enjoy reading about what other book clubs are doing, and talking about both of mine.  In spite of my best intentions, I’ve gotten behind on my book club updates again.  Here’s another catch-up post for my Book Club L.

In April, we read

Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace… One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson

My summary:

Greg Mortenson was a mountain climber.  After being rescued by the residents of a small village in Pakistan, he promised to help them build a school for their children.  This effort became a passion for him, as he built schools for kids (primarily girls) that wouldn’t otherwise get an education.

My thoughts

In general, I loved what Mortenson was doing. I just didn’t think the story was told well. I didn’t like the organization of the book, and the telling of the story was disappointing to me at times.

I think it was worth reading because what he did was so amazing.

Book club thoughts

We were united in our admiration for what he was doing, and discussion of that and the challenges he faced took a good chunk of our discussion time.

We were split on our opinion of the writing of the book.  As best I can remember, the two of us that listened to it didn’t think it worked well.  One or two of the people that read the print version also had issues, and the three others with it on paper didn’t agree with our issues, they loved it fairly completely.

Interestingly, we were split on whether the book showed Mortenson’s strengths and flaws, or just concentrated on his best points.  We also speculated some on what didn’t go into the book– in particular, about the effects of his efforts on his personal life, which was mentioned some, but wasn’t a focus of the book.

Our May book was

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


From Goodreads:

In a society where unwanted teens are salvaged for their body parts, three runaways fight the system that would “unwind” them.

Connor’s parents want to be rid of him because he’s a troublemaker. Risa has no parents and is being unwound to cut orphanage costs. Lev’s unwinding has been planned since his birth, as part of his family’s strict religion. Brought together by chance, and kept together by desperation, these three unlikely companions make a harrowing cross-country journey, knowing their lives hang in the balance. If they can survive until their eighteenth birthday, they can’t be harmed — but when every piece of them, from their hands to their hearts, are wanted by a world gone mad, eighteen seems far, far away.

My thoughts

I really enjoyed Unwind, and found it very thought provoking. At the same time, it is one of those YA books where, while I was reading it, I was aware that it was written for an audience younger than me.

I’m fairly good about being able to accept almost any premise. I had to think about the plausibility of this one, and decide to just go with it.

Once I was past that, I thought the characterizations were excellent, the plot interesting, and the issues worth thinking about.

Book Club Thoughts

(Going from memory here) Most of the book club members liked but didn’t love Unwind.  Several found it implausible– they couldn’t quite accept the premise.  At least one found it juvenile, and that got in her way.

One member really didn’t seem to like it at all.  The one point I really remember him making was that he felt the book was an argument for the author’s pro-life views.  (Let me pause here and say that neither of us knows what views the author actually holds.  The book club member thought the book read as though the author was defending that point of view).  That’s not how the book read to me, I thought it was addressing a different set of issues, but neither of us convinced the other.

In June, we discussed

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

I’ve already reviewed Unaccustomed Earth, and I included my book club notes (as well as audiobook notes) in my review.  I’ll just say here that it’s one of my favorite books of the year, and that my book club enjoyed reading and discussing it as well.

July’s book was

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson


Click on the book title above to read what this book is about.

My thoughts

When we discussed The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, it was almost 1.5 years after I’d read it.  I skimmed through it for an hour or so before the meeting to try to refresh my memory.  In general:

A very engrossing read. It was very intense, and explicitly violent at times. Mikael Blomkvist was an interesting character, even if his love life was a little over the top at times. Lisbeth Salander was one of my favorite nerdy, kick-ass characters I’ve run across in a while.

Book club thoughts

We didn’t get much time to talk about this one– we met at the discount movie theater that was still showing this movie even though it was already out on DVD.  We decided reading the subtitles would be easier on the big screen.  We had some business to discuss, and the nearby coffee shop wasn’t open very long after the movie ended.

In general, everyone enjoyed the book, although there were a couple of members that didn’t find it to their taste.  I wish we’d had time to get into it a little more, although I’m not really sure we would have been able to sustain our usual hour of discussion.

And finally, August was

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher


Before Hannah kills herself, she leaves a series of audio cassettes for thirteen people that had key roles in her decision.  Clay is a really nice guy, but he’s also one of the people listed, and this book goes through the tapes with him.

My thoughts

I loved Thirteen Reasons Why (in particular, the audio version) and found it very powerful.  I’d read it (and written my review) several months before we selected this book.

Book Club thoughts

The thoughts on this one were mixed, with most people finding it good but not quite as compelling as I did.

One member had a different take on the events, seeing Hannah as being a highly unreliable narrator, and suspecting that events were very different than we were told.  Most of us were more accepting of her version of events, while acknowledging there are two sides to every story.

When I read the book, I very much related to Hannah.  I don’t think that was true for the rest of my group, with them siding more with Clay or an adult viewpoint.

We had a good discussion of the role of Hannah’s guidance counselor, and one person talked about her own role in counseling someone considering suicide.  It also led us to thinking about what is important to discuss with our own children– must of us have middle schoolers, a few have older children.

I also suggested that if there was time, members consider also reading If I Stay by Gayle Forman, a book that also had a major impact on me.  I found it an interesting pairing because it was also a teen girl reflecting back on her life, but from a very different frame of mind.  We didn’t spend much time on this one, but those that read it really seemed to feel the impact, and appreciate the different perspective.


Next week, we’re discussing Real Life and Liars by Kristina Riggle.  I just finished reading it, and am looking forward to the discussion.  I hope to have my review (with book club notes) up a week or so after the meeting.

Hopefully I’ll have a post similar to this updating my other book club soon!


Posted by on September 17, 2010 in Book Club, books, L, reviews


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

6 responses to “Book Club Bytes

  1. Melissa

    September 17, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    Although I haven’t read Three Cups of Tea, I had similar thoughts about Greg Mortenson’s follow up book, Stones Into Schools. I came away with admiration for what he has accomplished and continues to do, but didn’t think the book was written all that well. You’re not the first to have similar thoughts about Three Cups of Tea.

  2. bermudaonion

    September 17, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    That’s a lot of book club meetings! I’ve heard several people say the same thing as you about Three Cups of Tea, so I haven’t looked for that book. My book club felt pretty much the same way about Thirteen Reasons Why – a lot of different reactions.

  3. dsuzuki

    September 20, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    I enjoyed Unwind. Have you read The Unit? It reminded me of an adult version of Unwind. Again I thought that one was ok but not great.

    • Laura

      September 20, 2010 at 5:04 pm

      We have the Unit on our list of upcoming books!


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