Every month, I read a book I don’t choose. No, it’s not some weird library thing. I’m in a book club, duh!
Like most people who enjoy being a member of a book club, I look forward to reading something someone else thinks is good. I hope I’ll come across an author or some ideas I would not have discovered on my own.
And, like many people in book clubs, I find it sometimes doesn’t work out that way.
I like what I like and she likes… something else entirely. I think it’s because people read for very different reasons. Some people read to escape the daily ho-hum. Some want their fiction to soothe the anxieties of modern life, or confirm their view of the world. I like to say I read to learn something new.
So it’s no surprise when conflict arises at book club.
Not long ago, I recommended my book club read “This is How You Lose Her” by Junot Diaz. It’s also my recommendation for you today. Diaz is an acclaimed author who writes from the point of view of a man of the Dominican Republic, which is what he is, actually, in his real life.
Some members of my book club actively disliked it. Some (more than one!) said they stopped reading it before they finished because they found it so unpleasant. (It’s profane. Really profane.)
So why do I recommend it? I’m going to let a professional book critic from the New York Times take over here (because she’s better at it than I am):
“Diaz writes in an idiom so electrifying and distinct it’s practically an act of aggression, at once alarming and enthralling, even erotic in its assertion of sudden intimacy: ‘Dude was figureando hard. Had always been a papi chulo, so of course he dove right back into the grip of his old sucias, snuck them down into the basement whether my mom was home or not.’ ” (Yes, I’m afraid you have to google some to get the full meaning.)
Here’s why I appreciate this book: I believe great novelists are really just writing versions of their life stories. And I treasure the truths I discover in their words – even though they call it fiction. “This is How You Lose Her” reveals the life of a fellow human I would never have understood on my own. I feel like that draws me into the circle of humanity in a good and important way.
A few months later, my book club read “A Man Called Ove”, also the story of a man making his way in this world. Although many people enjoyed reading it (even me, kinda), I learned nothing. The characters, while entertaining, were caricatures; the superficial story read like a screenplay (whattya know – it’s already a movie: ‘a touching, comic crowdpleaser’. Of course.)
Which brings me back to why people read: If you read in search of truth about the human experience, I recommend you read Junot Diaz.
And if you like the idea of belonging to a book club, Ritter has two for adults. Our evening book club takes on those classic titles you never read in school. Read them now with the help of a guided discussion. I promise you’ll learn something new. The afternoon book club reads popular titles. It’s fun and relaxing. Check the clubs’ upcoming books on our calendar. Then, think about why you read, and join one!