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Once upon a time, when I belonged to a book club, the last book chosen while I was there was Robin Lane Fox's Pagans and Christians. Despite the title, this is an archaeological book. Fox introduced the first analysis of a document fragment carrying Constatine's signature. The first half of the 1200 page book dealt with the archaeological evidence for the coexistence of pagan and Christian religions, with both at a level of robust vigor previously not recognized by archaeologists.
One section dealt specifically with the previously unrecognized role of women in city munificence and urban expansion. Temple inscriptions showed that powerful wealthy women lay behind the construction of a surprising number of temples and government buildings during this era. The second part analyzed the new fragment and presented Fox's conclusions about Constantine and Christianity.
We chose this book because it was a relevant and interesting examination of archaeological evidence that turned several longstanding misconceptions on their ears. Of special interest to some of us was the upturned misconception of women's universal powerlessness and impotence in all eras of human history.
The Kitchen Houseby Kathleen Grissom. It tells the tale of an Irish immigrant child whose parents fled Ireland during the mid-1800s. She is taken in by a sea captain who owns a plantation in America's Deep South. The novel follows her upbringing by the house slaves of the plantation. We chose it based on the recommendation of a media center specialist and because it provides interesting historical details about the role of the Irish in the South during the pre-Civil War time period.
The latest book we are reading is The Fault in Our Stars authored by John Green. It is considered Young Adult fiction; however, it deals with ultimate questions and is certainly non-patronizing to the reader. Green has the ability to turn a phrase is such a way that realism exudes, and one easily forgets that the book is fiction. This is not a “feel good” book; however, one gains insight into the world of young adults dealing with cancer, deaths of their loved ones, their own deaths, and the disappointments that are inevitable in a lifetime. One of my favorite quotes is from the protagonist, Hazel. “The world is not a wish granting factory.”
The last book club I participated in read Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. We chose this book because it is notorious for its length and complexity. Many readers who have read this book have participated in the "Infinite Summer," in which readers can create a summer-long reading schedule to conquer the book.
My friend, who started our Infinite Jest book club, created a blog and a reading schedule. Each week, my friend wrote a blog post centering around the reading, and members were invited to respond. It was nice because, if anyone got behind on the reading (and many of us did, myself included) we could just catch up and then go back to the missed blog posts.
There are many websites that aid readers in this book and, speaking from experience, they are very helpful. I wouldn't recommend reading it without some kind of cross-references. Reading Infinite Jest is quite the undertaking, but it's a fun one and an adventure!
The last book I read for a book group was Hocus Pocus by Kurt Vonnegut. That book effectively sundered our reading group. Though we had been able to hold interesting conversations on the longer, more straight-forward novel East of Eden, the satirical nature of Vonnegut's work proved too much for our little club.
Not everyone got the sarcasm, the irony, and, basically, the joke.
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