July’s Reads—Why These Books?

 

The July Reads for The Not So Book Club Book Club!

The July Reads for The Not So Book Club Book Club!

Greetings from Las Vegas, friends!

Currently, I am writing from my hotel’s lobby because my poor hubby desperately needs his beauty rest. The poor guy has been working night after night, clocking in 12 hours shifts in order to break down the massive structures he built for this weekend’s EDC festival. He’s been getting out of work around 6 AM every day, looking as dirty and dusty as if he just stepped right out of The Grapes of Wrath. Anyway, his boss took pity on him (as it is the week of his birthday) and decided to fly me out for support. So, here I am in Vegas, acting as a doting wife (but I guess not doting nearly enough because well… I’m in a lobby writing to all of you). Whatever, he understands–I have book club responsibilities!

I hope this month’s books have been treating you as well as they have been treating me. If you follow the @notsobookclub twitter account, I’m sure you saw that I devoured The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy in basically 24 hours. What a fun book! However, I did hear from one of our NSBCBC members that she was not having as much luck in the speedy reading department. Turns out, she accidentally picked up the version that has all 5 books of the series, compact into one. So sorry, Lauren! I wish I had known about that beforehand. I would have written a warning. But power to you, girl! Keep on reading!

On the plane here I finished Whistling Past the Graveyard and I look forward to chatting with those of you who read it. It was a bit difficult to get through, as history at times is a tough pill to swallow. I still can’t believe there was ever a time where that kind of prejudice existed. However, we all know that sadly it still exists in many places and probably will continue to exist for years to come. Maybe we should drop a copy of Whisting in the mailbox of every racist jerk in America so they can read about how stupid their ridiculous prejudices are… if they can even read.

I also just cracked into Night Film and already I’m hooked. Don’t let the 500+ pages scare you away from tackling this one. Trust me, it moves fast! The interjection of computer screenshots and photos break it up nicely and keeps it very fast paced! In only 40 minutes, I got about 50 pages in. For me, that’s impressive because I’m a really slow reader.

And lastly, for some side “reading,” I’ve been listening to J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy as a book on CD, and let me tell you… it’s anything but Harry Potter. Very adult. Like, rated R adult. Lot’s of sexy talk and cursing, which was something that was very much absent from our beautiful little Hogwarts. I mean, for all the drama that goes down in the world of Harry Potter, it’s amazing that Harry never stood up and shouted “Ya know what assholes?! I’m done with this shit!” Anyway, it’s really great and it is clear that she truly is a fantastic writer worthy of all the accolades she has received throughout her career.

 

The only curses you can find in the Harry Potter series are the kind that kill you. Damn you Voldemort! You dick!

The only curses you can find in the Harry Potter series are the kind that kill you. Damn you Voldemort! Why you gotta be such a dick?!

I also decided to read the Locke and Key graphic novel series, as recommended to me by Michael Ragosta on episode 3 of the Not So Book Club Podcast (The Runaway Comic Train). I’m on the second to last volume and he was definitely right in his description. I can easily imagine it as a Steven Spielberg film, however be warned–its violence is comparable to that of Saving Private Ryan. Little old E.T. would be scared shitness if he found himself in Lovecraft, that’s for sure.

And with that long-winded intro, let’s get to why you’re really here! I present to you the July Not So Book Club Book Club Reads!

 

1.  China Dolls by Lisa See

I have had a mild obsession with Lisa See ever since I read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan almost 8 years ago. But that obsession has only grown, and it came to its peak when I got to meet her at the Huntington Book Revue last week. She was there doing a book signing and lucky for us fans she spoke for about an hour on the writing process of her latest book, China Dolls.

Here I am, meeting Lisa See, and fan-girling hard. Love her!

Here I am, meeting Lisa See at the Huntington Book Revue on June 18th, and fan-girling hard. Love her!

The book follows the friendship of 3 best friends, as they perform as showgirls in San Francisco’s exclusive ‘Oriental’ nightclub, the Forbidden City, during the 1940’s. For those interested in history, the Forbidden City was a real nightclub located in San Francisco and was the first Chinese/American nightclub located outside of San Frans’ busy China Town. The club was host to thousands of American servicemen, with acts such as “The Chinese Ginger Rogers!” and “The Chinese Frank Sinatra!”

The book also explores the always-changing dynamics of friendship, while painting a picture of the pre-and post-WWII view of Chinese and Japanese citizens living in the United States.

To prepare for this book, See spent 3 years compiling research for this book. She traveled around the country interviewing people (many of whom were in their late 80’s and early 90’s) who were present at these nightclubs during the 40’s. The best interview she had was with a performer named Mai Thai Sing (who professionally went by the name Mai Thai). Mai Thai (who is 91 years old now and apparently still very much a wise-cracking, foul-mouthed lady) was a very well-known performer during those times and according to See, had numerous affairs with many of Hollywood’s biggest leading men. You go, Mai Thai!

The beautiful Mai Thai Sing, performing at The Forbidden City nightclub in the early 1940's.

The beautiful Mai Thai Sing, performing at The Forbidden City nightclub in the early 1940’s.

For more information on China Dolls, and the performers of the Forbidden City, visit See’s website, here: http://www.lisasee.com/insidechinadolls/

2. Lost for Words by Edward St. Aubryn

I first saw this book while I was bookstore hopping in NYC. Honestly, I was drawn to the cover. Something about the font drew me in. And then when I read the synopsis, I thought it was a fun world that we haven’t really jumped into quite yet with the book club. So it made the list.

Lost for Words explored the comically dramatic and surprisingly competitive world of professional writers. This satire tells the story of a hand-full of writers, all competing for the Elysian Prize for Literature (aka, the prize that crowns the “best book of the year”). The story begins when the publisher of “brilliant writer and serial heartbreaker” Katherine Burns accidentally submits a cookbook in place of her novel for her entry into the competition. From there, all hell breaks loose and we as readers have a good laugh.

This is kinda what the description of the competition for the Elysian Prize reminded me of. The film Drop Dead Gorgeous, a fantastic satire about the dirty world of small-town beauty pageants. A true classic.

This is kinda what the description of the competition for the Elysian Prize reminded me of—the film Drop Dead Gorgeous—a fantastic satire about the dirty world of small-town beauty pageants. A true classic.

3. Tibetan Peach Pie: A True Account of an Imaginative Life by Tom Robbins

Can you believe it? Despite all the junk I spouted about comedic memoirs, here I am again. I guess despite all my belly aching, I still am drawn to these things with the hope that I will get a laugh out of it. Actually, it was the back cover that got me interested in this one. Writer Tom Robbins starts out right away by acknowledging that he is in fact undeserving of writing and publishing a memoir. He does however make a plea to the reader, saying that although he is a remarkably unremarkable individual, he does a great job making sure all the stories within are humorous and worthy of your attention.

I’ve always been a sucker for modesty (and no, not the kind of modesty that comes from a 15 year old beautiful toothpick of a teenager complaining about “how fat!” she is). I’m talkin’ real, self-aware modesty. And his odd mixture of modesty and confidence was enough to make me intrigued.

A little background on the author—Tom Robbins is an internationally bestselling American novelist, and has written such “wonderfully weird” books including Still Life With Woodpecker, Jitterbug Perfume, and Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates.

So I’ve got my fingers crossed. Perhaps this will be the memoir that will make me sweet on them again.

 

And with that, my friends, are your July Reads!

Stay tuned in the coming weeks as I will have information on how you can get your very own FREE Not So Book Club Book Club book mark! They are currently being printed in the great state of California and I couldn’t be more excited about their coming arrival.

A little preview of the book marks. How cool are these? ........(crickets)...... Whatever guys... I think they're cool!

A little (albeit blurry) preview of the book marks. How cool are these? ……..(crickets)…… Whatever guys… I think they’re cool!

Also, stay tuned for Episode 4 of the Not So Book Club Podcast! Recording had to be postponed due to my unexpected adventure to Las Vegas, but I promise it will be posted in the next 10ish days.

Tons of love and Happy Reading Book Clubbers!

– Nina Sclafani

Founder of the Not So Book Club Book Club

 

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Waging War Against My Biggest Reading Deterrent – My Own Attention Span

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Prior to starting this project, I frequently heard myself telling people that although I loved reading, I never had time to read. Unfortunate right? What a sad situation—a true book lover torn from her beloved novels all because of a busy work/life schedule. Strangely enough, this ultra-busy-never-finding-time-to-read book addict somehow managed to squeeze enough hours out of her day to marathon episodes of “Shahs of Sunset,” followed by “Top Chef,” followed by whatever else was on. And even when I’d watch these shows, I would also be feverishly surfing the Internet. Flying between Facebook, and Reddit, and back to Facebook, I’d see hours of my free time get completely consumed by an onslaught of information—none of which I was actually absorbing. Did I mention I’d also be playing with my phone throughout this entire scenario? Come time for me to buckle down and finally try to read, I couldn’t. My own attention span wouldn’t let me.

 

I had become accustomed to allowing my brain to switch from one thing to the next and lost my ability to focus on one thing at a time. Actually, I felt as though I gave myself ADD. Because ADD runs in my family, I thought maybe it was possible for me to have had it all these years, lying dormant, and that I triggered it by training my brain to become overactive. But luckily, such was not the case.

 

I realized that when I turned off the TV, closed my computer, and moved my phone to another room, I had the capability to read again. But it didn’t happen overnight and in all honesty, it did take a little getting used to. While reading, I would catch myself wondering was that a text I heard? Did someone write me an email? Is Project Runway on? But with time, that stopped. I relearned how to focus my attention on the story in front of me, and allowed myself to become absorbed by the imagery of the book.

 

At the end of the day, I didn’t read because I didn’t have time, but because it required effort and attention. It was like I was choosing to only eat McDonalds, when I had a 5 star meal for me just waiting in the wings. Although the McDonalds was easy, it was never filling. I never remembered what I just consumed. But when I took the time to focus on and enjoy the 5 star meal, I would remember it for years to come. That’s reading for me. It’s the 5 star meal. And although it requires a bit more energy and effort, it is easily worth each and every drop of attention I can give it.

 

Our world is filled with amazing stories. All it takes for the big payoff is a little bit of focus.

December’s Reads

December’s Reads: Why These Books?

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After highly enjoying all three of the November reads, I felt a lot of pressure to deliver three books that would give me as much enjoyment for the month of December. Now, I know it’s impossible to do that (also because something I love, you may not love. The magic of books is that we all can have an opinion about the books and each opinion is valid!) So for December, I tried to add a little variety to the NSBCBC book list. I think (I hope) that these will do the trick.

1. “Rob Delaney: Mother. WIfe. Sister. Human. Warrior. Falcon. Yardstick. Turban. Cabbage.” – by Rob Delaney. Let’s call this a comedy memoir. A few years back I fell madly in love with comedic memoirs. I devoured both Russell Brand’s “Booky Wook” 1 and 2, Sarah Silverman’s “The Bed Wetter,” Tina Fey’s “Bossypants,” and Mindy Kaling’s “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?” I was an addict. Each of these writers had a way of letting the reader in on their lives, even the most dramatic parts, while still allowing the reader to smile and laugh throughout. When I saw that Rob Delaney (easily the funniest man on Twitter. He’s even won Comedy Central award with that title.) had written a book, I knew I had to read it. I had seen him do standup at Caroline’s in NYC, and had laughed at his ridiculously absurd tweets for over a year, so I thought this one would be a winner. He’s a man who has lived a life of addiction, struggle, and intense joy and he saturates his stories with humor and sarcasm. It’s also not a bad idea to check out his twitter to see if you would enjoy his comedy prior to picking up the book. Find him at @robdelaney on Twitter. It’s ridiculous and absolutely hilarious.

2. “An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth” – Col. Chris Hadfield. A few months back, I had heard via reddit.com about an astronaut who was making youtube videos about his experience on the international space station. There was a video of this man performing “Space Oddity” (found here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KaOC9danxNo) and even more videos of him performing mundane tasks but showing how different it would be performing those tasks in space. Then one day I turned on NPR and there he was being interviewed by Terry Gross! As I listened to his descriptions of viewing Earth from space, and seeing the Northern Lights as he orbited around our planet, I was almost brought to tears. He was able to paint such a vivid picture of something that I will never personally be able to experience in my life, but through his words I felt as though I was there. I thought if he could achieve that speaking freely in an interview, I bet he’s a helluva writer. And so his book made the list. Listen to his interview with Terry here:http://www.npr.org/2013/10/30/241830872/astronaut-chris-hadfield-brings-lessons-from-space-down-to-earth

3. “And the Mountains Echoed” – Khaled Hosseini This was an easy pick because I am such a tremendous fan of “The Kite Runner” and “A Thousand Splendid Suns.” Hosseini’s books are so eyeopening and beautifully written. However, if this is anything like the other two, grab a box of tissues. His ability to make the reader feel compassion and empathy for these characters is incredible. I have carried his previous works in my heart for many years, and am more than prepared to make room for his latest.

Feel free to post your thoughts/pictures/videos/blog posts about any of the books we have read or are currently reading on the NSBCBC Facebook wall, Tweet us at @Notsobookclub, and Instagram your experience using the #nsbcbc hashtag!

If you have any books you’d like to recommend for January, feel free to reach out!

Happy reading everyone!

– Nina

So How Are the Books Chosen?

So how are the books chosen? 

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When I started this project there was no real rhyme or reason to the decision making over what books to read. My best friend and I had recently visited a book store, and after strolling around for a half hour, I left that store with three pictures on my iphone of books that I wanted to remember to pick up from the library. 

One of the books (Penumbra) caught my eye because of an interesting cover. It’s really that simple. I judged the book by it’s cover (amateur move), but when I read the back of the book I realized that there was something interesting and exciting about it. So I snapped the picture. Once I did that, it was like I couldn’t escape that book. It was everywhere and at every book store I frequented, there it was sitting on the “employee recommendation” table. And so it officially became a part of the list. 

“Blood, Bones, and Butter” came as a recommendation from said best friend during that first book store trip. I had previously read a few Anthony Bourdain books and loved hearing about life in the hectic restaurant/food world (especially cause I had never worked in a kitchen but am very fond of restaurants). Also, the lovely guest review on the back cover of the book BY Mr. Bourdain sold me. If he loved it, and I loved his work, then it seemed like a match made in foodie-lit heaven. 

“The Night Circus” simply caught my attention because of the name. Whenever Cirque Du Soleil comes to town, you better believe I am buying tickets. I have always enjoyed the strange, magical qualities of that “circus” and from reading the introduction to “The Night Circus,” I felt the same vibe I get from the Cirque shows. I was sold. 

Every month the books I choose have a reason (may it be a cover that inspired me to pick it up, or an NPR interview), but I am going into them as cold as you. I hope that together we can find many positive qualities in each of the books and truly enjoy the experience of reading them together. 

– Nina

About the NSBCBC

So what the heck is this all about?
The Not-So-Book Club Book Club’s purpose is simple-to encourage reading for fun! Have you ever wanted to join a book club but didn’t feel like you had the time to make it to the meetings, or the books weren’t of any interest to you? The NSBCBC eliminates that. The NSBCBC functions entirely online so you never have to leave your home to participate, and the NSBCBC gives you three options every month. You can choose to read however many of them you’d like and participate via Facebook (www.facebook.com/nsbcbc), Instagram (hashtag #nsbcbc), Twitter (@notsobookclub), or WordPress (right here!) only if you feel inspired to do so. There is no pressure. Image
 
Here’s how it works:
Every month, I will post three books to read. You can read however many of them as you’d like. 1 book or all 3, it doesn’t matter because you are choosing to read and that’s great!

If you feel inclined to share any of your thoughts about the books, post on the NSBCBC facebook page, tweet the NSBCBC twitter account, or Instagram your experience using the hashtag #NSBCBC. 

The great thing about reading something along with other people is that we all share in an experience and through that experience, we paint our own pictures of how we see the stories, and we form our own opinions about the stories being told. 

But unlike other book clubs, the Not-So-Book-Club Book Club wants to take the pressure off. Share an opinion or thought about a book if you want to, and if you don’t, then don’t worry, you don’t have to. 

Enjoy reading. Tell your friends. Encourage the sharing of stories. 

Happy reading friends.