I don’t remember how many years I’ve been a part of my book group. I do know that it has changed over the years. Sometime after I joined, my friend David who is kind of the chair of our group remarked, “We were worried. You were our first Republican. We didn’t know how you would fit in.” It’s true I had backed numerous Republican campaigns, and have over the years voted for numerous Republican candidates for president, but I kind of followed my father’s example who used to say, “I always vote for the best man. He just usually turns out to be a Republican.” I do look at the person, but don’t let gender or color become part of my consideration. The title doesn’t really matter.
Whether I was the start of the change or just have enjoyed the journey I have no idea, but I do like how David’s wife summed up the club. “People used to come at seven-thirty and then they would leave about nine. It was very quiet. Now, people come around seven. There is lots of laughter and sometimes they don’t leave until ten or later.”
The first book I read with the club, which only read non-fiction at the time, was “Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World” – Banana plantations across the globe are being destroyed by a fast-moving blight, with no cure in sight—and to the high-tech labs where new bananas are literally being built in test tubes, in a race to save the world’s most beloved fruit. Every time I eat a banana, I think “how much longer will we have these bananas to eat?” The song, “Yes, We Have No Bananas” was the result of the previous most popular banana, Gros Michel, nearly going extinct sixty or seventy years ago.
I do find non-fiction easier to read than fiction. I can skim . . . read . . . put the book down for days . . . and then finish. Novels, especially long novels with lots of characters just don’t lend themselves to my life style. I forget relationships, plots, and action.
Two of my favorite book suggestions were “Edward Trencom’s Nose: A Novel of History, Dark Intrigue, and Cheese” by Giles Milton and the other was “The Philosophical Baby: What Children’s Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love, and the Meaning of Life” by Alison Gopnik.
Each month a member will host our group. The host provides wine, beer, pop and snacks . . . usually pretty good snacks. The host gets to choose the book for discussion. I found Edward Trencom’s Nose in a small book shop on Meridian during a three day vacation in Puyallup. The book was a funny novel about cheese and the owner of a “fromagerie.” We all have heard about wine experts who can tell you which vineyard a particular select wine comes from and perhaps even what row the grapes were on. Picture a cheese expert who can almost identify the meadow and ewe that gave the milk that became the cheese . . . When I hosted I made fondue and spent a small fortune at Metro Market in the Proctor District for tasty cheeses.
Peg and I get away from home and the office with our short vacations around the Pacific Northwest. We have a chance to relax, sleep, talk, and read on these trips, which we share on nwadventures.us.
I learned of The Philosophical Baby from a science magazine that I picked up while Peg and I were on a three day vacation in downtown Seattle. I don’t remember what I did for the discussion night, but I do remember the reactions. ” . . . there is good reason to believe that babies are actually smarter, more thoughtful, and more conscious than adults. In a lively and accessible tour of the groundbreaking new psychological, neuroscientific, and philosophical developments, Gopnik offers new insight into how babies see the world, and in turn promotes a deeper appreciation for the role of parents in shaping the lives of their children.” Whenever I mention this book, one of our members will roll he eyes and declare “That was the worst book we’ve ever read.” Sometimes I mention the book name just to see him roll his eyes. I’ve seen Gopnick interviewed on TV and seen her research mentioned by Morgan Freeman on one of his science programs.
Sometimes discussions are serious it’s true, but there was only one discussion that actually brought out tears. It was a small group that night. We were gathered around the kitchen table, which would be directly over Peg’s desk downstairs. Eventually, she came upstairs to see what was going on. We were laughing, hooting, and snorting. What are friends for? One of the guys was talking about his love life. You would think we’d be more sympathetic, but . . . no.
The majority of our group members are seniors, and so it is nice sharing thoughts of the times we lived. For example, on the fiftieth anniversary of Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley in Search of America, I suggested that book. It had been an indictment of southern racial attitudes. In light of current events, unfortunately the indictment still stands. At our last meeting, in addition to discussion on the chosen book, we talked about Vietnam because of the latest documentary by Ken Burns, with the focus on that war. We were all affected by the war. Comments keep time with current events.
Our members live in North Tacoma, South Tacoma, Northeast Tacoma, on Raft Island, and somewhere in the woods by Elma-McLeary. We take interest in our fellow bookies, and look forward to the next meeting . . . and the next book.