One hundred-and-one books make a reasonable reading list.

‘We could start a book club,’ my new friend said. ‘That way we’d get to read a lot of different books.’

‘Good idea,’ said another friend.

‘We could each invite one other person to join,’ I suggested. ‘That way we’d meet new people, too.’

That was eleven years and one hundred-and-one books ago.

The list of one hundred-and-one books
The list of one hundred-and-one books

People have discussed books since humans began to write. This process would have been hastened by invention of mechanical printing technology – the printing press – attributed to the German printer, Johannes Gutenberg, in 1450. We can imagine people who could otherwise not afford to buy a book for themselves sharing the cost and then meeting to discuss the contents of their treasure.

Library/bookshop in the ancient city of Limoges, France
Library/bookshop in the ancient city of Limoges, France

I highly recommend joining a book club as a way for older men and women (and of course people of all ages) to make new friends.A book club can be especially helpful for people whose life circumstances have changed, for example, when grown children move out of home; after retirement or the death of a partner; after downsizing to a new location, moving to a strange town or even to a different state.

Local libraries can usually recommend clubs in their areas and libraries often host their own book clubs. People who are not yet in the habit of reading regularly are welcome – older members  encourage newcomers and share their interest in reading. Some authors post book club notes relating to their books on their web pages and blogs.(See my book club notes page on this site). Notes and questions make it easy for newly formed groups to get started, but after a while you’ll find your group generates its own discussions; these can be quite lively.

Many booksellers provide suggestions for books to read and discounts for the purchase of  bulk orders. Private lending libraries can often provide multiple copies of some books, although the selection is often limited and there is a small fee.

Many authors, including me, are happy to accept invitations to attend meetings and talk with members about our own books and writing in general.

In the beginning, our little group of older women tossed around a few names. We didn’t take the task seriously , and nothing stuck. My daughter’s book club, formed by women whose children were in the local pre-primary school and still going strong after twenty years, calls itself ‘The Wining Women’. Other groups seem to have no problem inventing equally witty names. But after eleven and a half years, we are still ‘the book club’.

 Book club breakfast from left to right, Di Johnson, Coral Newman, Bev Winton and me
Book club breakfast from left to right, Di Johnson, Coral Newman, Bev Winton and me

It seems pretentious that  we said we’d read only books on the Miles Franklin Award lists or on what was then known as the Booker lists. Now our choice is more varied. That’s why we’ve read one-hundred-and-one books so easily.

I’m especially grateful for the support my book club provided during my PhD studies. In the final stages, they kindly agreed to read my book as that month’s book. They were the ‘friendly readers’ for the final drafts of my first memoir. I greatly valued their suggestions and input.

Books for discussion can be chosen in a number of ways. In our club, the hostess for the following month chooses the next book. Because the group is so small, we make sure the others are happy with our suggestion. Our choices reflect our individual tastes and passions. We have lunch, but most book clubs share coffee and biscuits during their meetings.

Random selection of one-hundred-and-one books we have read.
Random selection of one-hundred-and-one books we have read.

In the beginning, we made desultory efforts to increase our numbers but, in the end, decided to stick with the original small group. Sadly, several of the women have since drifted away. That might mean that we can claim we are one of the world’s smallest book clubs!

Over time, we have become much more than book club members. We do read and discuss books; and we pass around photos of weddings and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. We commiserate over each other’s inevitable personal and family heartaches and mishaps, and celebrate joys together.

Our tiny book club suits us. For one thing, with so few members, it is easy to arrange (and often rearrange) meetings to fit in with each other’s commitments – travel, medical appointments, baby-sitting assignments. If we miss a ‘formal’ monthly meeting, those who are available meet for coffee.

In 2013, we read

Montebello  – Robert Drewe (2012)

Whisky Charlie Foxtrot – Annabel Smith (2013)

The Paris Wife  – Paula MacLain (2011)

Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel (2009)

The People Smuggler  – Robin de Respigny (2012)

Lost Voices  – Christopher Koch (2012)

And the Mountains Echoed  – Khaled Hosseini (2013)

Eventide – Kent Haruf (2004)

Eyrie – Tim Winton (2013)

9 replies on “One hundred-and-one books”

  1. This is all so very true about Book Clubs, Maureen. They perform so many vital functions, apart from increasing our reading — support and friendship being high on that list. Sounds like you all hit a winner with your small group. May you still be going and hit the two-hundred-and-two books mark!

    1. Yes, thank you, Louise. I think they are high on the list of things ‘older people’ (whatever that means!) can do to keep themselves active, interactive, sociable and stimulated. Obviously, I really enjoy the group I belong to. We’ve got the next few meetings planned, starting in January, so we are on our way to 202!

  2. Did you like Wolf Hall Maureen? I loved it and Bring out the Bodies. Thought it was a very good relaiming of someone much maligned by history which sucks you in and then you get the slow descent to infamy

    1. Hi, Helen, good to hear from you. Thank you for your comment. Yes, I really enjoyed Wolf Hall. Mantel has an amazing imagination, and writes beautifully. I haven’t read Bring out the Bodies, but it is on my list.

  3. Thanks for another good read Maureen .
    I joined the Dowerin Thursday book club to encourage myself to read a wider variety of books.
    Book club choices are more often than not books I.would NEVER read. Some I really enjoy which makes me happy to have had that challenge, some I read to the end and others I start but don’t finish.
    Sometimes it happens that many of us dont read the book! But there is always a lively discussion whether it’s read or not!
    We’ve been on one ‘jaunt’ as a group, car pooling and Midland for coffee, shopping, and lunch
    We are planning another, travelling to Midland on the Avon Link.commuter train to see a movie of a book we’ve read. This is a real jaunt as the train.leaves Toodyay at 7 am returning to Toodyay, at 6pm..then 45 mins drive home!
    Some of our group have never done the Avon Link – so it’s not only different books we are experiencing!!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Elizabeth. You were in England recently and I missed you when I was privileged to talk about my book at the Dowerin book clubs at a Literary Luncheon. Yours is the third country book club that I’ve heard of that not only reads and discusses books, but also goes on expeditions together. Seven a.m. to seven p.m. sounds like a very long day. But it must be a great group to belong to. You are pretty brave, I think, to confess that you don’t all always read the book!

      1. We’re pretty straight talkers in the country, so if we haven’t read the book we ‘fess up!!!

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