Sunday, March 17, 2013

Stacks of Books - Great Group Reads 2013

I’ve been asked why I haven’t posted a blog recently. “Where have you been? What’ve you been up to?” I’d like to say I was meandering the streets of Paris, tasting the wine in Tuscany, or sitting on a white sandy beach with a book and cool libation in hand, working on a tan, but actually I’ve been in my Laz Y Boy reading. Voraciously. I’m honored to be on the Great Group Reads (GGR) committee sponsored by the Women’s National Book Association.

 GGR is a group of members from across the country who decide, after months of reading stacks of novels and memoirs, all submitted by publishers, which books make up the GGR list for 2013. All books have to have been published during the year. The list comes out in October for National Reading Group Month. As it states on their website,,  NRGM fosters the growth and promotes the love of literature. It’s an opportunity for reading groups to reflect on their accomplishments and plan for the future – the perfect time to join or start a group. You’ll find a link to the GGR 2012 list on that site – Happy Reading!

 In February, publishers start sending out the books they’d like to have represented on the Great Group Reads list and we practically put everything else aside and start reading. Roz Reisner, GGR Coordinator, a former librarian and the author of Read On...Life Stories: Reading Lists for Every
 and Jewish American Literature: A Guide to Reading
and author of the blog A Reader’s Place. (, offered me the opportunity to be her assistant, to be a committee of two, who make the original selections. I was thrilled to accept – and still am fifteen books later. It’s fun to go to the mailbox everyday to see what’s waiting for me – almost like when I was in camp and went to “mail-call.” Out of the seventy-five or eighty books we eventually receive, we widdle the list down to fifty.  Then the
publishers send our choices to the rest of the committee and they read – and read
– and make the final cuts bringing the list to twenty. And in October, the list
is presented: on-line, to libraries, to book stores, at events. Take a look at
the website and you’ll see where those events were in 2012 and plan to go in

So, that’s why I haven’t been blogging. At 6:30 this morning the words for this post woke me up and here I am. The house is quiet. My husband is asleep and I’m at the computer. Early morning is my best time to write, but I generally don’t want to leave my warm bed with my honey at my side for a cold computer. I could have picked up Float, the book I’m reading by JoeAnn Hart – yes, for GGR – but didn’t want to have the incandescent bulb shine in the quiet, dark room and disturb my sleeping man.

The first book I read for GGR is The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow by Rita Legansky. I’m not a fan of magical realism, but this book, set in 1950s era Louisiana, I do recommend for book clubs and it is already in stores. Some of the books the publishers send are not out yet, some are advanced copies, and we even received a manuscript the other day. Legansky’s debut novel is a book you can curl up with, as I did. I had my grand-dog cuddled on my lap keeping me warm, as I read. Charley liked the book, too. It was great sleeping time for him. I told him about Bonaventure Arrow, the little boy with a remarkable gift, but Charley only cocked his head to the side and gave me one of those doggie looks – What? No treat? So what are saying?  

 On the subject of dogs, I recently finished reading The Dog Lived (and so will I) by Teresa J. Rhyne.  Marley and Me meets The Art of Racing in the Rain. If you love dogs, you’ll love this book. And if you don’t, it’s a terrific read anyway. The author tells her story of her dog’s and her cancer (I’m not giving anything away – it’s right on the back cover) Topics you’d think would be depressing she somehow makes funny and I laughed as I worried about both Teresa and Seamus – though of course I knew they both survived because she wrote the memoir!

 From the first paragraph of David, by Ray Robertson, I was drawn into the character and his story. David, born a slave in 1847, but raised by a free man in the Elgin Settlement in Canada, which by 1852 housed seventy-five free black families and was studied by Lincoln,  is an arrogant, irreverent, multi-layered s.o.b with a dry, clipped sense of humor. The story constantly jumps from present to past, from David as a middle-aged man to a child, but I found it easy to follow. Book groups will find a great deal to discuss with this little gem.

Since receiving our first book in mid February, Roz and I, together, have read approximately twenty-five or thirty. There’s a stack waiting for me, so I’ve got to go. The publishers are anxious for my opinion. Seriously??!! Do I really hold so much power? For GGR, I guess our committee does. Publishers want to see their books on the list and authors dance when they make it. It means sales, and that’s the name of the game. But for us readers, we just want a good book to curl up with – on a beach chair under an umbrella, with a cup of tea on a comfy chair, in bed tucked under soft blankets – wherever you love to read-  devour the book and enjoy the comfort of a wonderful story.

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