A Book Club Dinner Party

Last Thursday was my in-person book club’s annual dinner party, one of my favorite nights of the year.

This year our book was My Life in France, so of course we had a French-themed dinner!

My Life in France dinner party meal(photo credit: Janet McKnight)

We had beef bourguignon & garlic mashed potatoes, asparagus with hollandaise, Provencal tomatoes, green salad, and bread.

Plus macarons, chocolate cake, and wine. 🙂

It was, as always, a lovely evening.

While we don’t always match the menu to the book, it worked well this month, and it added quite a bit to the appreciation of the book to actually taste some of the items she described in it.

The only downside to the dinner party is I find we rarely discuss the book much, and I’m always happy that typically our book club actually discusses our books. We chatted briefly about the book, and the reality of trying to cook meals like that, but mostly we just socialized. By now we know that’s likely to happen at this meeting, and we choose our book for the month accordingly. 😉

It is a lovely book however, so don’t take our lack of discussion about it to mean that it’s not worth reading. It absolutely is, and you can read more about my thoughts on it in my original post about it from 2012.


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

Four years ago today I started this blog – thank you all so much for reading it!
Two years ago: Magic in the Mix
Three years ago: First Blog Birthday
Four years ago: Welcome to The Deliberate Reader

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

2017 Planning: How We’re Selecting Our Book Club Choices for 2017

The last few weeks I’ve been obsessing over possible book club choices for next year.

I think sometimes I like the planning almost as much as the actual reading – all that potential, and the wonderful possibilities that there are!

Planning for Book Club Choices

Step One: Begin with All The Books

I started with the master list of book possibilities that we’ve kept for years (and a refresh about what books we’ve already read). Next we asked for suggestions from other members. Then I went digging through reference guides and book lists I’ve been compiling. I paid a visit to my own blog posts for fiction and nonfiction possibilities to refresh my memory as to books worth trying.

Step Two: Show Some Restraint, and Reduce it to a Reasonable Level

That’s when it became lots of fun for me. I started grouping possibilities into themed units, for voting purposes. Instead of having a list of 100 books, it becomes a more manageable list – here are a few classics; which one would you like to read? Here are a few historical fiction titles; which one do you like best?

I ended up re-configuring the groupings multiple times, trying to keep things fairly balanced between the groups, with a nice mix of themes and types of books.

One note of clarification: I still have the master list with all.the.books listed. We’ll look at that next year when it’s time to decide on books for 2018. Only if we decide that we are definitely NOT going to read a book does it get deleted off that list.

Step Three: Collect the Votes!

Ultimately I finished with 16 groups, with 3 or 4 choices in each group. Next up for me is to make the actual survey and send it out to the club members.

As part of the survey, not only am I asking everyone to pick their favorite(s) from each grouping, I’m asking them to select which groups they actually want to read. We don’t want to pick a fantasy novel (even if everyone votes for the same one) if no one really wants to read a fantasy novel!

Step Four: Make the Final Decisions

Once the votes are in, we’ll look over them all and see what the members requested. And at that point we’ll start figuring out when the books best fit in our book club calendar!

Next week (?) I plan to share the list of books I’m sending out to members for voting consideration. I’m excited about the possibilities and wish we could read all of them!


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Bookroo: A Bookish Subscription Service

Introducing August’s Book Club Selection: Climbing the Mango Trees

Climbing the Mango TreesClimbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in IndiaClimbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India by Madhur Jaffrey by Madhur Jaffrey

What It’s About

Description from Goodreads:

Today’s most highly regarded writer on Indian food gives us an enchanting memoir of her childhood in Delhi in an age and a society that has since disappeared.

Madhur (meaning “sweet as honey”) Jaffrey grew up in a large family compound, where her grandfather often presided over dinners at which forty or more members of his extended family would savor together the wonderfully flavorful dishes that were forever imprinted on Madhur’s palate.

Climbing mango trees in the orchard, armed with a mixture of salt, pepper, ground chilies, and roasted cumin; picnicking in the Himalayan foothills on meatballs stuffed with raisins and mint and tucked into freshly fried pooris; sampling the heady flavors in the lunch boxes of Muslim friends; sneaking tastes of exotic street fare–these are the food memories Madhur Jaffrey draws on as a way of telling her story. Independent, sensitive, and ever curious, as a young girl she loved uncovering her family’s many-layered history, and she was deeply affected by their personal trials and by the devastating consequences of Partition, which ripped their world apart.

Climbing the Mango Trees is both an enormously appealing account of an unusual childhood and a testament to the power of food to evoke memory. And, at the end, this treasure of a book contains a secret ingredient–more than thirty family recipes recovered from Madhur’s childhood, which she now shares with us.

Why Was This Title Selected

I was looking for a memoir with a non-US focus. This one had been languishing on my TBR list for several years, and it seemed like it would provide some good discussion fodder. Why this one in particular? I almost always love food memoirs, and hoped others would enjoy that element as well.

Anything Else to Know About It?

Madhur Jaffrey is credited for being the one to introduce Indian cuisine to the West through her 1973 cookbook, An Introduction to Indian Cookery. She’s also an award-winning actress.

Discussion about the book is starting today, but if you’d like to join in the first few questions will be very general, and you’ll have time to catch up by the time we get into anything substantive. It’s available in print, for Kindle, or Nook, or on Audible. And a heads-up: you can get the Audible version for a reduced price if you buy the Kindle version first.

What’s Coming Up in August?

Burial RitesBurial RitesBurial Rites by Hannah Kent by Hannah Kent

Why did I select it? I’ve been eyeing it, and then Audible included it on a list as one of their titles that has near perfect narration ratings. That seemed like an extra bonus to choosing it from my list of possible historical fiction titles. Two additional reasons: Iceland is not my usual sort of setting, and I always love reading fiction that’s been inspired by real events.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads

And a heads-up: you can get the Audible version for a reduced price if you buy the Kindle version first.


See all the books we’ll be reading in 2016 here.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Empire of the Summer Moon (and a linkup)

Empire of the Summer MoonEmpire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American HistoryEmpire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History by S. C. Gwynne by S. C. Gwynne

I love learning about the past – it’s why I wanted one of the book club’s picks for the year to be a history book. However, it’s challenging to find a general-interest history book that isn’t too long and seems mostly doable in a month.

I’m not entirely sure I succeeded with this pick, although I enjoyed the book, in a way. It’s hard to use the word “enjoyed” with a book that has so many gruesome moments as this one does. But the way Gwynne brings the time period to life was excellent, and I learned a lot – that typically makes a book a winner for me.

I wouldn’t recommend it to non-history fans, or or anyone who is squeamish about what they read. It’s hard to get past some of the details. It also jumps around in time a bit, so anyone who wants a straight chronological retelling of events will likely be frustrated.

Overall, I’m glad I read it, and I wouldn’t have it if hadn’t been for the book club. Hopefully everyone else who read it feels the same way, and they don’t regret the reading time invested in it!


Looking ahead at next month, we’ll start our discussion of Big Little LiesBig Little Lies by Liane Moriarty on June 6th. There will be a linkup for posts relating to the book on June 29th.

If you’re debating about reading Big Little Lies, it’s a long one, but it’s *very* quick to read. I read almost all of it in one day, and could have finished it completely if I hadn’t been dividing my reading time between two different books that day. Just because it’s quick though, doesn’t mean it’s completely easy — it tackles some tough issues and should give a lot to discuss. I’m looking forward to it!


If you’ve written a post about Empire of the Summer Moon, you’re welcome to add it to the linkup below.

Link-up Guidelines:

1. Share a post about the book. Entries completely unrelated to this theme or linked to your homepage may be deleted.

2. Link back to The Deliberate Reader – you can use the button below if you’d like, or just use a text link.

The Deliberate Reader

3. The linkup will be open for two weeks.

4. Please visit the person’s blog who linked up directly before you and leave them a comment.

5. By linking up, you’re granting me permission to use and/or repost photographs or comments from your linked post.

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Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Introducing February’s Book Club Selection: The Black Count

The Black CountThis month’s book for our Facebook book club is The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte CristoThe Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss, by Tom Reiss.

What It’s About

It’s the biography of Alexandre Dumas’ father, General Alex Dumas, who was partial inspiration for the book The Count of Monte CristoThe Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. Read more about The Black Count at Goodreads.

Why Was This Title Selected

In the expectation that it’d be a nice complement to January’s book, and I wanted one biography for the year.

Anything Else to Know About It?

It won the Pulitzer Prize for biography in 2013, as well as the PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award.

It’s available in print, Kindle format, or Audible.

Discussion about the book starts today, but if you want to quick get the book and join in, we’ll continue it all month. If you’re debating whether or not it’s a book you want to read, I give it two thumbs up – it’s excellent. Even if you aren’t interested in joining in the on the discussion, it’s worth reading.

What’s Coming Up in March?

The ChosenLooking ahead to next month, we’ll be reading and discussing The ChosenThe Chosen by Chaim Potok by Chaim Potok. You’ve got plenty of time to find this book and get it read before our discussion on it begins March 1. This title is not available on Kindle, but it’s the only one for the year that isn’t available in print, on Kindle, and on Audible. See all the books we’ll be reading in 2016 here.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Introducing January’s Book Club Selection: The Count of Monte Cristo

The Count of Monte Cristo Robin Buss TranslationThe Count of Monte CristoThe Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas by Alexandre Dumas

What’s It About

You probably already know – it’s been around for so long, and has been adapted and retold so many times – but just in case: It’s a fictional novel following the life of Edmond Dantes, who is unjustly imprisoned because of a conspiracy by three “friends,” and what happens to him afterwards. Read more about it at Goodreads.

Why Was This Title Selected

It’s a classic, and one my in-person book club had read and enjoyed before I joined it. It’s also a novel that was originally written in something other than English, so yet another way to expand my usual reading choices. Finally, Caroline Starr Rose (an author I really like) has raved that it’s her favorite book.

Anything Else To Know About It?

It’s super long, but surprisingly readable (there is one section that drags quite a bit, but most of the book is more engaging). If you’re getting bogged down a bit in the part in Rome, don’t despair, but keep going!

I *highly* recommend the Robin Buss translation. You can get it in print, or on Kindle, but I couldn’t track down an audio version of that translation, so if you’re determined to listen to the book you’ll have to select something else. I originally started out with a different translation, and then made the switch to the Buss version. SO much more readable and enjoyable.

The 2002 movie version starring James Caviezel is supposed to be really good, and I will ask at least one question related to the movie later in the month, so if you have time to watch it after you’ve read it you may want to do that (you can rent it from Amazon, but it’s not streaming on Amazon Prime or Netflix that I could find). There are other film adaptations (including one with Richard Chamberlain from 1975), but I haven’t heard anything about those.

How’s The Discussion Going to Work?

Over in the Facebook Group, I’ll be posting at least one question each weekday. On January 27th, I’ll have a “review” post here, with my thoughts on the book, and it will include a linkup so if you’ve written a post about it, I’d love for you to add that link to the list.

I’ll mostly be taking questions from the list I shared here, but will also add some book-specific ones from LitLovers.

Week one will be introductory and overview questions (so if you haven’t quite finished the book, you should still be able to join in for some of them, although you run the risk of reading spoilers.) Week two will focus on characters and setting, and week three will be about the writing and plotting. And the last week in January we’ll wrap everything up with some concluding questions and looking beyond the book.

Am I Too Late To Join the Discussion?

Not at all – just request to join the Facebook group and I’ll get you added. The discussion will start today, and spoilers are allowed, so keep that in mind before you join, but you’re welcome to come and discuss as much as you’ve read, whenever you get to it. The discussion will continue all month. It is a long one though, so realistically you may find it challenging to get the book finished before the end of the month.

What’s Coming Up Next Month?

The Black CountTom Reiss’ biography of General Alex Dumas (the father of Alexandre Dumas), The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo. It’s available in print, ebook, or audible. Unlike this month’s pick, there are no translation issues or different versions to worry about, so things should be a bit simpler. It’s another long one though, so you may want to get started on it soon (the paperback copy is 432 pages.)

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

Three years ago: December 2012 Recap

Introducing Reading Together: A Family Exploration Book Club

RTFEBCI have been *so* excited to share this news, because you know I love book clubs. Jessica (Quirky Bookworm) and I are heading up Reading Together: A Family Exploration Book Club.

What’s it all about? It’s a book club focused on children’s books to share with your family, and we specifically selected themes and titles with the intent to expand our usual reading choices.

To try and make it so everyone can participate, no matter the age of your children, we’re having three “levels” of literature to go along with each of the six themes for the year: picture books, elementary-level, and tween/teen-level (roughly). You’re welcome to join in on any or all of the books, matching them to your reading levels or interests. 🙂

As part of the fun, we’ve got six fabulous cohosts who are joining us for the discussions:

So what’s the plan? There will be a blog link-up if you want to write a post about the books, and there will be a discussion in the Reading Together: Family Exploration Book Club Facebook Group. It’s a closed group, but just request to join it and we’ll get you added.

I’ll share additional details later in the year, but if you want to join us and need to find the books for January & February’s Arctic theme. In January we’ll focus on the elementary-level book The Year of Miss AgnesThe Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill, and in February we’ll shift to Julie of the WolvesJulie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George.

There won’t be any official discussion for the picture book, but tomorrow I’ll be posting a list of possible titles to try and find at your library.

We’re really excited about this project! If you have friends who might be interested in participating, please let them know about our plans! Either share this post with them, or tell them about the RTFEBC Facebook Group, or just find us on social media with the #rtfebc hashtag.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

2016 Book Club Selections

The Deliberate Reader 2016 Book Club Picks


The Count of Monte CristoJanuary

The Count of Monte CristoThe Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas by Alexandre Dumas

Why did I select it? I’ve been wanting to read it for ages. It’s a classic too, and one I feel like I “should” read, plus it’s one that was originally written in a language other than English.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads

And a heads-up: you can get the Audible version for a reduced price if you buy the Kindle version first.


The Black CountFebruary

The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte CristoThe Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss by Tom Reiss

Why did I select it? I wanted a biography for the year (not just a memoir), and thought this newer title would be interesting as a follow-up to The Count of Monte Cristo, as it looks at Dumas’ father, the apparent inspiration for the character of Edmond Dantes.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads

The ChosenMarch

The ChosenThe Chosen by Chaim Potok by Chaim Potok

Why did I select it? It was a selection for my in-person book club before I started attending it, and it’s one that gotten raves from those members who were attending at the time. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to discuss it after hearing how well it worked as a discussion title!

Find the book: Print | Audible | Goodreads

Station ElevenApril

Station ElevenStation Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel by Emily St. John Mandel

Why did I select it? Fabulous reviews, emphasis of its potential as a discussion springboard, plus a desire to have one science fiction title for the year.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads

And a heads-up: you can get the Audible version for a reduced price if you buy the Kindle version first.


Empire of the Summer MoonMay

Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American HistoryEmpire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History by S. C. Gwynne by S. C. Gwynne

Why did I select it? I wanted a really “discussable” history text that wasn’t over 400 pages. This one caught my eye, and I liked how it’s supposed to tell the history of the Comanche people, as well as the story of Quanah Parker. It’s also got excellent ratings on both Amazon and Goodreads.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads

And a heads-up: you can get the Audible version for a reduced price if you buy the Kindle version first.


Big Little LiesJune

Big Little LiesBig Little Lies by Liane Moriarty by Liane Moriarty

Why did I select it? Wanted something lighter to help balance the year, but one that would still lead to good discussions. Moriarty did an outstanding job at that combo with her book What Alice Forgot, so I’m hoping for the same from this novel. It’s a long one but it should be an easy read.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads

And a heads-up: you can get the Audible version for a reduced price if you buy the Kindle version first.


Cuckoo's CallingJuly

The Cuckoo’s CallingThe Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike) by Robert Galbraith a.k.a. J. K. Rowling by Robert Galbraith

Why did I select it? It’s one I’ve been wanting to read for ages, I wanted a mystery for the year, and if nothing else about the book leads to conversation the fact that the author is actually J.K. Rowling writing under a pseudonym ought to do it.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads

Climbing the Mango TreesAugust

Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in IndiaClimbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India by Madhur Jaffrey by Madhur Jaffrey

Why did I select it? I wanted a memoir, and one with a non-US focus. Plus I am a complete fan of food memoirs, so any excuse to read another one of those is a good thing as far as I’m concerned.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads

And a heads-up: you can get the Audible version for a reduced price if you buy the Kindle version first.


Burial RitesSeptember

Burial RitesBurial Rites by Hannah Kent by Hannah Kent

Why did I select it? I’ve been eyeing it, and then Audible included it on a list as one of their titles that has near perfect narration ratings. That seemed like an extra bonus to choosing it from my list of possible historical fiction titles. Two additional reasons: Iceland is not my usual sort of setting, and I always love reading fiction that’s been inspired by real events.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads

And a heads-up: you can get the Audible version for a reduced price if you buy the Kindle version first.


The Legend of Sleepy HollowOctober

The Legend of Sleepy HollowThe Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
by Washington Irving

Why did I select it? I wanted something that gave a bit of a nod to Halloween, but I’m too much of a reading wimp to pick a true horror story. And at just over 100 pages, this helps bring down the average page count for the year.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads

And a heads-up: there are several audible versions available. I’ve linked to the cheapest one – it’s under $1, but there are others as well.


David and GoliathNovember

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling GiantsDavid and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell by Malcolm Gladwell

Why did I select it? Gladwell’s books are always thought-provoking, and at a busy time of year an easier read seems like a good fit. It also helps balance the year’s reading schedule with a final nonfiction selection.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads

The HobbitDecember

The HobbitThe Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien by J. R. R. Tolkien

Why did I select it? I had to have a fantasy choice fo the year, and this is one that once again, I’ve been meaning to read for years. Literally. I’ve read the books in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy, but never this one that kind of starts it all. Or so I understand. It also should be fairly easy to read during a busy season.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads

And a heads-up: you can get the Audible version for a reduced price if you buy the Kindle version first. There are also several versions available, including one that is a dramatization.


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Announcing January’s Pick for the Online Book Club

In case you missed Saturday’s post, I’ve started a Facebook group for the book club I’ll be running next year. I’m taking a poll as to how you’d prefer to find out about the titles – all at once, around three months in advance, or one month at a time.

Early results look like the majority wants to know all the books at once, so unless there is a late swing in the voting, I’ll be sharing the titles for the year next month (I’m still finalizing them).

What I can share is the selection for January:

The Count of Monte CristoThe Count of Monte CristoThe Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas by Alexandre Dumas

The plan is that on the first Monday of the month (in this case, January 4th), I’ll put up a post about the book. Why I picked it, maybe some background info, etc. I’ll also share a list of discussion questions.

That post will officially kick off the discussion over on the Facebook group.

At the end of the month, I’ll post my review of the book, and have a linkup, so if you want to share your thoughts about the book there you’re welcome to link a post, or add a comment.

If it sounds interesting to you, join us in the Facebook group. It’s pretty quiet over there right now, but we’ll really get going with the discussion in January.

Until then, I need to get reading – this book is a long one! I’ve started listening to it and will likely flip between the audio and kindle versions. I went through all of the narrators and liked this version the best. However, if you’re not an audible member with a credit to use, you can get this version for only $1.95 if you first buy the $.99 kindle copy. That’s a great price, and the narrator isn’t bad.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

Three years ago: Favorite Bibles

Some Housekeeping and News about Next Year’s Book Club

Some updates:

My planned post on our literary advent plans (obviously) didn’t happen this week. Fingers crossed that it’ll be ready to go on Monday. Life sometimes gets in the way of blogging. 😉

BookedThumbnailI’ve set up a Facebook Group for the book club I’ll be running next year. It’s a brand-new page, so not much going on there yet, but if you are at all interested in joining in with the discussion, please head over and ask to join. It’s a closed group so you can’t see any posts if you’re not a member.

While I plan on most of the actual discussion taking place over there (apologies to those who don’t use Facebook, but this is going to be the easiest way for me to have it be a conversation), there will be a post each month here about it. If you’re not on Facebook, I’d love to still have you join in the book talk in the comments, or through linking up your own post on the book.

Facebook PollAlso related to that upcoming book club: would you rather know all of the book choices right now, or wait and get one a month? I’ll be putting up a poll on the Facebook group, but wanted to check here as well so no matter how you’ll be participating with us you get a vote.

Finally, a side note if you have Facebook-related hesitations. If you have a Facebook account and just don’t like using the main site, if you have a smart phone, you can download a Groups App, and keep up with us that way. I haven’t tried it yet as the app isn’t available for my current phone, but as of next week that’s what I’ll be using (new phone on the way! Woot!) I hear great things about the app, which is available for Apple & Android phones.