LitClub: Reading Between the Wines
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

club reading-btw-wines

WINE & BOOK CLUBS go together like milk & cookies—the one complements the other. A jug of wine, a loaf of bread, and thou...with a book. It doesn't get much better.

So everyone brings a bottle of wine to a meeting—that's a lot of wine! Don't your book discussions meander off into the wilderness?
Not at all! We don't drink all the wine. And, believe me, we're serious about our book discussions.

So what are your discussions like?
What we love about them is that we each have our own take on a book! Someone brings up a particular episode and gives a perspective that's different from anyone else's. We all gain a better understanding of what we've read.

Of course we do like to hang out and just chat about our lives. But that's reserved for the first half of club, when we eat, drink, and socialize!

That's the wine part, right?

You have one pretty strict rule though.
Yes. Rule No. 1: finish the book! When we first started in 2009, the club grew quickly, but too many didn't finish the book. That led to a lot of side conversations and made having good discussions a real challenge.

What happened?
Some found they were just too busy to get the books read on time, and they dropped out. Some moved or had babies, so now we're down to 7or 8, a very manageable size.

You choose your books out of a hat. Is that right?
Well, sort of. Everyone brings 1 or 2 book suggestions to a meeting, we discuss them, and put the 4 or 5 top choices into a hat. Then we draw 2 from the hat for the next 2 months. The remaining go on our Facebook page as future reading ideas.

So what have you read over the past year?
Here's our list for 2011:
Loving Frank
In Cold Blood
Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Glass Castle
Catching Fire
Lost in Shangri-La
Are You There, Vodka? It's Me Chelsea
Paris Wife

What about some favorites?
The Help was one of the books that made us sad when it was over...we wanted it to keep on going because we fell in love with the characters. We loved The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo—great discussion! We may even re-read it, along with the other two in the trilogy. We also gobbled up the Hunger Games trilogy and loved The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

Any disappointments?
Lost in Shangri-La didn't live up to its own hype. From book descriptions, we expected more suspense, a real page-turner, but found the book flat. The Bear Went Over the Mountain, a satire by William Kotzwinkle, in which a journalist and a bear trade places. Wasn't funny as much as weird. Finally, How the West Was Lost: 50 Years of Economic Folly by Dambisa Moyo. The book felt more like a homework assignment!

Any books that led to great discussions?
We like to learn from the books we read, and there were three that really fit the bill:

Devil in the White City told us a lot about the Chicago World's Fair. And there's a special link with our home town: Pabst Blue Ribbon beer got its name from the blue ribbon awarded at the fair!

In cold Blood led to an in-depth discussion of the death penalty, and the Room made us consider the lasting psychological effects of growing up under extreme circumstances.

Tell us about your book club spin-off.
We loved our book club so much that we decided to start another club—The Recipe Club! Each month we have a theme and everyone comes with her dish (appetizer, soup, brunch food, etc) and recipe in hand. Some of our friends aren't avid readers, so with the The Recipe Club we get to include them. Any reason to get together to eat, drink, and have fun discussions is fine by all of us! [Amen! —the Ed.]

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