LitClub:  Tastefully Done
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

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THEY SING...THEY DANCE... oh, and they read, a lot! This vibrant group of readers hails from beautiful Vancouver, Canada.

Neat name. What's it mean?
We went almost three years without a name. We just were "book club." Then in June 2013 magic happened...

In preparing the group for a book with an incredibly uncomfortable opening scene, a member warned us it was hard to get through. But rest assured, she insisted, it was "tastefully done."

We reflected back on the difficult scenes we’d encountered in tackling huge issues, such as poverty and racism—and we agreed…yup, all "tastefully done."

How did you get together?
One of our members learned of her aunt’s book club while visiting her in Switzerland. About to start her Master's program —and longing for both a social outlet and an excuse to read for pleasure—she decided to bring the book club idea home to Vancouver and instantly recruited members.

How many members?
We currently have 10 members. At our highest, we had 13. However, one member moved to the UK, another into the interior of BC and, with the heaviest of hearts, we lost our beloved member Julia to Leukemia in October of 2013.

Tell us about the Pineapple Challenge to honor Julia.
We competed to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada. We plan to compete again next year (2015) as a way to raise money and to honour our incredibly rad friend. (Photos, above left.)

So what have you been reading?
Sure. Here's our list from the past year:
Ender’s Game
Our Daily Bread
Tiger’s Wife
Kitchen House
Constellation of Vital
House in the Sky
We Need New Names
Rosie Project
Housekeeper and the Professor
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour
Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold

Any favorites over the years?
Yes. We've done a club survey and these are the ones at the top of the list:
The City of Thieves—a gripping young adult novel that reads like a movie.  ♦  A House in the Sky—a young woman  kidnapped by Somali men.   ♦
Three Day Road—a powerful journey between a man after WWI and his aunt, the last Oji-Cree woman to live off the land.  ♦  Super Sad True Love Story—a frightening look into the future of technology.  ♦
My Year of Meats—an interesting exploration into ethical meats.  ♦
Monkey Beach—set in our native British Columbia, with a blend of mythology and scenery that feel like home.  ♦  A Visit from the Goon Squad—an aging musician, his record executive and the various people in and out of their lives.

Some trends have emerged in our choices over the years and they include: Canadian fiction, strong female protagonists, and dystopia.

Any disappointments?
Thankfully, no sweeping disappointments. The disappointments tend to fall more on a personal level.

One member was disappointed that her personal favourite, The White Tiger, was not well-received. Another member selected The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd, with which she had connected deeply years before. However, upon re-reading and discussing it with the group, she realized it didn't stand the test of time.

How about books that led to particularly good discussions?
The Hour I First Believed—a heart-breaking read full of tragedy, and the discussion of school shootings and painful memories of high school were very powerful at this meeting.

My Year of Meats—a passionate discussion on ethical meats ensued. This meeting was one of our most memorable as it included our famous shoe-throwing incident and a bear dancing to Gangnam Style.

A House in the Sky—many members found themselves facing an internal struggle as they both felt sympathy for and resented the choices of the young woman held captive in Somalia.

How does the club operate in terms of selecting books and meeting places?
In September we create a sign-up for the year. Each member selects a month to host as well as the book to be read.

We talk about the book for 1-2 hours during our meetings, but we also leave plenty of time for socializing. (We've also been known to dance from time to time.)

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Any club rules?
We have a number of guidelines:

♦ We have NO expectations when it comes to food—we'll be fed in some way, shape or form. (Members often bring a snack or beverage in addition to what the hostess provides.)

♦ We make sure to keep our books shorter than War and Peace. Preferably they're fiction, or if non-fiction, they should follow a storyline.

♦ The hostess should let members know, at least a month in advance, the book she's chosen so the rest of us have ample time to read it.

♦ We make sure to communicate. Early on, we learned that attendance at meetings, ideas for the club, etc. all fall into place as long as we stay on top of communicating.

Speaking of communicating, you've got a nifty blog.
Thanks. It's a way to network with fellow readers, provide a writing outlet for our members, and share how our club works with anyone who's interested. It is still relatively new, but we have big plans for it! Please check it out!

Tell us about your "extra-literary" traditions.
We have a (slightly competitive) Secret Santa at Christmas, when members can either open a wrapped gift or steal an unwrapped one from another member. The whole exchange involves a little singing, a little sneakiness, a lot of laughter...and a good attitude. The only requirement: the gifts must be loosely related to reading, wine, or cheese.

We also hold "book showers" (all the gifts are books) for life's big events—marriage or the birth of a first child.

Each year we do a weekend getaway to somewhere near Vancouver (see photo, 1st row, column). We include it as a meeting, so there is always a book to discuss. Our typical weekend looks like this:
  ♦ mow down on an assortment of snacks
  ♦ sit in hot springs for copious amounts of time
  ♦ mow down (some more) on said assortment of snacks
  ♦ shower
  ♦ discuss book for an hour or so
  ♦ mow down again
  ♦ head out for a little dinner and dancing
  ♦ return to the hotel room to deplete the snack resources.

Is there anything you'd like to leave us with?
Our club has been there for each other through some incredible firsts and unbelievable lows. We’ve had members buy their first homes, break up with long term loves, deliver their first babies, become engaged, get married, finish school programs, start careers, and much more. We have been there for each other throughout, and our bond is all the closer.

We plan on admitting new members for the first time as we head into our fifth year in September, 2014. We look forward to welcoming them with open arms and bringing them into our family.

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