Daily Archives: October 16, 2013

Nothing Beats A Good Book

Every day during the week, I get an email from my email ‘book club.’  That’s not really the right term for it; it implies an activity done with other people, and this is just for me.  But that’s what they call it, so that’s what I call it.

I’ve been doing this for years now, and I absolutely love it.  I was getting in a rut, trying to find things to read.  I had my favorite authors, of course, but I wanted to broaden my horizons.  I can’t even remember how I found out about the email book club – it might have been through my local paper.  In any case, I went to the website – http://www.dearreader.com – and signed up through the nearest library in my area.  At the time, it wasn’t actually my local library (although they do offer it now) but it didn’t matter; I didn’t have to be a member of that library to join the club.  All I had to do was pick the topics I was interested in, give them my email address and I was signed up.

(I should pause here to note that this is NOT a sponsored post or anything; the email book club doesn’t know I exist, except to send my daily book excerpts.  I just wanted to share some awesomeness with my friends.)

So what they do is send you a small section of the book, starting from the beginning, every day – just enough so that it takes about five minutes to read.  You get excerpts Monday through Friday for the same book, and by Friday you’re about 15-20 pages in.  It’s usually enough to let you know if you’re going to like the book or not.  If you do like it, you can buy the book or go find it at the library.  If you don’t, no harm done – you don’t even have to read the rest of the week’s excerpts if you can tell from day one that you dislike the book or the subject matter.

I’ve found SO MANY books this way, books I would never in a million years have picked up at a bookstore or the library.  In the beginning, I was pickier; I would read the little blurb about the book in the first email and then not even bother to keep scrolling down to start reading if I thought it sounded like something I wouldn’t like.  (Basically the first email tells you the book title, author, what’s on the inside flap or the general description of the book, and then the excerpt starts.)  One day I decided to scroll down just for the heck of it, and I found myself drawn in by the author’s writing style.  It was a subject I never expected to find interesting, and I ended up loving the book.  So now I always give every book at least one or two days if I’m not sure.

Before the book excerpt starts, there’s a little daily note from Suzanne Beecher, the lady who started the book club.  These are always entertaining, short and fun to read.  At first I used to get confused, thinking it was part of the book – it took me a while to get the hang of the layout.

Right now I’m signed up for pre-publication (books not yet published), fiction and non-fiction.  I’ve noticed most of the pre-pub books tend to be mysteries which aren’t really my thing, so I may leave that one and join something else.  You can also choose from Thriller, Sci-Fi, Teen, Classics, Audio Book, Mystery, Good News, Romance and Business.

So that’s what my email book club is; I highly recommend it if you like to read and are looking to expand your horizons author-wise.  The reason I decided to write about the book club is because this week’s non-fiction book is A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson.

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson ...one of my favorites!

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson …one of my favorites!

I’ll be honest – just typing the title makes me grin.  This book has been a hit with my entire family, and none of us have been able to read it without laughing out loud and reading parts aloud to whoever happens to be in the room.  (Both of my kids got hooked on Bill Bryson books as a result.)  It’s almost impossible not to want to share it with other people.  And share it we have – it’s been given as a Christmas gift to various family members and friends over the years.  We love this book.

That’s another thing – you’ll get both new and old books in the book club.  A Walk in the Woods is not new; I think it was actually published in 1998 or 1999.  I read it in 2000 when we took the kids to Michigan for vacation.  I’d lie on the sandy shores of Lake Michigan, laughing so much that Dave finally had to ask what was so funny.  (He was the next one to read the book; my laughing pulled him in.)

I have to thank my friend Sue for introducing me to Bill Bryson in the mid-1990s; I’d been reading his books since well before A Walk in the Woods was published.  His earlier books are all travel-related, and his wry, dry sense of humor was just my thing.  I’ve always wanted to travel and never seemed to be in a position to do it.  When I was younger, before kids, I worked full time and had plenty of money to travel … and no vacation time in which to do it.  (Five whole days in a year is not much time off.)  Now I have all the time in the world, and no extra money.  So I traveled vicariously with Bill Bryson, laughing as he described England and various US states, Europe, Australia and the Appalachian Trail.  His newer books aren’t about travel and I miss that, although I did really enjoy his memoir The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid.

When my non-fiction book read came in on Monday of this week, my first instinct was to think, I’ve already read this … maybe I’ll just delete the email.  Then I realized that I haven’t read this book in over 13 years – why not revisit it, since I know how much I like it?  As I read through the first excerpt, which was mostly facts (you’ll get lots of facts along with his dry humor, so even as you’re laughing you’re still learning), I smiled and settled in for what I knew was a good read.  Then it happened.  I got to this part, where he talks about telling people his plans to hike the Appalachian Trail, and their typical responses:

“I heard four separate stories (always related with a chuckle) of campers and bears sharing tents for a few confused and lively moments; stories of people abruptly vaporized (“tweren’t nothing left of him but a scorch mark”) by body-sized bolts of lightning when caught in sudden storms on high ridgelines; of tents crushed beneath falling trees, or eased off precipices on ballbearings of beaded rain and sent paragliding on to distant valley floors, or swept away by the watery wall of a flash flood; of hikers beyond counting whose last experience was of trembling earth and the befuddled thought “Now what the—?”

and I did it.  I laughed out loud.  And now I’m sharing it with you.  🙂

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