As part of an effort to meet people who are not my co-workers nor accountants (a.k.a. Sean’s co-workers) nor Aggie transplants, last Monday I attended my first Upper East Side Book & Pub Club meeting. It’s basically a traditional book club for younger people that keeps it young by meeting in various neighborhood bars during happy hour. Yes, really.
I found out about the group on Meetup.com, which I was really skeptical about at first, but my friend, fellow Aggie New Yorker, and former Battalion-er Jeff suggested I check it out. He met some great people through a craft beer club he found on the site, and while anyone who knows Jeff knows he becomes instant BFFs with everyone he meets, I figured it couldn’t hurt to check it out. I mean, it’s not as intimidating as online dating, or anything.
If you haven’t heard of Meetup.com, it’s a site where people can organize groups of people who may or may not know each other previously who then get together to indulge in common interests, from cocktail hours and early morning runs to nerdy board game marathons and crochet circles.
For my first UES Book & Pub Club meeting, we all read this recently published book, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.
This is not my usual reading material, as it is a suspense/thriller/crime novel, but I surprised myself and really enjoyed it. Ms. Flynn is a great writer — not just an engaging storyteller — and it makes all the difference. I felt that the book jacket synopsis was horridly written, so I’ll summarize the novel for you here: A married couple moves from NYC after losing their print media-related jobs to the husband’s dying hometown in Missouri, where wife Amy quickly grows bored and dissatisfied. Then on the day of their fifth anniversary, she mysteriously disappears. And husband Nick isn’t really coming off as totally innocent either. So what happened, and why?
Let me be frank with you: This book is MESSED. UP. There wasn’t really much to debate or argue about over this book, so most of the meeting was everyone just excitedly reliving the book because it’s one of those books that is SO. MESSED. UP. you can’t help but want to talk about it. We spent at least five minutes marveling at the jacket cover photo of the fairly normal looking young lady who wrote this book. This book that was SO. MESSED. UP. yet so brilliantly planned out. (I give it 4 out of 5 stars.)
We spent the first hour of the book club discussing said book, the next 15 minutes casually dividing up into smaller groups still sorta-kinda discussing the book, and then spent an hour discussing Downton Abbey, the Life of Pi film adaptation, and the disturbing phenomenon that is the widespread use of a nanny for child-rearing in the UES. In short: I found my people.
I have always thought joining a book club would be right up my alley, and I did participate in the mail version of such this year with Lech-brary, but I felt like most in-person book clubs were aimed at retirees, seeking an outlet between volunteer work and doctors visits. What about those of us in our 20s and 3os, out of college, but still eager to learn, to discuss?
I found these people, my people, in the Book & Pub Club: about a dozen women (all young, except one friendly, maternal middle-aged lady who came off to me as a high school English teacher) and two clearly gay men. There was a disproportionate number of young newlyweds, including one UT graduate who moved here a year ago from Dallas. There were people with 9-5 office jobs, a waitress, a bartender, a stay-at-home mom. And everyone loves to read. So, basically, it was the best. I can’t wait for February’s meeting!
The group alternates between reading fiction and nonfiction books each month, so next month we’re reading this, The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University by Kevin Roose:
I’ve already read about 70 pages of it, and it’s really great. Witty and observant, but also surprisingly…non-biased. This is a journalistic endeavor of a fairly agnostic college student from liberal Brown University who spends a semester “study abroad” at Liberty University, a fairly new Baptist college in Virginia founded by a mega-successful televangelist. It’s almost uncanny how much the student culture of LU reminds me of A&M, although fortunately, our professors were typically anything but conservative. I’m sure the discussion for this one will be interesting, as anything concerning religion and education ought to be.
Update: Kevin’s name sounded so familiar. Turns out he is currently a staff writer for New York magazine, whose website I obsess over daily, and is also a New York Times alum. Go figure. I should have gone on an undercover journalism mission in college, too.
In other reading news, I recently finished my first non-fiction book of the year, working toward my goal of 20 nonfiction books in 2013. I read a book that was already on our bookshelf and that Sean recommended, In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson.
This is a nonfiction account of the American Ambassador to Germany, Dodd, and his family during Hitler’s rise to power. Through the outsiders’ perspective, Larson attempts to answer the question of “How could the world sit by and watch such evil spread? How did no one see this coming?” It is a deeply fascinating tale that reads rather novelistically. Although we all know how this unfortunate story ends, it is intriguing nonetheless to watch the plot thicken.
Did you know that Ambassador Dodd’s daughter, the free-spirited and flirtatious Martha, dated a number of young Nazi officers? Did you know that Dodd was mercilessly teased by his fellow diplomats in Germany for his modest automobile choice of a Chevrolet (and later, a Buick)? Did you know a number of Americans, including the Dodds, openly expressed anti-Semitic beliefs prior to the outbreak of WWII and the Holocaust?
Chances are if you are anything like me, you hadn’t even heard of Dodd until you heard of this book. It’s definitely worth a read to discover a new chapter of often overlooked American history. My only complaint is that I am horrid at imagining the proper pronunciations of any of the German names.
I’m also attempting to read the entirety of the Lord of the Rings trilogy for the thousandth time. I’m about halfway through The Fellowship of the Ring, and oh my goodness … I cannot believe I am writing this … but. But. I am really, really enjoying it. I totally understand why there were entire college courses devoted to Tolkien. You have to be in the right mood to read thorough descriptions of all of the hobbits’ meals and bathing-songs, but there’s no denying it’s a classic.