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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Wednesday, June 19

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Book Club
« Event Spotlight: Sara Paretsky @ 57th St. Books Chicago Literary Hall of Fame »

Book Club Mon Oct 05 2009

Check Us Out

The Book Club was featured in the Tribune this weekend as part of their series on Chicagoland book clubs. Here you'll find some basics on how we operate and some books that provoked good discussions. For further enlightenment on why these books, out of all of the ones we've read, were picked, here's the full answer to that question:

• The first one that comes to mind is Passing by Nella Larsen, a Harlem Renaissance writer who focused on two light-skinned African-American women, one of whom chooses to "pass" as white. It's a short novel, but there's so much to unpack about society and culture and how we decide who belongs to which group that we could have easily discussed this book for several hours without having touched on everything.

• Along the same lines, Richard Wright's Native Son made for a rousing discussion. My favorite comment from that evening came from an attendee who said that his experience reading the book now, while living in Chicago, was vastly different from his experience reading it in his Indiana high school. It is indeed shocking to realize that a story set in the 1930s can be still be so relevant today and it's uplifting to see that books like this still have the power to change someone's worldview.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, however, is one of those books that almost everyone deeply loved. The fantastical situation of the main character literally running away to join the circus combined with a frustrated love story made for a satisfying and endearing read.

• Joe Meno's Hairstyles of the Damned was our first selection and it was a very memorable one. The premise of two punk teenagers living out their adolescence in Chicago may not have seemed immediately relatable to everyone, but the beauty of Meno's writing is that it very much was. I don't think everyone who attended that meeting would have read that book if it hadn't been selected, but I'm fairly certain no one left having regretted it.

• I must, of course, mention Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama. The general consensus on this book was that even senators need good editors. While we enjoyed learning more about the man that would become our President, the wealth of information Obama packed into his book brought up very good questions of truthfulness in memoirs and the degree to which we can trust the author's memory.

I think many of our attendees would agree that even if not everyone loved these books, the discussions that came out of them were intellectually stimulating and very spirited. (In fact, one thing we've realized that it isn't those books that everyone loves that make for the best discussions, but the ones that provoke a variety of opinions.)

Also, over the weekend the Tribune profiled the Book Cellar, our Book Club home. Be sure to check that out too.

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About GB Book Club

Book Club is the literary section of Gapers Block, covering Chicago's authors, poets and literary events. More...

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