Maria Semple

Discovery by Rebecca Howard

I discovered the last couple of books I’ve read quite by accident.  More accurately, I discovered them the way that I once did—before I read so many books reviews and had such a long list of items on request from the library.  I browsed.  Browsing for fiction can be a daunting task, and I fully understand how people can be thoroughly overwhelmed at the prospect of finding something they will enjoy.  Books are arranged by author, after all, not their characteristics.  Readers’ Advisory guru Nancy Pearl has even suggested a pie chart method labeling books, so that potential readers could see

Easy Bake Ovens & Funny Ladies by Laura Raphael

Perhaps you’ve heard of the 8th grade girl’s recent (and successful) petition to Hasbro to make a “gender-neutral” Easy Bake Oven so her younger brother can use it without being embarrassed by its sparkly pinkness. Yay for busting gender stereotypes!

However, I can’t help but being surprised that such an obvious gender stereotype still exists. Another hoary old bit of sexist horrible-ness is “Women aren’t funny.”  It’s an idea bandied about in the media occasionally, usually by men who – surprising! – aren’t particularly funny themselves. (Adam Carolla, I’m looking at you.)

Breaking the First Rule of Book Club by Rebecca Howard

Photo of Rebecca Howard

I want to talk about book clubs.  I’ve been involved with several over the years and have found them to be deeply rewarding—each in their own ways.  There are a few dangerous pitfalls that book clubs have to strive to avoid, though.  In no particular order, here they are:
1) The book club becomes a wine club
2) The book club becomes a whine club
3) Not everyone reads the book
4) One individual (who typically has not read the entire book) dominates discussion
5) The same person selects titles each month