Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed.
How goes it, friends, and what day is it?! The last week has been a blur of bookselling, reading, writing, family trips to the county fair, World Cup soccer matches, and some much needed sleep in between. I also finally watched Always Be My Maybe and wow, what a gem! I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of funny, inclusive romcoms.
While I make a list of all the other movies I’ve slept on so far this year (a long list: I’m always the last to watch things!), let’s review today’s club business. Let’s talk true crime and related fiction, knowledge gaps, and our uneasy relationships with problematic faves.
Ready? To the club!!
This newsletter is sponsored by Lifelines by Heidi Diehl.
For fans of Meg Wolitzer and Maggie Shipstead: Lifelines is a sweeping debut novel following an American artist who returns to Germany—where she fell in love and had a child decades earlier—to confront her past at her former mother-in-law’s funeral.
Exquisitely balanced, expansive yet wonderfully intimate, Lifelines explores the indelible ties of family; the shape art, history, and nationality give to our lives; and the ways in which we are forever evolving, with each step we take, with each turn of the Earth.
Question for the Club
June’s query is still going and it is:
One more week to send in your responses!
Listen, Linda: Last week’s episode of Read or Dead was all about Australian mystery, women writing in the mystery genre, and some news on Linda Fairstein. That last bit reminded me that I need to find the time and headspace to finally watch When They See Us.
Book Club Bonus: The Linda Fairstein news got me thinking and I have to admit: I know very little about the Central Park Five. I know the general gist of the injustice, but not enough to have a thoughtful conversation. This will be remedied soon.
I challenge you to find a thing you should know more about and get to knowing. It could be a historical moment, a cultural event, a headline, a humanitarian crisis: the possibilities are clearly plentiful. Decide as a book club that you’re going to educate yourself on that thing and pick a book to help you do so. Earlier this year my goal was to read up on Cuba’s complicated history; I’d love to discuss how decidedly not black and white that is in a book club setting.
Please Don’t Get Me Arrested – The following is a list of excellent true crime reads for book club. Now repeat after me: I will use these for book club and not as a blueprint… I will use these for book club and not as a blueprint… I will use these for book club and not as a blueprint….
Book Club Bonus: I really did ask myself, “Would it be weird if I suggested concocting poisons from A is for Arsenic as a book club activity?” I mean, it’s really just chemistry. Yay science! Since I’m really not trying to go down for a mass poisoning though, I do have an alternate suggestion.
Consider reading both a work of a true crime and a work of fiction inspired by said crime, then discuss one as it compares to the other. Which is ultimately more terrifying? Does reading the fictional version help make sense of the real thing? Yes, truth often is stranger than fiction, but sometimes fiction takes an already strange truth and turns the creepy way the %@*# up high.
Examples: Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi and The Girls by Emma Cline; The Trial of Lizzie Borden by Cara Robertson and See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt.
Perpetually Problematic: A recent piece from LitHub had me very much in my feelings, and not necessarily in a bad way. It’s a nuanced discussion of cancel culture and our relationship to the art of our problematic faves.
Book Club Bonus: Oof! This is an issue I go round and round and round with myself about: while it is very easy for me to cancel artists who’ve committed egregious acts of abuse or violence, there are still plenty of “less” offensive but undoubtedly problematic faves that I haven’t quite ditched. I don’t confess this last part flippantly; it’s a real source of conflict. I’m still navigating a lot of grey area in the whole “separate the art from the artist” conversation.
That is precisely what needs to happen here: conversation. Talk this issue out with your book group, perhaps after reading an old fave that you now know to be problematic now (and there are…. so many). Use this additional piece from Tor as a jumping board for the discussion. It might get uncomfortable, but face it head on. It’s essential that you (and we) do.
You and I have been hitting the club for awhile now and now eeeeeverybody wants in. Forbes wrote a piece on why news outlets are suddenly embracing the book club.
With more than enough celeb book clubs to go around, here’s why Entertainment Weekly is calling Jenna Bush Hager the queen of the book club.
Thanks for hanging with me today! Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your burning book club questions or find me on Twitter and the gram @buenosdiazsd. Sign up for the Audiobooks newsletter, get it on the Read Harder podcast, and watch me booktube every Friday too.
Stay bad & bookish, my friends.