Quarterly Bookclub 1 – Wrap

Good Morning!

And what a superb morning it is with the sun on the back of my head while in front the bay and to the left a strong brew of Irish breakfast!

For those of you that missed out on joining us, let me be quite clear, you really did miss out…the desserts alone were gastronomic masterpieces.

While only Gina (and Sandy) managed to complete ‘The Ministry of the Utmost Happiness’, I think I just may be convinced that I will be rewarded by getting through to the end…at the very least we are all in awe that you found the will to get to the end!

We’ve decided to go with one of Fran’s suggestion of a non-fiction for the next Meetup:

Book: The Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

Date: Friday 15th December (ish)

Poetry came up as a genre that we’re all interested in exploring so we’ve decided to add it to our quarterly agenda with a scattergun approach to start. We each bring along a poem or poet that we have connected with and introduce it to the group. I think in time it would be quite rewarding to profile a poet.

Fran also reviewed the NGV’s current exhibition ‘The House of Dior’ and they also have an exhibition by Hokusai on at the moment which I’m quite keen to see as well. Gina and I are thinking of going this Saturday afternoon before a MSO performance we are attending that night, so by all means join us if you’re keen.

Another event that the NGV offer is music on a Friday night which by all accounts is a fabulous night out. I’m going to keep an eye out on upcoming exhibitions and combine this with a musical performance on a Friday night some time soonish.

I’ve been watching the construction of the pop up of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre at the Myer Music Bowl over the past couple of months and I’m planning to try an attend a couple of performances. At this stage I’m looking to go to ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ with my friend Nat, so if any of you are interested in joining me for any of the other performances, just let me know. Tickets seem to be selling fast so I’ll be deciding over the next few days.

Sue mentioned another author that may be of interest, Ken Follett. ‘Pillars of the Earth’ is described as a historical masterpiece, so I may just join Sue in reading this.

J xx


For many years I’ve wanted to join a book club, but have found it impossible to commit to monthly meetings for various reasons, or if I did, what about the guilt I would feel if life got in the way and I didn’t manage to finish the book, or what if I simply chose not to continue with the nominated book because I was finding no value in doing so. Would that be considered a legitimate choice? Or would I be crucified for my decision? So part way through 2017 I decided to create the Quarterly Bookclub for people like me. Most people I talked to felt that they could make it to a quarterly event and hoped that they just might be able to read a prescribed book every three months. What I wanted most was to create an accessible space for people to be able to share a love of books and reading but remove the obligation, pressure and regulation. This site is an extension of all those ideals, and an attempt to tap into the vast resources of others known or not.

If I’m lucky enough to see my 95th birthday I may be able to read another 2,288 books, and that’s only if I can maintain a one book a week pace. When I first became aware of this I felt alarm, as for the past year or so I’d lost my reading mojo, a slump that’s a book lovers worst nightmare. Almost every book I seemed to pick up was either poorly written, formulaic or bloody beige. I’m no writer, my skills don’t lie in that area and I’ve battled with grammar all my life. While I may not always be able to articulate why a book is well written, I think I can recognise one when I read it.

I became disillusioned with reviews when I selected a book based on industry trusted praise, only to get to the end and be utterly perplexed as to why? I thought that I’d missed the whole point, the story was boring, the writing was clunky and poor and in need of a good editor. I dug a little and found that the author was the daughter of a respected publisher. Of course I understand that there’s a level of subjectivity that needs to be allowed for and that a readers journey is personal. But I felt ripped off and vowed to be more circumspect with the reviews I chose to listen to.

I sought out alternative reviews to book sellers and those with vested interests, and so began subscribing to a plethora of magazines and visiting online review platforms. I was astounded by the length of the reviews and frustrated when a reviewer spent most of their time waffling on about various related or unrelated topics and only a couple of paragraphs about the actual book. I felt like it was more about them and their own ego. Or there was the online reviews that were formatted on the right of reply, which incidentally is a general concept I support, only to be preachy and/or about slagging off the previous reviewer. Half a dozen of these reviews and I’d lost an hour, and while I acknowledge the value in all of these mediums, I want to spend my valuable time reading an actual good book.

It’s not a cliché to say that time is valuable when in today’s world it really is just that. Quite frankly I don’t have enough of it available to spend hours researching. I want to read a review that’s independent, tells me if a book is well written, and lets me know if there’s a good story for me to be able to connect with. Or it may be that I’m following an idea or am curious about a current affairs or perhaps a social commentary topic and seeking to be better informed and exposed to various opinions and theories. When I have time for reading I want do all I can to make it count.

With respect to books, I want this to be a forum that provides short, one paragraph reviews. So by all means please contribute, be frank and fair with your reviews but restrict yourself to the book only. We also don’t need to resort to personal attacks on each other or the author despite how we feel about the book, surely we can be honest without that. We have an inch, so let’s not take a mile. On this point I will be strict and reserve full rights to delete anything that I feel goes against the spirit of what we’re trying to achieve. Which is to fill a gap in the review space that caters for busy people who don’t have the luxury of spare time to waste on banal endeavours and the ego of others.

While reading is certainly one of my great loves, I also feel energised by good conversations. I don’t mind difficult topics and feel that there’s a lot to gain from discussions that represent a multitude of opinions, thoughts and ideas. One overriding factor that is critical for me when I take part in such exchanges, is that those who participate be able to maintain their dignity and we all display a level of respect for each other by not descending into personal attacks. No value comes from this. I want to be able to learn from others and be able to allow the evolvement of my own thoughts, ideas and opinions as I become more informed. With this in mind, at various times I may introduce a topic for discussion and it is my hope that we can draw on our vast resources to be able to expand our knowledge and provide varied reading resources, publications, journal articles, essays, and perhaps even poetry and podcasts to enliven and enlighten. The eternal optimist in me believes that we can create a space for this type of exchange.

I may not get it right all the time and I expect there will always be books or discussions that I don’t like or enjoy for whatever reason, but quite frankly that in itself is not a good enough reason not to expose myself to them. However what I do want is to spend my remaining years reading wisely, widely and as well as possible while continually reflecting on my position.

So please join in and connect if you feel this is for you.

J xx

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