Archive | Book Clubs

What I Love About Book Clubs

Today’s post from Sharon Souza at our sister blog, Novel Matters | @NovelMatters

I started a book club about 3 years ago with my adult daughters and some of our friends. We get together once a month for a potluck dinner and discussion of our book of the month. While we enjoy our dinner and discussion, we enjoy just being together most of all.

But that aside, a benefit of our eclectic club that I especially enjoy is reading books I never would have chosen on my own. For example, two years ago my 34-year-old daughter came with the suggestion that we read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. At the time, I’d not heard of the book, and I wasn’t overly excited about reading it. But I kept that to myself, because I wanted everyone to help choose the books we read.

Well, let me tell you, I was completely immersed in the story from page one. I loved the author’s style and the fictional world she created, and loved the protag’s voice. But when I got to the end of the first chapter—which literally took my breath away—I was wholly invested in the story.

And so was every other woman (aged 34 to 70+) in our group. We read book one in the trilogy, then read book two the next month. Then we had to wait four months for book three to release. I’ve read the series twice more since then, and have grown to love it more with each reading.

When we learned Hollywood was making the movie—of course they were!—we spent much of our monthly discussion time “casting ” the film. We thought Robert Downey Jr. would make an excellent Haymitch, but Hollywood didn’t get the memo. No matter, Woody Harrelson won me from his first smarmy word. Naturally, we all went to see the movie as a group—along with all our husbands, who also read the trilogy at our recommendation. We also read The Help and saw that movie together as a group.

We’ve read contemporary novelists, English and American classics, and after reading Sea Wolf by Jack London, one of my all-time favorites, we planned an outing to the Jack London State Park in Glen Allen, in the California wine country, about two hours from where we live. Unfortunately it rained buckets that day so we cancelled, but we’ll get there eventually.

A few months after reading Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, one of the younger women suggested we read Mrs. De Winter by Susan Hill. While I enjoyed Rebecca, I would not have chosen to read Mrs. De Winter, but was pleasantly surprised by the story and the quality of the writing. Same with The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, which is a remarkable book.

Some books we’ve loved; others not so much. And we don’t always agree. We grade every one, and learn a lot about ourselves and each other in the process. We meet tonight, and will discuss the first third of And Ladies of the Club by Helen Hooven Santmyer. We’re reading this one over the course of the summer because it’s such a lengthy book. I’m eager to find out what the others think about it. I’m not usually big on historical fiction, but I’m enjoying it a lot.

What about you? What book(s) have you read and enjoyed as a book club selection that you might not have read otherwise? And what fun things do you do as a group?

Sharon K. Souza is the author of Lying on Sunday and Every Good and Perfect Gift. Her newest release, Unraveled, will be available in July. Visit her website for more information

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April Book Club Selection

It is rare that I read a novel I can’t shake. But his month’s book club selection took root in my mind in a way that few novels can. I woke up thinking about it. I pondered the story and characters as I went about my day. And now, over a month later, it is still present with me.

I give you THE LIFEBOAT by Charlotte Rogan:


It is the summer of 1914 and Europe is on the brink of war, but Grace Winter’s future finally seems secure as she and her new husband set sail for New York, where she hopes to win over a disapproving and status-conscious mother-in-law. When a mysterious explosion sinks their ship, Grace is thrust into a  lifeboat by a quick-witted crew member, who climbs in after her even though the boat is already filled beyond capacity.

As the weather deteriorates and the passengers are forced to choose sides in a brewing power struggle, Grace realizes that her survival could depend on whether she backs the ruthless but experienced John Hardie or the enigmatic but increasingly forceful Ursula Grant. Over the course of three perilous weeks, the lifeboat passengers plot, scheme, gossip and console one another while questioning their deepest assumptions about goodness, humanity and God.

Grace is finally rescued, only to be put on trial for her life. Unsure what to make of their client, Grace’s attorneys suggest she write her story down. The result is a page-turning tale of moral dilemmas, and also a haunting portrait of a woman as unforgettable and complicated as the events she describes.

Click here to read an excerpt.

 Stay tuned for further details about this month’s giveaway

What I loved most about this book is that Grace Winter is an unreliable narrator. She may not be who she leads us to believe and the story may not have really happened the way she tells it. To me there is nothing more delicious than a mystery buried within a narrative, especially when the characters are so unforgettable.

Three times while reading THE LIFEBOAT I woke up in the middle of the night after dreaming that I had been aboard Lifeboat 14 with Grace Winter, the other passengers…and my children. And I had to wonder (still am do a matter of fact) what lengths I would go to in order to keep my family alive in such a situation. This is a can’t-put-down-novel. And one that will inspire vigorous debate within your book club.


Charlotte Rogan graduated from Princeton University in 1975. She worked at various jobs, mostly in the fields of architecture and engineering, before teaching herself to write and staying home to bring up triplets. An old criminal law text and her childhood experiences among a family of sailors provided inspiration for  The Lifeboat, her first novel. After many years in Dallas and a year in Johannesburg, she and her husband now live in Westport, Connecticut.
The Lifeboat traps the reader in a story that is exciting at the literal level and brutally moving at the existential. I read it in one go. ”  –Emma Donoghue, author of New York Times bestseller of ROOM
Charlotte Rogan uses a deceptively simple narrative of shipwreck and survival to explore our all-too-human capacity for self-deception. ”  –JM Coetzee, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature and author of Waiting for the Barbarians
What a splendid book. It rivets the reader’s attention, and at the same time it seethes with layered ambiguity. ”  –Hilary Mantel, Booker Prize-winning author of Wolf Hall


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links. ” This means if you click on the link and purchase the book, She Reads will receive an affiliate commission. These commissions help us pay for the site and the services we offer. Regardless, we only recommend books that we have read and loved.  

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April Book Club Selection

Welcome, friends, to a new month and a new book club selection. If you are stopping by after today’s devotion at Proverbs 31 Ministries, we’re delighted you came. You have stumbled upon a group of women who share a love for all things Story. And this month’s story is one that we could not be more excited about: A Watershed Year by Susan Schoenberger!

As usual we have a myriad of prizes to give away. Our first place winner will receive a Kindle, pre-loaded with a copy of A Watershed Year. Two additional winners will each receive a copy of the novel. And one participant of our online discussion group will receive a $35 gift card to Amazon, all courtesy of Guideposts Books. (To enter, simply leave a comment on this post or sign up for our free monthly e-newsletter. Winners will be randomly chosen on April 15th.) If you do not have a local book club, or your schedule prevents you from attending one in person, we highly suggest you join our online group. It’s free and you will find Kindred-book-loving-Spirits from all over the world to engage in discussion with.

And now, a bit about the novel:

A Watershed Year by Susan Schoenberger

It was the year that everything changed.

It made me feel better to think that we could talk, somehow, beyond the end of my life, that I could preserve my presence in some small way. And I haven’t told you everything I should have. I wasn’t finished yet, at least where you are concerned…”

Lucy never confessed her love to her best friend Harlan before he passed away. Two months after his funeral, she is haunted by the power of things left unsaid when she receives the first of his e-mails arranged to be sent after his death. So begins the year that everything changes – Lucy’s watershed year.

In an e-mail Harlan says something that consumes her: He’s certain Lucy is destined for motherhood. In her grief she suddenly rediscovers hope, journeying to Russia to adopt a four-year-old boy. When she meets her son Mat for the first time, she realizes he’s also mending a wounded heart and is just as lost as she is. Together they learn to trust, each helping the other to heal. But just as they’re welcoming their new normal, Mat’s father comes to America to reclaim his son and reveals the truth about Mat’s past, which might shatter Lucy’s fragile family forever.

Susan Schoenberger’s breathtaking and powerful story of love, loss, redemption, and what it means to be a mother will leave you in awe as Lucy, in the depths of her greatest despair, somehow finds her greatest joy and embraces the beauty of second chances.

You can read an excerpt here.

About the Author

Susan Schoenberger

Susan Schoenberger has been a journalist since 1984 at various newspapers, including The Baltimore Sun and The Hartford Courant. Her articles, essays, and short stories have appeared in numerous publications. A Watershed Year is her first novel. Susan lives in West Hartford, CT, with her husband and three children

What others are saying about A Watershed Year:

“A Watershed Year is a well-told tale of life and death and the way, when we least expect it, love can encompass us roundabout. In the intriguing relationship between Lucy and Harlan – a relationship that continues long after the death of one and well into the blossoming of life in another – this author has created a vivid and continuous dream of what it means to create a kind of family, for better and worse. This is a brave and moving novel.” – Bret Lott, author of JEWELL, an Oprah Book Club Selection

“Susan Schoenberger takes us to the softer places of the heart in her debut novel, A Watershed Year, where love – in all its forms and glory – transforms grief into grace.” – Patti Callahan Henry, New York Times Bestselling author

“A Watershed Year traces with subtle humor and grace the months after the death Lucy’s beloved friend Harlan. Schoenberger’s spot-on storytelling adeptly draws out the ways in which our closest relationships can be imperfect and yet continue to transform us. The story often tugged me to tears – as much for the truths it reveals about human interconnectedness as for the pain of Lucy’s grief. However, I never felt manipulated or yanked unwillingly to boo-hoo over standard sorrows. Her characters are lovingly quirky yet complex enough to be believable. You’ve never met them before yet you know they exist!” – Juliette Fay, author Shelter Me and Deep Down True

Win, lose, or draw, we encourage you to pick up a copy of A Watershed Year. This is one novel you don’t want to miss!

On behalf of the She Reads team,


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Shifting Gears

This time last year She Reads did not exist online or anywhere else. As a matter of fact, it was not until May of 2009 that She Reads founder, Marybeth Whalen, first conceived the idea while speaking with author Susan Meissner. Three months later we launched this site as both an online book club and a gathering place for readers.

And now we are fine tuning the way we operate, expanding our reach, and introducing a few key changes that will take place this year:

1. Starting in February will feature one book each month instead of three books per quarter. We feel this will give you a better chance to meet our selected authors and get acquainted with their novels.

2. Our newsletter will now go out on a monthly basis instead of quarterly. Focusing on one book per month gives us the opportunity to go deeper with each author and provide you with more resources: book club activities, interviews, contests, book giveaway’s, etc.

3. One of the consistent requests we get is for more book recommendations. And although we can only choose twelve novels per year as book club choices, we can suggest other good reads. We began the Worth Reading feature in December and will continue to do so monthly.

Is there anything else you’d like to see us do? Now is the time to speak up! If you’ve got a suggestion on how we can better meet your needs, just leave a note in the comment section below.

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How To Start A She Reads Book Club

Since our official launch on September 1st, we have received dozens of e-mails from readers wanting to know how to start their own local She Reads book club. Below you will find a few tips on creating and maintaining a book club.

These groups can meet in a home, at a church, in the work place, or at a park. Be versatile and be creative.

1.      Invite friends and family to join your She Reads book club. Ask women from your church, neighborhood, small group, workplace, etc. Pray first and see who God leads you to ask. The answers might surprise you! Don’t be afraid to invite a diverse group of people–the diversity can add to the depth of the discussion. Set a limit of members–keep it small enough for intimate discussion and relationships to be formed. An ideal number is 5 †” 10 women.

2.      Choose one or more of the She Reads selections for the upcoming season. (We recommend going through one novel per month, but each group has a different pace. Proceed at the level you are comfortable with) Encourage all members to purchase and read the the book before your first meeting.

3.      Register your book club on the She Reads site by having each member sign up for our quarterly newsletter.

4.      Choose a monthly meeting time that doesn’t change–for example the first Tuesday or the third Friday evening, etc. Try to come up with a time that suits everyone.

5.      Before your first meeting, read the book, look over the provided discussion questions, and choose recipes to serve, ice breakers to play, and other activities provided at the She Reads site. Be prepared to contribute to your book club.

6.      At the first meeting see if your members want to rotate hosting duties, and have members sign up to take turns leading the discussion. Go around the room and ask each person to share why they joined the book club. Also lay out some ground rules. For instance: If you can’t attend, let someone know. Don’t interrupt when someone else is sharing. Respect the opinions of others, etc.

7.      Enjoy the time spent with a great book and dear friends!

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