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The Book Club Coup

You get strange reactions from people when you tell them you're in a book club. Usually they nod, smile politely and say something like, "Oh really?" Meanwhile you can see that mentally, they've squealed-out. They quickly change the topic in the hope of leaving an unfortunate stint of feigned interest behind in a cloud of smoke.

List a few topics my book club has dished about, however, and that squeal-out screams to a halt:

  • What makes hot sex hot sex?
  • If you could choose to die in your sleep or awake and aware - which would you choose and why?
  • What was the greatest moment of conflict in your life and how did you resolve it?
  • Do you believe redemption and forgiveness are possible in today's world - got any samples?
  • How do your politcal beliefs impact your everyday life and your relationships with others?

Of course, there were other, uh, filthier discussions, some from not-so-great books. But you can only talk about sex toys and men so much.

Our particular book group has been around for awhile. The current iteration is actually a rebel faction - an extremist offshoot if you will - of the original group. The original group started off well-enough, but was infiltrated by a foul lot of giggly former cheerleaders whose idea of literature was a "killer romance novel" or "something we can read at the beach!".

It was okay as a lark the first few times, but then things started to change. Book group slowly became a forum to discuss the good ol' days of bouncy-bouncy megaphoning and the scratchiness of their ruffled panties. Then their numbers began multiplying.

I distinctly remember the Last Straw Book Group, the one where I gladly took the blade and declared myself Brutus. I looked across the circle to my friends and cohorts Jen, Christy and Amy. I recognized that, like mine, their passion for book group was dying; replacing it was a mixture of horror, incredulity and something akin to morbid curiosity - like watching a car crash or a two-legged dog pull its lifeless hind-end along in a trolley.

In a rare moment of (misguided) motivation, one of The Giggle Squad had chosen for us to read Gabriel Garcia Marquez' 100 Years of Solitude - the rest of us were shocked, delighted and hopeful: Maybe things were turning around?! After all, how many Sophie Kinsella books can you read?

Then we walked into the house of the host. She and her cohorts had obviously been chugging wine for a few hours before the rest of us arrived. None of the PomPom Sisters had read the book. "Like, it was way too hard!" said the host, apologetically, "I suck for picking it."

"Yeah," agreed No. 2, "You suck. Everyone has the same name in that stupid book. It was SO irritating!"

The other sloshes her glass of pink wine onto her library book and squeals, "Ooooh! Look - she has notes!" She's pointing to my edition. "You can lead the group!"

"We all have notes," I gesture to my friends, each of whom is sweating from the effort of holding their tongues and keeping their eyes from rolling. "We read the book."

The point was lost, however, easily deflected by the rubber helmets permanently encasing their brains. It was then I knew: If we wanted a real book group, you know - one where we actually read the books and discussed them - we would have to defect. We stumbled into the cool night and the four of us made a pact: The revolution was nigh. Troops were rallied. We held a clandestine meeting several nights later and formed a plan.

The following month, the four of us quit - each of us giving a different reason. Then, we immediately sent out invitations to new members. The sole criteria? Brains and a passion for reading. If you were snarky or sharp-tongued, you recieved a special invitation and were especially welcome. We set up some basic rules: Pick mostly-meaty books. Read the books. Show up. When it's your turn to host, make some food. Be prepared. No inviting someone unless the group agrees.

We added several new members, including the fabulous Lisa. Book Club II: The Sequel is now well-established - a savvy group of independent women who are smart, love books - and are anything but boring. (Note pre-booze OUTTA STYLE costume party shot of club members Lisa, Tam and Jen B., above.)

People wait months for a slot in this group to open; the coup was entirely successful. I'm sure that somewhere, a trio of gum-cracking pom-pommers lolls about, hypnotized with the video of their high-school cheer squad finals, drunk on box wine and secretly relieved we're out of the picture. All I know is, we'll never have to watch that rah-rah video. (What emotionally intact 30-something wallows in memories of high school, anyway?) We escaped, made it out alive with our intellects and our group mostly intact.

Here are a few books that our crew would recommend. They inspired lively discussion and were great reads: East of Eden by John Steinbeck The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini The Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George Three Junes by Julia Glass The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks.

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I am a writer and lazy artist who loves travel, architecture and design. Right now, I'm into photography. My fabulous husband (a.k.a. The Varmint) and I are also the principals of a San Diego-based creative agency - and new parents to the divine Baby Mak. Read More >