Reading in the Age of Coronavirus

I had an idea for a book club last fall, something I call the One-to-One Book Club. In this time of the coronavirus crisis, it has been surprisingly helpful. I recommend that everyone try it. 

Last fall, I was visiting my friend Liz in Wichita and we started discussing books. She held up her favorite book, “The Master and Margarita,” and said that she recommends that everyone read it.  And, since I had nothing to read at that point, I said, “OK, I’ll read it if I can call you after I get done with the book so we can discuss it.” That was the seed that grew into my book club. 

Here is how it works. I think of friends I haven’t talked to for a while, but want to stay connected with. I call them, explain my book club, and ask them to provide me a list of three or four of their favorite books. I ask for several just in case I have read some of them. It also gives me a better idea of the type of books that my friend enjoys. I warn them that after I read the book, we will need to get together or talk on the phone to discuss it. 

I have been surprised at how my friends have welcomed my invitation. Everyone has been eager to provide me a list and looks forward to the discussion after the reading.  

I have been pleased with the wide variety of books recommended. It has taken me outside of my comfort zone of history books. (John Mulaney in a recent Saturday Night Live monologue complained about old dads who only read WWII history books. That joke hit a little too close to home.)

My friends have recommended mostly fiction. They included two classics, a science fiction, a romantic comedy, and two current best sellers. I’ve enjoyed reading every one, although I have discovered (or re-discovered) that I prefer reading a book where I like and identify with the leading character or characters. The one nonfiction recommendation proved to be the most challenging to finish since it dealt with poverty in America.

As all of us are starting to self-quarantine, this book club has helped me keep my sanity. It gives me a reason to reconnect with old friends and get new reading material to keep me from complaining about the lack of sports teams to follow. (The Twins finally have a world-series-contending team and the season gets delayed/canceled! How typical for Minnesota!) 

Here is my suggestion: Call a friend you haven’t talked to for a while. Make sure they are feeling OK both physically and mentally and then ask them for a list of three or four of their favorite books of all time. It will help you and them to get through The Age of the Coronavirus (which will undoubtedly be the name of a future book). 

Here is my book club reading list so far: 

Friend      Book Author
Liz           “The Master and Margarita”  Mikhail Bulgakov
Kelly        “Travels with Charlie” John Steinbeck
Ed            “The Name of the Wind” Patrick Rothfuss
                   (I also read book two: “The Wise Man’s Fear”)
Mike        “Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America” Chris Arnade
                   (the only nonfiction book)
Cindy      “Where the Crawdads Sing” Della Owens
Jean         “The Rosie Project” Graime Simsion
Suzanne “The Power and the Glory” Graham Greene
Bill           “A Gentleman in Moscow” Amor Towles
Donna      List to be delivered this week.

Book club march 21

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