“Today’s book is ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary.’ Now let’s go around the room and analyze why we didn’t read it.” So begins Marge in a book club spoof on “The Simpsons.” It could be fair to say book clubs have taken a beating in pop culture since Oprah Winfrey popularized the modern-day incarnation with the launch of her club two decades ago.
Despite the knocks, book clubs have endured beyond fad status. Talking about books is infectious: friends enjoy meeting to swap impressions of current fiction, classic literature and popular non-fiction. Part social, some clubs are known for the vino, the hummus and the general chit-chat, as much as the delving into the motives of Hester Prynne. In this way the talk feeds the literature and vice versa.
Such clubs serve as a treasure hunt for authors and titles and provide a chance to revisit an author’s style and themes. Seasoned book-club devotee Betty Ferris describes it this way. “It doesn’t matter if you like the book or not because you learn something from every book.”
What’s that? You love to gab about literature, but gussying up the powder room for your turn as host is not your bag? Crave the freedom to mingle with fellow bookworms sans the social obligation? Fret not, your community has a club for you.
The Windsor Senior Center, for example, has a brand new mystery book club. In partnership with the Windsor Regional Library, membership draws from library patrons, and is looking to recruit new readers. Attendees who find the center a convenient location and visit for other events are prime candidates.
“We meet patrons where they are in the community, rather than having them come to us. Hopefully, though, these fun meetings will compel them to come to the library and explore our other great offerings — books, audio books, music, movies and educational and entertainment opportunities,” says Vicki Chavez, Windsor’s adult services librarian.
This club supplements the senior center’s schedule, joining among other things, TED talk videos as events combining the social with the cerebral. The group meets the first Monday of the month and one can expect lively thumbs-up, thumbs-down-style mini-reviews by scholars of the mystery genre. Joanne De Alejandro is jotting down the names of authors being mentioned as they fly up and down the table at a recent meeting. She enjoys meeting fellow readers and “I love history so I would enjoy a history book club,” she explains, “especially presidential history.”
Mike Wall belongs to the Peace and Justice Book Club, which meets every Thursday afternoon in Santa Rosa. “The books we read are about peace and justice, and the lack of it. What I like about the club is the opportunity to be in the company of like-minded people who are reasonably intelligent and trying to do the right thing.”
A recent reading list included “A Nun on the Bus: How All of Us Can Create Hope, Change, and Community,” by Sister Simone Campbell and “Waking Up White: Finding Myself in the Story of Race,” by Debby Irving. The lengthy subtitles reflect complex social concerns. Club leader Betty Ferris appreciates discussing these difficult subjects in a group setting. “I doubt I would read these books on my own.” she admits, regarding the support she finds in the club setting.
THIS WEEK’S BLIND TASTING
Thanksgiving pinot noirs
River Road, 2014 Stephanie’s Cuvee, Green Valley of Russian River Valley, Sonoma County Pinot Noir, 14.3%, $25 ★★★★
This is a bright and tangy pinot noir, which makes it a perfect Thanksgiving pick. It has striking red fruit -- cherry, raspberry and strawberry jam. It’s also layered with notes of cedar and smoke. But what makes it a standout at this price point is its pitch perfect balance.
Anaba, 2014 Las Brisas Vineyard, Carneros Pinot Noir, 14.1%, $38. ★★★★1/2: This is a complex pinot with gorgeous red fruit — cherry and a hint of red raspberry — coupled with bright acidity. It also has great minerality, and finishes crisp. A knockout Thanksgiving pinot.
Siduri, 2015 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, 14.3%, $24. ★★★★: This is a pretty pinot noir that’s also edgy. It has bright raspberry fruit and crisp acid. It also has savory flavors of mushroom and smoke. All of this makes it a smart pick for your feast. Well crafted.
Three Sticks, 2014 Durell Vineyard, Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, 14.1%, $65. ★★★★: This is a pinot with a racy streak of wild raspberry running through it. What sets it apart is its depth and lush texture. Great with the meal, and equally impressive solo.
Sea Smoke TEN, 2013 Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir, 14.5%, $119. ★★★★1/2: This is a dense and earthy pinot that has red and black fruit. Complex, with a range of flavors — black cherry, blueberry, dried herbs and mushroom. Best to drink solo because it would overwhelm the meal.
Garnet Vineyards, 2014 Rodgers Creek Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma County, 14.4%, $36. ★★★1/2: A treat for Thanksgiving because it’s a bright and lively food wine. It trumpets tangy red fruit — cherry and strawberry -— with notes of mineral and white pepper. Lovely.