The Voyage Out Book Group is a monthly book discussion group that picks fiction in three to four month regionally focused cycles. An example: we read Japanese Literature in 2010. The books we read were Haruki Murakami’s The Wind Up Bird Chronicle, Kenzaburo Oe’s A Personal Matter, and Yasunari Kawabata’s The Master of Go. The goal of these regions being to link months together in a way that makes the conversations bigger. We don’t pretend to be experts on Japanese culture after reading three novels, but we, hopefully, form some sort of a cosmopolitan empathy and worldly curiosity. The most important, and easily achieved goal is, of course, to read some awesome books. In four years, I think we’ve attained all of these goals.
The group is open to anyone. We meet the last Sunday of each month, at 5 o’clock, in BookPeople’s third floor meeting room. The whole experience of getting together and discussing books has been educational, enlightening, and fun. It would be even more fun if you join us. Please do so. We start our newest region, Russian Literature, in December. Our first book will be The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov.
A few highlights from the past four years:
-When we read The Optimist’s Daughter, Valerie and Tracy told us wonderful stories about living with and around Eudora. These stories helped us see the personality of one of America’s greatest writers. Then we spent two hours diving into the bottomless pit of intelligence that is The Optimist’s Daughter.
-One thing that we pride ourselves on is reading lesser-known authors. We read our share of Eggers and Updike, but we make space for writers like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie as well. We’ve been rewarded for making this space. Adichie’s novel, Purple Hibiscus, is a must read for any book group. We read the book in September of 2009, and Chimamanda’s name still comes up almost every month. This novel, above all others, is the book we have measured our other selections against. When someone brings up Drakulic or Duras or Kenan, they can say, you may not know them, but you didn’t know Chimamanda either.
-We are an open group. People come and go. I’m the only one who has been to all 48 discussions. Some people come for one month if we are reading a book they particularly love. Some come for a few months, and then never show up again. Some people come four or five times a year. Some people have been coming for four years. I love all of these people. It’s important to get new blood in, while maintaining a solid group of regulars. I’ve always argued that reading is a social experience. We are essentially having a conversation with the author about the book at all times. This conversation is unique, but there is a great deal to be gained from checking in on the conversations others are having with the same book. We cater to a wide variety of reading types, and whether you are a published scholar, or haven’t picked up a book in a while, you will find enjoyment and knowledge from our discussions- I promise. If you don’t think so, come by one of our talks, and give the group an honest try. If you don’t think I’ve lived up to my promise, I will give you a $20 gift certificate to BookPeople.