Five years ago, my sister suggested that our family start a book club. At Christmas, one of us would pick a book for the family to read during the coming year. At the following Christmas gathering, we’d discuss it.
I wasn’t too sure about the idea, although I’m not exactly sure why at this point. Maybe I thought it would take too much time, but that seems ridiculous now. Who can’t finish a book in a year? Maybe I thought I already had too many books. That may be true. But if I’m already reading ten at a time, what would it hurt to make it eleven?
Anyway, after five years, the book club is going strong. When next Christmas rolls around, all of the adults will have chosen a book, and I have the sense that Oldest Daughter may join in soon, as well. So far, we’ve read:
- Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Erhenreich (my mother’s choice, 2009)
- Winter World by Bernd Heinrich (my father’s choice, 2010)
- Between Two Worlds by Roxana Saberi (Ordinary Spouse’s choice, 2011)
- An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor (my choice, 2012)
- A Part by Wendell Berry (my sister’s choice, this year)
A nice diversity, I’d say.
This year’s selection of A Part may have created the liveliest discussion yet. I think we all identified with Berry’s agrarian sensibilities, and we appreciated how wise and insightful, yet succinct, his poetry is. My sister encouraged us each to share one of our favorites. As an introvert, I appreciated this one:
“Except” by Wendell Berry
Now that you have gone
and I am alone and quiet,
my contentment would be
complete, if I did not wish
you were here so I could say,
“How good it is, Tanya,
to be alone and quiet.”
My sister also suggested that we try writing our own poetry. The day before the book club, I was re-reading the book (since I had read it much earlier in the year) and was reflecting on how poems, like Christmas cookies, are most enjoyable when consumed in small portions. One should not eat too many cookies, nor read too many poems, all at once. And so, I wrote this:
One should not indiscriminately consume poetry,
As if it were a tray of Christmas cookies,
Left on the counter, picked over between meals.
Poetic gluttony, the mind feeling bloated.
Instead, lines should be savored,
Enjoyed slowly, one poem or perhaps two.
A proper dessert, followed by the traditional walk,
Clearing the mind and aiding the digestion.
Nevertheless, the family has gathered,
The cookie tray beckons, and the book club approaches.
I eat too many, too quickly.
Time for a nap.
As the keeper of our family traditions, I declare our book club to be a good one. I’m glad to be a part.
And this picture has nothing to do with the book club, except that this is the next generation of book club participants in our family. But it’s a cute picture. And they’re keeping alive another family tradition, the Christmas pageant.