How to Host a Reverse Book Club

Guess which book I picked?
Guess which book I picked?

Note: This is a different sort of post than I usually do. Long story short, I had my EPIK interview Sunday night (June 8) and am waiting to hear from them. In an effort to distract my mind from that, I wrote this. Please enjoy. 

When books are good, they are art that elevates the human condition, or at least transport the reader into another world for a few hours. But when they are bad, they are so, so bad. Painful, anger-inducing, frustratingly bad. “How could anyone spend so much time writing a book and have it come out like this?” bad.

I have a Bachelor’s degree in English, so talking about books is the main thing I’m trained in. Of course, I’m in a book club—it’s almost mandatory here in south Minneapolis. When I read this article in Book Riot  I was inspired to put together my own twist on the books club. I called it Reverse Book Club.

Step 1: Pick a place and time. Brunch? Lunch? Weeknight evening? Happy hour drinks? Weekend barbecue? Home, restaurant, or coffee shop? So many choices!

Think about whom you want to invite and what their schedules are like, as well as how much work you want to put into hosting. You might even take an informal poll of people whom you know want to attend and get a consensus from a small group. Then, once you have a time that works for them, lock down that time.

A lot of my friends are parents of early-rising small children, so they weren’t very excited about the late-night option. We ended up doing brunch at a restaurant, since my living space is very small. I made sure everyone understood that, since the restaurant was kind enough to host our group in their private room at no extra charge, ordering a meal and a tip would be courteous. The food was amazing, so they were happy to oblige!

Step 2: Invite people. I combed my Facebook list for my friends who love books. I set a limit of 10-12 attendees so that everyone would have a chance to talk about their book as much as they wanted. Eight people ended up attending, and that was a good size. Not all the attendees knew each other, but the group meshed well. I suppose because it was a group with a structured activity, not just a loosey-goosey party (introvert tip: give me an activity and I can socialize like a boss!).

Step 3: Pick a book. Here’s what I wrote on the Facebook invite.

Please pick a book in advance to anti-recommend. Bring a copy with you if possible. I tried to give people enough time to get it from the library, since spending money on a book you hate goes against everything I believe in.

I believe only two of us brought books. That was fine. I like to have the text on hand to refer to (and as a crutch, I suppose). Those who didn’t have a book with them seemed to do fine.

Step 4: Present your reasons to the group at the meeting. From the invite:

Be as ruthless as you like toward the text, but keep it civil toward group members. If someone hates your favorite book, hate the game, not the player.

I was a little concerned people would get heated, but that didn’t happen. I may have gotten agitated, as my book was TURRRIBLE, but I put eggs and coffee on top of my feelings and it was fine.

Unfortunately, this was a party that can’t be repeated too often. If you read so many books that you hate, you may want to find a new hobby. But maybe once a year or every two years, this can be lots of fun for those of us who love talking about books.

Here are the books my friends and I discussed. Some were books people picked in advance, some came up in conversation:

  • A Thousand Acres
  • Little Women
  • Ender’s Game
  • Her Fearful Symmetry
  • Mansfield Park
  • Northanger Abbey
  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
  • The Egg & I
  • Everything by Nicholas Sparks
  • The Red Tent
  • Twilight series
  • Fifty Shades of Grey series

If you do this, have done this, or want to do this, let me know! I’d love to hear about it.

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Unskinny bibimbap

My 비빔밥 is not quite this delicious-looking, but it's all right.
My 비빔밥 is not quite this delicious-looking, but it’s all right.

I haven’t posted in a few weeks because not a lot is happening. I still don’t know where I’m going to be in Korea, but I think I will have an interview soon. I was asked to resend my resume, so I am optimistic. I am trying to engage in magical thinking by painting my nails in work-appropriate neutrals so I will be interview ready. I created an intro video of myself so that the Koreans will know that I can speak clearly and am not a total ding-dong. I hope that speeds things along

Once I get a contract signed with a Korean school, I will apply for a visa. Then once that’s approved, it’ll be about 5 or 6 weeks before butt meets airplane and I leave. So if I get an offer soon, my original estimate of August would be accurate. If I don’t, then the estimate is wrong. What can I do? It’s been a great exercise in letting go of expectations.

Someone asked me a few days ago, “Do you like Korean food?” Uh, I hope so. I have tried the kimchi (김치 if you’re nasty) at World Street Kitchen and it was delicious (but I would probably eat my own hand if World Street Kitchen cooked it). I made bibimbap at home, and it was pretty good. I mean, it’s just rice, egg, and whatever vegetables or kimchi or meat you feel like tossing in there, as I understand it. I have heard that fruit is expensive in Korea, but rice and vegetables seem to be plentiful. Frankly, I could stand to use a few LBs, so if I’m not in love with the food, that may be for the best. I’m not going to starve, anyway.

Learning Korean is a little tricky. I have the consonants down pat, but the vowels are a little wobbly. So thankful for YouTube lessons where I can hear a native speaker pronounce them. I have a book that I will likely recommend if I ever stop feeling like I’m getting my ass kicked every time I open it. Anyway, the author feels that, in order to learn Korean correctly, the language should be written in Korean, not Romanized letters. So, 한글, not hangul. I agree, but it’s been frustrating. (BTW, I’m using Google Translate for the 한글 in this post. I don’t know how to type in Korean yet. I can just about sound out words, but I should practice spelling them by sound.)

Ah, well, a little practice every day and I think I’ll get there. I don’t think I’ll ever sit down and read a novel for fun in Korean, like I can in Spanish (just barely), but that’s fine.

Bucket list: Had a Jucy Lucy. Delicious, five stars, would eat again. Went to the Minnesota Zoo. Got animal poop on my arm, but had a great time otherwise. Victor’s 1959 is planned for next week. The rest of the list items are less important, but if it’s not too much stress, I’ll get to them.