Category Archives: Aspirations / Inspirations

Silent book club – looking for time to companionably read together


How did it go?

The inspiration started here … and then it came up in conversation with some neighbourhood friends this summer after a lovely yoga-in-the-park class. We’re now starting to organize our first silent book club get-together at a neighbourhood coffee shop. We’ve scheduled it for early November, when the weather’s getting cooler and folks might be seeking cozier indoor pursuits, still coupled with an excuse to get out of the house and get out and about in the neighbourhood.

As the description at the link above reinforces, a silent book club is a completely no-pressure version of the traditional book club. The idea is that people still gather with books, and do so at a local cafe, watering hole, restaurant or the like, but …

  1. Everyone shows up with their own book or books, whatever they’re reading at the moment or want to start reading.
  2. At the start of the silent book club, you do a quick survey around the table so everyone can introduce themselves and speak briefly about what they’re reading.
  3. Once the introductions are done and refreshments are ordered and in place, everyone puts their noses in their books and reads – for an hour.
  4. When the hour is up, folks can stick around to chat about their books or whatever, or they can be on their way. No pressure!

I recently heard an item on CBC Radio about something called The Loneliness Project. In my mind, the plight of contributors to the project connected with the reference on that Silent Book Club web page to “introvert happy hour”. I certainly don’t want to downplay or oversimplify why people are lonely and how difficult it is to remedy that … but maybe little gatherings like this are a modest possibility.

I’m guessing you come away from a silent book club gathering having enjoyed some quiet fellowship and perhaps having picked up some leads on future good reads. If you hold the gathering in a neighbourhood establishment, you’re helping support your local businesses while you’re at it. Well, this is my humble hope as we anticipate our first gathering. I’ll be sure to report back.

How did it go?

Splendidly! We held our first silent book club meeting on November 4th at local cafe Press Books Coffee Vinyl. Four of us gathered with books in hand – three reading paper books, one reading on iPad and phone. We settled in by the front window with coffees and chai lattes. We not only discussed the books we were planning to read during the upcoming silent reading hour, but other books we’d read recently. We all compiled lists of recommendations and ideas. And then we got to it, engrossed in our reading for the next hour while other cafe customers wandered in and out, the cafe’s resident dog trotted about and the Tragically Hip’s Phantom Power played in the background. The hour went quickly. I felt I’d gobbled great chunks of the novel and poetry collection I brought along.

We’ve already made a date for our next silent book club meeting, in about a month. I can’t wait for what I know will feel like an oasis of calm and thought, just as it did today.

Here are the books the members our silent book club meeting read and/or discussed today:

No TV For Woodpeckers by Gary Barwin
Bella by Terri Favro, illustrated by Ron Edding
In the Cage by Kevin Hardcastle
Next Year For Sure by Zoey Leigh Peterson
Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson
The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer
Medicine Walk by Richard Wagamese

See also:

Sustained silent reading (Wikipedia) – thank you, Gary Barwin!

A Rewording Life, by Sheryl Gordon

A very special journey celebrating words and memory, in support of research into dementia

When Sheryl Gordon witnessed her mother, Yolande, losing her words to dementia, Sheryl developed a wrenchingly acute appreciation for the meaning of words … and that bittersweet realization inspired the creation of A Rewording Life. Sheryl reached out to over a thousand Canadians for whom words are vital – writers, editors, poets, journalists, performers, musicians, as well as sculptors, fashion designers, teachers, comedians and more – and asked them to contribute vibrant, unforgettable sentences using out of the ordinary words, to fight back against an affliction that makes words disappear.

rewording-bookMany of the contributors are well known, including Yann Martel, Terry Fallis, Miriam Toews, Measha Brueggergosman, Tony Dekker, Emma Donoghue, Joel Plaskett and many more. Some of the contributors are, well, folks like me. Like many, I have family and friends who have been affected by dementia, so it feels particularly gratifying to try to strike back at it with the power of words.

I’m not even sure the title of “writer” really fits, but heck, I wrote this sentence:


Two yoga mats over, the rosy-cheeked zaftig woman energetically, if clumsily yet cheerfully, went with the flow.

Interwoven among the myriad lively contributions are eight essays by Sheryl, the initial letters in the titles spelling out dementia. Scattered as the concept might seem, Sheryl hopes readers will embrace it. As she points out, confusion is, after all, the nature of this disease.

So, embrace it you should. In the process, you can help support organizations battling dementia. Half of the profits of each book will go to the Alzheimer Society of Canada.

Learn more about Sheryl, A Rewording Life, its worthy cause and all its amazing contributors at

Spring/summer 2013 reading aspirations and inspirations

Cottage shoreline, to eventually include dock

Unprecedented high water levels on our lake this year could mean a bit of a delay getting the cottage dock installed and ready for another season of sunny lolling and reading. That doesn’t mean I can’t start thinking about what books I hope to be devouring in the midst of our Canadian spring and summer splendour. I did that in delicious anticipation last year, and I thought it might be fun to reflect and plan (and salivate a little) and do it again this year.

This is an ambitious list, but I know it’ll give me lots to choose from – new reads, overdue reads, and maybe even a reread or two.

Coping with Emotions and Otters, by Dina Del Bucchia

  • Clear Skies, No Wind, 100% Visibility, by Theodora Armstrong ✔
  • Coping with Emotions and Otters, by Dina Del Bucchia ✔
  • Journey With No Maps, by Sandra Djwa ✔
  • We So Seldom Look on Love, by Barbara Gowdy (reread)
  • Music For Torching, by A.M. Homes
  • Rosina, the Midwife, by Jessica Kluthe ✔
  • The Miracles of Ordinary Men, by Amanda Leduc ✔
  • The View from Penthouse B, by Elinor Lipman
  • Monoceros, by Suzette Mayr
  • Discovery Passages, by Garry Thomas Morse
  • Bone and Bread, by Saleema Nawaz ✔
  • In the Skin of a Lion, by Michael Ondaatje (reread)
  • Your Call is Important to Us – The Truth About Bullshit, by Laura Penny
  • The Soul of Baseball – A Road Trip Through Buck O’Neil’s America, by Joe Posnanski ✔
  • The Truth About Luck, by Iain Reid
  • Studio Saint-Ex, by Ania Szado
  • Bender – New and Selected Poems, by Dean Young

(As I read them, I’ll tick them off my list … ✔)

Dock reading in July, 2013
(July update: Here is some of the reading material that made it to the dock.)

Is there anything else you’d recommend that I really need to read and that really lends itself to an accompaniment of summer breezes and beverages?

What are your spring/summer reading plans and desires? Please share them here in the comments, or send or tweet me (@bookgaga) a link to your list – would love to compare notes!

As I said last year, this list is subject to change, whim, fancy and recommendations from my erudite and persuasive book friends. Still, it’s nice to start dreaming, isn’t it?

There are lots of nice recommended summer reading lists out there. Here are some that particularly caught my fancy (hmmm):

Cottage shoreline, to eventually include dock

Summer reading aspirations … and inspirations

The Little Shadows, by Marina Endicott

The cottage dock is beckoning. When I wander down to it for a lazy afternoon of refreshing beverages, relaxing and reading, I aim to have some of these books in my tote bag. These are all titles that have been calling to me from the tbr pile for some time:

  • Tell It to the Trees, by Anita Rau Badami
  • The Chemistry of Tears, by Peter Carey
  • The Little Shadows, by Marina Endicott
  • Canada, by Richard Ford
  • Killdeer, by Phil Hall  ✔
  • Monoceros, by Suzette Mayr
  • How to Read the Air, by Dinaw Mengestu
  • Magnified World, by Grace O’Connell
  • The Juliet Stories, by Carrie Snyder  ✔
  • Night Street, by Kristel Thornell  ✔

These ones aren’t dock books, but ones I want to enjoy on my porch in Toronto … and with a TTC pass nearby so I can leap up, inspired, to go exploring:

  • Stroll, Psychogeographic Walking Tours of Toronto, by Shawn Micallef
  • Seen Reading, by Julie Wilson  ✔

Of course, it’s all subject to change, whim, fancy and recommendations from my erudite and persuasive book friends. What are your summer reading aspirations … and inspirations?

(As I read them, I’m ticking them off my list …   ✔)

Treasuring my Book of Books (BOB)

“With no small amount of trepidation, I lay open here the first page of my diary ­ high-­schoolish stabs at intellectualism, fleeting girlish obsessions, deliberately obscure annotations and all. After many failed adolescent attempts at keeping a journal, the summer after my junior year in high school, I finally found a format I could adhere to: Never mind describing the back-and-lack-of-forths of unrequited crushes and falling-outs with friends. I decided to list the books I read instead.”

Pamela Paul
Essay, My Life With Bob
Keeping Track of Reading Habits With a ‘Book of Books’

New York Times
April 13, 2012

Here's a page of my "Book of Books", which I started when I graduated from university in 1983 ... on Twitpic

Pamela Paul’s essay warms my heart. When our ways of engaging with and keeping track of books is becoming increasingly digital – even “in the cloud”, not tangibly or physically connected to us – how lovely is it to see a paper diary with handwritten entries capturing someone’s life in reading? As soon as I saw this picture in my paper copy of the New York Times Sunday Book Review. I immediately connected with the picture and the essay because I’ve been doing the same thing as Pamela for close to 30 years (gulp).

I have a battered little bound diary in which I have been recording my reading since I graduated in 1983 from the University of Waterloo with a BA in Honors English (co-op). Surprisingly, I was not at all weary of all the reading I did as a student, and continued merrily along right after graduation. My first few entries in my Book of Books are:

April 28, 1983
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (reread)

May 6, 1983
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

May 20, 1983
Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy

… and on it goes from there. (Click on the picture accompanying this post to glimpse a couple of pages from 1989.) My only regret is that I didn’t start keeping a Book of Books sooner.

The spine on my Book of Books has come unglued on one side in all that time, but it still holds a place of honour on the shelf over my home office desk. I take it down and record my latest book completed as part of the beloved ritual of adding another book to one of my fondest memory banks of all.

Twitter, Goodreads, Bibliocommons and their ilk allow me to connect with other readers, for which I’m immensely grateful. My Book of Books allows me to connect with my own personal history as a reader, which is priceless.

See also:

Book of Books (BOB) Pinterest board
I’ve started capturing pictures of people’s gorgeous, textured, much loved book diaries. If you would like me to pin your book diary to this collection, leave a comment here with a link.


Book manna from heaven … from CBC Books

The Culprits, by Robert Hough

By virtue of the simple acts of reading a book. forming an impression of a book, forming that impression into something expressed in 140 characters, and then sending out that impression via Twitter with the wee tag #cbc140 added to it … one can be subject to the generosity of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Book Club, who might just reward your efforts with … more books.

Thanks to CBC Books’ most recent largesse, I just took delivery today of the following:

1. More Money Than Brains, by Laura Penny
2. April in Paris, by Michael Wallner
3. The Eye of Jade, by Diane Wei Liang
4. Peddling Peril, by David Albright
5. The Culprits, by Robert Hough

I confess that – as well read as I fancy I am – I know little about any of these books and authors. That’s what makes this package so delightful and makes me that much more grateful, as I’ll now have the opportunity to read some books I might not have chanced upon otherwise, and will learn about some new authors. Yes, the ice cream headache of bookish delight is gaining momentum already!

Give it a try: tweet your mini book reviews to #cbc140, and you could soon be feeling that same lightheaded feeling of bookish delight yourself!