I’m Mallory Barnes, a fiction writer living in West Texas.My hope here is to encourage reading and discussion. In the digital age, we often live together so separately. Community and intellectual discussion are harder and harder to come by. I hope that Book Club Bites can help alleviate that by encouraging the birth and growth of book clubs.
*If you are new here, WELCOME! For To Kill a Mockingbird, I provide your book club with a brief summary, a recipe, and discussion questions in that order!
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is one of the most beloved stories in American history, perhaps the most. It centers around the spirited and spunky Scout Finch as she struggles with a world-view shift and comes of age in a small Southern town rife with prejudice.
While To Kill a Mockingbird is a story many people read during school, maybe you didn’t. Somewhere between changing high schools three times, I missed the required To Kill a Mockingbird reading. It wasn’t until after college that I decided to read it and see what all the fuss was about. So, if you haven’t read it yet, there’s no shame!
I’m going to guess that even those in your book club who have read it will be delighted to read it again. It’s one of those books you can read multiple times and still turn the last page with a smile and that nostalgic feeling that comes after you’ve enjoyed a good visit with old friends.
To Kill a Mockingbird is written in the Southern Gothic style, which means that there is a dark feel to elements of the story. It is also told in first person from the view of Scout, who is almost 6 years old when the story begins. This is a coming-of-age story, and while usually characters emerge from such tales with jaded outlooks, Scout manages to emerge from her ordeal hopeful for the future and fighting the prejudices that rage around her.
“You never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them.”
-Scout Finch, Chapter 31, To Kill a Mockingbird
With all that’s going on in the world right now, it seems all of us could use a little dose of Scout Finch and her moxie anyhow. Maybe a little wisdom from the ever poignant Atticus Finch, too. So, if members of your book club haven’t read (or re-read) To Kill a Mockingbird, there’s no better time than right now.
*If you are new here, WELCOME! For the 5 Awesome Online Communities for Book Lovers, I share an extensive list of ways to connect with other readers online!
Well, the world’s turned on it’s end lately. Things just aren’t the way they’ve always been. While we’re all hopeful that life as we’ve known it will get back to normal soon, the truth is that this “novel” Coronavirus will forever change us. How? It may be a decade before we realize all the ways.
But, one thing’s for sure. People need people. And, while we’re at home, you may be desperately missing not only other family members, friends, and coworkers, but those savvy sisters (and brothers) who challenge and encourage you every month with stimulating conversation around the one thing you all love–books.
While you shouldn’t cut the cord to your local book club, maybe this crazy time could open your eyes to other online outlets you wouldn’t have explored if you weren’t isolated, tired of looking at Covid-19 memes, and desperate for some intellectual tete-a-tete. That said, there are plenty of opportunities for readers to share the love. Let me share some of the best online communities for book lovers and a few ways you can connect online with other readers.
*If you are new here, WELCOME! For 12 Online Book Clubs to Join Now, I share 12 amazing virtual book clubs waiting for new members like you!
12 Online Book Clubs to Join Now
This post is an extension of another post I wrote about connecting with other readers online. While I briefly mentioned online book clubs in that post, I wanted to delve into more detail and feature 12 online book clubs you can join now. That’s right. You can join book clubs online from the comfort of your home!
Whether you’re stuck at home due to a sickness, a surgery, a new baby, or a mixed bag of reasons, you’re probably missing the interaction with people you love, including your book club. But, don’t fret, there are many ways to connect with other book lovers online, including Online Book Clubs!
Book clubs are everywhere these days. It seems that almost every celebrity is creating a book club. So, good news, your passion for books is very vogue right now. And, better news, because it is, there are a plethora of virtual options to keep you connected with other readers online when you’re unable to meet in person.
*If you are new here, WELCOME! For How to Overcome Writer’s Block, I share a few stories and five books to help you fight writer’s block!
5 Books to Overcome Writer’s Block
If you’ve been writing for very long at all, you’ve probably faced the beast called Writer’s Block. You may not know that many professional writers don’t believe there is such a thing as writer’s block. If you have read something disclaiming its existence, you’ve heard people waving it off as laziness or lack of commitment or what-have-you. When you’re in the middle of it, though, you know writer’s block is a very real thing.
Overcome the Two Types of Writer’s Block
There are two types of writer’s block. The first type could easily seem like laziness or lack of commitment to some people, but if you’re already feeling down, beating yourself up for skipping another day of writing, and feeling frustrated that you haven’t felt any kind of inspiration in days,weeks, months, that kind of talk isn’t going to help at all.
The thing you may not realize, especially if you are somewhat new to writing, is that ALL writers feel this way. When you feel that lump in your stomach, that dread of facing a blank page once again, the first thing you need to do is squash the notion that the real geniuses, the real successful writers, don’t ever feel that way. It’s a myth. A myth highly circulated through hushed circles of jealous writers, but a myth nonetheless.
*If you are new here, WELCOME! For The Great Gatsby, I provide your book club with a brief summary, a recipe, and discussion questions in that order!
The Great Gatsby Book Club Questions and Recipe
This post is the third post in the Classics Series–you can check out the posts on Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and Emma by Jane Austen for more.
The Great Gatsby is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most renown work. Maybe you know The Great Gatsby from high school English, where it’s often required reading (gasp!–If you’re in high school English now, hi there! Don’t worry, you’ll survive!). Anyway, maybe that’s been a while…but you have a vague memory of parties and wealth along with Gatsby’s doomed obsession for a past love.
Or, maybe due to Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jay Gatsby, you are more recently familiar with the story. Either way, you might not have read the book as an adult. I know I hadn’t.
Let me encourage you if it’s been a while or especially if you’ve crossed into mid-life, the place where we flounder between the tug of the future and the pull of the past, to consider rereading the novel. The Great Gatsby is a timeless book that can be read every few years and mined for new insights. It’s ultimately a warning against the pursuit of wealth unrestrained by morality. But, it’s more than that, too.
Emma is one of Jane Austen’s lesser known masterpieces (often behind Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility in readers’ minds). It is a comedy about romantic mishaps and youthful overconfidence.
Don’t you remember those blissfully ignorant and misguided days of youth when you absolutely knew what everyone else wanted and needed but had no idea what you wanted or needed? No? Just me?
Well Emma, the book’s namesake, is the epitome of this dichotomy. She’s quick to meddle in all of her neighbors’ lives, yet she has is blind to the desires of her own heart. She’s presumptuous, loved by everyone, and stubborn to a fault. Throw in a cast of quirky characters including a loquacious spinster, a gold-digging vicar, and an anti-social father and you’ve got a book full of mayhem and mishaps.
If you’ve read any of her books, you’ll know that Jane Austen is the queen of miscommunication. Her books often revolve around dangers of assumptions. Emma is no different, but I found the heroine to be especially charming in a unique way to other Austen heroines.
*If you are new here, WELCOME! For The Alice Network, I provide your book club with a brief summary, a recipe, and discussion questions in that order!
Have you read any books featured by Reese’s Book Club? (As in Reese Witherspoon. In case you didn’t know, she has a online book club which is part of her company Hello Sunshine and the books they choose get the Reese seal of approval–much like Oprah’s book selections.) Anyway, for me, the books I’ve read have been hit or miss. Lately, though, it seems Reese is hitting it out of the park with titles like Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Little Fires Everywhere, and Where the Crawdads Sing.
Needless to say, The Alice Networkis a Reese’s Book Club pick and I loved it. The novel is a dual timeline story featuring two women as they deal with both WWI and WWII. It is set primarily in France. When the two women meet in the aftermath of WWII, their stories converge and they set out on a journey of discovery and revenge.
*If you are new here, WELCOME! For The Invention of Wings, I provide your book club with a brief summary, a recipe, and discussion questions in that order!
One of my favorite books is The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. If you haven’t read it, it is chock full of friendship, mother-daughter relationships, and Southern flair. And, of course bees. The narrator is also a spit-fire girl who comes of age during the story. It’s one of those feel-good books that you think back on and sigh with happiness. I knew the Sue Monk Kidd wrote The Mermaid Chair shortly after. For some reason, it didn’t appeal to me personally. If you’ve read it, I’d love to know your thoughts.
However, when researching books to feature here. I stumbled upon The Invention of Wings. It was released in 2015, but I had yet to read it. The premise was intriguing. In fact, I’m a sucker for Civil War fiction in the same way some people love WWII fiction.
This is another book by Sue Monk Kidd with a young narrator. Two young narrators actually–Sarah and Handful. They both have unique voices, like Lily from The Secret Life of Bees. You also have the racial discrimination (civil rights vs slavery) and coming-of-age themes. However, that is where the similarity ends.
*If you are new here, WELCOME! For Little Women, I provide your book club with a brief summary, a recipe, and discussion questions in that order!
This post is the beginning of a new series of posts I have decided to create for Book Club Bites featuring The Classics. I’ve had Little Women on my re-read list for a while and with the new movie coming out this winter, I decided it was the perfect start for this series.
If you don’t know much about Louisa May Alcott, the author of Little Women, I suggest you take some time and read a little about her (even if it’s just her wikipedia page).
Louisa May Alcott led a fascinating life. She was raised by her parents among transcendentalists, including many famous thinkers of the time such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
She grew up to be an abolitionist and a feminist. In fact, her family helped Frederick Douglass and others during their work in the underground railroad. Despite all of this adventure, Little Women is based on what Louisa held closest to her heart–her own sisters and her mother. Her three sisters inspired the characters Meg, Amy, and Beth, and Jo was based loosely upon her own life and character.
*If you are new here, WELCOME! For In Farleigh Field, I provide your book club with a brief summary, a recipe, and discussion questions in that order!
In Farleigh Field has been floating around as a potential read for me for quite a while. I’ll tell you why.
Did you know that Amazon has it’s own publishing house now? That’s right. Just like Penguin, Random House, and the others. It’s called Lake Union and it’s been putting out some hits.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, it’s fine. Readers are meant to enjoy books and not know how the sausage is made, so to speak. However, as someone who likes to keep abreast of the industry, I’ve been wanting to read a book that Lake Union has produced. So, I chose In Farleigh Field.