MY FIRST BOOK CLUB AND BOOKS WITH ‘PARIS’ AND ‘BOOKSHOP’ IN THE TITLE

Last Friday, I put on my glasses and knee length socks and walked for 30 minutes to meet a group of bookworms called the Flips Flipping Pages. The place served board games, my favorite curry tonkatsu with squeals and excited shrills completing the general ambience. It was a young place, the night as well. I’m not sure how old most of the Flippers were, book veterans, but my opinion is that reading have made their minds pliant – more than I can for some of the younger people I know.

For most of my reading life – the activity had never taken a communal turn until now. Sure there’s the occasional International Pratchett group online where I met some of the more widely read, funniest, kind hearted and wittiest bastards I might now have enough passport pages to meet but being in the same room as book people is a step forward in my scant social skills.

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Book clubs, next best thing after books. 

I brought a Pratchett book for the show and tell (part of the night’s program). Looking back, I should’ve chosen a different one. I don’t know. They kept asking what else I read – science fiction, fantasy, others, I kept saying. That’s not to say that they were book snobs, far from it. A Terry Pratchett book is hard to communicate. Describing the plots always sounds silly. I don’t think I was eloquent enough to be brilliantly silly. I tried. And then we got to talking about Neil Gaiman and you know what I think about Neil Gaiman.

But I enjoyed the eclectic group and their diverse taste in books. One shared her love for erotic literature. Another shared enthusiasm for a new fantasy series I’ve never heard before (that’s what I get from getting cooped up in my room). One of us was reading a book set in Paris, somewhere a book shop was involved. An agent from Penguin in our midst tells us any book with Paris and book shop in the title was sure to sell. I bookmarked this idea. No one’s challenged my reading habits before. By the end of the night, I was richer. I felt full, not because I ate curry and drank a couple of beer and followed up with whiskey (which tells a whole different story of that night, or morning).

I felt included. I saw more nights like this in my immediate future and I’m filled with so much love for all the undiscovered inner worlds I’d discover inside every reader I will meet there. I wonder if all book clubs are like this.

Tell me your book club experience.

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NEIL GAIMAN: THE AUTHOR I LOVE BUT NEVER READ

“Huh?” you ask. I thought it’s weird too so I looked in the attic of my mind where the answers usually are. Here they are, The Graveyard Book, American Gods, Neverwhere – lined up ready for identification, only the witness is guilty.

In the realm of science fiction and fantasy – he’s almost unavoidable. I’ve got friends who wouldn’t shut up about Neil Gaiman. He wouldn’t shut up in my twitter feed. And yet I love him despite not finishing any book he had written.

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He’s John the Baptist and eats locusts and honey, yes?

It’s in the strength of his recommendation that I read Susanna Clarke’s mighty doorstopper, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. It’s his conversation with Kazuo Ishiguro that made me pick up The Buried Giant even though it wasn’t well received by everybody else (it was reviewed as “brave and bizarre”, code word for “not a fucking clue what he wants to prove”). More than half my bookshelf are authors recommended by Neil Gaiman. And yet I never finished any of his books. Three quarters into The Graveyard Book and I let go. Half into American Gods and I lost it. I started Neverwhere and couldn’t remember if I got past the first 10 pages. But I love him, I really do. I like his conversations. I love his essays. I am regularly amused by entries in his Views From The Cheapseats. His memorial tribute to Terry Pratchett (late collaborator for the cult classic, Good Omens) is the most beautiful thing a person could say about another. And I felt like it’s a crime that I never enjoyed him as the author of fictions. I still don’t know why Sandman was a big deal which is a shame because everyone seemed to be strong in this.

He’s John the Baptist to many Jesus. It’s my compliment, in a brave and bizarre way.