Judd Halenza | 15th Street
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Guys don’t do book clubs. At least that is what my wife Susan told me. She should know – she was a Del Mar librarian for close to 20 years and had never run across a men’s book club.
But my neighbor Harold Feder and I both belong to the San Dieguito Tennis Club and the tennis pro, Brad Humphries, asked if we would start one with him and whomever else we could scare up. We both agreed on the condition that there would be plenty of wine to drink at the meetings.
A motley crew showed up at our first meeting: a dentist, a neurologist, a retired business owner, a software engineer, a retired banker, the tennis pro and the two Del Martians. We quickly found out that all of us were voracious readers. We read lots of non-fiction history, biographies of famous people, plenty of current trash (Stuart Woods, Lee Childs, Daniel Silva, David Baldacci) and lots of general fiction. Sadly, no one shared my interest in science fiction, so David Brin, William Gibson and many other esteemed authors and their stories would not be discussed.
Initially we gravitated to choosing three books to read between meetings; generally a literary book, a murder mystery and a book of general interest. We would spend 5-10 minutes discussing each book, and then the conversation would devolve onto whatever anyone wanted to talk about. We’ve spent many hours talking and learning about health care, the state of the medical industry, the military, the banking industry, wines, politics and everything else - including a little religion. There are no rules, but we are very civil, especially considering how diverse we are.
We talk about writing books and how the author actually made it happen. One of our members knew Richard Barager, author of Altamont Augie. Mr. Barager came to our meeting and we spent two hours drilling down on him, tearing apart the book with him and trying to understand exactly what he meant and how he wrote what he did. It is fascinating to have the author right there with you helping you fill in the blanks.
Nate Silver’s The Signal and The Noise was a tough book to read and understand. That didn’t bother anybody; it just started a conversation about betting on sports ( nobody is into that so the discussion was short-lived and not very accurate ) and predicting election outcomes, which is Nate Silver’s primary claim to fame. That was a good discussion. I think because we all know we’re at a book club that none of the discussions turn into arguments; which is interesting because we represent the full political spectrum and the room is full of successful men with strong egos.
A big surprise to me was the success we had reading Billy Collins, a past poet laureate. Most of us wouldn’t have read his poetry on our own but a member who was an English literature major in college convinced us to give it a try. It so influenced one of our members that he wrote a very personal, moving poem that he read to us at our next meeting.
Are we really a book club? I don’t know and I don’t care. We read books, sometimes we talk about them, and sometimes we don’t because someone has something more interesting to talk about. It definitely enriches our lives.
Oh, and the wine definitely helps.