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Choosing a reading for the Rebelsky Family Book Club

Topics/tags: Those wacky Rebelskys, short

About a year and a half ago, I asked all of the members of my immediate family to read Carol Dweck’s Mindset. Our discussion of that book became the start of what we now call The Rebelsky Family Book Club. We rotate who chooses the book, find a date to discuss [1], order pizza [2], and sit down and talk through the book. Over the past eighteen-or-so months, we’ve read ten books or other things. Our most recent reading was Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, the Bernovksy translation [3]. It’s fun to sit down as a family and see how each of us reacts to a work. We don’t always run the group as I’d like, but we manage to elicit some useful conversation and delightful digressions.

I wish I could report the details of our discussion about The Metamorphosis. However, I’m pretty sure that what is said in the book club stays in the book club. I will note that we touched on Kafka’s sense of humor but did not delve as deeply into the meaning of the three bearded gentlemen as I would have liked.

We rotate who chooses the book, from oldest (me) to youngest (Youngest Son). Our discussions about choosing a book are also enlightening, if not necessarily delightful. For example, Youngest wanted to choose Infinite Jest. Someone else claimed that no one has ever read that book all the way through. In the end, we decided that it was best not to try to read and discuss a dense, 1000-plus page book [4]. I expect that he chose Kafka in response. If you won’t let me read something long, I’ll choose something short. I’m surprised that he didn’t choose Consider the Lobster.

Now it’s my turn to choose. I chose nonfiction the last two times, first Mindset and then Designing Your Life, which a Grinnell College Trustee recommended to me. It feels like it’s time to choose fiction. I suggested One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, which I recall appreciating when I read it in college. However, one son suggested that it’s too much of a traditional book-club book; you know, the ones that you get assigned as summer reading and another recalled reading it and not appreciating it [5].

So now I’m debating what else I might choose. There’s always a tension between choosing something I’ve read already, like _Cuckoo’s Nest, and choosing something that is on my to read list, like Designing Your Life.

A friend suggested that I read Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven during my sabbatical. I’m not sure it would be the best book for our reading group, since it may be even more depressing than The Metamorphosis, but it’s worth considering. Alternately, I’d like to share my enjoyment of Howard Frank Mosher with my family; there’s just a question of which book to read; I may have to revisit a few to choose. There are certainly other choices. I just started R. F. Kuang’s The Poppy War. Most of my family enjoys some kind of epic fantasy, and this seems to come from a very different cultural context. My children debate language enough that they might enjoy Cathleen Schine’s The Grammarians; I’ve seen some good reviews of it.

I could also take an easier way out. Almost everyone in the family has read William Goldman’s The Princess Bride; Michelle and I have enjoyed it since long before the movie came out. Michelle and I both like Charles de Lint’s Moonheart. That’s a bit long, but it’s a nice bit of urban fantasy.

Or maybe I should just go in a completely different direction, and select something like Maurice Sendak’s Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must Be More to Life. It would certainly permit a different kind of discussion and we might even be able to get it done before the kids scatter to the edges of the country.

Decisions, decisions.

Postscript: Arguably, my prior two choices are self-help books of some sort. So I could pick another kind of nonfiction. But I’ll leave that for the next round of readings.

[1] That’s getting harder and harder as they move away.

[2] Or, on occasion, something else.

[3] Nope, I still don’t have an Amazon affiliate account.

[4] Sorry Tim!

[5] I love my children, even if we don’t always share a taste in books.

Version 1.0 released 2019-12-26.

Version 1.0.1 of 2019-12-27.