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LA Book Clubs Don't Cut To Commercials And They Probably Won't Jeopardize Careers: A Look At Local Reading Groups After Oprah
The end of the Oprah Era means more than the loss of a national anticipation for 4:00 p.m., heart-wrenching exposés, couch-jumping shenanigans and free cars; it also marks the departure of one of the largest book clubs in history. Swaying millions of viewers to read the kinds of books that put Cliff’s Notes in business proves that there is power in community reading.
While the act of reading is a highly internal experience, sharing it with others can provide the motivation to plow through the bleakest of chapters, unearth the subtlest of symbols, and decipher the obscurest of literary allusions. But you don’t need a talk show to talk about great books; you just need a few book-loving comrades.
Thankfully, Los Angeles is host to a number of reading groups for every literary niche--from lovers of mystery, erotica, Shakespeare, or Skepticism, you can find a group committed to reading and taking good books to task. Here are a few noteworthy book clubs to keep your summer literary and your reading honest:
Coyotes Book Club @ Skylight Books: This book group reads contemporary fiction and sometimes local authors, who often come in and shed light on the discussion. Previously discussed: Wittgenstein’s Mistress by David Markson, Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. Currently reading: Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon. Meets 4th Tuesday of every month @ 8pm. 1818 N. Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90027
Shakespeare @ Vroman’s: Need to brush up on Shakespeare? Never read Shakespeare? Obsessed with Elizabethan English? This group discusses only the greatest playwright’s work. Previously discussed: Anthony and Cleopatra. This month: Coriolanus. Next Meeting: June 10th @ 7pm. 695 E. Colorado Blvd. Pasadena, CA 91101
Mystery Book Club @ Westwood Public Library: Book club that focuses primarily on mysteries, both contemporary and classic. This month: When Will There Be Good News by Kate Atkinson. Meets at the Westwood LAPL branch. Next meeting: June 25th @ 11am. 1246 Glendon Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90024
Skeptic’s Book Club @ Center for Inquiry, Los Angeles: A Skeptic reading group interested in works that “defend reason, science, and freedom of inquiry.” Previous books discussed: Conversations on Consciousness by Susan Blackmore, Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff. Reading this month: The Moral Landscape by Sam Harris. Group meets at the Center for Inquiry on the 2nd Wednesday of every month @ 7pm. 4773 Hollywood Blvd. Hollywood, CA 90027
Reading LA @ LA Times: Earlier this year, the LA Times unveiled Reading LA, a project which reads two books each month about various aspects of Los Angeles. Christopher Hawthorne provides insight on the LA Times’ Culture Monster blog and engages commenters with discussions about the books. Reading this month: Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water by Marc Reisner and City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles by Mike Davis.
Book Club @ Read Books Bookstore: This book club reads classics and contemporary fiction at the bookstore LA Weekly deemed, “LA’s Best Unknown Bookstore.” Previously discussed: Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner. Currently Reading: How to Cook A Wolf by MFK Fisher. Next meeting: June 11th. 4972 Eagle Rock Boulevard, Los Angeles Ca. 90041
LAPL’s Online Book Club: Have a hard time getting into a book? Let LA Public Library’s online book club help you find one. LAPL e-mails 5 minute excerpts from one book every day, so you end up reading 2-3 chapters of a book per week. New books featured every Monday. Groups available include Fiction, Nonfiction, Business, Teen, Classics, Romance, Thriller, Audio.
Diane Leslie’s Book Group with Author @ Diesel, A Bookstore: While this book club isn’t cheap ($20 per meeting), the draw is in discussing the book with the author of the work. Previously discussed: The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. Currently reading: The Interloper by Antoine Wilson. Next Meeting: June 21 @ 5pm. Brentwood Country Mart - 225 26th Street, Santa Monica, Ca. 90402
Citywide Reads @ Santa Monica Public Library: It might not be as easy to read along with the nation, but you can easily join this city-wide reading group. A different book is picked each year and the library offers several events to compliment the reading, including conversations with the author. Previously discussed: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer and The Shadow Catcher by Marrianne Wiggins. This year: Wench by Dolens Perkins Valdez.
Noho Book Club @ North Hollywood Branch of LAPL: This book group’s mantra; “If you like to read and you like to talk, come join us for an hour of lively discussion.” Currently Reading: Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O’Nan. Next Meeting: Jun 25 @ 4pm.
The Ladies’ Guilty Pleasures Book Clubs: This book club opts to discuss, “unclassical works of fiction that would more or less be described as: offbeat, wacky, brain candy, light-hearted, fanciful, surreal, a poolside read, sensual, amusing, cheesey, erotic” and “dismissed by the New York Times and the Pulitzer committee.” Books are chosen based on an online poll and meetings are held every 4-5 weeks at a local restaurant. There is a Burbank Chapter and a West Side chapter. Previously discussed: Lucky You by Carl Hiaasen and All Families Are Psychotic by Douglas Coupland. Currently Reading: Afterlife by Merrie Destefano. Next Meeting: June 17th @ 8pm (event with the author). Visit their website for more info.
Have a favorite book club or looking for one? Tell us about it below!