A tool for members of Jax Freestyle Book Club, a meetup.com group in Jacksonville, Florida, to talk about what they're reading and would like to read. Click on the meetup badge to the right to go to our meeting homepage.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

March meeting

Gotta do this on the fly, but at the March meeting, we talked about Benjamin Franklin: An American Life (this one will definitely be back on the agenda in April) Loving Frank, Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain, , The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, and A Free Life.

Some of the topics that these books brought up were meditation, growing up in the fifties, how our take on family issues may differ from someone in Ben Franklin's era, the immigrant experience, virtues and sources of digital book downloads, and more.

Reading real books leads to real conversation!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Reading for March

I've finished one of this month's selections and started a second (the one I'd committed to).

Bill Bryson's childhood memoir Life andTimes of the Thunderbolt Kid is a lot of fun for anyone born in America around the middle of last century. (Mr. Bryson, like me, is an alum of the 1951 birth class). If you've read Bill Bryson before, you know he likes to mix reminiscences, facts, and comic exaggeration. This works most of the time for me; when he strays too far into silliness it's a bit off putting. On the other hand, he's certainly honoring an American comic tradition. I recently dipped back into Mark Twain's Roughing It, and Mr. Clemens does the same thing. This is a light, funny book, and if you're around the same age, will give you lots of flashes of recollection, fond or otherwise.

I'm also about a third of the way through Ha Jin's A Free Life. This is a novel which seems to be at least partly autobiographical. It's about the experiences of a Chinese man who was in the U.S. to pursue a PhD for which the Chinese government was sponsoring him at the time of the Tienamen Square uprising. He decided to remain in the U.S. and make his own way, and the book is the story of how he coped and how the experience changed him. I don't think this book is for everyone; it's told in a very matter of fact way, which is not at all to say it's flat, because there's vivid description and lots of dialogue, and the protagonist's emotions are considered. It's just told in a very clear straightforward narrative way. It really puts you in the head of someone trying to cope with trying to decide what his life should be and make a way for himself someplace where the rules are very different from where he grew up.