Book Club Confidential – Fall Reading

My latest column from the News-Press (sorry, their own links last for 7 days only):
So we’re kickin’ into fall, or what the two-syllable crowd likes to call “autumn.”

Your summer reading is finished. You got sand all over the dust jacket. You dropped “Anna Karenina” into the bathtub by accident and now the bleedin’ thing has twice as many pages. You took a break from your book club because everybody was out on their brief American vacations driving, driving, driving somewhere. Or you went silly and added way too much to your towering “to be read” stack.
Don’t feel bad. We all do it. In fact, I just cleaned up the house and found that I was subconsciously squirreling away books just so my stack wouldn’t go so high. And now I’ve put them all in one place, I’m going to need a ladder. What was I thinking?

Indeed, what was I thinking when I attended the Planned Parenthood Used Book Bonanza, I mean, sale, at Earl Warren recently? Keep buying books, I said to myself, and one day my room will look just like this place.
I did, however, manage to snag a first edition of William S. Burroughs’ “Interzone” (thanks to book sale organizer Stephanie Sada for looking out for me), which made up for the fact that, yes, someone in the county still has that copy of “The Ticket That Exploded” overdue at the library and I still have it on reserve. Come on, whoever you are, you broke my summer rhythm!
If you made an even better find at the sale, one that made you gasp in amazement, please drop me a line at the e-mail address below. I’ll print the best one in the next column.
Now, if you’re stuck with what to read this fall in your book clubs, UCSB’s Arts & Lectures has a slew of literary people coming to town. Read a book, go interrogate the author. I guarantee you’ll be asking the best question that night. The short list (author and book) for the season: Kathy Gannon, “I Is for Infidel — From Holy War to Holy Terror” (Tuesday); Howard Zinn, “A People’s History of the United States” (Thursday); Ha Jin, “War Trash” (Oct. 16; see Lin Rolens’ review above); Marjane Satrapi, “Persepolis” (Oct. 17); Yvon Chouinard, “Let My People Go Surfing — The Education of a Reluctant Businessman” (Oct. 19); Dava Sobel, “The Planets — A Solar System Journey” (Oct. 26); Alexander McCall Smith, “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” (Nov. 5); Alan Lightman “The Discoveries — The Great Breakthroughs in 20th-Century Science” (Nov. 28).
Yes, Alexander McCall Smith is coming to town! Will the man be swamped by a mass convergence of book club members? I’m also looking forward to Marjane Satrapi’s talk. If you liked “Reading Lolita in Tehran,” Ms. Satrapi’s graphic novel offers a similarly fresh insight.
Lastly, in a Guardian article recently, author Ian McEwan (“Atonement”) gave out free books one afternoon in a park. While men acted like Mr. McEwan was trying to scam them or offer them crack, the women almost always stopped and took one, sometime several, books. They were even picky.
Says Mr. McEwan, “When women stop reading, the novel will be dead.”
Ladies? E-mail me at

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