It’s Grace here to do a recap of September’s book club at the Oxford Exchange.
For those of you who haven’t heard about my ventures before, I’ve been running a teen-focused book club for about a year now. You can read my original announcements and explanations here and here for Inkwood Books and Oxford Exchange.
I work in the bookstore at Oxford Exchange, so I have loads of affection for it. Not only do I think that OE is amazing, but the book choices are remarkably well-curated. Also, Oxford Exchange recently launched a lifestyle blog, which I definitely encourage you to read.
We have a lot going on at Oxford Exchange this month – there was its 3rd birthday party, featuring a wild lip-sync battle in which a coalition of Buddy Brew employees launched into an impromptu Backstreet Boys tribute. We recently created OE Bookshelf, for readers who would like to collect modern and beautiful books.
Last month, we read Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Admittedly, I started and finished it the morning of, and I was completely floored by how much I adored it. The conversational style, the enigmatic characters, and the stunning quotes made me completely understand why it’s become such a cultural icon.
August book club was a tad slow because it was right after the first day of school, so it was nice catching up with people and the books that they’d read recently. Although book club fosters great conversations between a lot of kids I know, we love having newbies and anybody’s welcome to come! (Seriously, just walk on in and we’d be happy to have you.)
We chose Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë for September largely because those of us at H.B. Plant (local high school) knew we’d have to read it for AP Lit eventually, and wanted to read it before we overanalyzed it to death. Part of the reason Allison Adams – the brilliant woman behind Oxford Exchange – and I decided to do a classics book club as opposed to a regular one is that we wanted to give teens the chance to enjoy classics without feeling as if they were going to school. Many of my favorite books are classics I never would have been exposed to, or I know I would have disliked, due to heavy over-analysis or busywork in English classes. (Luckily, last year, I had a wonderful AP Lang teacher who both thoroughly examined the work and allowed us to enjoy it on our own levels.)
It’s also a gothic romance, and who doesn’t enjoy that?
For more complex classics – featuring lots of characters with similar names – I occasionally get a request from the book club participants to teach a mini-lesson. I’ll borrow a presentation pad (like giant sticky-notes) and a marker from the Commerce Club closet and get to work on a character map. After I get general impressions of the book, I’ll slowly go through the synopsis and break down the character relationships in a way that makes them easier to understand.
So yeah, sometimes it is rather academic. Everyone enjoys decoding the classic though, and it helps us all enjoy the book a little more when we understand what exactly is happening. (Which is why I’m still a supporter of SparkNotes – I think they’re helpful in the sense that it helps to review concrete events.)
In any case, I stumbled my way through a Wuthering Heights character map and we tried to decide whether it actually was a love story.
Next month, book club is taking a bit of a different direction. I’m thrilled to see what’s going to come. Laura, my fabulous manager, brought up the idea and I immediately latched onto it. Instead of simply doing stated classics, like books we always hear about in school, we want to try doing classic YA. As in, books we should read in order to round out our experiences. I neglect to say “give our minds a rest” because I do think young adult is just as emotionally stimulating and complex, but books which we can connect much more readily to on an immediate level.
We still wanted to do a spooky book though, so I suggested one of my favorites. (Update: one of the girls in book club told me this morning that she’s already 30% through it because she couldn’t stop reading. That made my day because the book was announced four days ago.)
Next month, we’re reading Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke. Not only is it just another excuse to reread it, but also I wholeheartedly think that it deserves to make an impact. It’s absolutely stunning, relatively easy to read, and has that perfect October mood. I think it’ll be the perfect opportunity to unwind before our November 1st deadlines on college applications.
For the record, you can always hear the latest about book club – and all my bookish goings-on – on my Twitter and Instagram. (And Snapchat, but that’s a relatively new development.) It’s nice and easy because I’m just “wlsgrace” on all my social media.
Teen Classics Book Club
Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke | Goodreads
October 25, 2015 at 3 P.M.
Commerce Club, Oxford Exchange
Free – tea and treats may be provided