Posts in book club
May Book Club

Hey y'all! It’s Grace here to do a recap of May’s book club at 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 and a half now. You can read my original announcements and explanations here and here for Inkwood Books and Oxford Exchange.

It's really rewarding for me. At this point, I'm friends with many of the people in book club and love hearing their thoughts on the latest books, news, and personal goings-on. I'm also always aiming to grow the club, so I like to reach out to those I think might enjoy our conversations.

Recently - interestingly enough - our picks have been rather dark. Book club, and the people within it, do a fantastic job of getting me out of my comfort zone. February was The Tsar of Love and TechnoApril was This Is How You Lose Herand May was American Psycho(In March, we read The Dharma Bumswhich is admittedly much more my style.)For book club, I drift towards existential picks that make me question a lot of the world around me. I like books that make me think. (Also, it's way easier to moderate discussion when there are still questions that the members have - we get into a nice rhythm of debate.)It's not anything like AP Lit. There isn't a right answer, or a wrong answer that we're pushed towards. We also have a great diversity of thought within the regulars at book club, so I always know I'll get a fresh perspective when I ask about the way a book handles religion or murder or romance.So...American Psycho.It was entirely new to me. I'd never seen the movie. I'd never read the book. All I knew was that one of the characters was a serial killer.I ended up binge-reading the entire thing, mostly because I was relatively certain that it wouldn't be my cup of tea. I started it at around noon on Saturday and read it through until about 5 P.M., absurdly proud of myself for getting through four hundred pages without vomiting and/or crying. It's graphic. Really, really graphic. Detailed scenes of disembowelment, rape, and other horrors were commonly sprinkled throughout the pages. I ended up taking notes on my phone so that I wouldn't have to flip through it later during the actual psycho notesI had this moment of how did we get here? How do we go from Pride and Prejudice and The Catcher in the Rye and talking about Neruda to American freaking Psycho?I'm not sure whether to be proud of you or scared of you, book club.I finished American Psycho with the conclusion that Bret Easton Ellis has 1000% murdered someone, or witnessed a murder, in his lifetime. There's no way you submerge yourself into a first-person perspective of that degree for seven years without experiencing some effects. Also, I have to marvel at the depth and dedication of his research.I had an adverse reaction similar to that of when I read Flowers in the Atticdisgust, horror, and an entire hodgepodge of other emotions.Yet despite my intense dislike of all of the content, I have to admit the skill in the writing. The stream-of-consciousness, the character development, the clever all has purpose. I could point out some pretty clear symbols and social commentary woven throughout the narrative. I feel like I could probably comfortably write an academic paper on several of the aspects of American Psycho that made it masterfully psycho 2On Sunday, I took my observations to book club.Many of the members hadn't finished the book, but had read enough of it to get the gist. We got our special Tea for Tots treats, and quickly chowed down so that our enjoyment of the mini-cupcakes wouldn't be dampened by the sobriety of our discussion.And then we got into talking. I brought up my notes. Others mentioned personal reactions, specific instances of humor/terror, and we rapidly debated the mental facilities of Bret Easton Ellis, the illustrious author.Admittedly, one of the most fascinating parts of running a book club is that we (referring to the regular participants) have started to really develop an understanding for how we as individuals read. Madison and Kassadie mentioned during our conversation that they'd discussed the rat scene with me in mind, hoping that I wasn't too affected by the tortures it went through because I tend to "feel characters more deeply."I know Madison always tinges her observations with humor, and will generally be the first to tell me if she hated a book. Kassadie is adventurous with her reads, and always has these gorgeous reflections on subject matter that make me want to have really long conversations with her. Libby almost never reads the book - but when she does, she gets really passionate about it. I could go on, but I would talk for ages about how much I love the various people in book club. Also, we love having new people there! It's always nice to have a fresh voice, especially since most of us seniors will be leaving soon.So although I really really really wish I'd never read or heard of American Psycho, it led to an interesting discussion between a group of about twelve of my favorite people. Do the ends justify the means?Next month, even though we're still in our bell jar of dark reads, I'm really excited to be reading The Road. I've read a few chapters - and loved them - and I've already jotted down some literary techniques and poignant moments that I can't wait to talk about. (I totally barged in on a conversation about The Road in an English class I shadowed in April.) I'll be running book club on the Sunday of ALA Annual, so I'll be darting from Orlando to moderate it.It'll be bittersweet, because it's the last book club that I'll personally moderate at Oxford Exchange. The past year and a half has been an extraordinary whirlwind there, and I'm grateful for the opportunities I had there. It's also been so lovely to get close to the members of book club, people who I largely consider friends. In the meantime, I'll be passing the torch down to my not-a-teen coworker Alex (who's awesome), who'll take over moderating and organizing book club. Meanwhile, I'm hoping that my fabulous juniors and sophomores step in to keep a solid group in there.If you're interested in coming to book club, please pop on in! We're an über-welcoming, eclectic group of kids who just like to talk about literature, movies, and the ideas contained within them. We have really focused book clubs and really loose ones, and it's so pleasant to have such refreshing, stimulating conversation.For the record, you can always hear the latest about book club – and all my bookish goings-on – on my Twitter and Instagram.

Teen Book Club

The Road by Cormac McCarthy | GoodreadsJune 26, 2016 at 3 P.M.Commerce Club, Oxford ExchangeFree - tea and treats provided

March Book Club Wrap Up

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Hey y'all!It’s Grace here to do a recap of March’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.We've had a really great roll with book club lately. Our last few picks have been phenomenal, and we've had a fantastic turnout. Admittedly, we're a book club that often ventures into talking about Brain Pickings or comparable books to the month's title as well as aspects of the book we're supposed to be discussing.The funny part about OE book club is that although I do have a core group of regulars, we always have somebody new. It's really lovely actually. It varies, who all shows up in a given month.For those of you who have never been to book club before - which is, for my virtual and/or adult readers, many of you - here's how it normally goes. I get to book club early and figure out logistics with my manager. As people trickle in, we talk about what's going on in our lives. (For many of the seniors, we chat a little about college because that's our main concern.) When most everyone's there, we start round-table introductions if there's anyone new. Everyone knows the routine: name, grade, school, favorite/latest book.5516_968561086572411_9072432462199854680_nFirst off, I ask what people thought of the book. If somebody has a strong opinion, they explain. Based on that, I moderate the discussion as it lapses into specific scenes, topics, etc,. And I always encourage everyone to bring in ideas from other works or sources too. We've been exposed to a lot of websites, current events, and books that way. That, for me, is one of the most rewarding parts of book club.During discussion, my manager might pop her head in at some point and tell us that we're welcome to the food. Because teen book club is right after Tea for Tots, we get the leftovers. And they're usually divine: cucumber sandwiches, chocolate covered strawberries, mini cupcakes, etc,.And then we go back to talking.This month, we read The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac, for a few reasons.

  • Hello...Jack Kerouac.
  • Warby Parker just moved into Oxford Exchange (and they love that book!)
  • Several kids were reading it already, and we're nothing if not accomodating.

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetMarch was a bit of a tough month for discussion because it's probably one of the busiest months of the year for high schoolers. Third quarter is really difficult, and many people play spring sports. Not many people finished the book, even though it was less than two hundred pages. One of the nice parts about The Dharma Bumshowever, was that the plot wasn't the most relevant part of the book.The Dharma Bums is a book about travel along the California coast, as well as Ray Smith's (a loose interpretation of Jack Kerouac) experiences with his form of Buddhism. I personally learned a lot about other religion through this book, and that was something we discussed. Additionally, we talked about Japhy and Princess and some of the characters who cropped up throughout.By the end of the month, I had so much of this book underlined! There were some lovely lines that really made me think (one of the reasons I love Kerouac) so I definitely brought those up and we had some great conversation.Next month, we're reading a collection of inter-connected short stories (à la The Tsar of Love and Techno) which we're all really excited about! So if you're in the Tampa area and are a teen who would love to eat cupcakes/talk about books/make new friends, come join! For the record, you can always hear the latest about book club – and all my bookish goings-on – on my Twitter and Instagram.

Teen Classics Book Club

This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz | GoodreadsApril 24, 2016 at 3 P.M.Commerce Club, Oxford ExchangeFree - tea and treats provided

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September Book Club Wrap Up


Hey y'all!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.11327366_112725972415529_2089259534_nI 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'sAdmittedly, 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.11934605_739939849444912_901336447_nAugust 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?11906224_1835448546682702_909172408_nFor 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.11939518_829837347113962_1305046308_nNext 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.)Drumroll, please?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 | GoodreadsOctober 25, 2015 at 3 P.M.Commerce Club, Oxford ExchangeFree – tea and treats may be provided

Hope to see y'all there!

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June Book Club Wrap Up

DSC_4479It’s Grace here to do a recap of June’s book club at the Oxford Exchange.For those of you who haven’t heard of this before, I was asked by my local indie bookstores, the Oxford Exchange and Inkwood Books, to run teen-based book clubs. You can read my original announcements and explanations here and here. I actually work at Oxford Exchange, so I have loads of affection for my GORGEOUS workplace. Also, Oxford Exchange recently launched a lifestyle blog, which I occasionally contribute to!11254554_1581250312128089_2106342805_nLast month, we read The Hound of the Baskervilles, a Sherlock Holmes mystery. In May, I didn't actually have time to wrap up book club on here (I had just gotten back from BookExpo America and was fully immersed into studying for exams, which were the week after.) But writing it out is one of my favorite parts so here goes.Book club has settled into a generally similar group of people but we always have some fresh faces which is so lovely. They contribute to the conversation brilliantly, and I love hearing about their schools and favorite books and all of that. If you're in the Tampa area, I would love to host you! Unfortunately, you have to be a teen - but even then, I'd love to hear from you.June book club was a bit more relaxed than normal; everyone's on summer, so we had a tiny group. Even then, I loved hearing their thoughts on the book.I'll be honest in saying that I couldn't reread The Bell Jar. I haven't struggled with severe depression or anything, but that book holds a few triggers for me. So I couldn't put myself through that again. I encourage everyone to read it at least once because it's the sort of harrowing, mental experience that changes you. However, it does put you in a bit of a small funk, which is really hard to get over.CImwHo3WoAE2VwOSo I read the SparkNotes and headed off to book club, determined to hear about everyone's summers. I wasn't expecting us to be super focused this month (spoiler alert: we weren't) but was expecting maybe a bit of book focus and a lot of small talk.One of the best parts of book club is that although the people in it are my friends, I rarely get to talk to them as in-depth as during book club. Book club has a way of just constantly stimulating conversation, whether it's a deep conversation or about memes (see the superlatives below - Madison's to blame for this one) or simply catching up with them. It's a balance of insight and casual interest that makes me wholeheartedly love the fact that there are people there.We just had a few kids from my high school, so it was smaller than normal but it was all the regulars. Ironically, they're also the punks - and I love them for it. They always show up in pleated skirts and dark lipstick and these funky sunglasses, and read books like Lolita and reference Tumblr. It's pretty epic honestly. I'm a shy bookworm who somehow manages to lead parts of the school through clubs and whatnot (no idea how I manage to be peppy when I'm simultaneously terrified of interacting with people but it happens) and I never would have guessed that I'd get to be so close with such a vibrant group.11273137_1620235861589925_134101522_nThis month, we lingered in the bookstore for the beginning. I haven't worked much this summer because I've been in and out of town, plus they've been training new bookstore workers. (Shoutout to Mike! You're awesome.) The new guy kept making me laugh and despite how excited I was to run book club, it was hard to drag myself away from my coworkers. So we hung out in the bookstore and picked our book for next month.We honestly spent a lot of book club catching up with everyone and their current reads. We joked about Sylvia Plath throughout, and talked about our reactions. It wasn't as much of what our book club usually is - bringing in other related articles, ideas, or perceptions - but it was personal, and great.And one of the best parts of having fewer people because of summer? We got the BEST Tea for Tots leftovers. They had chocolate strawberries, scones, tea sandwiches, fruit spears, and tea. It was absolutely delicious and we each got a ton. My favorite waitress - she may be a busboy actually, I get confused, but IN ANY CASE she's awesome - Carly brought in our teas and all of that, which we all really appreciated.Kassadie had the brilliant idea to do superlatives partway through since technically, it was our last book club of the year. I'll be in Canada throughout July and then at camp to be a junior counselor, so I wouldn't be there to moderate. Instead, we're starting off again in August.DSC_4482I rushed off to the Commerce Club closet to get a piece of paper and spent about five minutes debating the merits of each superlative I wanted to award. Some were easy and others were difficult. (I struggled over Kyle's for ages!) When I was done, I awarded them and they came up for one for ME, based on an inside joke we'd had earlier in the year.So it was a successful book club. I had a great time, I loved hearing about everyone's summers, and I adored getting to see them. Sylvia Plath was a good pick too - those who finished the book had some eloquent opinions about it. Everyone left and I said goodbye and then my car died, so I just hung around Oxford for about an hour and a half. It happens. Needless to say, not fun in 98 degree heat.Next book club? Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote. As usual, you can see all these bookish photos on my Instagram and keep up with book club announcements on my Twitter.Hint: If you buy the book of the month through OE, you get a discount on the pretty editions we have in right now.

Teen Classics Book Club

Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote | GoodreadsAugust 30, 2015 at 3 P.M.Commerce Club, Oxford ExchangeFree – tea and treats may be provided

Happy reading!

April Book Club

It’s Grace, a few days late to do a recap of April’s book club at the Oxford Exchange.I love love love book club. I love the conversation – and highly encourage you to come if you like what you’ve read – and love to write about it afterwards. The tea and the people are pretty great too, and there’s just nothing more I love than being around people who want to talk about the books we read, or the thoughts we have that relate to them. It’s a pretty wonderful feeling.For those of you who haven’t heard of this before, I was asked by my local indie bookstores, the Oxford Exchange and Inkwood Books, to run teen-based book clubs. You can read my original announcements and explanations here and here.


Last month, we read For Whom the Bell Tollswhich admittedly I STILL haven't finished (I'm about halfway through, and if you've read the book, you know it still gave me a lot to talk about) - and I absolutely loved it. March was a really great book club, even though it was after prom and we were all a little tired!Despite my absolute adoration for my regulars, we've had some new faces recently which is so refreshing and rewarding! It makes me so happy when people come in - whether they're people I know trying it out for the first time or people who simply heard about it through Oxford. It makes me a little nervous because admittedly, I'm a people-pleaser and want everyone to love talking about the book as much as I do, but the past few months' book clubs have gone really well and I couldn't be happier.April book club was a little nerve-wracking for another reason: it was the end of lacrosse season and I didn't even start the book until the morning of book club. I had another prom the night before and realized at the dance that hey, book club's tomorrow. We chose Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger, which I already had in paperback. I had read about halfway through it before, but I had never finished the book just because I never had the time.So Sunday morning, I camped out in my bed and simply read. It'd been ages since I'd done that: simply stayed in bed and read until I finished a book, but I devoured Franny and Zooey so quickly. It was a book that left me changed. I did the same thing with The Catcher in the Ryea one-sitting book, and both left me in absolute awe of Salinger's writing ability and how thought-provoking each characters' mental breakdowns were. Those books made me think.When I got to book club, we were absolutely spoiled by the Tea for Tots leftovers. Because we have book club right after, we get the leftover tea and sandwiches, and we had such a bounty. This month, we had these yummy almond-butter sandwiches and macaroons and four different types of tea. I felt absolutely spoiled.We had more newbies this month, one of whom I chatted with for ages before the conversation started. We always start out with a cheesy, round-table style introduction (name-school-favorite-book-if-you-have-one) and it's always fun, especially as you get to know people who come. I love the variety of people we have: the kids I know from my school, the kids from the IB program, the kids who commute from St. Pete. It's definitely an interesting mix, and people have such fascinating perspective. One of my friends stubbornly insists on being flat-out in love with Zooey, who I actually couldn't stand. So it differs, and we have good talk, and it's such a glorious hour or so of conversation.2facbb57ea14edc5dd33bbcf3177a229This month, the book was fantastic and the people were wonderful and I had such a good time. We hesitantly nailed down a title to start off the summer (The Bell Jaranybody?) and I told them about next month's book The Hound of the BaskervillesI've already read it thanks to eighth grade English but it's a great book and a perfect introduction to the classic Sherlock Holmes for those who haven't previously been exposed.If you're a teen around the area, I would LOVE to host you at book club. I love meeting new people - and talking books with them - and although we have a steadfast group of regulars, we're really welcoming to new perspectives and have a different mix of people every time. The conversation flows from the book of the month to other books we're excited about to deep/personal conversations and back again depending on the month, and the ability everybody has to relate literature to their lives is truly fascinating to me.I don't have the flyer yet - our rocking social media girl, Sarah, recently switched up the template and it's BEAUTIFUL, but not in my hands yet. But if you're interested in book club next month, I still have all the information! Hint: If you buy the book of the month through OE, you get a discount on the pretty paperbacks we have in right now. Book club is actually the day after I get back from BookExpo America (!!!), so I bet we'll have a lot to talk about. I'll post the flyer here (as well as on my social media accounts) when I get it and post continual reminders.

Teen Classics Book Club

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle | GoodreadsMay 31, 2015 at 3 P.M.Commerce Club, Oxford ExchangeFree - tea and treats may be provided

Happy reading!