It’s that time of year again: time for an annual update on the Elm Street Book Group’s reading list. Those of you who aren’t interested in what we’ve read may still be entertained by the catalog of quotes at the end of this entry.

Over the past year, the group has welcomed Bernie and Kristi, Jason and Naomi, and Tiffany as new members. Rumor has it that Rhonda (and maybe Mike) will soon join us. This makes us the largest we’ve ever been, a far cry from our scary third year during which it often seemed the group might fold. (We often struggled to find five people to attend at that time.)

(The very best books — in terms of quality of text and discussion — are in bold; the worst are in italics. The person who chose the book is in parentheses.)

02 Nov 96: ISHMAEL by Daniel Quinn (Paul D.) at Paul and Connie’s [adopted ISHMAEL as “ground” for entire book group]
07 Dec 96: THE DISPOSSESSED by Ursula LeGuin (J.D.) at Kris and J.D.’s
11 Jan 97: A THOUSAND ACRES by Jane Smiley (Connie) at Paul and Connie’s [J.D. states Ty is “pure and noble”]
08 Feb 97: THE RIVER WHY by David James Duncan (Eila) at Kris and J.D.’s
08 Mar 97: BELOVED by Toni Morrison (Joan) at John and Joan’s
12 Apr 97: THE HOTEL NEW HAMPSHIRE by John Irving (Kris) at Paul and Connie’s
10 May 97: A LESSON BEFORE DYING by Ernest J. Gaines (Coleen) at Eila’s
21 Jun 97: THE RAPTURE OF CANAAN by Sheri Reynolds (Jennifer) at Kris and J.D.’s
26 Jul 97: HOUSE MADE OF DAWN by N. Scott Momaday (John) at Jennifer’s
16 Aug 97: Media Month: THE MEDIUM IS THE MASSAGE by Marshall McLuhan and FOUR ARGUMENTS FOR THE ELIMINATION OF TELEVISION by Jerry Mander (group) at John and Joan’s
13 Sep 97: DAKOTA: A SPIRITUAL GEOGRAPHY by Kathleen Norris (Amy Jo)
11 Oct 97: LILA: AN INQUIRY INTO MORALS by Robert Pirsig (Connie) at Kris and J.D.’s

15 Nov 97: COLD MOUNTAIN by Charles Frazier (Paul D.) at Paul and Amy Jo’s
13 Dec 97: WALDEN by Henry David Thoreau (J.D.) at John and Joan’s
10 Jan 98: TENDER IS THE NIGHT by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Joan) at Jennifer’s
02 Feb 98: THE SONGLINES by Bruce Chatwin (Paul J.) at Paul and Connie’s
07 Mar 98: A MIDWIFE’S TALE by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich (Kris) at Kris and J.D.’s
04 Apr 98: SNOW FALLING ON CEDARS by David Guterson (Jennifer) at Kris and J.D.’s
09 May 98: ANGELA’S ASHES by Frank McCourt (John) at Paul and Amy Jo’s
27 Jun 98: SHE’S COME UNDONE by Wally Lamb (Clara) at Eila’s [Wally Lamb at Powell’s]
18 Jul 98: GEEK LOVE by Katherine Dunn (Eila) at Kris and J.D.’s
22 Aug 98: Ecoterrorism Month: ANTARCTICA by Kim Stanley Robinson and THE MONKEY-WRENCH GANG by Edward Abbey (group) at Cari’s
19 Sep 98: THE POWER OF ONE by Bryce Courtenay (Cari) at Clara’s
17 Oct 98: A NATURAL HISTORY OF THE SENSES by Diane Ackerman (Amy Jo) at Paul and Amy Jo’s [Paul D.’s sensory test]

14 Nov 98: HUNGER by Knut Hamsun (Paul D.) at Kris and J.D.’s [group enters a year-long nadir with only four or five people at each meeting]
12 Dec 98: ANNA KARENINA by Leo Tolstoy (Connie) at Paul and Connie’s
09 Jan 99: DUNE by Frank Herbert (J.D.) at Kris and J.D.’s
06 Feb 99: BRAIN SEX by David Jessell and Dr. Anne Moir (Kris) at Paul and Connie’s
14 Mar 99: UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN by Frances Mayes (Paul D.) at Tapeo in NW Portland [restaurant meeting]
10 Apr 99: MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA by Arthur Golden (Clara) at Clara’s
21 May 99: SILENCE by Shusaku Endo (Cari) at Cari’s
19 Jun 99: THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES OF 1998 (Connie) at Kris and J.D.’s
25 Jul 99: MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN by Salman Rushdie (J.D.) at Paul and Connie’s
11 Aug 99: THE DEBT TO PLEASURE by John Lanchester (Kris) at Clara’s
18 Sep 99: THE SELF-AWARE UNIVERSE by Amit Goswami (Paul D.) at Kris and J.D.’s
16 Oct 99: THE DIAMOND AGE by Neal Stephenson (Clara) at Paul and Connie’s [with Andrew and Jenn’s arrival, group begins to recover]

13 Nov 99: STONES FROM THE RIVER by Ursula Hegi (Connie) at Kris and J.D.’s
18 Dec 99: STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND by Robert Heinlein (Andrew) at Andrew and Clara’s
22 Jan 00: THE MILL ON THE FLOSS by George Eliot (J.D.) at Jeremy and Jenn’s
13 Feb 00: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (Jenn) at Paul and Connie’s
26 Mar 00: REBECCA by Daphne DuMaurier (group) at Andrew and Clara’s [murder mystery costume party]
16 Apr 00: COMING OF AGE IN THE MILKY WAY by Timothy Ferris (Kris) at Kris and J.D.’s
13 May 00: THE CIDER HOUSE RULES by John Irving (Jeremy) at Jeremy and Jenn’s
11 Jun 00: THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS by Arundhati Roy (Lisa) at Lisa’s
16 Jul 00: ISHMAEL by Daniel Quinn (repeat, group) at Mac and Pam’s [Andrew, indignant, proclaims “you don’t have to explain the math to me!”]
26 Aug 00: HARRY POTTER series by J.K. Rowling (Clara) at Kris and J.D.’s
24 Sep 00: MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY trilogy by Nordhoff and Hall (Mac) at Paul and Connie’s
22 Oct 00: THE POISONWOOD BIBLE by Barbara Kingsolver (Connie) at Andrew and Clara’s

18 Nov 00: AS I LAY DYING by William Faulkner (Andrew) at Kris and J.D.’s [Thanksgiving dinner]
16 Dec 00: THE SUGAR ISLAND by Ivonne Lamazares (Paul D.) at Mac and Pam’s
20 Jan 01: THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING by Milan Kundera (J.D.) at Jeremy and Jenn’s
17 Feb 01: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG by Andre Dubus III (Jenn) and Paul and Connie’s
10 Mar 01: LOLITA by Vladmir Nabokov (Pam) and Kris and J.D.’s
08 Apr 01: THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS by Ursula LeGuin (Kris) at Mac and Pam’s
19 May 01: PRELUDE TO FOUNDATION by Isaac Asimov (Jeremy) at Jeremy and Jenn’s
09 Jun 01: INTO THIN AIR by Jon Krakauer (Pam) at Kris and J.D.’s
07 Jul 01: ANIL’S GHOST by Michael Ondaatje (Coleen) at Mac and Pam’s
25 Aug 01: LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI by Mark Twain (J.D.) at Joe and Carol’s
16 Sep 01: THE LAST REPORT ON THE MIRACLE AT LITTLE NO-HORSE by Louse Erdrich (Jenn) at Jeremy and Jenn’s [emotional discussion of 9/11]
27 Oct 01: THE SPIRIT CATCHES YOU AND YOU FALL DOWN by Anne Fadiman (Carol) at Mary’s

17 Nov 01: CONTACT by Carl Sagan (Mac) at Kris and J.D.’s
15 Dec 01: ALL THE PRETTY HORSES by Cormac McCarthy (Mary) at Mac and Pam’s [Jenn vs. J.D. re: John Grady]
12 Jan 02: SOMETIMES A GREAT NOTION by Ken Kesey (Joe) at Joe and Carol’s
09 Feb 02: PERFUME by Patrick Suskind (Kris) at Kris and J.D.’s
23 Mar 02: TITUS GROAN by Mervyn Peake (Joel) at Joel and Aimee’s
12 Apr 02: 1984 by George Orwell (Pam) at Mary’s
17 May 02: NINE PARTS OF DESIRE by Geraldine Brooks (Aimee) at Kris and J.D.’s?
22 Jun 02: ANGLE OF REPOSE by Wallace Stegner (J.D.) at Jeremy and Jennifer’s
20 Jul 02: COLD MOUNTAIN by Charles Frazier (repeat, group) at Joe and Carol’s
18 Aug 02: THINGS FALL APART by Chinua Achebe (Coleen) at Mac and Pam’s
20 Sep 02: A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY by John Irving (Jenn) at Mary’s
19 Oct 02: GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING by Tracy Chevalier (Carol) Kris and J.D.’s

23 Nov 02: MOBY DICK by Herman Melville (Mac) at Erin’s
15 Dec 02: THE SHELTERING SKY by Paul Bowles (Mary) at Joel and Aimee’s
10 Jan 03: THE BUTCHER BOY by Patrick McCabe (Erin) at Kris and J.D.’s [Erin’s ticket]
08 Feb 03: LIVES OF THE MONSTER DOGS by Kirsten Bakis (Kris) at Craig and Lisa’s
08 Mar 03: POST CAPTAIN by Patrick O’Brian (Joel) at Jeremy and Jenn’s
12 Apr 03: SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES by Ray Bradbury (Aimee) at Mac and Pam’s
10 May 03: PASSAGE TO JUNEAU by Jonathan Raban (Craig) at Kris and J.D.’s
01 Jun 03: FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS by H.G. Bissinger (Pam) at Mary’s
18 Jul 03: SWANN’S WAY by Marcel Proust (J.D.) at Joel and Aimee’s
18 Aug 03: HIS DARK MATERIALS trilogy by Phillip Pullman (Lisa L-B) at Craig and Lisa’s
20 Sep 03: TENDER AT THE BONE by Ruth Reichl (Jenn) at Jenn’s
18 Oct 03: WATERSHIP DOWN by Richard Adams (group) at Kris and J.D.’s

16 Nov 03: ROBINSON CRUSOE by Daniel Defoe (Mac) at Mac’s
13 Dec 03: ASK THE DUST by John Fante (Mary) at Mary’s
24 Jan 04: DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA by Alexander de Tocqueville (Kris) at Craig and Lisa’s
22 Feb 04: MAUS and MAUS II by Art Spiegelman (Joel) at Joel and Aimee’s [very emotional meeting]
21 Mar 04: EXPLAINING HITLER by Ron Rosenbaum (Aimee) at Kris and J.D.’s
18 Apr 04: AT SWIM-TWO-BIRDS by Flann O’Brien (Craig) at Mac’s
15 May 04: READING LOLITA IN TEHRAN by Azar Nafisi (Don) at Jenn’s
13 Jun 04: RED MARS by Kim Stanely Robinson (J.D.) at Mary’s
10 Jul 04: ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez (Lisa L-B) at Lisa and Craig’s
07 Aug 04: PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Jane Austen (Jenn) at Denise’s
19 Sep 04: CROSSING TO SAFETY by Wallace Stegner (Mac) at Kris and J.D.’s
16 Oct 04: A CLOCKWORK ORANGE by Anthony Burgess (Denise) at Kim’s

13 Nov 04: BRIDESHEAD REVISITED by Evelyn Waugh (Mary) at Lynn’s
11 Dec 04: MY ANTONIA by Willa Cather (Kim) at Jenn’s
15 Jan 05: A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT by Sebastian Japrisot (Kris) at Mary’s [movie field trip]
12 Feb 05: A PLACE OF MY OWN by Michael Pollan (Craig) at Craig and Lisa’s [our 100th meeting]
12 Mar 05: THE FARMING OF BONES by Edwidge Danticat (Lynn) at Kris and J.D.’s
16 Apr 05: THE EDUCATION OF HENRY ADAMS by Henry Adams (J.D.) at Courtney’s
15 May 05: SHIP FEVER by Andrea Barrett (Lisa) at Bernie and Kristi’s
11 Jun 05: THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP (Jenn) at Kris and J.D.’s
17 Jul 05: BEHIND THE SCENES AT THE MUSEUM by Kate Atkinson (Courtney) at Kim’s
12 Aug 05: NATIVE SON by Richard Wright (Bernie) at Jenn’s
10 Sep 05: THE CHOSEN by Chaim Potok (Naomi) at Jason and Naomi’s
08 Oct 05: WISE BLOOD by Flannery O’Connor (Jason) at Bernie and Kristi’s

12 Nov 05: AN EQUAL MUSIC by Vikram Seth (Kristi) at Craig and Lisa’s [Bach’s “Art of the Fugue”]
10 Dec 05: TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee (Tiffany) at Kris and J.D.’s
07 Jan 06: THE AWAKENING by Kate Chopin (Lisa) at Courtney’s
Feb 2006: Craig’s selection
Mar 2006: Kris’s selection
Apr 2006: Mary’s selection
May 2006: J.D.’s selection
Jun 2006: Jenn’s selection

Throughout most of the group’s history, I’ve taken rough notes on the meetings. At one time I planned to erect an elaborate web site featuring information on the books we discusses. I recognize now how anti-J.D. such a scheme is; it’s just too much work. The notes survive, however, and with them some funny quotes.

I’ve sifted through to cull those quotes that stand the test of time, those that have become part of the group’s shared culture (‘pure and noble’, ‘you don’t have to explain the math to me’), those that still make me laugh, and those that seem somewhat insightful. I’ve not transcribed the quotes that are too contextual or that now seem just seem blah.

Note that some people may find certain quotes offensive.

“Ty is pure and noble.” – J.D., evaluating A THOUSAND ACRES

“You don’t know a man when you marry him.” – Coleen
“You never know a man.” – Connie

“I think when we look outside of ourselves for leadership, that’s when we get led astray.” – Paul D., explaining religion

“People should be more like cats.” – Paul D.
“It’s too bad most people are like dogs.” – Kris

“THE PIANO is not believable, it’s just not believable.” – J.D.
“Oh, like BLADE RUNNER is…” – Kris

“It’s paint. It’s not art.” – Kris, on modern art

“Once again, you’re all wrong.” – Paul D.

“It’s in the best interest of the people who control our culture for people to be stupid.” – J.D., explaining why there aren’t more kids with critical thinking skills

“What if all of us were like Paul? We’d be stabbing each other all the time!” – Connie
“Sometimes I have a problem living with myself.” – Paul D.

“Is that important in the grand scheme of the universe? Is Kris Gates’ self-esteem important?” – Paul D.

“Men can be wrong three, four, five times in the time it takes a woman to be wrong once.” – Paul D.

“She must have a dwarf brain, too.” – Kris, on STONES FROM THE RIVER (which the group hated)

“Boredom cannot exist in a world of pure goodness.” – Paul D.

“If Jeremy gets discoprorated, it affects me and my child. [To Jeremy:] I’m not talking about you, I’m talking about the house payment.” – Jenn

“You can’t decide for people what’s best for them and what’s going to make them happy.” – Jenn

“Not making a choice is still a choice.” – Kris

“Well, you don’t call me imbalanced.” – Jeremy
“Yes we do.” – everyone else

“I guess I’m kind of a mutant. I love looking at atoms.” – Kris

“You know, let’s wipe out religions…we’ll all be fornicating in the trees again.” – Jeremy

“You don’t have to explain the math to me!” – Andrew, offended at Kris for explaining exponential growth

“What would the world be without suffering?” – Jenn
“It would be a world of men.” – J.D.

“I can put myself in the dumbass’s situation and sit back and say, ‘Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh.'” – J.D.

“Hermione needs to be an interracial child…” – Clara
“But her parents are dentists! They will not intermarry.” – Kris, with an inexplicable explanation as to why this cannot be

“She’s got god in her life right now because she doesn’t have a man.” – Tiffany

“A man doesn’t know how hard his bed is if he doesn’t know what his neighbor’s sleeping on.” – Andrew, about poverty

“If you just kill off everybody but just one man…” – Jenn
“…then you’d have Utopia!” – Kris

“You know what, Connie? You and I read different books.” – J.D, in the argument over THE POISONWOOD BIBLE (which Connie loved but most others hated)

“I think there is no justification for marriage…” – Jeremy

“If I were sober, I could find the part about the cows.” – J.D.

“He had to die. When two cultures clash, what happens? Somebody dies.” – Paul D., on HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG

“You know what Jeremy’s grandfather says? ‘Women are like peaches — if you handle them too much, they spoil.'” – Jenn
“I thought you were going to say, ‘Deep inside them is a pit.'” – Paul D.

“I can’t speak for every culture…” – Jeremy
“Good thing, too!” – Mac

“It’s pretty amazing what those guys do with bicycles.” – Mac, about the Extreme Games

“That’s even more ignorant than Jeremy!” – Jenn to Mac, after Mac dissed blind mountain climbers

“You’re not as bitter as Kris.” – J.D., to Mary

“You’ve got the hijackers that think they’re going to heaven, and you’ve got the innocent people that think they’re going to heaven. So who’s really going to heaven?” – Carol, on 9/11
“You’ve got to have a heaven with HIGH walls in between.” – Kris

“My heart is hardened toward Kris.” – Jeremy

“I’m palming as fast as I can!” – Andrew, using his PDA

“He’s not in love — he’s got a hard-on.” – Jenn, about John Grady
“What’s the difference?” – J.D. (this exchange took place during a heated debate over John Grady’s Christ-like nature)

“I can’t read at night. I just fall asleep.” – Joe
“That’s because you’re old.” – Mac

“It’s an existentialist kind of song.” – Aimee, about “Goodnight Irene”

“It wasn’t stream of consciousness; it was like whitecap rapids of consciousness.” – Joel, on the beginning of SOMETIMES A GREAT NOTION

“It’s not even a city!” – Mac, about Portland

“You can make more kids.” – Duane’s explanation as to why a person should not feel guilt over the loss of a child

“What this world really needs is more hobbits.” – Jenn

“A large part of accepting is ignoring.” – Joel

“This was written at a time when most children were dead.” – Joel, on MOBY DICK

“You’re way smarter than a dolphin.” – Joel, to Kris

“I would not give our animals the ability to speak because that would just complicate our relationship. I don’t want them to pass judgment on me.” – Kris

“Anyone who is a fan of foul language and nude hot-tubbing is a friend of mine.” – Craig, about Jeremy

“Just because you believe something is right doesn’t make it so.” – Jeremy

“We don’t live in a democracy, we live in a capitalist theocracy.” – Kris

“If you destroy evil, then what is good?” – Mary

“I will go head-to-head with that motherfucker in an IQ contest and blow his ass off.” – Jeremy, regarding our President

“I’m scared of salmon.” – Lisa

“When I was a young girl, I read too much Jane Austen too soon.” – Aimee

“I’m more of a glutton than a connoisseur.” – Joel

“I didn’t even know food could be like that.” – Jenn, about her first creme brulée

“Fuck!” – Jeremy’s enthusiastic review of a raspberry tart

“You’re no pacifist.” – Joel, to Kris
“No? What am I?” – Kris
“A fucking warmonger.” – Joel

“I prefer the word ‘believes’ to the terms ‘buys into’.” – Jenn, to J.D. during a discussion about religion

“Even in our society, we judge people on what they wear.” – Aimee
“I think women have no idea how little men pay attention to what people wear.” – Joel, to murmurings of agreement from the other men
“Do you mean you wouldn’t notice if somebody here was wearing a bikini?” – Jenn
“I’d notice flesh.” – Joel, to murmurings of agreement from the other men

“The real value of literature is for people to discover themselves.” – Don

“When I think of married couples I know well, none of them have ever grown up to be happy.” – Don

“Isn’t any action a selfish action?” – Mary
“Aha! Mary here is being Joel.” – Kris

“Some people are very complicated to be friends with. I don’t want to work that hard at my friendships.” – Clara, about people who have rigid expectations

“One of the reviewers said it’s hard to believe this is a first novel. I don’t know. I found it very easy to believe.” – an unidentified member (possibly J.D. or Lisa), on BEHIND THE SCENES AT THE MUSEUM

“Is Jeremy angry a lot?” – Tiffany

“So it’s supposed to be a comic novel?” – Tiffany, on WISE BLOOD
“Yes.” – Craig
“I missed the funny part.” – Tiffany

The character of this group has changed several times over the past decade. After the recent additions, we’re still searching for an identity. Regardless, our meetings remain the highlight of my month. Book group is my church. I have never missed a meeting, and I hope I never will.

2 Replies to “Book Group Reading List 2005”

  1. John says:

    My favorites:

    “You don’t know a man when you marry him.” – Coleen
    “You never know a man.” – Connie

    “Once again, you’re all wrong.” – Paul D.

    “Men can be wrong three, four, five times in the time it takes a woman to be wrong once.” – Paul D.

    “I didn’t even know food could be like that.” – Jenn, about her first creme brulée

    I laughed out loud several times while I read the quotes – thanks for that!

    Lack of time prevents me from giving enough eyeball time to the book list, but I will return!


  2. JPillband says:

    Hello to all. This is my first day on the Internet. What should I do?
    John Pillband, 22 y.o.

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