Welcome to the Dear Book Nerd podcast, a bi-weekly show that answers YOUR questions about life, love, and literature! My special guest cohost this week is the great Jamie Ford. We discuss questions relating to book club difficulties, books for men vs. women, and much more. Don’t miss it!
Jamie is a New York Times bestselling author of books including Songs of Willow Frost and Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. He was also a contributor to Secret Identities, the first Asian American Superhero Anthology. You can find him on Twitter @JamieFord. Thank you, Jamie!
Dear Book Nerd,
I am part of a book club that is worldwide and has its own subsets. I am part of the UK branch and lately we’ve been less than enamoured by the choice of book for this club and in particular have been completely put off by some books to such an extent that we’ve just read our own picks. What should I do if I don’t want to lose this community but I’m not sure I can continue to read the books that are being chosen by the main club?
Book Club Worrier
Dear Book Nerd,
I was raised in a family where books were one of our major food groups, and my sisters and I all grew up to be avid readers. Unsurprisingly, I now find myself in a family book club of sorts, consisting of my mom, my three younger sisters, and myself. We are all intelligent adults, we get along really well, and our book club is great fun (yes, we do actually talk about the books). However, whenever it is my turn to suggest a book for the club, I find myself completely lost.
I am generally an erupting volcano of book recommendations (whether the person in my presence has requested a recommendation or not), but my mom and sisters are all very conservative and I find it really difficult to suggest books that they won’t find objectionable. Too much swearing, sex, or violence can get the book thrown out. (The Rosie Project was too racy for them. Yes, really.) Another twist: my mom basically refuses to read “genre”. I tricked her into reading a science fiction book once (Bellwether by Connie Willis) and she LOVED it, but I doubt there are very many more of that ilk out there.
I love my family, and I want to continue this book club with them, but I need help figuring out some books I can suggest without scarring them for life or branding myself as a harlot. I’d love it if you could suggest a few works of intelligent literary fiction that just happen to also be “clean” enough not to make my family uncomfortable.
Thanks in advance for your help! Love your podcast!
Girl with (Apparently) Hopelessly Indecent Taste in Literature
Dear Book Nerd,
I was hoping you could shed some light, through discussion, on a certain subject. as a reader, my interests are far-reaching and diverse. I read for pleasure, to learn, and to see the world through the eyes of literary characters, famous people throughout history, experts in various fields, etc. One subject has been of particular interest to me lately, sparked by the influence of my contemporaries and by current events. That subject is feminism. I picked up a copy of Caitlin Moran’s book How To Be a Woman at my local library and read it cover-to-cover in a day. Since then, I have read and studied the subject of feminism in its various forms and have gained new perspective on this important (and much-maligned) term. However, as someone who carries his books with him wherever he goes with the hope of stealing a few minutes of reading time back from the busy day, I am often teased and bothered about my reading choices. Now, as an adult, I am past the point of letting this deter me from reading what I want. However, I feel that this is an important subject that should be discussed openly in order to advance understanding.
This brings me to my question(s): Do you feel that there exists a division, whether real or imagined, between books for men and books for women? What can we, as men and women, do to bridge this divide? And, perhaps most importantly, is there a way to encourage people to broaden their horizons, and allow others to do the same, without making them feel closed-minded and ignorant? I’m hoping you can give me some tools for approaching this subject with some grace and clarity, as my current strategy of snarky backlash does not seem to be winning me any new converts.
Potential Book Club Reads:
Watership Down, Remains of the Day, anything C. S. Lewis, The Hiding Place, The Paris Wife, Elegance of the Hedgehog, The House of the Scorpion, I Capture the Castle, The Help, The Enchanted April, The Chosen, Ella Minnow Pea, The Snow Child, The Age of Innocence, and more!
CORRECTION: I said that I like to sing “Welcome to the Jungle” at karaoke when I actually meant “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” I apologize for this error.
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