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October 2003 Newsletter October 2003
This Month on
Celebrating Books --- Your Style
THE LAST GIRLS by Lee Smith and a Contest to Win Free Books!
The Top 25 Requested Guides for September
Best Of Lists
Book Club Interviews
This Month's Poll
Newest Guides
This Month's Contest: Win GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING by Tracy Chevalier
Find a Guide by Title
Find a Guide by Author
Advice and Ideas
Search The Book Report Network
Click here for information about how to have your book club featured. Read about this fall's books that have been made into movies. See lists of book award winners here.
Celebrating Books --- Your Style
The nice thing about reading is that there is no right or wrong way to do it. Unlike playing sports, following a recipe or driving a car, reading has no rules.

Book clubs, however, do need rules and guidelines to ensure that meetings run smoothly and that everyone is allowed to express themselves. But from what we hear, every group has its share of headaches. This inspired our Poll Question this month, which is about "book group headaches." See below, cast your vote and in the months to come we'll try to share advice on how you can work through these sticky situations that can make your meeting a lot less fun!

This weekend a very special bookish event takes place --- the National Book Festival. This event will be held in Washington, DC and will be hosted by First Lady Laura Bush. Interested in learning more about it? Click on the link on the home page of

Here are our tips for October and November...

Tip for October: Have each person in your group keep a Reading Diary for the month, and share it at your meeting. It's a great way to learn about titles you are enjoying outside what you are reading with your group.

Tip for November: Think about bringing the fixings for a holiday meal to your next meeting so they can be donated to a local charity or food bank. Also, think about bringing a favorite holiday recipe to share with your group members. If your recipe came from a cookbook, remember to share the title of the book!

Thanks from who last month asked readers for suggestions for her family's "informal" reading group over the holidays. She appreciated the readers who wrote her with ideas.

This month we are sharing four interviews with book clubs, including one with a group that will have an author visit from Steve Berry, author of THE AMBER ROOM --- a book we love here at

If you would like your group to be featured in an upcoming month, please see details below.

Here's to your October being filled with lots of nights to curl up with a book and at least one spooky adventure.

Carol Fitzgerald (

Mead parachuted into Normandy on D-Day and fought his way to Germany, through some of the most brutal violence of World War II. But his most difficult battle was lost years later, when his beloved wife Sophie succumbed to cancer. Since then, he has waged a private war against both loneliness and the terrible memory of a day in 1945 that went horribly wrong-and has haunted him ever since.

His grandson Andrew, a scared and angry high school sophomore, has been expelled and is heading down a path of self-destruction. Mead agrees to take the boy in for three weeks, to set him right. At first, the two circle warily around each other, finding little in common.

One afternoon, rummaging through the garage, Andrew discovers an antique Luger, the deadly memento of his grandfather's war. In a final effort to save his grandson from himself, Mead takes the teenager on a journey to the beaches, bunkers, and cemeteries of Normandy, where both of them confront the secrets they have been trying to forget.
Read the guide for THE DISTANCE FROM NORMANDY here.
See the SAVING GRACE reading group guide here. See a sample of the  Ballantine Reader's Circle newsletter here. Read the guide for FAMILY LINEN here.
THE LAST GIRLS by Lee Smith and a Contest to Win Free Books!
On a beautiful June day in 1965, a dozen girls ---classmates at a picturesque Blue Ridge women's college --- launched their homemade raft (inspired by Huck Finn's) on a trip down the Mississippi. It's Girls A-Go-Go Down the Mississippi read the headline in the Paducah, Kentucky, paper.

Thirty-five years later, four of those "girls" reunite to cruise the river again. This time it's on the luxury steamboat, The Belle of Natchez, and there's no publicity. This time, when they reach New Orleans, they'll give the river the ashes of a fifth rafter-beautiful Margaret ("Baby") Ballou.

Revered for her powerful female characters, here Lee Smith tells a brilliantly authoritative story of how college pals who grew up in an era when they were still called "girls" have negotiated life as "women." Harriet Holding is a hesitant teacher who has never married (she can't explain why, even to herself). The Last Girls is wonderful reading. It's also wonderfully revealing of women's lives-of the idea of romance, of the relevance of past to present, of memory and desire.

Special Contest
Ballantine Reader's Circle is celebrating Lee Smith's three titles --- The Last Girls, Family Linen and Saving Grace --- with a special contest. Tell us to sign you up to receive the Ballantine Reader's Circle email newsletter each month and you could win TEN copies of Lee Smith's three books for your group.

What's in this newsletter? You'll get the scoop on new releases, exclusive author interviews, author phone chats, plus ideas for spicing up your book club discussions. View a current issue of the Ballantine Reader's Circle newsletter here:

How to Enter? Send us an email at with Sign Me Up in the subject line by October 31, 2003. ONE lucky winner will win up to 10 copies of The Last Girls, Family Linen and Saving Grace for his or her group.
Read a guide for THE LAST GIRLS by Lee Smith here.
The movie adaptation of GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING will be in theatres in December. Get your club reading this book now! Here's some background on it

In mid-career, the renowned 17th century Baroque artist Johannes Vermeer painted "Girl with a Pearl Earring," which has been called the Dutch Mona Lisa. Girl with a Pearl Earring tells the story behind the advent of this famous painting, all the while depicting life in 17th century Delft, a small Dutch city with a burgeoning art community.

The novel centers on Griet, the Protestant daughter of a Delft tile painter who lost his sight in a kiln accident. In order to bring income to her struggling family, Griet must work as a maid for a more financially sound family. When Jan Vermeer and his wife approve of Griet as a maid for their growing Catholic household, she leaves home and quickly enters adult life. The Vermeer household, with its five children, grandmother and long-time servant, is ready to make Griet's working life difficult. Though her help is sorely needed, her beauty and innocence are both coveted and resented.

Recognizing Griet's artistic talents, Vermeer takes her on as his studio assistant and surreptitiously teaches her to grind paints and develop color palettes in the remote attic. Together, Vermeer and Griet conceal the apprenticeship from the family until Vermeer's most prominent patron demands that the lovely maid be the subject of his next commissioned work. Vermeer must paint Griet --- an awkward, charged situation for them both.

Chevalier's account of the artistic process --- from the grinding of paints to the inclusion and removal of background objects --- lay at the core of the novel. Her inventive portrayal of this tumultuous time, when Protestantism began to dominate Catholicism and the growing bourgeoisie took the place of the Church as patrons of the arts, draws the reader into a lively, if little known, time and place in history.
Read a guide for GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING here.
Search here. See the Media Book Club Picks here. Search here.
The Top 25 Requested Guides for September
Here are some of the top requested guides for September:

Life of Pi by Yann Martel
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

Click on the link below to find more of what you searched!
See the top searched guides for September here.
Best Of Lists
We've compiled lists of "Best Of" titles, which includes both new titles and old favorites. See these lists when you are looking for suggestions for your group!
See our lists of "Best Of' Guides here.
Book Club Interviews
This month we are sharing four interviews with you.

The Not-Swiss Moms Book Group of Thalwil (Zurich), Switzerland

The Okefenokee Book Club of Waycross, Georgia

The Lake Hiawatha Library Book Club of Lake Hiawatha, New Jersey

A Book Club from Robbinsville, NJ
Read our Book Club interviews here.
This Month's Poll
Which of the following "book club nightmares" has your group experienced?

People who do not read the discussion book, but still show up
People who dominate the conversation
People are more concerned with socializing than the book discussion
People whose tastes are too literary for the group
People whose tastes are too commercial for the group
People who insist that their titles be read
None of the above

Do you have another situation has arisen that your group can use advice with?

Answer our poll questions here.
Check out our Author Bibliographies here. Read about the titles that readers are talking about. Publishers and Authors add your guides to Details here.
Newest Guides
Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton
The Darkness Gathers by Lisa Miscione
The Distance From Normandy by Jonathan Hull
Down to a Soundless Sea by Thomas Steinbeck
Family Linen by Lee Smith
The Great Husband Hunt by Laurie Graham
Ladder of Years by Anne Tyler
The Last Girls by Lee Smith
Moloka'i by Alan Brennert
Neva Hafta by Edwardo Jackson
A Parchment of Leaves by Silas House
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs
Saving Grace by Lee Smith
The Tapestries by Kien Nguyen
Twelve by Nick McDonell
The White by Deborah Larsen
See the Newest Guides here.
What To Do When No Guide is Available Search for thousands of book reviews and author interviews. Search lists of books coming out in the next few months.
This Month's Contest: Win GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING by Tracy Chevalier
A subscription to our newsletter is all you need to be entered in our monthly contest. This month, one lucky reader will win enough copies of GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING by Tracy Chevalier for his or her entire reading group.
Read contest details and more about GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING here.

Do you like what you see here, and want to forward it to a friend? Then click our link on the bottom of the page to do just that!

Happy reading. We'll see you next month.

Carol Fitzgerald (