Books Across the Miles

My mom, my brother, and I have been in a book club for a few years now. We live miles apart, but we still meet whenever we can to share our love of books.

My brother lives in Michigan and my mom lives about an hour away so we share our thoughts on each book through email. We take turns suggesting the next read. The only rule is that it should be a book that none of us have read yet. Because of this book club, I’ve read some pretty strange stories that I probably never would have read under normal conditions. To give you an idea of the strangeness, here are a few recent ones:

Mort: A Novel of Discworld by Terry Pratchett

The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak

News of the World by Paulette Jiles

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Blackbird House by Alice Hoffman

Breakthrough by Michael Grumley

Anansi Brothers by Neil Gaiman

The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth J. Church

My brother loves science fiction and he’s introduced us to some great ones from that genre, but we might throw in a classic or historical fiction every once in a while.

We try to follow the same guidelines as a Goodreads book club by talking about each book as we’re reading it. To make sure there are no spoilers, the book title and the last chapter read are added to the email’s subject line. If the others haven’t gotten to that chapter yet, they don’t have to read that message until they do.

A bonus is that my mom and brother are funny. Here’s an example of a comment on one of the books we read:

“I struggled with it a bit at first. I think it was due to the excessive use of commas, with random thoughts interjected, which can make you wonder what the hell that sentence was about, like a stack of pancakes with butter dribbling down the side, or the way a stranger looks at you.”

With our electronic book club, we can meet and laugh at each other at any time. Then when we get to see each other in real life, we’ll talk some more about the books we’ve read together.

Happy World Book Day! The first person to figure out which book (from the list above) the quote is describing wins a copy of Ocean Echoes.

Are you in an electronic book club? Do you have any suggestions for our next book club read?

52 thoughts on “Books Across the Miles

  1. This is such a cool idea! Having a book club with my family would be fun. If I had more time, I’d set it up. But I’m already in a face-to-face book club, and I also recently joined a public health book club on Goodreads. Between reading those books along with books by fellow indie authors and other books on my TBR list, I have more reading than I can handle!

    • Hahah – I don’t know how we manage it, but somehow we do. I don’t participate in the Goodreads book clubs as much as I used to though. It’s hard to belong to a few different book clubs at once. But then I do love all the possibilities of a huge TBR pile (especially if there are a few strange ones in there)!

      • I don’t participate in any others there, but this one was set up by the “certified in public health” group, and they discuss topical books relating to the field so it should be interesting. Today kicks off the first day for a book we just read about opioid addiction. Should be interesting.

      • I thought I responded to this a while ago but maybe that was only in my mind. That sounds like a perfect book club for you. They’ll have to read your books!

    • Thank you – it’s a lot of fun! The great thing is anyone can do it with family or friends who live far away, as long as everyone has email. 🙂

  2. Sheila, what a wonderful thing you set up together. Isn’t it great that all three of you share similar interests. You look a happy trio.
    The titles you list are impressive and some of the authours there I really love.
    A bit of a change I could suggest would be one I read recently. ” The Music Shop” by
    Rachel Joyce.
    All the best

    • Thank you for that recommendation! One of the first ones we read together was The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and we all loved it. The Music Shop sounds a little like A Visit from the Goon Squad too. I’m excited to read it now – thank you!

  3. Love that quote. It made me laugh. But I don’t have a clue which book, but now I’m hungry for pancakes and buttermilk syrup. I’d dribble that over everything. Now I’m going to drool every time I use a comma.

    • Hahah – me too! I haven’t had pancakes in a long time and this weekend will be a stormy one so that sounds perfect. Enjoy your pancake weekend!

  4. I love that idea Sheila what a great thing to do and what a variety of titles. I loved Blackbird House, quite unlike her other work. Im not in a book club but I recently read The Hearts invisible furies by John Boyne at the same time as my brother and we’ve been chatting online about it. Great fun.

    • I loved Blackbird House too – it was so beautifully written. That was a fun one for us to read because we’ve all lived on Cape Cod and it gave my brother a chance to remember growing up here. The Hearts Invisible Furies sounds like a good family read too – and a good one for St. Patrick’s Day – thank you for that recommendation!

  5. I have done this with my mother for years! My brother has such different taste in books so, unfortunately, it wouldn’t work for him to join us. So lovely that you all do it!

    • That’s great – I had a feeling you might be doing something like this! It’s fun when we don’t agree on a book so the addition of your brother might liven things up a bit. 🙂

  6. What a lovely idea! My mother and I have very similar taste in books so we have always been able to discuss what we have read until fairly recently when my mother’s poor eyesight has stopped her reading almost completely. I haven’t read any of the books on your list, though I have heard of a few of them. I do like the quote though!

    • I’m sorry to hear that – maybe audio books could help. My mom used to read books into a tape recorder and then send the tapes to her grandmother. That would take a lot of time, but then you’d end up reading the same books that way.

    • Thanks Jill! It is fun to get different perspectives on books from family members. That’s nice that you and your mom had that time together too.

  7. Such a great idea. It’s good to read books we wouldn’t normally be drawn to at times. I’ve only read one of those on your list – The Handmaid’s Tale, but I could be tempted by a few others. I’ve never read a thing by Terry Pratchett, for a start – or Neil Gaiman. Chatting about them afterwards must be a lot of fun.

    • That was my first Terry Pratchett novel and it was a lot of fun. I think you’d love the Neil Gaiman ones that are listed there, especially Neverwhere because of the London details (with two different versions of London). Both writers bring a lot of humor into their stories so we’ve all loved those as nice breaks from reality.

  8. I just finished a wonderful short book called A Month in the Country (of which a review will be up at some point), very good and short piece of historical fiction, as for Sci-Fi, I loved Solaris. That was a fine read.

    • Thanks Ste J! I’ll have to look into those. I think you and my brother have pretty similar tastes in books. I’ll look forward to the review!

      • It should be up within the week as I am on a bit of a roll at the moment. My favourite Discworld book is probably Small Gods, I really enjoyed that one.

      • Great review! Now I’ll have to read A Month in the Country and Small Gods. I loved the humor in Mort so that’s good to know that Small God was a favorite.

  9. What a great idea. We don’t have a book club in our family but we do pass on books, or information on books we have read and enjoyed. My siblings and I read at such different rates I don’t think we could make a book club work.

    • We read at different rates too. In a way, that’s a good thing because the ones who finish first can read other books while the others are finishing a book club book. It helps that it’s all through email – then we can pick up the email string and discuss a book or a section whenever one of us finishes it. That’s great that you already talk about the books you’re reading – it’s always fun to do that with family or friends.

  10. What a great way to stay in touch and read books you would otherwise not! I like the GoodReads recommendations from friends, but as you said, it’s hard to belong to more than one book club. I already am so behind on my reading list for this year.

    • I’m always behind on my reading list – but I love all the possibilities of that TBR pile! Good luck with yours – I hope you’ll find lots of adventures there!

  11. I agree! What a fabulous idea, Sheila! I also love the “Pancake” quote. Very witty! I’m now jotting down your titles. Thanks for the list of recommendations.

    Happy World Book Day!

    • Thank you! My brother always makes me laugh – it’s too bad he lives so far away or I’d always be laughing. 🙂 Of all those books, I’m guessing you might like Neverwhere best because of the zany London feel and setting.

  12. What a great idea, Sheila, and that quote made me smile, along with craving pancakes! Right now I’m reading Rebel: My Life Outside the Lines by Nick Nolte because my husband and I saw him at our local bookstore. I’ve never been in a book club, but with blogging and everything else in life, I’m not sure time would allow it. Enjoy though, and what a great family photo, too!

    • Thank you! I’m glad my brother made you smile – he always makes me smile too. Of those books in the list, I think you would like The Blackbird House because of the poetic writing style. Either that or The Atomic Weight of Love. Really though, I loved all of them. I hope you’re enjoying yours!

  13. I haven’t been in a book club in ages. What a fun idea to share that with your brother and your mom. 🙂 What was your favorite out of the list?

    • Thanks Kate! That’s a tough one because they were all great for different reasons. I really loved the Neil Gaiman ones for the writing style and because they’re so fun. You might like The Blackbird House because of the Cape Cod setting and the writing style with that one is amazing. I also loved The Goon Squad – if I had to pick one, that might be it because it was so different. I hope you survived the storm! Our power was out all weekend but it just came back today. I liked living in the dark ages though. 🙂

  14. Sheila, I just love this book club of the three of you! 😀 I don’t belong to a book club but my mother and I share books and book ideas all the time, as well as discussing them via email with my niece and friends. What a great eclectic mix – some of which I’ve read. My absolute favourite book of recent times is ‘All the Light We cannot See’. Although set in WWII it is far more about the two young people and their extraordinary story. The blurb is here:

    ‘Marie-Laure has been blind since the age of six. Her father builds a perfect miniature of their Paris neighbourhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. But when the Nazis invade, father and daughter flee with a dangerous secret.

    Werner is a German orphan, destined to labour in the same mine that claimed his father’s life, until he discovers a knack for engineering. His talent wins him a place at a brutal military academy, but his way out of obscurity is built on suffering.

    At the same time, far away in a walled city by the sea, an old man discovers new worlds without ever setting foot outside his home. But all around him, impending danger closes in.

    Doerr’s combination of soaring imagination and meticulous observation is electric. As Europe is engulfed by war and lives collide unpredictably, ‘All The Light We Cannot See’ is a captivating and devastating elegy for innocence.’

    • That’s great that you discuss books through email too – it’s such a fun thing to do with family and friends. I loved All the Light We Cannot See – definitely an all-time favorite! That would be a good one to talk about with family. I’ve been thinking about rereading it – thank you for reminding me!

  15. This sounds like a wonderful idea and its really nice that you, your mom and your brother share a love of books!

    • Thanks BJ! It’s fun because we each normally read different kinds of books, so hopefully we’re enlightening each other! 🙂 I’m always happy to read anything that makes me look at the world in different ways.

      • I couldn’t agree more! We need to read books that help us see a different perspective.
        Btw, I just wanted to let you know that I’m currently reading Ocean Echoes and enjoying It! 🙂

  16. I’m not in a book club but love hearing about yours 🙂 It’s a wonderful way for you all to bond, by the sounds of it. And a great way to try out new books you likely wouldn’t otherwise have opened!

    • Thanks Christy! That’s what I love about it – it’s fun to be introduced to so many crazy books! It was interesting to get a mom’s and brother’s perspective on a book like The Handmaid’s Tale too. We’ll have to do more on books like that that make you think.

      • The Handmaid’s Tale is amazing. I watched Season One of the TV series and it was great too (some differences from the book though). I’m reading Ocean Echoes – started a few days ago – and enjoying it!

      • Thanks so much Christy! I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying it. I haven’t seen The Handmaid’s Tale TV series, but I’ll have to check it out. I still think about The Handmaid’s Tale every once in a while – definitely one of those books that stays with you.

  17. Your family book club sounds like a lot of fun, Sheila! I wish I had thought of doing that with my mom many years ago, but after she retired, I was in college and didn’t have time for reading many books for recreation then. Also, she only read romance novels which I wasn’t interested in at the time. Then after I got married and had kids, she passed away when my daughter was seven.
    Our daughter has never liked reading much at all. Our son used to read a lot, but his job keeps him too busy now. My husband and I have pretty different reading tastes, but one of these days I will suggest us reading something together so we can talk about it. I know it is fun! You and your family look like you have a lot of fun.
    You know, we have to travel almost an hour away regularly just to get groceries or doing any other shopping. LOL! 🙂

    • It’s hard when we can’t be physically close to family (or groceries)! 🙂 Email helps though because I’m not much of a phone person. In a way, it’s more fun when we disagree on books so it could be fun to do a book club with your husband! I’m sorry to hear about your mom. I hope she’s reading along with you. Love and hugs!

      • Yes, I have to e-mail with my closest friends! And the funny thing is, I have never met them in person, just on their blogs! But I do have a friend I have also gotten to know through e-mail and have met with once. We are meeting again tomorrow; she is also a writer and artist. So I am looking forward to that. Perhaps I’ll ask her if she wants to do a book club! She loves reading.
        I like what you said about it being more fun when you disagree on books. That’s funny.
        Yes, I think of my mom all the time. She died on April 15, 2006. That year it was the night before Easter. But I am okay now; I remember her every year at this time. I just wish she could see all that my kids have accomplished. She would be proud. Thanks for your condolences.
        Sometimes I feel like I have become just like she was at my age, having more time to read. Although, she was never a writer or an artist. I wish I could share my stuff with her.
        Love and hugs to you, too, Sheila! 🙂

      • I hope you’ll be able to do a e-mail book club with your friends – that would be a lot of fun. I’m so sorry your mom passed away before a holiday like that. But then it must be nice for your family to get together and remember her on the holiday. I’m sure she’s still with you in all kinds of ways, especially while you’re writing and working on your beautiful paintings and drawings.

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