Well, the clocks have gone back, the temperatures have descended, autumn is well and truly here and my travelling is more or less done for the year. I’ve a couple of trips to London due before Christmas but now my thoughts are turning back to the boudoir and I mean to write a bit more about books and reading and more home-based or local topics.
For many years and as many of you know I have been a member of an online book discussion group. It was a brilliant idea and I joined when recovering from a bad bout of ‘flu one new year and have never looked back. Many members have met in person in many different countries. I don’t know if there are many (or even any) other such groups but this one is very special. Besides discussing books in general and some books in particular we often choose a nineteenth century novel – usually one that was originally published in parts – and read this a part at a time over a few weeks or months.
Some Postal Book Group reads – that I also own.
Several years ago we established what is known by us as The Postal Book Group. It works like this: one member volunteers to organise it for the duration of one ’round’ and those who wish to join in send their addresses to that member who makes a list and distributes to the Postal Book Group members. On the 1st of a chosen month everyone sends their own book choice to the next person on the list, along with a notebook explaining why they have selected that particular book and a bit of background information. A few days later all PBG members should have received their first book. You then read the book, comment in the notebook and on the first day two months later send on the book to the next person. The most exciting thing is when the mystery package lands on the doormat with the next book inside! I did drop out one round but I couldn’t wait to re-join as I missed so much the arrival of the mystery book and its notes.
The current Postal Book Group has the most members yet. There are 14 of us. This particular round started in February this year and will run until April 2013 when we should get our own books back complete with everyone’s thoughts written in the notebook. I can’t tell you anything more about the current round as we keep the book titles a secret so that no-one knows which book will arrive next.
Unfortunately I know of two instances where the books have gone astray but they’ve been replaced and as far as I know only one part-filled notebook has been lost for good. As the books even cross continents I do think this is pretty good going. Currently participants live as far apart as the UK – from Somerset to Cumbria – Ireland, Belgium and the USA – from Oregon and California to Massachusetts and Tennessee. I can tell you it is great fun!
The second most exciting thing is getting the book back and reading the comments that readers have made about your own choice! In the last round I sent out Ryzard Kapuscinski’s The Cobra’s Heart. It’s nice and short – less than 100 pages long – we have to fit the postal book in with all our other reading! It was recommended on the Radio 4 programme ‘A Good Read’ in October 2007 and, I’m pleased to say, it was pretty well received.
Here’s an extract from what I wrote in my notebook before sending it on its way :
“Maybe you know lots about Africa already. I’m ashamed to admit that I do not. All of the things Kapuscinski writes about are new to me. Things I had never thought about such as the sudden difference between day and night, about white people who are not from colonial countries, sickness, wizards, and, of course, cobras. … The book is extracted from a fuller version of this Polish journalist’s writings about Africa “The Shadow of the Sun”. I hope you will find something of interest in this little book of travel writing about Africa.”
That book changed the way I think about Africa!
Thank you again.
Mine too, Sherry, which is quite an amazing feat for such a short book!
Happy memories of the PBG’s early days. I seem to recall I always got an expensive foreign posting and was nearly bankrupt when some of the tomes that came through had to be sent by air mail, so small is good:-) I do love the arrival of a mystery book though, I do the Reader’s Connect feature for The Reader magazine, a surprise book arrives every quarter and I write 75 words on it. They have ‘made’ me read some fantastic books, Cry the Beloved Country among the most memorable,so thank you for another Africa suggestion Barbara.
Oh, yes, small is definitely good! Not just from a postage point of view but also, as I said, we have to fit in an extra book with all our other reading. I did think that receiving all the review copies you would be immune to the excitement of a single mystery book arriving on the doormat. Obviously not! The postal group has made me read books that I would not have done otherwise. I did mention an example at Two Bridges but won’t give the title away here – never know who might be reading!
Many happy readings to you and your group !!!
Thank you, MN. It’s great fun!