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Book Clubs 
By Jill Brown

I  don't have any idea how many book clubs there actually are in Sonoma County. Judging by the number of customers coming in the book store with their lists, it must number in the thousands!  This article is intended for those readers who are trying to decide whether or not to join a reading group and gives some ideas on how to go about finding a club to join or how to start one yourself.
 
One of the main advantages I see to joining a book club is that you get to talk to other people about books!  Reading is generally a very solitary activity and sometimes I feel the need to talk to someone about a book I have read that really had an impact on me.  Yes, you can always bore your partner by telling them the plot of your current book, but probably a better idea is to find like minded people to discuss it with.  Customers at the book store frequently fall into discussions of their favorite books and recommend them to other customers.
 
Probably the main reason I am a book club member is that it has introduced me to so many wonderful books that I would never have read, left to my own devices.  I would probably never have picked up The Book Thief, All The Light We Cannot See, Orphan Train, Big Little Lies, A Man Called Ove and The Language of Flowers, if they had not been chosen by other members of the book club. 
 
There are a wide variety of book clubs in this area, ranging from very serious discussion groups to clubs that are mainly social gatherings where chit chat and food and wine figure as prominently as the discussion of the book. There are some clubs that read the chosen book and then gather to watch the movie based on the book and have a discussion about both.
 
If you are interested in joining a book club, there are various ways to go about it.  My book club was started by my financial advisor, also a bookstore customer, who invited several of her clients to join.  We have been going strong for several years.
 
If you want to get a taste of what a book discussion group is like, a good place to start is at the public library.  Check out sonomalibrary.org/events/book-groups.  There is a brown bag book discussion group at the Santa Rosa Central library where you can bring your lunch.  (Also brown bag groups at the Gurneville, Cloverdale and Petaluma libraries).  There are also strictly mystery book groups at the central library (SR) and at the Windsor Senior Center. 
 
Another great source for finding book groups is on the website of Meetup.com.  There you will find a walking book group, a non-fiction group and a political discussion group, just to name a few.  Copperfield's also has several drop-in book clubs.
 
One other alternative is to gather your book loving friends and start your own club.  That gives you the chance to help set the tone of the club.  Most clubs have a different member choose a book each month.  Most try to pick a book that is already out in paperback, just to accommodate everyone's budget.  In some clubs the members take turns hosting the club in their home and have everyone contribute to a potluck dinner.  My book club meets in a  restaurant every six weeks.  Some restaurants have a room designated for groups that can be reserved and you don't have to worry about cleaning your house!
 

So, stay in your comfortable chair with your cup of tea or glass of wine and your latest book or venture out and turn your reading into a literary and social event?  Only you can decide which is right for you.  Either way - happy reading!

 
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Kurt Vonnegut

By Jessica Orr

We all have favorite authors and mine is Kurt Vonnegut. I've read the majority of his works both fiction and non-fiction and have learned many lessons from him. Here are a few.

1.“So it goes.” From his novel Slaughterhouse-Five.

Probably his most famous quote, sounds so simple, three words, but carries deep meaning. These three words are what the Tralfamadorians, the alien race in Slaughterhouse-Five, said after someone died. Because the Tralfamadorians see in the fourth dimension a person who dies isn't actually dead, they are just in a bad spot in that particular moment. Every person still lives on in the moments that they were alive. They never actually die because they continue to exist in time. This idea is a very comforting and beautiful idea to me. Every human is infinite. Kurt Vonnegut died in 2007. Kurt is up in Heaven now. So it goes.

 

2. “And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, “If this isn't nice, I don't know what is.”” From his memoir A Man without a Country.

This is a very positive piece of advice from Vonnegut's Uncle Alex. Vonnegut is pointing out what is wrong within society which is people don't often notice or register when they are happy or experiencing a pleasant moment. Everything moves quickly and everyone is rushing through life which makes the beautiful, happy moments seem so seldom to occur. But if everyone were to slow down and acknowledge when they were happy and recognize it in someway then it would become apparent that good things do happen and some of the negativity would dissipate.

 

3. “Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.” From his novel God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater.

This is one of the most important lessons. Being kind. This is one of the things Vonnegut advocates for in a many of his novels and in his non-fiction and essays. In our time on this earth we have to make sure we treat each other kindly. We have to look out for one another and help each other get by. We're all doing our best and sometimes being kind to someone is enough to make their day.

 

There are many more lessons I could write down, many more quotes I could share, but what it comes down to for me is Vonnegut's honesty and his critical eye. He wants the world to be a better place. He wants humanity to thrive. But he also notices that in order to achieve that things have to change. That living in a world that isn't critical of itself and doesn't strive towards improvement is a world that can't make positive change. Vonnegut's voice is still relevant and one that deserves to be heard and listened to. He has been labeled a science fiction writer but he is so much more. He is a a social commentator and a satirist and he has words of wisdom to share.

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