Recommitting to Reading

This is week 42 of year 2020, yet I am only on my 23rd book… While I usually read an average of one book every week or ten days, I have had a harder time reading over the last couple of months. This may have to do with the fact that I fell into the black hole of Mankell’s Kurt Wallander series (the original version, in Swedish, based on the amazing crime novels by Henning Mankell). Or it may have to do with the fact that my brain is so tired from dealing with our current reality that it has no bandwidth for reading.  

Regardless of why, I am recommitting to reading. And I have lots of books I am really excited to get in to. 

This week, I am reading Bluff by Jane Stanton Hitchcock. I met Jane a few years ago, when she attended book club in Georgetown for her book Mortal Friends (still one of my favorites from book club), and she fascinates me – for many reasons including the fact that she is a professional poker player (and yes, Bluff features a female poker player…). 

Then, I will read the following (in which order I don’t yet know). 

Richard Branson: Losing my Virginity. This book has been traveling with me between DC, Hammond, Geneva, and Tinos for the last six months. It may be the best travelled book I own… 

Kelly DiNardo: Living the Sutras. Kelly gifted me this book over a year ago after she invited me to her studio Past Tense to attend a yoga class. And boy do I need more yoga and more calm in my life… 

Victoria Hislop: three more books because I love her writing that much and need to travel in my head… preferably back to Greece. The Last Dance (a collection of ten short stories set in Athens and various Greek villages), The Thread (set in Thessaloniki in northern Greece), and The Sunrise (set in Cyprus… I am really venturing out of my comfort zone with this one!).

Brenda Janowitz: The Grace Kelly Dress. Because I need a “summer read” even though we are technically in fall. (Note: this is not in the photo because it is on its way to me from Amazon even though I promised myself not to buy any new books until I had read all others…). 

Casper ter Kuile: The Power of Ritual. This was recommended by Seth Mattison on a webinar I listened to a few weeks ago, and is about crafting rituals that promote connection and wellbeing. 

Bill Murphy Jr.: The Intelligent Entrepreneur. This tells the stories of ten Harvard Business School grads who started their own businesses, and how they became super successful. One of them is Marla Malcolm Beck of Bluemercury

What are you reading right now?

Book Club: Mortal Friends by Jane Stanton Hitchcock

One of my New Year’s resolutions this year was to read more. As I was taught in business school that goals need to be quantifiable and measurable, I decided that I should read one book per month. And as my Mom taught me that nothing gets the job done more effectively than having to answer to people you respect, I decided to start a book club with a group of BFFs to help me be true to my goal.

Tonight was our second meeting. In theory, it was meant to be our third (it’s our third book), but life happens. We decided early on that our theme was going to be DC (DC author, DC personality, DC story, DC character), and that we would alternate a fiction book with a non-fiction book.

First book: I picked Right as Rain by George Pelecanos. My Swiss uncle, of all people, had been asking me about this author, saying he had read all his books and wondered if DC was as it was portrayed in these crime stories. I didn’t know how to answer him until I read this introduction to Derek Strange and Terry Quinn. After reading the book, I emailed him to let him know that these are not the areas in DC or MD that I usually hung out in.

Second book: Jack Kennedy, Elusive Hero, by Chris Matthews. If you read my blog regularly, you might remember that two years ago during my week-long vacation on the paradisiac island of Tinos, the theme I picked for my beach reading was the Kennedys. I read eight books about the Kennedys, many of them recommended by my literary connoisseur BFF Stephanie, many of them recommended by equally Kennedy-fascinated BFF Judith. I loved them all. Adding to this fascination, reading the Chris Matthews biography, I for the first time grasped JFK’s constant physical pain, on-going loneliness, and PT 109 rescue story.

Searching for another fiction book with a DC-theme, Stephanie again recommended a winner: Mortal Friends by Jane Stanton Hitchcock. I love Stephanie, I listen to Stephanie. Always. In particular when she says she might be able to get the very Jane author to stop by our book club get-together.

Which brings me to tonight. I grew up with art, with parents who owned (still own) a contemporary art gallery. That is where my appreciation for art comes from – from the ability to speak to living artists and better understand from them directly, what it is they wanted to create, what message it is they wanted to convey to the world, what difference it is they wanted to make with their art.

I never have had the opportunity to have such a connection to a living author – that is, until tonight. Jane arrived promptly at 6 pm, dressed in a gorgeous black cocktail dress. I couldn’t quite believe it… For three hours, she regaled us with stories about how she started writing (her first book was Trick of the Eye), and how she started her career as a playwright and screenwriter (including a comedy directed by Harold Pinter). As soon as I am done typing this, I will be ordering her New York-based Social Crimes and its sequel One Dangerous Lady.

Given that tonight’s book club meeting was about Mortal Friends, of course we chatted about the DC social scene (per Jane, “there are only two reasons to go to a party: to get a job or to get laid”). We also talked about girlfriends, about the relationship between Reven Lynch and Violet Bolton. About whether or not you ever get to know anyone for whom they really are. About whether you tell your deepest secrets to your BFF. About whether you would tell her something that might hurt her, but that she would want to know. We talked about the difference between “social friends” and “best friends.” Jane said that her loftiest goal was loyalty. She talked about how loyalty with girlfriends doesn’t (typically) get side-tracked by the physical relationship typical of complicating things between a man and a woman. “In love, I can forgive anything.” In BFF relationships, without sex to confuse things, loyalty should be first and foremost and unending – as the friendship between Reven and Violet illustrates.

After such a fabulous evening, I want to:

  1. Read all of Jane Stanton Hitchcock’s other books.
  2. Continue book club forever.
  3. Let all of my girlfriends know how much I love them and how I will always be loyal to them.

Thank you Jane.