Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Thank you for checking out Bookmarks & Barstools! We are still reading, meeting & eating together, but are not using this blog much anymore. Please head over to our Facebook group for more information!

Thank you for your interest!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

June - Choose Your Own Adventure

April's theme is LGBTQ, as it is Pride Month. This theme includes LGBTQ themes or authors, so please choose the book that you'd most like to read on the monthly poll. Here are some descriptions of each book, all of which are pulled from Goodreads.

The Commitment: Love, Sex, Marriage, and My Family by Dan Savage
Dan Savage's mother wants him to get married. His boyfriend, Terry, says "no thanks" because he doesn't want to act like a straight person. Their six-year-old son DJ says his two dads aren't "allowed" to get married, but that he'd like to come to the reception and eat cake. Throw into the mix Dan's straight siblings, whose varied choices form a microcosm of how Americans are approaching marriage these days, and you get a rollicking family memoir that will have everyone-gay or straight, right or left, single or married-howling with laughter and rethinking their notions of marriage and all it entails.

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
"I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day of January 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974. . . My birth certificate lists my name as Calliope Helen Stephanides. My most recent driver's license...records my first name simply as Cal."
So begins the breathtaking story of Calliope Stephanides and three generations of the Greek-American Stephanides family who travel from a tiny village overlooking Mount Olympus in Asia Minor to Prohibition-era Detroit, witnessing its glory days as the Motor City, and the race riots of 1967, before they move out to the tree-lined streets of suburban Grosse Pointe, Michigan. To understand why Calliope is not like other girls, she has to uncover a guilty family secret and the astonishing genetic history that turns Callie into Cal, one of the most audacious and wondrous narrators in contemporary fiction. Lyrical and thrilling, Middlesex is an exhilarating reinvention of the American epic.

A Queer and Pleasant Danger: The Story of a Nice Jewish Boy Who Joins the Church of Scientology and Leaves Twelve Years Later to Become the Lovely Lady She is Today by Kate Bornstein
A stunningly original memoir of a nice Jewish boy who joined the Church of Scientology and left twelve years later, ultimately transitioning to a woman. A few years later, she stopped calling herself a woman and became famous as a gender outlaw.
Kate Bornstein—gender theorist, performance artist, author—is set to change lives with her compelling memoir. Wickedly funny and disarmingly honest, this is Bornstein's most intimate book yet, encompassing her early childhood and adolescence, college at Brown, a life in the theater, three marriages and fatherhood, the Scientology hierarchy, transsexual life, LGBTQ politics, and life on the road as a sought-after speaker.

Oranges are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
Jeanette, orphaned sensitive, intelligent and rebellious, is adopted by a family of evangelists and gloomy industrialized north of Great Britain. Her childhood becomes a surreal blend of sermons, catechism, rattle of tambourine in church orchestra and late adaptation to the rigors of the educational system. However, as Jeanette approaching adolescence, a career missionary to start preparing parents to lose their aura, the young discover their sexuality at all orthodox and family silence falls apart. Jeanette will have to choose between the truth and the truth of her soul Bible and courageous decision that will be the beginning of a path winding between original and unusual landmarks of destiny.

While England Sleeps by David Leavitt
Set against the rise of fascism in 1930s Europe, While England Sleeps tells the story of the love affair between Brian Botsford, an upper-class young writer, and Edward Phelan, an idealistic, self-educated employee of the London Underground and a member of the Communist party. Though by far the better educated of the two Brian is also more callow, convinced that his homosexuality is something he will outgrow. Edward, on the other hand, possesses 'an unproblematic capacity to accept' both Brian and the unorthodox nature of their love for each other - until one day, at the urging of his wealthy aunt Constance, Brian agrees to be set up with a 'suitable' young woman...and soon enough Edward is pushed to the point of crisis. Fleeing, he volunteers to fight in Spain, where he ends up in prison. Brian, responsible for Edward's flight, must pursue him across Europe, into the violent chaos of war.

Please vote in the poll no later than May 20th. Thank you! 

Monday, March 18, 2013

April - Book Pick & Date

April is National Poetry Month! We will be reading The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands by Nick Flynn. I know that some of you are anxious about reading poetry, but this book club is not about being "correct" in your feelings or analysis of poetry (I don't think that there is even such thing as being "correct" in that sense), but instead it's just to read & enjoy the poems together. Nick Flynn is a wonderful poet and I hope everyone enjoys it.

We will be meeting at the amazing Birroteca (seriously, that place has incredible food & a huge beer selection) on April 27th at 1:00pm. I look forward to seeing all of you there!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Choose Your Own Adventure - April

April's theme is poetry, so please choose the book that you'd most like to read on the monthly poll. Here are some descriptions of each book, all of which are pulled from Amazon.

A Coney Island of the Mind by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

The title of this book is taken from Henry Miller's "Into the Night Life" and expresses the way Lawrence Ferlinghetti felt about these poems when he wrote them during a short period in the 1950's - as if they were, taken together, a kind of Coney Island of the mind, a kind of circus of the soul.

The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands
by Nick Flynn

What begins as a meditation on love and the body soon breaks down into a collage of voices culled from media reports, childhood memories, testimonies from Abu Ghraib detainees, passages from documentary films, overheard conversations, and scraps of poems and song, only to reassemble with a gathering sonic force. It’s as if all the noise that fills our days were a storm, yet at the center is a quiet place, but to get there you must first pass through the storm, with eyes wide open, singing. Each poem becomes a hallucinatory, shifting experience, through jump cut, lyric persuasion, and deadpan utterance.

Low Parish by Steven Leyva

awaiting description
Useless Landscape by D.A. Powell
In D. A. Powell’s fifth book of poetry, the rollicking line he has made his signature becomes the taut, more discursive means to describing beauty, singing a dirge, directing an ironic smile, or questioning who in any given setting is the instructor and who is the pupil. This is a book that explores the darker side of divisions and developments, which shows how the interstitial spaces of boonies, backstage, bathhouse, or bar are locations of desire. With Powell’s witty banter, emotional resolve, and powerful lyricism, this collection demonstrates his exhilarating range.

The Wild Iris by Louise Gluck
This collection of stunningly beautiful poems encompasses the natural, human, and spiritual realms, and is bound together by the universal themes of time and mortality. With clarity and sureness of craft, Gluck's poetry questions, explores, and finally celebrates the ordeal of being alive.

Deadest Rapper Alive: The Rise of Lil' Wayne and the Fall of Urban Youth by Jomo K. Johnson
Labeled as one of the most polarizing urban book releases of 2011 — Deadest Rapper Alive gives a microscopic social analysis of Rap Superstar Lil Wayne. The Author challenges Lil’ Wayne’s fans and critics — to take a greater look into the rise, career, and impact of the cultural icon.” Written with a unique intellectual prowess and a near exhaustive knowledge of the Artist’s rise to fame, Jomo Johnson’s, Deadest Rapper Alive is a razor sharp exegesis of not only Lil’ Wayne’s body of work – but the impact of his philosophy upon Urban Youth. Mainstream Hip Hop Fans, Parents, and Social Critics alike would do well to read the book that has arguably ended the rap reign of Lil’ Wayne.

Who's the Best Rapper? Biggie, Jay-Z or Nas by Ronald Crawford
Ronald Crawford, a therapist and author uses hip-hop lyrics and dialog sessions to increase literacy and stimulate healing among at-risk youth

Thank you and please vote no later than March 15th.

Monday, February 11, 2013

March - Book Pick & Date

Thanks to all for voting for March's book! The chosen book for the sci-fi is Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card.

The book discussion will be on March 30th (1pm) at Sticky Rice in Fells Point. Please let me know your RSVP for the discussion no later than March 25th, so I can finalize it with them.

Also, just a side note, Anthony has a good point that this book is a well-known & well-received sci-fi novel (and I am VERY excited to read it), but the author is kind of a jerk (meaning that he is on the board for a huge anti-equality org). So, if you can, please borrow the book from the library or buy the book used so we don't support jerks. 

 I look forward to seeing you in March!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Choose Your Own Adventure - March

For March's book, we are choosing a science fiction novel! Please vote in the poll by February 11th.

Here are the contenders, in no particular order (all summaries have been pulled from Amazon & Google Books). Please respond to the poll at the end. Thank you!

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
In The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury, America’s preeminent storyteller, imagines a place of hope, dreams, and metaphor— of crystal pillars and fossil seas—where a fine dust settles on the great empty cities of a vanished, devastated civilization. Earthmen conquer Mars and then are conquered by it, lulled by dangerous lies of comfort and familiarity, and enchanted by the lingering glamour of an ancient, mysterious native race. In this classic work of fiction, Bradbury exposes our ambitions, weaknesses, and ignorance in a strange and breathtaking world where man does not belong.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Join Douglas Adams's hapless hero Arthur Dent as he travels the galaxy with his intrepid pal Ford Prefect, getting into horrible messes and generally wreaking hilarious havoc. Dent is grabbed from Earth moments before a cosmic construction team obliterates the planet to build a freeway. You'll never read funnier science fiction; Adams is a master of intelligent satire, barbed wit, and comedic dialogue. The Hitchhiker's Guide is rich in comedic detail and thought-provoking situations and stands up to multiple reads. 

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, serving in the household of the enigmatic Commander and his bitter wife. She may go out once a day to markets whose signs are now pictures because women are not allowed to read. She must pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, for in a time of declining birthrates her value lies in her fertility, and failure means exile to the dangerously polluted Colonies. Offred can remember a time when she lived with her husband and daughter and had a job, before she lost even her own name. Now she navigates the intimate secrets of those who control her every move, risking her life in breaking the rules.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
All children should believe they are special. But the students of Hailsham, an elite school in the English countryside, are so special that visitors shun them, and only by rumor and the occasional fleeting remark by a teacher do they discover their unconventional origins and strange destiny. Kazuo Ishiguro's sixth novel, Never Let Me Go, is a masterpiece of indirection. Like the students of Hailsham, readers are "told but not told" what is going on and should be allowed to discover the secrets of Hailsham and the truth about these children on their own. Offsetting the bizarreness of these revelations is the placid, measured voice of the narrator, Kathy H., a 31-year-old Hailsham alumna who, at the close of the 1990s, is consciously ending one phase of her life and beginning another. She is in a reflective mood, and recounts not only her childhood memories, but her quest in adulthood to find out more about Hailsham and the idealistic women who ran it. Although often poignant, Kathy's matter-of-fact narration blunts the sharper emotional effects you might expect in a novel that deals with illness, self-sacrifice, and the severe restriction of personal freedoms.

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race's next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew "Ender" Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn't make the cut—young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training.
Is Ender the general the Earth needs? But Ender is not the only result of the genetic experiments. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Ender's two older siblings are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world. If, that is, the world survives.

Please vote for your favorite no later than February 11th. Here is the poll: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/8FC63XK Thank you!

Monday, January 21, 2013

January Discussion Questions

Here are some discussion questions to keep in mind for our meeting this weekend. As always, please come with additional questions if you have them!

  1. The author, Cheryl, changed her last name to "Strayed" after her divorce, but long before she stepped onto the Pacific Coast Trail. Do you think that her name fit her well? Moreso before or after her trek on the PCT?
  2. Cheryl embarks on her adventure with no additional knowledge that what she acquires from her trail guide and from the REI employees. Do you think that her unpreparedness was fitting to her character? Why do you believe that she got on the trail with no prior training?
  3. What role does Cheryl's books play for her on the trail?
  4. Throughout her time on the trail, Cheryl dumps a lot of hiking accessories (foldable saw, a huge pack of condoms) and picks up others (the black feather, the Bob Marley t-shirt). What is the significance of these various objects?
  5. Monster, the name that she has given her pack, almost takes on its own persona on the trail. Additionally, Cheryl has a lot of emotional baggage that she carries on the trail. Do you think that all of this weight (physical and metaphorical) built her to be stronger, or weakened her further? Discuss.
  6. Did Cheryl's relationships with others (her siblings, her mother, Paul, Joe) affect her on the trail? In what ways? How did she see herself and others differently after being on the PCT for awhile?
  7. Give your personal feelings about hiking alone on a long trail for 1,100 miles. Do you think you could do it? Would you want to?

Thanks for participating in Bookmarks & Barstools and I'll see you this weekend!