Five Compelling Reasons to Join a Book Club

This is an essay by Deanna Zachrich.

Book clubs are everywhere. Libraries, schools, churches, even online. Find one near you and join.

Here’s five reasons why you should:

One. Exposure to books you might otherwise never pick up.

There are more than sixty different genres out there for books. Fantasy, and thrillers, and mysteries, oh my! So many topics to choose from and so little time. Unfortunately most of us pick up the same kind of books over and over again. Maybe it’s habit or maybe we just fear the unfamiliar. Joining a book club will help you expand your portfolio of book choices.

The key is to join a group that isn’t filled with all of your best friends. If you surround yourself with strangers, you’ll be exposed to many different kinds of literature. I’ve read several genres now including romance, thriller, horror, biographical, self-help, young adult, religious, and even erotica. Most of them I’ve thoroughly enjoyed!

Two. Finish more books.

I assume I’m not alone when I admit that I haven’t always finished every book I started reading. But in book club, you have a deadline. You have an obligation to finish reading the assigned material because you don’t want to be the only one unable to participate in the discussion. And, you don’t want to appear to be a lazy bum for not finishing it either.

A few months ago I started reading a novel based on a true story set in World War I. The first few chapters were very dry and boring to me, but because of book club I kept reading. It turned out to be one of the best stories I’ve ever read!

Three. Improve your vocabulary.

With today’s high-tech gadgetry, I constantly catch myself using slang and shortening words when texting and emailing my friends and family. (How r u? Whatsup? C u round. <3 u!) Better vocabulary turned out to be an unexpected perk. My friends actually noticed before I did. Suddenly I was using grown-up words in conversation! Just a week ago I learned what skullduggery means. What a fantastic word!

Four. You’re a bookworm, not a hermit.

Let’s face it, being a bookworm can have its social drawbacks. Cuddling up with a good story either in print or on my snazzy e-reader on a Saturday night is much more appealing than a lot of other options out there.

Joining a book club is my kind of social gathering. I meet new people, discuss topics that don’t normally come up in a typical conversation (because they’re in the book), and there’s usually great snacks and wine. What’s not to like?

Five. It’s free!

There isn’t much to do these days that is completely free. Going to see a movie runs me $20 easily. A ticket to the zoo for the day will cost me almost $30. Joining a book club for an entire year requires no money from me at all. Even the books chosen to be read each month can be borrowed from a local library or one of my book club buddies.

I’ve read several books recently that have been made into movies. The books have been wonderfully written and a joy to read. Unfortunately, the movies have been nothing but disappointment. Maybe it’s because so much is usually cut from the movie script. But why do they have to cut all the good parts of the story? Give me a free borrowed book over a $20 movie any time.

I will continue to enjoy reading books in as many different genres as possible with my book club. Each title is a different adventure for me that I get to share with new friends. My book club has also been the incentive for me to finish many books in a short amount of time, which has also improved my vocabulary. Book clubs are fun and free; a winning combination for this reader.

Do you belong to a book club? What’s your favorite part?

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Deanna Zachrich is happily married, enjoys being the educational coach to her e-schooled daughter, and absolutely loves to write. She writes to express her passions for keeping this planet healthy and has contributed to online magazines and blogs. Deanna reads a lot, likes to dig in the dirt among her various gardens, and believes that teaching our children about green-responsibility should begin in kindergarten, if not sooner.
http://www.DeannaZachrich.com

Photo: Some rights reserved by juggernautco.

Is There Anything Left to Say, Hamlet?

“Hamlet” is a masterpiece. Many of us have read it or listened to it on audiobook. I’d never seen it acted, though, until my recent trip to London.  Did I come up with anything that hasn’t already been said? I doubt it, at least not about the play itself. I do, however, have a story to tell about my experience watching the play. Isn’t that what reading and writing is all about? Isn’t that what Shakespeare was after when he wrote the play? To have it act on each individual in a special way.

The Globe is an open air theatre. Historically, people would sit under one of the three covered levels of the theatre, but if they couldn’t afford to pay the price for a penny they could stand in the “pit” or “yard” below the stage and watch the play from there. People packed in and stood throughout the entire play. These people were called “groundlings” and there were even jokes made about them during the plays.

During the play, Hamlet actually refers to the groundlings in Act 3 Scene 2:

O, it offends me to the soul to hear a robustious
periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to
very rags, to split the ears of the groundlings, who
for the most part are capable of nothing but
inexplicable dumbshows and noise.

During the early 17th century people would pay the penny just to get a chance to steal a purse from another “groundling” or patron. In 1599, Thomas Platter mentioned the cost of admission at contemporary London theatres in his diary:

There are separate galleries and there one stands more comfortably and moreover can sit, but one pays more for it. Thus anyone who remains on the level standing pays only one English penny: but if he wants to sit, he is let in at a farther door, and there he gives another penny. If he desires to sit on a cushion in the most comfortable place of all, where he not only sees everything well, but can also be seen then he gives yet another English penny at another door. And in the pauses of the comedy food and drink are carried round amongst the people and one can thus refresh himself at his own cost.

We went back in time, temporarily, and subjected ourselves to this “groundling” experience. It would be too noble of me to say that we did it for purely academic purposes, instead, we simply booked our tickets too late to get a seat.

It rains in London. It rained in London for our entire stay. So, my experience of seeing Hamlet is as a “groundling” on a rainy day.

It’s one thing to experience Shakespeare on the page. It’s quite another to experience Shakespeare from the ground in the rain and then be the butt of Shakespeare’s joke at the same time.

Seeing Shakespeare in this way makes me think that I don’t need to match the academics line by line in analyzing the deeper psychological implications of Hamlet’s case. I need not parse the play line by line looking for some new writerly tool or tactic. The vocabulary seems to be less important when you see the play acted out with adequate emotion. Long soliloquies become impressive shows of emotion that I can empathize with, especially being shoulder to shoulder with my fellow-man.

So, my experience with Shakespeare makes me think this: we need to spend more time reading Shakespeare out loud, preferably with a friend. Alternatively, we need to see Shakespeare acted by professional actors. Further, if you can get into out in the open air and see Shakespeare you’re probably going to see barriers to understanding lifted. If you get lucky enough to be rained on while watching Shakespeare, then real quickly you’re going to see that the Shakespeare experience was not really created to be fully had sitting in a class room parsing word by word to discover the meaning. The classroom is just the starting point, albeit a damn important one.

Photo: Alicia Murphy

Understanding The Complexities Of The English Language

This is an essay by Christina Appleworth.

The English language can be very difficult to learn for non-native speakers. While widely spoken, the difficulties of English derive from the differences on terms of syllable structure and spoken against written forms of the language. New language speakers can also struggle to adjust to the complexities of English grammar, and to the range of different forms of slang and idioms that they may be presented with on a daily basis. When trying to understand and learn the complexities of the English language, it is therefore important to try to focus on an intersection of reading, writing, speaking and overall learning through practice.

General Difficulties

English can be an unusual language for speakers not used to the Roman alphabet, or to the differences between particular sounds. Non native speakers often have difficulties with consonants like b and v, and can also find it difficult to adjust to the complex syllable structure used within the language. These differences can be very subtle, and can take a lot of time to learn to a fluent level.

Grammar

There are a number of different tenses within English that, while similar to other European languages, do not always follow hard and fast rules. The same learning problems apply to modal and phrasal verbs, which ideally need to be learnt through specific contexts and examples, rather than by rote. Prepositions are similarly difficult to master, and require long-term practice and immersion within the language as it is spoken and written on a day-to-day basis.

Slang and Idioms

New English speakers can find it difficult to adjust to the wide range of idioms that exist within the language, and especially when they are not immediately obvious. Difficulties with zero articles are particularly common. Varying types of slang and dialect between different regions are also problematic, in the sense that it is both difficult to understand the language as spoken, and to pin down the context of particular words.

Reading and Speaking Connections

One of the best approaches to getting to grips with the English language in all its complexities is to focus on mastering both writing, reading and speaking as discreet, but also overlapping forms. Many people learning English can write to a reasonable standard, but will need to focus much more on the differences in grammar, idiom, and slang that appear in spoken conversation. Looking at how a written piece will differ in conversation is therefore important, but should always begin from a strong focus on reading.

Putting Into Practice

Putting the English language into practice generally involves focusing on this intersection of mastering the language on the page, and by entering into social contexts and interactions with native speakers that will put these rules into a more informal meaning. Indefinite and definite article problems can be particularly helped by taking this immersive approach, and by focusing on varied learning methods and forms of practice. Ultimately, the best way to move from a frustration with the complexities of English to comfort with its form is to take this step of going from the classroom to testing it out in a social situation. However, it is also crucial to get to this stage by mastering reading and the rules of English before moving on to more complex contexts.

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Writing on behalf of SNT International College Christina Appleworth reviews some of the complexities of the English language. SNT College specialise in English language courses to students of all levels.

Photo: Some rights reserved by CircaSassy.

Reading for Health: Using Your Book-Addiction to Stay in Shape

This is an essay by Chris Ciolli.

While reading fiction is always a welcome escape, I regard reading about health and fitness the way I do staying current on national and international news, as an important responsibility.

After all, we are thinking, reasoning beings, and as such, should take advantage of our brain-power at every opportunity to harness the power of information to live longer, better lives.

Not that I’m exactly a my-body-is-my-temple-type, but I am a realist, and as such, my attitude could be summarized as follows: I have to live in this body, and no one else is going to take care of it for me.  So I read about what to eat, and how to move, and the things I must do to keep my sometimes cranky and creaky human machine running and walking about.

At first, I devoured articles about antioxidants, super foods and the dangers of artificial sweetener and trans fats, afterwards swiftly and willfully forgetting about them whenever I had a yen for a delicious bag of crunchy cheese-flavored trans fats and a diet coke. I sprinted through books on yoga poses, Pilates stretches, and body-weight exercises, briefly trying them out, and moving on.

In the end, I decided that use it or lose it isn’t merely apt when applied to abilities, but should also be applied to information. It was all fine and good to read about health and fitness, but what about action?

Eating for Health: Cooking with Books

The articles and books I read about healthy eating and cooking have transformed the way we eat in my household, from serving sizes, to what kind of oil I sauté vegetables in (extra virgin olive), to what products I am willing to buy canned, frozen or pre-made. Even if I don’t follow guidelines or recipes exactly, the new, healthy ideas I get from books and articles keep our diet varied, and our bodies sustained; my reading keeps me motivated.

No, I will not call for a pizza, or shove frozen lasagna in the oven, my books would never forgive me and my body will thank me, someday.

Tips I’ve absorbed about how to eat, also come to mind at mealtime. From Marc David’s “The Slow Down Diet,” I know to take ten slow, deep breaths before sitting down to eat in a relaxed state, even if I’m stressed and working a deadline. A myriad of experts (and my parents) have advised me to chew slowly and carefully, concentrating on the food, and the sensation of eating.  I find mom and dad, and, these writers of books and articles are onto something: when you don’t rush through mealtimes, but try to enjoy them in good spirits and good company, you actually eat less and feel full sooner. Not to mention the added plus of time to discuss whatever you’re reading.

Exercising with Books: Burning Calories and Turning Pages

While an initial fascination with the new exercises I read about will usually keep me performing them until I either a) master the movement or b) give up in frustration, an even better way to use books for physical fitness, is to bribe myself. An hour on a treadmill sounds like torture, but an hour on a stationary bike reading on my kindle or listening to a book on tape is a luxury that does double duty: mental and physical fitness become one.

Another way I try to use reading to lure me into increased activity is by eschewing chairs and fidgeting. Instead of reading the numerous blogs and newspapers I follow online curled up in an easy chair, I scan them standing up.  Per the author of “The Diet Detective’s Calorie Bargain,” Charles, Stuart Platkin, standing up burns as many as 50 more calories per hour, encourages pacing and moving your weight from one foot to the other and improves a person’s over all posture

Besides, according to the British Journal of Sports Medicine, too much sitting has been linked to a number of serious health problems even in people that work out regularly. Which means, if you sit all day at work, coming home and slumping onto the sofa with your favorite tome is out. Save your body (it’s where your mind lives) and read that book on foot, or pacing back and forth.

If you mostly read on your computer, note that you don’t have to go out and spend a fortune to try out a standing desk. Anyone can build a standing desk by increasing the height of their desk with books, bricks, or risers, or they can do what I do, placing my laptop on a tall stack of books on top of the dining room table. When I’m feeling especially energetic, or I know I won’t have time for a regular workout, I might march in place, do belly-dance shimmies, or hold yoga poses —whatever I can manage while still focusing on the screen.

Another option, although it’s not something I’ve tried, would be enjoying your favorite book or skimming technical texts for work on one of those large yoga balls–bouncing, and even sitting still help people to burn more calories and engage their core muscles.

Fitness aficionados talk about being addicted to exercise. Me, on the other hand, I’m a just another book junkie, leveraging my vice to stay healthy and fit.

Do you use your need to read to motivate you to live a better life?

Do you read and work out?

Have you ever used your need to know what happens next in the novel your reading to get your butt to the gym, where you’ve given yourself permission to consume books as long as you can keep your feet turning the pedals?

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Chris Ciolli: A writer and translator by trade, Chris Ciolli spends her spare minutes reading, traveling and playing with art supplies. Okay, so sometimes she sleeps, eats and slurps coffee, too. Learn more about her at ChrisCiolli.com, read about her travels at Midwesternerabroad.com, or follow her on twitter @ChrisCiolli.

Photo: Some rights reserved by comedy_nose.