P – Progressive Book Club

a-to-z-letters-pThe End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe – I read this book in Dallas. That’s work with my A to Z theme, right?

First of all, if you haven’t heard of the Progressive Book Club, check out what a our book club host ML Swift created.

I really loved this book.  It was simple, sad, hopeful and beautiful. I got so much out of it.


Life Lessons

“As in many book clubs, our conversations bounced around between the character’s lives and our own.”
“Still, one thing I learned from Mom is this: Reading isn’t the opposite of doing: it’s the opposite of dying.”
“It’s much easier to follow your bliss when you have enough money to pay the rent.”
“They help us talk. But they also give us something we all can talk about when we don’t want to talk about ourselves.”

Writing Lessons

Have a great first line.
Tell a story and involve the read in the lives of the character.

To Read List for 2014

  1. On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
  2. Appointment in Samarra by John O’Hara
  3. The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano
  4. Man Gone Down by Michael Thomas
  5. Marjorie Morningstar by Herman Wouk
  6. Couples by John Updike
  7. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
  8. Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamont
  9. March by Geraldine Brooks
  10. Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey
  11. Continental Drift by Russell Banks
  12. The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith
  13. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
  14. Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky
  15. The Bite of the Mango by Mariatu Kamara
  16. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
  17. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
  18. Big Machine by Victor LaValle

And, I saw myself in this book:

This is exactly how I feel about London:  “I think it was the first place she really felt like an adult.”

This is exactly how I thought about the movie Auntie Mame: “It rekindled in her the fantasy of being Auntie Mame, the women who took her nephew on a glorious trip around the world and taught him that “life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.”

BTW, if you haven’t seen Auntie Mame, check it out (the Rosalind Russell version). 

This is the exact reason why I need to get over my insecurities and start telling people I am a writer:  “Never make assumptions about people. You never know who can and will want to help you until you ask.”

The book made me feel good about myself. Like the author, I to spend a significant portion of my life watching reality television and that is in no way disrespectful to my creativity:  “Part of curating, collecting and appreciating was editing – mom never had much patience for junk or for crassness and less so now that she knew her time was limited.  I, on the other hand, continue to waste a significant portion of my live watching reality television, learning about the lives of dubious celebrities and consuming cultural garbage with the feigned irony and faux populism that’s a hallmark of my generation and the ones that immediately follow.”

The book was about a mother dying of cancer, a son who tries to deal with it the best way he knows how and the time they spent together reading amazing books. And, if that’s all you got out of it, you missed the point. Great book.

Have you read it? 

16 thoughts on “P – Progressive Book Club

  1. You must’ve gone live midnight your time–I’m still on O!

    Good review. I like the breakdown to different lessons, and a reading list. But I’m with his mom on reality TV. Or pretty much any TV. Spot on about being bold to state you are a writer, though.

    These are pretty disjointed comments. It’s very late here!

  2. Sydney,

    What a great post! You see that written a lot, but this was truly fantastic. For one thing, I LOVED that you included the list of many of the books. It’s like my old High School recommended reading list. I wrote some of them down myself, but I’m bookmarking this post.

    A book I’ve already ordered (because the Kindle download was free!) was the devotional his mom read, Daily Strength for Daily Needs. I also want to get The Etiquette of Illness. That seems to be a book that would come in handy as we get older and encounter more and more people who are experiencing life changes due to health issues.

    I also loved the Auntie Mame part. I love the movie (yes, the original is superb, but I also like the Lucille Ball version).

    This was a truly excellent post about your experience with the book. Thanks, Sydney.


    1. Thanks so much Mike. I guess you can tell, I loved the book.
      I had seen the original so many times and loved it, I think the Lucille Ball version felt like an unnecessary remake. It is a great story. Great lines. I need to do a post on that movie.

  3. Mike, I think that about getting the Etiquette of Illness book is a great idea. Not sure why I didn’t think of it–except that a part of me almost treated the work as fiction, and the books mentioned might or might not be real.

    Makes me think I need more sleep 🙂

    1. Every book mentioned was real. They have a reading list at the back of my version. I didn’t included all of them, just the ones that made me think, oh, that sounds like a great story and definetly books I wouldn’t normally read. In fact the only one mentioned in the book I had read was Lord of the Flies which they didn’t read just mentioned and The Hobbit which I enjoyed.

      1. Oh, I KNOW they are real. It’s just brain fuzz. But sometimes it was easier to think of it as a story.

        I’ve read a number of the books mentioned, and was intrigued by the discussion of Hobbit/LOTR vs. Narnia, as I have loved both in my time (thus ruining their theory that you can’t like both–my affection for Narnia and Middle Earth overlapped, though Narnia has rather fallen out of favor). I ought to take Schwalbe’s book back out and make a list of the titles I thought I should read–I would think that, then be on to the next book. Anything not written down is probably forgotten by the end of the page :p

  4. Loved your review- I am a sucker for lists and so this just made me all happy 🙂
    Wow, every last one of those you listed under Life lessons is fantastic and I will be noting them.
    Love your list of TBR books. I read Travelling Mercies after reading Bird by Bird for the book club and loved it. It was very quirky and amazing in ways that left me shaking my head. She’s one of a kind and her journeys are too.

    Beautiful review, I really enjoyed it! 🙂

  5. Traveling Mercies is one of the books that I had sort of dismissed (because I’m not religious), but Schwalbe’s response to it reminded me that LaMott could never be anything but entertaining, and I will probably give it a shot.

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