Ladies of Literature

Today's cup of decaf is with a book or 42...

September 2001


It was September 2, the first Sunday of the month in September 2001. Just a few short days before the world, as we knew it then, forever changed.


My girls were very young and I was back to work part time. Life was consumed, as it is for moms of young kids, with drop offs and pick ups. Playing and snuggling. Going to work. Finding childcare. Laundry and meals. Baths and bedtime routines. At the time, I was able to exercise in the dark of the early morning, but pretty much had no other time to myself. The only books I was reading were the ones I read aloud to the girls at night. Don’t get me wrong! I LOVED those books! Goodnight Moon, The Little Engine, Olivia, Chrysanthemum! Then the Henry and Mudge and Mr. Putter and Tabby series! Don’t get me started! But, I had not read an adult book in years. Literally.


In Search of Friends

We were newish to the neighborhood, and just as the housing market went crazy, we had a flock of new neighbors. Within the first year that we purchased our home, we had a street filled with young families. All had kids the same ages as ours. It was a 1950’s dream, set in the late 1990’s. Our tree lined street, near the beach, with a park close by, and kids playing outside in the California sunshine. As I pushed the stroller to the park each day, I started to chat with the lovely moms up and down the street. I needed an excuse to spend more time with them and build friendships. And, I really needed to use my brain for something other than how many chicken nuggets and carrots my kids were consuming.


Mostly Wine, No Decaf

I invited a hand full of the moms to my home for some wine, hors d’oeuvres, and a book group. (We never drink decaf at these things). I don’t remember exactly how much lead time I gave, but somehow, we all managed to read The Red Tent by Anita Diamant before that first Sunday of the month. We sat in my unfinished basement and started the tradition of drinking wine, laughing a lot, and sometimes discussing the book we had read. We wrote in a notebook and, now and then, will still read sections aloud for hilarious memories. We have nearly filled three notebooks of varying sizes.


We Read it All

We read paperbacks only, best sellers often, and an occasional classic. Non-fiction, fiction, science fiction, and sometimes accidental trash. What was that one about the stripper? It was great to re-read To Kill A Mockingbird and Catcher In The Rye, but when we tried to read Don Quixote, well… let’s just say it was an epic fail. Remember the couple of times we invited a local author to join us? That was interesting!


No Rules

The small group grew up to 14 women over the years. It has shrunk and grown many times since. We still meet on the first Sunday, at a different house each month. We often eat full meals because everyone are outstanding cooks. We bring things to share. Show up in pajamas or dressed for the Oscars. It’s all good. Come when you need to cry, or don’t come for years. We will miss you, and you can always come back if you ever want to. Read the book, or don’t. There are no rules and we still have no system about how we decide on the book or who will host next month. There is always an email reminder before, and sweet email thank yous the next morning. Births, travels, careers, teenagers, have not deterred us from meeting each month. We have had many “moms gone wild” nights, and have stories we can never tell. Needless to say, we have aged into a much more mellow rhythm that seems to suit us just fine.


Happy Birthday

As I sat with these great women the other night, at our 18th birthday party, I smiled to myself, thinking that, in many ways, we are all exactly the same as we were 18 years ago. Even though September 11, 2001 changed the culture of the world, we have been able to hang on to our simple pleasures. Good friends, good food, and good books.


Love you always, Book Group.


I took a poll of the gals, and here are some of the favorites over the years. We tend to get a little enthusiastic. I tried to pare the list down to 18, but it was too difficult, so you are getting 42! (In alphabetical order, not preference order).


You can print out the list and keep it for reference when you need a good book to read!


Please comment and tell us your favorites!







  • A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore

  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

  • A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

  • A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

  • Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

  • All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

  • Atonement by Ian McEwan

  • Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie

  • Bee Season by Myla Goldberg

  • Beyond the Sky and the Earth; A Journey into Bhutan by Jamie Zeppa

  • Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani

  • Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

  • City of Thieves by David Benioff

  • Commonwealth by Anne Patchett

  • Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verhese

  • Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris

  • Let The Great World Spin by Colum McCann

  • Like Water for Chocolate by Crystal Paul

  • Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenides

  • Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem

  • New York by Edward Rutherfurd

  • Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

  • One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus

  • Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

  • People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

  • Pope Joan by Dona Wolfolk Cross

  • Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver

  • The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night by Mark Haddon

  • The Death of Vishnu by Manil Suri

  • The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson

  • The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

  • The Kite Runner by Khalid Hosseni

  • The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

  • The Master Butcher's Singing Club by Louise Erdich

  • The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman

  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

  • The Overstory by Richard Powers

  • The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

  • The Time Travelers Wife by Audrey Niffeneger

Pour some decaf and open a good book!

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