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Sunday, May 7, 2023

Discussion Questions for Klara and the Sun (Meeting May 15th 1:00 PM Round Rock Public Library 2nd Floor Outdoor Table)

  1. Why did Ishiguro choose to tell the story from Klara’s perspective? How would the novel have been different if Josie, or her mother, had told it?
  2. Did you relate to Klara? Find her likeable? Empathize with her? What about her character or storytelling made this easier or harder?
  3. Klara, a personified machine, personifies the sun. Why does she do this? What does it mean to be a person? Are all people humans? Are all humans people?
  4. When Miss Helen meets Klara, she says, “One never knows how to greet a guest like you. After all, are you a guest at all? Or do I treat you like a vacuum cleaner?” What does she mean by this? How would you react upon meeting Klara?
  5. In the novel, workers have been “substituted” by machines who do their labor. At various points in the book, we hear from characters who support substitution, like Josie’s father, and some who oppose it, like the woman at the theater. Why are their opinions different? Who benefits from substitution?
  6. Klara is an outdated model of AF, children who haven’t been “lifted” are kept from schools, and workers are dispensable and unwanted. How do you feel about this recurring theme of obsolescence? How do we treat obsolescent people and things?
  7. Why do parents choose to have their children “lifted”? Is it fascistic, as Miss Helen suggests? Is it eugenics? Is there an analogous practice to “lifting” in our real world?
  8. What has changed about each of the characters by the end of the book? Have they grown? Have their circumstances improved? Did you find it hopeful? Or tragic?
  9. What has the book taught you? About people, technology, or love? What will you take away from it the most?
  10. There was something very special, but it wasn’t inside Josie. It was inside those who loved her.
  11. Does technology change the way that we relate to one another? Does it enhance or limit our capacity for love?

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Planning for the Future: Book Club Questionnaire Sent to Members Separately

Round Rock New Neighbors (New Neighbors of Greater Round Rock) Book Club Ideas

Our Book Club seems to need some help.


The Book Club was begun before I moved to Round Rock. I found it soon after I arrived. My neighbor told me about it, though she wasn’t a member. The group met at different people’s homes each month. I received the files when another of my neighbors moved away and gave them to me. I have some old files and booklists.

The first article in the file is an Amazon printout about Ulysses, by James Joyce. I don’t think the Book Club ever tackled Ulysses. I nominated it early on – I’ve always wanted to read it, but I wanted it to be a group experience. The group didn’t vote for it. The next article is an Amazon printout, with lots of reviews printed in full, about Anne Tyler’s Ladder of Years. Then, there is a page that someone wrote about The Hundred Secret Senses, by Amy Tan – looks like notes someone would use for presenting the book to the group for discussion. There are some cut out articles from the Austin American Statesman with lists of “Top Ten on the Modern Library List” (Ulysses is #1) and “Austin’s Top Choices” (#1 = To Kill a Mockingbird. The date of publication of the newspaper is cut off. James Magnuson’s picture is on that page of the Statesman, with a list of his favorite 5 books – he gave us an author visit years later. There’s a “Xerox copy” of a Statesman article about Christopher Reich, and his novel, Numbered Account.

All these old records of the Book Club – what shall I do with them? I would be sad to dump them in the recycling – better to pass them on to someone who wants to archive and/or lead the Book Club into the future!

Moving Forward:

For now, I’d like to set up our next months of reading and discussing books. If you didn’t nominate yet for this summer/fall, you haven’t helped much…yet!  I have created a questionnaire that I hope will help us move in a good direction now, as we might be emerging from the pandemic. Or, as we begin to accept that the pandemic has changed us.

I have some ideas about things we could do. Meeting in-person is best for everyone’s mental health but not necessarily for our recently accepted habits. Barnes & Noble isn’t giving us any priority any more.

Do you like the following idea?  Whoever is at a discussion meeting, e.g., our May meeting when we discuss Klara and the Sun, (by Kazuo Ishiguri), (if they want to) can suggest titles for 2 months hence. After we have gathered titles, we vote at the meeting and choose the book with the most votes.     Then, the email list receives a message about the book, and the book title will be on the blog as scheduled for a specific month.      

Would this work for you?   ________

In fairness to those who nominated, I will begin to schedule the books that have already been nominated. There aren’t enough for our scheduled “season”. We might skip a month or accept some new nominations. Maybe nominating and choosing books can be a rolling procedure, with occasional votes if several nominations arrive at the same time.

Would this work for you?  ________

Status quo – in May and November, everyone who didn’t present a book that half of the year nominates 1 book each for the next half-year. Then everyone votes.      Do you prefer this?  _______

Other ideas? (Insert here)

Would you like to take charge of nominations and votes?    _______  Someone needs to do it!

The Blog – We have had a blog writeup each month after our book discussion. Although I am a proponent of in-person discussions, I did find ways to make the blog posts more easily and more detailed via Zoom. Sometimes, before a discussion, the nominator has prepared something to post on the blog to help the group prepare for the discussion. Would you like to take charge of receiving preparatory material from the nominator and posting it on the blog?  ______

Would you like to contribute something to the blog on a regular basis? _____

Would you like to be “guest blogger” occasionally?  _____

Do you find the blog useful? _____ What do you search for on the blog? (Insert answer) Would you miss the blog if it were gone? _____

Probably, the blog could stay online even if no one updated it. If it stopped being updated, would you like to have it available online as it is now?  _____

Meetings:  Please check as many as you want to:

____ I want to meet in person only. I am willing to meet at the library, at a subdivision clubhouse, at someone’s home, or elsewhere.  (Please add some Ideas for where to meet and especially whether your home would be an option for a meeting sometimes: _____________)

_____ I want to meet on Zoom only

______I’d like to meet in person and on Zoom, seasonally, e.g., Summer and Winter on Zoom; in-person when the weather is comfortable for outdoors. (This might require an email in the morning before a scheduled meeting)

I’d be willing to pay $2/month dues to the Book Club, which could go toward the cost of Zoom  _____    I’d be willing to act as “Treasurer” for the group, arranging for payments and keeping records. ______


Here is my nomination - It’s late, and I understand that books might already be scheduled for some months, especially if we don’t have enough nominations for a vote.

Your name

Author & Title:


More ideas for improving our Book Club:  Insert here:

Thank you!

Sunday, April 23, 2023

We Discuss Lessons in Chemistry in Person

Our meeting at the outdoor table at the Round Rock Library was a high point! The book was delightful, the weather was beautiful, and the discussion of Lessons in Chemistry, by Bonnie Garmus, was fun!

Lessons in Chemistry is a popular book and had become difficult to get through a library! The book is worth the wait, unless you have a Book Club discussion to attend! Thanks to Carla, we had all read the book, and we had discussion questions about it.

Everyone enjoyed Lessons in Chemistry! We went through the questions, but your webmaster neglected to take very many notes, so there won’t be much of a rendition of the discussion. You had to be there! Here are some things said about the book:

Favorite Character: The majority went for Six-Thirty. This was the same as with many book clubs and readers on Goodreads!  The dog was not totally realistic but highlighted the intelligence and loyalty and protectiveness that many dogs show. Joyce chose Mad. Mad knew a little too much for her age! Joyce wondered whether Mad had become the way she was because of her upbringing or whether she was just that way.

Question 1) It seemed the relationship between Elizabeth and Calvin would have lasted, had he lived longer. The relationship was one of mutual respect, attraction, and love.

Question 2) Among us, we represented a variety of cooking styles. Most of us hadn’t thought to think about the chemistry of cooking.

Question 3) Madeline was a child, so her imagination was very active. We thought she put characters into her family tree because without them, the tree would have been too spare, plus, the strong women (Cleopatra and Pocahontas) she added were clever and fitting solutions to her tree.

Further discussion involved whether any of the book’s characters, e.g., Elizabeth, Calvin, and Mad, might have been on the autism spectrum. We discussed how libraries have changed since the 1960s, when this story supposedly took place. Ken expressed anger he had felt when he read about the assault on Elizabeth. I had felt anger during that description, too! We found a lot of the book to be unbelievable, but that was the nature of the book – to require the reader to suspend disbelief. After this well-written entertaining book, this author seems to be one to watch for further offerings!

I will add that although we didn’t discuss it, Elizabeth appeared in my mind similar to the actress who played Beth Harmon in the movie for The Queen’s Gambit (Anya Taylor-Joy). Joy would be the actress I would choose to play the role of Elizabeth!

Friday, March 31, 2023

Burntcoat: An Unusual Novel

The unusual novel, Burntcoat, by Sarah Hall, inspired an unusual discussion! Some of us had difficulty reading the book. One member said, “I gave up halfway through. I just couldn’t keep up the momentum to finish.”

Someone said, “At the very beginning, I was about ready to abandon it after about 25%. Then I realized that as (the book) goes on, more is revealed that begins to tie it together. So, for me, the little bit of suspense that was involved with the question ‘how is this going to tie together next(?)’ was enough to keep me going. For me, it was kind of like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. OK, where is the next piece? It was hard, but then, I’m not a big fan of stream-of-consciousness writing, either. Am I glad I read it? I’m glad I struggled through it. It was very different. Would I put it on my-favorite-books-I-have-ever-read list? No. Some of the things I had questions about that I would have liked to know more about, never got addressed. For example, what did (Edith’s) art actually look like?"

Someone commented, “There were details about studying in Japan but no details about what she actually did with (what she learned). Does anybody know what those things actually looked like when she was done?” To this, I said, “It was left to the imagination, probably purposely.”

Someone said, “I didn’t get any of the art (parts).”

”One comment was, “It started out with the stroke. That didn’t attract my imagination."

Other comments included, “Hall can turn a phrase. (The book) had a rich vocabulary. I found myself looking up words more than usual. It might have been partly because of the British orientation.”

About the physicality, someone suggested that it might have been to remind the reader that this was the body (of Halit), as well as his mind and soul. I used the word, “visceral” more than once in comments about the physical details described in the book.

I said, “There were parts that were well-written. The parts about the mother and her treatment and how Edith coped with her mother were my favorite parts.”

One reader noted that reviewers said, “Dazzling and completely satisfying” and “A brilliant novel about love, art, and the fragility of life.”

About the pandemic in the book, someone said the pieces didn’t fit together and go anywhere.

“This was the worst pandemic,” someone opined, “way worse than the pandemic we’re in, though it wasn’t real.” Since the book was published in 2021, someone wondered whether the author was writing about an imaginary pandemic while the actual pandemic was happening. Someone else who wasn’t able to attend the meeting also mentioned this in an email. She wasn’t sure whether the pandemic in the novel was a coincidence or whether it was purposely adapted from the real one. At the discussion, there was a suggestion that maybe the author added the pandemic parts during the editing to make the book better, and maybe even longer.

Some of the questions at the end of the book are thought-provoking. The idea about who will tell your story after you are gone was the theme of a question and had been the theme of a song in the musical, Hamilton.

We made a list of stories we found in the book: Edith’s mother’s story, Edith as a child, Edith’s experience of her dad leaving them, the cottage on the moor, a first boyfriend, the Japanese studying (woodwork), Ali’s backstory, Halit’s backstory, Edith’s brother who visited, the on and off friendship of Carolina who helped Edith’s career as an artist, and the topic of grief that meandered through the stories and perhaps was the main topic of the book. Someone suggested motherhood was also a main theme of Burntcoat, with protagonist Edith saying that she brought her art into existence but did not have a motherhood relationship with it.

The discussion was slightly more disorganized than usual, but, as usual, brought out a good discussion’s worth of ideas about the book! 

Sunday, February 26, 2023

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is Quiet and Steady…”Crunch Crunch Crunch.”

 All 7 of us at the February Zoom discussion had finished and enjoyed reading The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, by Elisabeth Tova Bailey. Marcia sent us to the author’s website, where we saw action video of the snail and listened to a recording of the snail eating. Here are some highlights from our discussion of 20 questions the author provided:

Question 1) There are 2 protagonists in the book, the snail and the human. Did you find yourself drawn to one more than the other?

Marcia noted that the snail was nocturnal and was always back to a resting spot before daylight. She related the illness aspect of the book to the pandemic, because everyone has become more aware of illness and handwashing. We discussed handwashing obedience and rebellion. In her nursing career, Marcia remembered a germophobic doctor who particularly disliked the hospital’s policy of allowing patients’ pets to visit them at the hospital. Dennis reminded us that there are good bacteria in dirt. Carla said she had often told her children that “…everyone has to eat their prescribed pound of dirt.”

Joanne said that the world is becoming complicated and dangerous. I responded that, due to the prevalence of the media, we certainly are hearing about everything complicated and dangerous! Joyce addressed the author’s situation of finding a little companionship with the snail as a fellow living creature and finding reduced connection and increased awkwardness with friends who visited her, as her illness continued over time. Marcia said the author seemed to find symmetry between herself, who couldn’t do things quickly, and the always-slow snail.

Joanne said she got caught up in the writing itself. Carla was concerned about the author as a person. Since the author seemed to be going through an idiopathic (unknown cause) and debilitating illness, we all felt sorry for her. Various members read aloud favorite passages from the book.

Question 5) Have you ever noticed a snail before? Marcia enjoyed learning a lot of details about snails when she read The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating. She remembered having a snail in a glass aquarium when she was a child. The snail would climb the wall. Once, when the snail had laid some eggs, Marcia’s older brothers scared her by telling her that the eggs indicated a dangerous alien involved. Funny how memories from childhood stay with us!

Marcia also noticed the snail’s “dart” hanging down in that same aquarium. Reading the book, she knew just what that dart had been! Snail ‘love darts’ are also mentioned in Gerald Durrell’s Birds, Beasts, and Relatives (Book 2 of The Corfu Trilogy, of which our Book Club read Book 1, My Family and Other Animals). My notes from reading The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating mention that Durrell’s passage about trying to get snails to mate was mentioned in The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating. Another adventure with snails Marcia told us about was when Marcia’s cat once arrived in the house with 20 tiny snails on her tail…Marcia called her “snail tail” and cleaned all the snails off the cat’s tail. It was good for all of us that Marcia had some interest in snails and nominated The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating!

Friday, January 20, 2023

Discussion Questions for The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating

 Discussion Questions for Book Club, From Marcia:

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey

Book Club Group Discussion Questions for Monday, February 20, 2023 at 1pm.

These questions have Spoil Alerts; so, reading the book first is always my priority.

Also review these websites prior to Book Club discussion:

Make sure to scroll down and visit the other links as well including a recording of a snail eating vs a human eating, video of a snail moving across moss.

The author has listed the Book Club Group Discussion questions grouping into categories:

Reading Experience.

The Snail & Natural History.

Illness & Health.

Final Questions.

Again, Spoil Alerts when reading these questions.

All 15 questions are on the website.  Here are the first four questions to get you started--under your Reading Experience:

  1. There are two protagonists, the snail and the human.  Did you find yourself drawn to one more than the other?  Does that say something about you as a person? 
  2. Which chapter was your favorite and why?  Was there a particular phrase, sentence, or idea that really intrigued you?
  3. Did you find yourself reading the book quickly to see what would happen next? Or slowly so that it wouldn’t end?
  4. Although the book covers a year of snail observations, the author notes in the epilogue that the narrative actually weaves together that year along with research the author did years later.  If you think of the story in these two layers, the direct observations and the research years, does it change or deepen your understanding of the narrative and of the bond the author formed with the snail? 

Thursday, January 19, 2023

We Laugh With A Cry From the Far Middle

A Cry From the Far Middle: Dispatches From a Divided Land, by P.J. O’Rourke, did make many of us laugh! O’Rourke had a way of satirizing with impunity, somewhat by making fun of all factions equally. We were sad to learn that O’Rourke had died in early 2022.

 Cindy nominated this book for us, and she sent links to 2 videos of interviews with O’Rourke. These were like a smoke screen – there was smoke on the screen from the little cigars (cigar-ettes?) that O’Rourke seemed to smoke constantly and which are probably responsible for his death at age 74. ‘Nuff said about that. O’Rourke evolved from being a Hippy to being a political Conservative to being a Libertarian, all the while writing political satire. He was a well-received and much appreciated writer.

Cindy chose various questions from the list she had suggested for us. She asked us whether we thought of ourselves as Coastals or Heartlanders, according to the definitions and a questionnaire in the book. Flo said she knew she was a Coastal, because in her 20s she first visited the midwestern U.S. from her home in New York and wondered how the USA could contain such a population that seemed very uninformed and yet were able to vote for President. Some of us were a mixture of Coastal and Heartlander. Marcia said her family was divided between Coastals and Heartlanders, politically. Ken demonstrated that the choices in the questionnaire were silly BUT were “…just like the ones we get in every election.” Cindy said her opinions have changed a lot over the years, partly because of which part of the country she lived in.

 We agreed that the political divisions in our country give the USA a healthy diversity, especially since we aren’t under a particular threat. A point in favor of this is that Russia’s war on Ukraine has united us (and our divided Congress) against the enemy, Putin, whose agenda doesn’t show any specific end goal. Thus, in a serious situation, we have the potential to be united.

 We continued to discuss current and previous political situations and aspects of our lives. The book and Cindy’s questions inspired us to lively and inspired conversation!