Why I Started a Book Club

Reading a book. It's one of the most educational, mind-expanding, self-caring things you can do for yourself. 

Stack of booksDo you remember when Oprah started her book club back in 1996? She had a powerful effect on reading for pleasure and discussion. In 2008, an article in Time magazine stated about her club, "It's the greatest force in publishing today, with the power to raise authors from the dead (Leo Tolstoy) or crucify them on the national stage (James Frey)."

 I've always loved the idea of a book club. What could be better than reading a book, then talking about it with other bibliophiles? Add some wine and a few appetizers, and you have a close-to-perfect evening right there.

My mother's book club has been meeting for well over thirty years, so it's not a surprise that I would want to follow in her footsteps. I tried a few book clubs at local bookstores, and a club online, but neither option quite jelled for me. So, I decided to start one of my own. I included friends that I thought would mix well. The only requirement? Read the book!

This group of funny, smart, caring, insightful and just plain fun women has been meeting for almost 7 1/2 years. We've had a few members drop out for various reasons, and new members have joined us; so that we're at the comfortable number of 12. We meet once a month at different members' homes, and vote on the books we'll be reading next. One of my favorite things about this monthly meeting is how everyone has bonded over time. We often spend the first half of the meeting catching up on everyone's lives. 

I spend a lot of time online: reading articles, writing, publishing, and collaborating and communicating virtually, so getting offline to hold and read a book, then discuss it face to face is a treat.

 I started "officially" tracking our reading list a few years ago on my Facebook page; sharing it with friends looking for reading recommendations.  What better way to share the power and love of reading and connect with others who feel the same way, than with social networking? So I decided to share our list here on my blog, and solicit your favorite books while I was at it. (Readers are very generous about sharing their favorites.)

Wednesday Night Book Club Reading List (so far)

10/06 When We Were Grownups by Anne Tyler
11/06 The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd
01/07 Sleeping with Schubert by Bonnie Marson
02/07 Dispatches From The Front by Anderson Cooper
03/07 Memory Keepers Daughter by Kim Edwards
04/07 The Tender Bar by J. R. Moehringer
05/07 The Secret byRhonda Byrne
06/07 Water for Elephants bySara Gruen
07/07 Thousand Splendid Suns by Kaaleb Hosseini
08/07 The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
09/07 Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls
10/07 One Good Turn: A Novel by Kate Atkinson
11/07 My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
01/08 Never Let Her Go by Jennifer Tynes
02/08 Away by Amy Bloom
04/08 Nature Girl by Carl Hasson
05/08 Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin
06/08 The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman
07/08 The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
08/08 Pigs In Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver
09/08 Housekeeping by Marilyn Robinson
10/08 The Road by Cormac McCarthy
11/08 The Vanishing Act Of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrel
01/09 Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
02/09 Not a Genuine Black Man by Brian Copeland
03/09 Red Scarf by Kate Furnivall
04/09 The Russian Concubine by Kate Furnivall
05/09 A Short History Of Tractors In Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka
06/09 I Wish I Had a Red Dress by Pearl Cleage
07/09 Funny In Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America by Firoozeh Dumas
09/09 The God of Animals by Aryn Kyle
10/09 Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa Lee
01/10 Blessings by Anna Quindlin
02/10 Saving Fish From Drowning by Amy Tan
03/10 A Reliable Wife by Robert Godrick
04/10 Delusions Of A Grandma by Carrie Fisher
05/10 Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
06/10 Middlesex by Jeffery Eugendes
07/10 The Art Of Racing In The Rain by Garth Stein
08/10 Magnificent Bastards by Rich Hall
09/10 An Inconvenient Elephant by Judy Reene Singer
10/10 Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penny
11/10 Princess by Jean Sasson
1/11 Moo by Jane Smiley
2/11 The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
3/11 Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home by Rhoda Janzen
4/11 Ladder of Years: A Novel by Anne Tyler
6/11 The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood
7/11 The Room: A Novel by Emma Donoghue
8/11 Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter: A Novel by Tom Franklin
9/11 Just Kids by Patti Smith
10/11 The Paris Wife: A Novel by Paula McLain
12/11 Henry's Sisters by Cathy Lamb
1/12 Ape House: A Novel by Sara Gruen
2/12 The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
3/12 Catching Fire & Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
4/12 Sweet Judy Blue Eyes: My Life in Music by Judy Collins
5/12 The Cosmopolitans by Nadia Kalman
6/12 Ellis Island: A Novel by Kate Kerrigan
7/12 Mildred Pierce by James M. Cain
8/12 A land more kind than home by Wiley Cash
9/12 Mistakes Were Made (but Not by Me) by Carol Tavris,Elliot Aronson
10/12 Prayers for Sale by Sandra Dallas
11/12 Snowdrops by A.D. Miller
12/12 Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, death, and hope in a Mumbai undercity by Katherine Boo
01/13 Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
02/13 Run by Ann Patchett
03/13 The Secret Keeper: A Novel by Kate Morton
04/13  Paris in Love: A Memoir by Eloisa James
05/13 Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
06/13 The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
07/13 Butter: A Novel by Anne Panning
08/13 Crashed (Junior Bender #1) (Junior Bender Mysteries) by Timothy Hallinan
09/13 A Street Cat Named Bob: And How He Saved My Life by James Bowen
10/13 The Red Queen (The Cousin's War) by Philippa Gregory
11/13 Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
12/13 The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: A Novel by Rachel Joyce
01/14 Wild by Cheryl Strayed
02/14 Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Woman's Prison by Piper Kerman
03/14 Beautiful Ruins: A Novel by Jeff Walter

What is your book club reading? What are you reading that you'd recommend to others?  Please share in the comments -- we'd love to know! (Plus I need some recommendations for the next few meetings!)

Image courtesy of Supertrooper / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My Five Favorite Crowdsourcing Projects

 It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of crowdfunding, and that I think it's one of the most impressive outcomes we've realized from the explosive growth of social networking. In fact, I've blogged about crowdfunding multiple times (more than I'd realized):
 The creativity, vision, audacity and sheer magic that it takes to bring a dream to life inspires and humbles me. And I'm not the only one.
  •  Kickstarter, one of the more well-known crowdfunding platform states, "Since our launch in 2009, 5.6 million people have pledged $967 million, funding 55,000 creative projects."
  • Indiegogo, another popular platform says it has, "... raised millions of dollars for thousands of campaigns worldwide."
So far I've helped finance (on a small scale) a high school classmate's book of essays, a documentary about Myalgic Encephalomyelitis / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and California sea otter livestreaming.  I love the updates and excitement of helping to bring someone's creative vision to life.

So my favorite five projects this week:
  • Hello Ruby -  A children’s book that teaches programming fundamentals through stories and kid-friendly activities and targeted toward 4 to 7 year old girls.
  • The Butter Churn - A lovely project from a friend of mine who wants to bring a locally-sourced grocery store to her rural Illinois hometown of 800 people, where the nearest fresh food is 10 miles away.
  • The Lovemark - An actual, physical architectural structure which will be constructed out of thousands of love cube building blocks.
  • UpSense - An invisible, ergonomic, and intuitive keyboard which enables touch typing and Braille typing on the touch screen itself.
  • Cat Town Cafe - A cat cafe in Oakland, California, based on the extremely popular cat cafes in Japan, where cat lovers can go to have a drink and play with adoptable cats.
What an amazing way to connect with other like-minded people, and help them build their dreams. Do you have a favorite crowdfunding project?

Timely Marketing Tips from an Infoproduct Junkie or "Do You Charge for an e-Book?"

By Michelle McIntyre
Reposted with permission from Michelle McIntyre Communications.

Oakland-based business coach for midlife entrepreneurs, Dina Eisenberg recently spoke to my Women in Consulting (WIC) group in Los Gatos about how to kick start an information product or “infoproduct” business. 

An information product is any product or service that you can sell to people to provide them with information. It includes e-books, books, audios, CDs, DVDs, seminars, videos, tele-seminars and more. 

Because the event description mentioned her law degree and creating a "passive income," I was expecting tips on self-employed (S.E.) IRAs and 401Ks. I had just set up a S.E. 401K so I figured it will probably be redundant to what I already just learned after spending hours with a Fidelity representative to set up my own plan. I went to the meeting anyway for the networking.  

 I was pleasantly surprised when Eisenberg started talking though.  

What it was really about was creating sustainable income to make, what Eisenberg calls “a cushion for life's bumps.”  Consultants and entrepreneurs who are typically actively involved in delivering their service benefit from creating passive income streams that work, even when they cannot.

A self-proclaimed “information product junkie,” Eisenberg has also produced a range of products from online courses to retreats and subscription programs. 

She said it all started when her husband, whom she considers a successful entrepreneur just like herself, went on disability for two years due to a medical issue that has since mostly gone away. He was her fiancé at the time.

She shared her tactics with the consultants, many of whom had created their own infoproducts. Several consultants had their products on hand and the talk turned into a brainstorm and information share of sorts instead of just a presentation.

Two of her messages stuck in my mind.

First, start charging!  Yes, the internet is awash in free material however, people will pay for the exact right product that solves their specific problem at that time. Don't assume you have to start with free.

Second, ask first.  The difference between a profitable infoproduct and one that flops is research.  Search Linkedin threads and comments for a wealth of topic ideas for your information product.

To learn more about Dina Eisenberg, visit her website.  
Here are related Twitter handles. 
WIC: @WIConsult 
Dina Eisenberg: @DinaEisenberg 
The author of this post: @FromMichelle 

Michelle McIntyre is a blogger and high tech PR consultant based in Saratoga, Calif. She's also the director of marketing communications for the Silicon Valley International Association of Business Communicators and on the executive team for TEDxSanJoseCA.