Welcome to the new book review section of The Retiree magazine, where we not only feature a range of inspiring books, but also the people who enjoy them. This issue, members of the Johnre Book Club in Brisbane share their story and review their favorite reads.
Meeting monthly at the popular independent Riverbend Books store in the leafy Brisbane suburb of Bulimba, the Johnre book club has become an integral part of the local reading community.
In April 2009, four members met for the first time to discuss The Secret River by Kate Grenville. At the end of their first year, the book club established itself as the Johnre book club, named to reflect their early method of selecting books to read and discuss. According to Krysi Egan, Riverbend events coordinator, the name also exemplifies the humour of the group – all its members are men and most of them share the name John.
In the four years that have passed since founding, the book club has become a monthly institution. In this time, numbers have grown to 11 and they all enjoy an extensive and eclectic range of texts from a unique range of genres. As Krysi explains, the process of choosing titles is a well-oiled machine, with the genres being nominated by members and decided upon at the beginning of the reading year.
“In 2012, the group reviewed their selection procedure and settled on a new set of ‘genres’ namely: summer reading; a book I enjoyed for others to share; the most popular non-English ; Nineteenth Century novelists; an Asian connection; the wackiest (sic) book in the past 10 years; and, a book my wife enjoyed,” Krysie said.
“A defining feature of the Johnre bookclub is their sense of adventure and openness when it comes to choosing the books. “Over the years, the gentlemen have selected a wide range of vastly different titles that have challenged, inspired, frustrated, and intrigued them all. “Their willingness to step outside of comfort zones and experience unique and unusual genres of literature is a vital part of their dedication to and enjoyment of the bookclub.”
These are their favorite recent reviews.
Genre: Historical Fiction
The book was widely enjoyed and prompted a spirited and generally appreciative discussion, which canvassed what it meant to read a female author, the effectiveness of dating a story by using appropriate language, the author’s use of detailed description to portray an environment that was up until now foreign to us, and the various themes that emerge through the book. All agreed that historical fiction had much to offer to readers as a genre, and that Caleb’s Crossing was an excellent read and a very good book club selection.
Genre: Military History
This book inspired a particularly long and detailed discussion on its merits and content. The majority thought that it was a very enjoyable read, a little lengthy but well written, and incredibly well researched. The enormous quantity of detailed military information was counterbalanced by the human face of personal stories. While this book was not always pretty, if it had been written in any other way it would not have been so relevant.
Random House Australia
Genre: Asian Theme/ Memoir
There were a number of mixed reactions to The Rainbow Troops by Indonesian author Andrea Hirata. The consensus was that the book was not a great piece of writing even after allowing for the inevitable distortions and losses that accompany translation. Nevertheless, most members judged it as a worthwhile read and found interesting developments of the values of education, culture, ambition, and opportunity as they combine to wither lift of limit success in life.
Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Genre: Foreign Voices in Translation
Unusually, every member loved this book! The language was highly praised and therefore we felt the translator did a fantastic job. The characters were interesting and vividly portrayed by the author. The book caused a very lively and thought provoking conversation, and all agreed that its ideals and metaphors were very cleverly interwoven. All in all, an exceptional read.
Random House Australia
Lee Child’s Killing Floor was selected as a thriller genre. All enjoyed the book and agreed with the categorization. However while everyone agreed that this was a truly great read, it was also considered this book was instantly forgettable. The storyline and the plot twists that Child brought to the book was a favourite feature, and his writing style was widely praised. An excellent book club choice.
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