Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Tuesday Night Book Club

Last night, CBS unveiled its new reality show, Tuesday Night Book Club. The concept is that the camera follows around a bunch of gorgeous, wealthy women to see what happens to them between their Tuesday night book club meetings. I think it's supposed to be a cross between Desperate Housewives, The Real Housewives of Orange County and ... er... Charlie Rose. Since they never got around to discussing or, for that matter, reading the book, it failed most of all in its literary aspirations. But I think we're supposed to like that. The idea, I believe, is for us to feel superior because we actually read, whereas they merely have lots of money, cool cars, hotel-sized homes, hot bodies and spectacular clothes.

Anyway, the book they were supposed to read was Jennifer Weiner's Good in Bed, which was a good choice for them. Too bad they didn't read it, because I think they might have liked it. It's got a lot of humor, an engaging plot, a good dose of pathos, and is fun read all around. If I was picking the book list for these gals, that one would have been on it.

Which brings me to the point of this post. I think all 8 episodes for this season are already in the can, but if this show gets renewed, I'd like to offer the producers my own list of books these gals can read. Even though these women seem more interested in discussing their sex lives than literature, it's an earnest list; I really think they'd like these books if they actually committed themselves to reading. Here goes:

1. The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters by Elisabeth Robinson
This book has everything--a sister story, Hollywood glitz, relationship angst, outstanding writing and enough humor and pathos to make you seem like a lunatic to anyone watching you read. God, did I laugh and cry from this one! I think I scared the children.

2. Lily White by Susan Isaacs
An oldie but a goodie. Everyone should read this Susan Isaacs classic, which Publishers Weekly describes as "Marjorie Morningstar meets Nancy Drew."

3. Good Grief by Lolly Winston
Being widowed at a young age isn't funny, but this tender, hilarious book manages to pull it off like magic. It's just one of those books you devour because every page is a delight. (See? I told you this was an earnest list!)

4. The Inn at Lake Devine by Elinor Lipman
This book is so smart and so funny and so perceptive, I challenge anyone to read it and not become an immediate Elinor Lipman fanatic.

5. A Widow for One Year by John Irving
I had to put at least one book by a male author on this list, and thought hard about which one to include. It was between this and She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb, another lush, gorgeous novel. I know I have a bias here, as nearly character in this book is a writer, but it deals with such intense emotional issues that I just have to believe it would strike a chord with these women. Another book that's got everything--murder, intrigue, marriage, infidelity, death, love, sex, belly laughs, etc. etc.

6. The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank
Is is possible not to love Melissa Bank's brilliant, funny and honest voice? This book slayed me. Like Elinor Lipman, she's a great example of a smart writer who can deliver lit fic with commercial appeal.

7. Angels by Marian Keyes
This is the only one I'm recommending that could qualify as genuine chick lit, but damn is it good! Great plot, well-developed characters and deep, hearty, well-earned laughs.

8. Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA by Ellen Meister
Ha! You didn't really think I'd leave off my own book out of some misguided sense of modesty, did you? Besides, I really do think they might like it. So c'mon, CBS. What do you say?


noagenosexnocity said...

Where's the diversity in this list? Why are book clubs notoriously stereotypical in their approach to book choices? Why not Paranoia by Joseph Finder? Why not Dope Fiend by Donald Goines? One of the purposes of a book club, I thought, was to open yourself up to different interpretations of a collective read. You need to expose people to an entirely different perspective, preferably from outside of their comfort zone, in order to understand individuals as opposed to a collective.

Ellen said...

Thanks for stopping in, Noage! I think you have a good point that it's important for serious readers to reach beyond their comfort zone. As far as book clubs, I'm not sure we can make the assumption that they're "notoriously stereotypical in their approach to book choices." After all, there are thousands of book clubs representing millions of readers. Nor do I agree that my proposed list lacks diversity. But I appreciate your perspective and your book recommendations. I'll check into them.

Ms. Lori said...

Oh, yeah, "A Widow For One Year" is fantastic. Based on your description of the ladies, however, that novel, as well as the others on your list, might be too, um, difficult for them to grasp?

Perhaps Paris Hilton would be more their speed. ;-)

Ellen said...

Ha! You're probably right. My aim was to push them a bit without going too far. I mean, can you imagine them trying to read Gilead? Lol.

But yeah. A Widow for One Year is definitely one of my favorite novels.

Michael B. said...

I was actually hoping that Tuesday Night Book Club would find a way to integrate the plots and themes of the books being read by the club into that week's storyline. It's a clever way to turn viewers on to literature while giving the writers of the show an infinite pool of ideas. Not to mention that, if it were a hit, it could become the next "Oprah" for the publishing industry. But the fact that these characters don't even read the books is depressing. Still, it doesn't mean that viewers WON'T go out and buy the book anyway.

Ellen said...

Hi Michael! Yeah, the publicity can't hurt the books, at any rate. Did you know that the show is featuring TWO books by Jennifer Weiner? WHO IS HER PUBLICIST???