From Ideas

Shower friends with favorite books—and build your to-be-read list

Bride-to-be Megan Katie
Bride-to-be Megan Katie

Megan Katie, a community sustainability planner in Chapel Hill, has loved books her entire life—so friends here in Louisiana celebrated her upcoming marriage by adding to her library.

Guests brought favorite titles and received XOXO bookmarks as favors. They played book-themed games and drew for a bookstore gift certificate.

Wouldn’t it be fun to adapt this for any occasion — book parties for babies, for graduation, for birthdays or for Mom’s and Dad’s Day?! Or, how about a book-lovers’ brunch where each person gives a book and gets a book? (I want to give one of these parties!)

Book talk spans the years

A mom and daughter hosted Megan’s party. “I love to read,” Laura, who will be a bridesmaid in Megan’s wedding, said. “Megan and I have been sending book recommendations to each other since we were little.”

“I love that people gave her a very diverse set of books…Some brought classics or their all-time favorites.”

Guests shared quotes from favorite books. “That was fun too,” co-hostess Wendy said, “because people said, ‘What book was that in?  I want to read that.’”

Megan the Reader

The bride-to-be is a member of the “Best Book Club in N.C.,” a group of women “in their late 20s and early 30s who get together to gossip and chat about books.” She always carries a book “because I never want to be without one if I have the opportunity to read.”

Shout-outs for classics & newer titles

Megan: “Hands-down, favorite author is Agatha Christie. I’m considering naming my firstborn daughter Agatha.”

Laura: “I love fiction, anything with a good plot. My favorite classic is ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ by Alexandre Dumas. I also love the Harry Potter books, of course.” Her gift? “I wanted to give her something that I knew she hadn’t yet read, which wasn’t an easy task. I decided on ‘Where’d You Go, Bernadette’ by Maria Semple. It has been my favorite read in the past year. I took it to the beach last summer, and I didn’t want to put it down.”

Mother-of-the-bride Carla, who gets more pleasure from reading than perhaps anyone I know, gave her daughter, “The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry.”  “My problem was that Meg and I share our ‘favorites’ with each other all the time, so I had to give her a relatively new book.  I had recently read this book and really enjoyed it.  It is about a bookstore owner; Meg and I both would love to work in a small bookstore.”

Wendy gave her all-time favorite book, “The Color of Water” by James McBride, the 2013 National Book Award winner. “It is a story of a woman whose love knows no bounds, combined with the respect, tenacity, values,  spiritual  discovery  and self-realization that she passes on to her children.”

Among the books given as gifts

“All The Light We Cannot See,” Anthony Doerr

“The Day After Tomorrow,” Allan Folsom

“This is the Story of a Happy Marriage,” Ann Patchett

“Yes, Please,” Amy Poehler

“Housekeeping,” Marilynne Robinson

“The Four Agreements,” Don Miguel Ruiz

”The Giving Tree,” Shel Silverstein

“The Help,” Kathryn Stockett

“The Cape Ann,” Faith Sullivan

What book would you take to a book party and why? Leave a comment for a chance to win a Louisiana booklover’s collection of goodies, including a copy of the new edition of my YA novel, “Wreath, A Girl.” I’ll draw at noon CST on April 21.  For more on “Wreath, A Girl,” see http://www.amazon.com/Wreath-Girl-Willis-Novel-Book-ebook/dp/B00VMPS2RA.

Congrats, too, to Annette R. of Shreveport who won my e-newsletter drawing of a set of 10 signed copies of  “Magnolia Market” for her book club or friends. If you haven’t signed up for my newsletter (on my home page), hope you’ll do so!


So many books, so short a summer

Three months ago, we sat down on the Kitchen Couch to begin our summer of reading together – the first ever Kitchen Couch Summer Reading Club.

Now, with Labor Day gone, I have to say: So many books, so short a summer.

I have had a great time talking about books with you and suggest we keep on reading together.  How about a year-round Kitchen Couch Reading Club?

A few things I learned during the summer book club:

** The next best thing to reading a book is talking about books. I’ve loved the passion with which you discuss books. It truly has felt like we were sitting around visiting.

** I’ve shifted my reading somewhat after  hearing from y’all. I’m looking at different kinds of books with new eyes. Your enthusiasm has made me dive into new authors and put a dozen more books on my to-read stack. I’ve also had a great time “recycling” books to blog readers. (I took the attached photo at a cafe in Seattle and am trying to think of a way to encourage more book sharing. Ideas?)

** When I asked about e-reading or not e-reading, you answered quickly: Both!  E-books are a way of life for many readers, but lots of folks read paper and digital.

** Many people re-read favorite books. The comments on this topic were among my reading surprises of the summer – lots of you have favorite books you read again and again. One of the books mentioned most often: “Lonesome Dove.”

** One of my favorite reads of the summer was a collection of essays by the late Nora Ephron: “I Feel Bad About My Neck.” I loved this book! I still haven’t gotten to the biography of Eudora Welty that I intended to read, but I will. Plus about 100 other books …

** I’ll add other topics to the blog and try to post more frequently. I hope to see you on the Kitchen Couch this fall! (And your “membership” certificate will be available soon!)

 What was your favorite book this summer?  What are you reading these days?

P.S. Congratulations to the reader who received a signed copy of “Downtown Green,” book 5  in The Green Series.  I’m still reading “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter,” but will draw a name from those who leave a comment and send it as soon as I finish.

To reread or not to reread?

My husband is reading “Lonesome Dove” by Larry McMurtry. For the fifth time.

A friend just reread “Crossing to Safety” by Wallace Stegner because it’s one of her favorites.

In a recent edition of “Entertainment Weekly,” singer/actress Jordin Sparks said she’s read “Redeeming Love” by Francine Rivers thirteen times – and plans to read it again.

Up until now, I’ve been adamant that there are too many great books to spend extra time on ones I’ve already read.  Perhaps that’s wrongheaded.

The notion of lingering again over a book seems relaxing and unhurried.  Instead of whizzing through a to-read stack, I could savor one I’ve already read. That adds another appealing layer  — updating my favorites list.

What draws a reader back to a book?

Noah Lukeman, in “The First Five Pages,” a book on writing, asks what it takes to convince a reader to  return to a book multiple times. He suggests that books that draw readers back are subtle. They offer new insights with each reading.

This is true with “Lonesome Dove” for my husband. He repeatedly points out great passages or mentions terrific scenes – even on this, his fifth, reading.

So, for the Kitchen Couch Summer Reading Club, I’ve decided to reread “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter,” a Southern classic by Carson McCullers. I read this in high school and recall it as a book that opened my eyes to the power of fiction. I couldn’t resist a copy at the DeSoto Parish Library book sale last week – and now I know why. I’ll see what I think forty years after I first sampled it.

            I can’t wait to hear where you stand on this topic. Do you go back to books? If so, why?  What book have you read most often?  

P.S. Congratulations to  Kitchen Couch blog visitor Pat B., who won a signed copy of “Wreath” in our latest drawing.  “Wreath” has been named a finalist in the American Christian Fiction Writers Carol Awards.  Leave a comment for a chance to win my copy of “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.” I’ll draw as soon as I finish it!