Our first-ever Reading With Hippos Book Club was a resounding success! We had some fabulous discussions around the short story collection Almost Famous Women by Megan Mayhew Bergman during the month of March. Thanks to everyone who set aside time to read the book and post thoughts in the comments! I got so much more out of the book thanks to your reflections and reactions than I ever would have reading it on my own.

It sounds like we may have enough interest to make the book club a regular thing! So today I'm looking for your feedback on how the experience went and what we might do differently in the future.

If you read Almost Famous Women with us in March...

*How did the once-a-week posts work for you? I'm thinking it might feel like less of a time commitment if we backed off to only a couple discussion posts next time, maybe one in the middle of the month and one at the end. 

*Is Saturday the best day? I tend to gravitate toward weekends because I assume that's when most people have free time, but weekends can fill up with lots of obligations, especially as summer approaches. Is there another day of the week that would be better?

*Would you be interested in reading another short story collection, or should we change it up next time? I thought using short stories worked well because it was easy to divide the book up and discuss one chunk at a time, but novels are my real true love. What's your preference?

If you didn't join us but would consider doing so in the future, I'd love for you to weigh in here too. What would make the book club more appealing to you?

Once I've gotten your feedback, I'll start brainstorming titles for us to choose from. I'm so excited to read another book with you!

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments! :)

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To see the full schedule of our discussions or for more information about the Reading With Hippos Book Club, click here.

It's Saturday—time for book club!

Today we're discussing the final four stories in the book Almost Famous Women by Megan Mayhew Bergman. The stories are: “A High-Grade Bitch Sits Down for Lunch,” “The Internees,” “The Lottery, Redux,” and “Hell-Diving Women.”

Here are some initial impressions to get us started. Feel free to bring up your own questions and opinions in the comments. Any and all tangents welcome!

A High-Grade Bitch Sits Down for Lunch” This story made me want to read more about Beryl Markham. It sounds like she lived a full and fascinating life, to say the least. I loved the Hemingway quote Bergman chose to feature in the title—it apparently wasn't easy for old Ernest to compliment anyone's writing, especially a woman's. Interesting (or depressing) how a woman who asserts her talents is automatically categorized as a bitch—seems to me that kind of attitude still crops up today. When will we ladies learn to downplay our skills so as not to make the men uncomfortable?

The Internees” This quote: “We had pink wax on our rotten teeth.” Heartbreaking.

The Lottery, Redux” If you haven't read “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, click over here immediately and read it. It's the original short story Bergman used as inspiration for a rewrite. I used to teach Jackson's story, and it was always one of my favorites, so dark and twisted. I liked Bergman's version as well—especially the part where the “winner” has the chance to build a raft and escape. That was an interesting twist. What did you make of the ending, when Summer stopped trying to save herself? It said she saw something in Javier's face, and then she turned toward her attackers. What do you think Javier's attitude was? Did they both realize he wasn't willing to follow her out to sea after all? And if so, why the change of heart?

Hell-Diving Women” I liked this story a lot, and I thought it was a good one to end the book. I was inspired by the ladies in the band, touring around and playing music together even though they knew they'd be persecuted for racial mixing. I was also interested in the interplay between Tiny and Ruby. Their relationship was sort of one-sided, with Ruby aiming to please and Tiny treating her like a servant. The dynamic felt similar to the one Joe and Georgie shared in “Siege at Whale Cay.”

Now I want to hear from you! If you're joining us in reading the book, please feel invited to join us in the discussion as well. And don't worry if you haven't read the stories yet—comments will stay open for several more weeks, so you can come back to this post and share your thoughts whenever you're finished reading.

Thank you so much for reading this book with me! I've been blown away by the quality and depth of the comments you've shared. Check back next Saturday for a wrap-up post—we'll discuss our final thoughts on the book as a whole, and I'll be asking for your input on future book club choices. It sounds like we may have enough interest to read another book together in May. I'm really looking forward to hearing your feedback and making plans for more group reading!

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So...what did you think?

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