The Drinking Club Ends the Decade

I know, it’s been a while. You don’t have to tell me. I spent the last 6 weeks staring at my inbox, tormented by unopened newsletters and bookmarks I wanted to share but couldn’t find the desire to jot down. That sounds melodramatic, coming from the least active blog of the least dedicated book club, but that’s what happened. Bookstagrammer, I am not. But I missed writing down the weird and wonderful I found and sharing it with all two of you. In the next year and decade, I’m vowing to keep in touch more, and to be kinder to myself and the rest of us when we just need a minute.

Not only has this December been chockablock (love this word) with best of the year lists, we’ve now had to cope with best of the decade lists. No one wants to remember what was cool in 2011, because then we’d have to remember what we were wearing, and doing. And we can no longer stomach the amount of Four Loko necessary to wipe those memories.

So, to close out the year, here are The Drinking Club’s Top 5 Books of the Decade that We Didn’t Read. We will read them, at some point. Maybe. After combing through these roundups, it occurred to me I must have had my own year of rest and relaxation (also known as the Grey’s Anatomy binge).

I should mention the rest of The Club was not polled for their recommendations. It’s entirely possible AM and DD have read these (and reread these), being the best of the bunch. We’ll catch up in 2020 with everyone for their input, and let you know what we’ve been up to (including the wine bar we’re no longer allowed into).

Without further ado, and in no particular order–the list:

5. The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante

I started these, but had to pause after Book 2 when I started to feel like the doll thrown down the sewer drain. Ferrante’s writing is visceral and infectious. I plan to return to Naples and Lena’s story, but this time in smaller doses.

4. A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James

I received this for Christmas the year it was published and was ecstatic. I’ve picked it up several times over the years…to put it in a moving box. Now it laughs from its perch on the bookshelf, knowing I will have moved again before I read it.

3. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

This one also sits on my bookshelf, a couple of shelves below James. It doesn’t mock openly; it stares cooly from a corner spot. It knows how unworthy I am of it.

2. There, There by Tommy Orange

I will put my name on the NYPL waitlist tomorrow, and receive my digital rental in 8 months. I’ll read 60 pages in two weeks, and then wait another 7 months to finish it.

1. All the Drinking Club books

While I joined The Club late, even I haven’t read all the books selected over the years. I should probably start here.


Stay gold,


The Club Texts When We Get Home

No one says goodbye anymore. At least, not women. No one is saying see you soon, catch ya later. No more so longs, farewells, or auf wiedersehen adieus. Instead, as they’re rounding the corner or taking the stairs down to the River Styx (more commonly known as the C train), they’re shouting “text me when you get home.” Because we live in a world where a woman’s safety is not a guarantee. Our send-offs have become pleas, because we know the danger in a quiet subway car, or a poorly lit street. We don’t want it to be the final goodbye.

You know another way to avoid the final goodbye? Instead of saying it, you hunt down canned wine and dollar slices. That gives you another hour and a half, at least.

Our last Drinking Club gathering ended over rose cans and garlic knots while MM, MV, and I enlightened DR and MM’s coworker with our stories of growing up in the place that spawned Teresa Giudice. The work friend said he felt right at home, having spent his childhood watching telenovelas. But unlike our latest read, our slice of suburbia was not terrorized by a phantom who stole entire communities’ peace of mind. And not one of us is as masterful a storyteller as the late Michelle McNamara. Her notes could win a Pulitzer.

If you paid attention in 6th grade English, those context clues should be telling you that our last read was I’ll Be Gone in the Dark. The thoughtfully and obsessively researched book is the result of McNamara’s fixation with the Golden State Killer, the serial rapist and murderer that stalked California in the 1970s and 1980s.


The flap copy calls this book an “atmospheric snapshot of a moment in American history;” that couldn’t be more accurate. McNamara transports the reader to the subdivisions of Northern and Southern California, where unexplained footprints beneath bedroom windows and noises along the fence lines foreshadowed horrific violations. We get to observe the police bullpens and crime labs where gruff detectives and everyone’s favorite hunky criminalist (where my murderinos at) became consumed by the mystery of the man who committed 50 sexual assaults and 10 murders before vanishing.

McNamara does all of this with an unwavering sense of humanity, sharing only enough information to make your hair stand on edge, but never feel exploitative towards the victims. She exposes the dark corners of her own past that led her to her obsession with the East Area Rapist and Original Night Stalker, allowing you a glimpse of a mind that, in order to understand the darkness, plunges headfirst into it. McNamara passed away before completing the book, before the world knew who the Golden State Killer was. Her colleagues and family finished for her, impressively maintaining her voice while piecing together her notes and published work to create the final chapters.

McNamara’s writing, more than anything, captures the fear and despair that sent these families and communities spiraling. How do you fight the feeling that your worst nightmare is patiently waiting for you to close your eyes, that there’s nothing you can do to prevent it from striking again? How, as someone sworn to protect the community, do you live knowing you couldn’t do anything to stop him, let alone identify him? How do you also confront McNamara’s untimely passing, that your life could end in an instant?

You make plans. You YOLO. You live by the inspirational quotes on the tchotchkes your elderly aunt gets from the Hallmark store. You dance like no one’s watching, in the rain. Because the stark cold reality is that there is nothing we can do to prevent the monsters from coming after us. This makes us control freaks oh so comfortable. There’s no shortage of Type As in the Drinking Club. You should see the things some of us can do with a spreadsheet.

So what are we planning for? For starters, we’re prepping for the copious amounts of hurricanes and Sazeracs we’ll be drinking at LL’s nuptials next spring. The AirBNB hunt has commenced. DR is journeying to Southeast Asia and is currently accepting applications for a road trip through the Pacific Northwest (The Drinking Club Takes Portland, anyone?) MV is looking across the pond for fall adventures with her SO, while MM is planning some major career moves that make us all so proud. If the others decided to show up, I can brag about them too (what that subtle enough?)

What I’m walking away with after this book is to live fully and unapologetically. The only way to combat the shadows is to live in them, bringing the monsters into the light. So stay til last call. And text me when you get home.



The Club Believes Her

You ever have one of those days where work becomes a soul-sucking vortex of chaos? Yeah you have. It’s called Tuesday. I’ve had a month of Tuesdays. MM is beginning a marathon of Tuesdays. We may not see here until 2019.

Which is why I’m delighted that AM took over scribes duties for our last meeting, held at the end of September. So, without further ado:

On this edition of Drinking Club with a Reading Problem, the club talks flaming hot cheetos, Are You the One?, a BOGO deal on babies, and this month’s book selection: Beartown by Fredrik Backman.

The flaming hot cheetos? Delish. And while they didn’t pair fantastically with the vegetable dip also present, they did add a little somethin’ somethin’ to all of the red wines joining this evening.

Are You the One? A fantastic show which, if you haven’t already, you MUST watch. The concept is so simple yet becomes so involved. DD and I are hopeless fans who had 7 strong seasons to cover.

Baby BOGO deals? MV let us in on this medical marvel, but I’ll leave our fabulous blog owner to tell you this one at another time because it is, after all, half of her story too.

And now to the club’s thoughts/feelings/findings on this month’s choice of Beartown.  Unfortunately only three of us had finished the book by the club’s rendezvous, but fortunately we all had similar feelings towards it: Love. Necessity. Sadness. Fear. Anxiety. Emotions difficult to describe in any combination of words. To name a few…


I am no novice to Mr. Backman’s writing – having read My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry and A Man Called Ove, I already know that I am a sucker for Backman’s style. He has this insane ability to write characters so that I feel like I know them as a person, sometimes better than I know most people in my day-to-day life.

Even though the players are always my favorite part of Backman’s novels, this particular one is a little tougher because in very different ways, the two main characters of this novel are not actually people at all, but are “Hockey” and “Rape”.

In what sounds to an outsider like a grown-up version of The Mighty Ducks, this town lives, breathes, and relies on hockey to shape its inhabitants’ lives. The sport makes, breaks, defies, ruins, and touches every single person’s life whether they want it to or not, whether they realize it or not. It also drives one of its stars to feel comfortable enough with his reputation and abilities to think he can get away with whatever he wants. This includes assault. This includes rape.

And how apropos is it that the Club reads and meets to discuss this novel exactly 24 hours after the conclusion of one of the most widely watched, talked about, and controversial senate judiciary committee hearings of our time. I won’t get too political here and share my views and opinions on the trial or on its participants (or on the fact that Alyssa Milano was present), but what I will say is that this world could use more women like 15-year-old Maya who is strong enough to tell her story so that justice can be served; so that others can find strength in her story; and so that she and her family can begin their journey back towards some semblance of normalcy in their lives, which is every person’s right but which we take for granted.

Review – We Like Our Aperol Spritzes With A Dash Of Homicide

By now, dear reader, you’ve deduced that we’re not known for our follow through. Our book reading rate for any given meeting hovers around 30%, and that’s being generous. Which begs the question: what are we reading? And what are we enjoying?

As I write this, it’s raining in Brooklyn, and the first signs of crisp, fall air are sliding through the open window. While there are a couple weeks left of summer, I’m reminiscing on sweet summer nights and lazy, hazy afternoons (and ignoring the swampy city smells and unattractive but inevitable butt sweat that comes with any good NYC summer). And as I long for one more Aperol Spritz before the season ends, I’m reminded of an equally delicious read from a few months back: Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions, by Mario Giordano.



Told from the perspective of Poldi’s nephew, a struggling writer who doesn’t have a whole lot going for him, it recounts Poldi’s first foray into the criminal underworld of Sicily. Upon her sixtieth birthday, Poldi leaves her beloved Bavaria behind and moves to Sicily (Torre Archirafi, to be exact). While the island is home to her recently deceased husband’s family, and collection of nosy but well-meaning brothers and sisters-in-law, what she really wants is to drink herself to death in relative peace. However, Poldi is forced to put her plans on hold when the young handyman helping repair her rundown seaside home goes missing, and she suspects something has gone terribly wrong. When she finds his body on the beach, she vows to bring his killer to justice. What ensues is a thriller as twisty as the Sicilian roads, with Poldi playing Miss Marple as she interrogates possible Mafia members, Bavarian officials, and down-on-their-luck aristocrats, all while throwing herself directly in the path of the police detective she can’t seem to forget. Poldi is not the most reliable of sleuths: she’s impulsive, and probably not the sharpest tack in the box (alcohol aside). What she does have is heart, and an intuition that (eventually) leads her on the correct path. Giordano has assembled an oddball supporting cast that add to the book’s charms and make Poldi’s madcap schemes to catch the killer endearing and entertaining. Don’t pass on Poldi: she’s the fierce aunt we not-so-secretly wish to have, and hope to be.


Verdict: A charming mystery that will have you longing for distant shores and adventure.

Pairs well with: Aperol Spritz, obviously.




The Drinking Club with a Reading Problem Meets…and Decides We Want the Honest Truth

It was a weird week. The lunar blood moon eclipse was last night, the longest full blood moon we will see in our lifetime. Making this the longest week we will endure in our lifetime (hah, who are we kidding). Mercury also went into retrograde on the 26th. Translation: brace yourself for the extra crap the universe is about to throw our way, just for the heck of it.

Which is the perfect segue to the club’s latest read, Look Alive Out There. You may know Sloane Crosley from her first collection, I Was Told There’d Be Cake, an ode to twenty-somethings trying to hack it in the Big Apple. Or possibly her novel, The Clasp, about a hot mess love triangle that traipses across Europe in search of a necklace lost during the Nazi occupation of France that served as the inspiration for a famous short story. I enjoyed The Clasp; her protagonists are self absorbed and coming to terms with the unfulfilled dreams of their youth (they’re in their late twenties). But there is something so authentic about their messy and indulgent quarter life crises that you go along for the ride, and hope they come out the other side more self aware. And who doesn’t love a good mystery?

Pairs well with: Cabernet Sauvignon and meaningful discussions about why we will not date someone that chews with their mouth open.

But I digress. During our meeting last night, between bites of Trader Joes’ mushroom and truffle flatbread, we had our standard five minute discussion of our read. Our thoughts: we love Sloane’s voice. Her essay about Jared, the privileged high schooler from hell? Phenomenal. We’ve never related to a story more. We got lost in the middle of the collection, feeling as confused as she was in the chapter where she got altitude sickness in the mountains of Peru. But she got us back with her final essay. Her struggle to decide whether she wants, or is even cut out for, motherhood resonated with us. As a group of women in their mid-twenties, a decision like this feels foreign, a choice relegated to the realm of the real grownup. Sloane’s uncertainty leads to a revelation about what may make a good parent: a willingness to share your experiences with a tiny human and impart some of the wisdom you’ve gathered, so they can go out into the world armed with knowledge. If you can manage that, then you might be suited for it after all.

All this talk of nonexistent children led to a very interesting dialogue on relationships, covering everything from what’s everyone’s type, to whether we would want a friend to tell us if they didn’t like our significant other. Our answer: if we ask what you think of him, we want the truth. None of us want to go too far down a path only to discover that the people who know us best think there is someone more compatible out there.

What else is new with the club? How kind of you to ask:

  • We have two book related events on the calendar: books and brunch in Hoboken (stay tuned for more indie bookstore adventures), and movie night, where we each consume a (large) amount of wine while watching a terrible book-to-movie adaptation. Current nominees are Twilight and The Great Gatsby. Recommendations welcome.
  • DR is killing it at work, earning herself a promotion and additional awesomeness.
  • MM escaped attending San Diego Comic-Con to run her company’s activation, while yours truly spent the week inside the convention center selling books and trying not to get swept away by the crowds (I can’t complain though: there a few things better than a California sky and a warm sea breeze).
  • AM, after watching Kid Gorgeous seven times, may have a future as a John Mulaney impersonator.
  • DD is ready to help the singles mingle. And by that, I mean she wants to set us all up on blind dates with her single guys friends.

What else are we reading/watching/listening to:


Until next time,


The Club Wants to Know: What Is The Job of a Book Critic?

While I’ve been a book nerd for years, I’m a newbie when it comes to the book blogging and writing sphere. I’ve subscribed to the NY Times weekly book updates for several years, but working in academic publishing didn’t expose me to the latest trade publishing trends or the hottest works of literary fiction (I can tell you where all the polisci professors are blogging, in case you’re interested). Therefore, my daily updates from LitHub have been a godsend over the past few months, providing a crash course in everything from criticism to nerdy book trivia. This week, I came across an article in one such update on the role of the book critic from Heather Scott Partington that resonated:

We are a consumer society. People want to Google a rating: is it three stars or zero? Two thumbs up or none? I hate that kind of thing. Books are not lawnmowers. My stars might mean something entirely different than your stars, by the way. But a review is—or should be—its own piece of art. A review, written well, should guide you to a book if you’re the right person for it, even if there are negatives mentioned. The author’s plot, the author’s style, the critic’s thoughts and personal taste: all of these things should be speaking to the reader of a good piece of criticism so she can sift through them and decide for herself if the book is right at that moment in her life. I frequently read wonderful reviews of books that I know I will hate. I also read negative reviews that make me want to buy books. I wish sometimes we weren’t so myopic about how we discuss these things.

Her thoughts on what a good critic should do struck me as so simple, and obvious. Yet we tend to view the word of the critic as holier than God. A review can, and does, send a book onto a lifetime on the bestseller list, or one in the bargain bin at Barnes & Noble. We neglect that we all have varying tastes, ones that change over time as we interact and consume more of the culture around us. I loved her thoughts on finding a book for the right moment in her life. I recently read Shonda Rhimes’s Year of Yes on a plane to a work conference in January, and it was life-changing. I’m sure the book wasn’t reviewed poorly, as Rhimes is a professional writer, but it wasn’t on the shortlist for the Pulitzer. In my mind, at that moment, it should have been. Her words were so powerful to me, at a time when I felt myself struggling, like her, to be the best version of myself.

Read what you love. Expand your horizons. Listen to the critics. Hear what they have to say, the good and the bad. And then trust your own instincts to decide what to read next.