Spinning Gold from Dross
Over the few years I’ve been a member of the Book Group of Slow Food Russian River I’ve often found much to criticize in the books we’ve read. But I’ve always enjoyed the discussions of those books, even when we’re spinning gold from dross.
The book we most recently read was “The End of Overeating” by David A. Kessler. Dr. Kessler is a pediatrician with formidable credentials. In addition to having served as a Commissioner of the FDA, he has been the dean of two prestigious medical schools, UCSF and Yale. The book was on the New York Times bestseller list, and the dust jacket includes glowing blurbs by Michael Pollan and Alice Waters, both of whom have written books I’ve loved. I didn’t select the book but, if I had been charged with selecting one, this would have been a logical choice.
I hated it.
If a book doesn’t grab my attention and appreciation within the first 50 or 100 pages, I put it aside. There are too many wonderful books out there for me to spend my finite reading time on a less-than-wonderful book. But as a member of a book club, I feel an obligation to complete the reading assignments, so I read the book through.
Early in our meeting, a fellow member said she was “disappointed” in the first five parts of the book (which has six parts). I later said I, too, found the first five parts of the book very disappointing, exceeded only by my disappointment with part six.
I won’t explain here my manifold criticisms of the book, because I’m writing about the book club, not the book.
Our meetings are almost always highly stimulating. We enjoy a pot-luck dinner, usually highlighted by an exotic dish finished by our host Zeno on his industrial-strength Wolf range. We nibble and sip in the kitchen, then migrate to the dining room, sometimes extending the table to accommodate overflow crowds. We start around 7 and usually end by 9.
The discussion generated by “The End of Overeating” extended well beyond 9. Everyone had things to say, and I learned more from the discussion than from reading the book. The entire evening was very stimulating, proving that you don’t need a great book to catalyze a great group conversation. Join us and see for yourself.