Book Clubs

“There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.” –Walt Disney

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I love the book club I belong to. With a diverse group of women from different backgrounds and experiences, we have robust discussions about the books we read and the lives we lead. Although people come and go, we’ve maintained about twelve members consistently. Since we meet monthly, each person is responsible for hosting the club once a year, and the host chooses the book to be read. This is a wonderful arrangement because we read books I probably wouldn’t have chosen otherwise.

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Book clubs have been around for hundreds of years. One of the earliest was a religious discussion group organized by Anne Hutchinson aboard a Puritan ship in 1634 as it sailed to America. According to, the interest in reading groups, lectures, and debates grew over the centuries as the new country developed.

In 1926 Harry Scherman founded the Book-of-the-Month Club, a subscription-based club that offered a selection of several books to its members each month Some of the books selected for distribution by its panel of judges were Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind, John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, and J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. According to, the BOTM club has distributed over 570 million books to its members in the U.S. since its inception.

Other 20th century book-related ventures were the Literary Guild founded in 1927 and the publication of The Great Books of the Western World in 1952.

In 1996, Oprah Winfrey started her own book club, and that began a new era. Online book clubs sprang up in the early 21st century, and they became essential meeting places during the Covid pandemic. Today it’s estimated there are more than five million book club members in the United States!

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Here are recent reading lists from several book clubs.

The Book-of-the-Month Club

Let Us Descend by Jesmyn Ward
Wellness by Nathan Hill
Age of Vice by Deepti Kapoor
Banyan Moon by Thao Thai
Family Lore by Elizabeth Acevedo
The Unsettled by Ayana Mathis
Paper Names by Susie Luo
Happiness Falls by Angie Kim
The Half Moon: A Novel by Mary Beth Keane
Tomb Sweeping: Stories by Alexandra Chang

Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club

The Many Lives of Mama Love by Lara Love Hardin
Bittersweet by Susan Cain
Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano
The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese
Let Us Descend by Jesmyn Ward
Wellness by Nathan Hill

Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
The House in the Pines by Ana Reyes
The House of Eve by Sadeqa Johnson
Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld
Did You Hear About Kitty Karr? by Crystal Smith Paul
Cassandra in Reverse by Holly Smale
Yellowface by R.F. Kuang
Before We Were Innocent by Ella Berman
Starling House by Alix E. Harrow
Mother-Daughter Murder Night by Nina Simon
Maybe Next Time by Cesca Major
Tom Lake by Ann Patchett


The Cherryhill Book Club

The All of It by Jeannette Haien
The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
West With Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge
The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
South to America by Imani Perry
Memphis by Tara Stringfellow
River Sing Me Home by Eleanor Shearer
Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters
Horse by Geraldine Brooks
The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn
The Secret Life of Sunflowers by Marta Molnar

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So TKZers: Do you belong to a book club? Have you been invited to discuss one of your books at a book club? Have you read any of the books on the lists in this post? What book(s) (other than by a TKZ author) would you recommend to be read by a book club?

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Private pilot Cassie Deakin lands in the middle of a mystery and finds herself in the crosshairs of a murderer.

ebook on sale for 99¢ at: AmazonBarnes & NobleKoboGoogle Play, or Apple Books.


How To Animate Book Covers

Animated book covers are all the rage. Yes, they’re gimmicky, but they also draw readers’ attention. All over social media Fiverr folks announced animated book covers as a new service. Some writers rave about Fiverr, but I am not one of them. Aside from sending cash to a virtual stranger, what’s to stop them from slipping a trojan horse into the metadata? The moment I downloaded the image I’d be hacked. Once was enough, thanks. I’d rather figure out how to do it myself. And thanks to my friend, Harmony Kent, and her Story Empire post, I spent an afternoon refining the art of animated book covers. Now, I’m paying it forward to you, my beloved TKZers.

For those of you who aren’t comfortable with sites like Photoshop, not to worry. Animating book covers is a lot easier than it looks. It’s also addicting, so play with your book cover after you’ve met your writing goals for the day. If you’re still working on your first novel/novella or short story/anthology, don’t fret. Use this tutorial to animate blogging and/or social media images.

Ready to get started? Super. Let’s do this.

Step 1: Upload your book cover to Canva. Click “Create a design.” In the dropdown menu choose “Start with an image.”






Step 2: Once you’ve uploaded your book cover, click “Use in a design” and choose Instagram Post (the most universal size for social media).

Canva should stretch your book cover to fit corner to corner. If it doesn’t, as is often the case, then add a background. For my animated book cover, I used the background image of my book cover as the background, but a solid color also works.

Step 3: Save as PNG for best quality.






Okie doke. Here’s where it gets fun. On your iPhone or iPad, download Motionleap from the app store. They do have a free plan but the pro version only costs $19.99/yearly, which unlocks a lot more features. On non-Apple smartphones and tablets the same app could be under its former name, Pixaloop.

Step 4: In the app, click the photo icon at the top, and then New Project.

Step 5: Upload the Instagram Post book cover you saved from Canva and choose Animate (lower left corner).

Step 6: Then Select. Touch the area of the photo you want to animate.

As you can see, I chose to animate the background, headdress, and crystal in his hand. I don’t recommend animating text as it gets wonky if you do. If you make a mistake, click the white erase button (right side).

Step 7: Next, choose the direction of your animation.

The white line under the book cover adjusts the speed and the play button allows you to preview the effect. I erased the animation in the background. Sometimes less is more. Plus, I wanted to show you another cool feature.

To the left of Select, click the arrow button and a whole new menu pops up.

I want the headdress to break apart, so I chose Dispersion and positioned the circle around the headdress. There’s also tons of overlays and effects you can choose.

Step 8: Back out and save as GIF.

And that’s it. Want to see the finished project? Hopefully, the gif will work on TKZ. Otherwise, *awkward.* LOL

Because I broke down each step, it seems like a lot of work. It isn’t. Once you get comfortable, you can animate a book cover in 5 minutes.

Do you like animated book covers? Love ’em or hate ’em, it looks like they’re here to stay, but I wonder if they actually sell books. Have you ever bought a book because of an animated book cover?

The Terrible Task of Weeding Out Books

by James Scott Bell

“Fill your house with stacks of books, in all the crannies and all the nooks.” — Dr. Seuss

And when the books come falling down, I hope they find you ere you drown.” — Dr. JSB

It had to happen sooner or later. And now it’s later. I can’t put it off any longer. It’s time to disgorge a significant number of the books that stuff all the spaces in every room in my house—except, of course, the bathrooms, wherein the reading material is imported singulatim.

Like you all, I’m a book lover. How can anyone not be and become a writer? I don’t think that’s possible. With books I purchase, my practice has always been to read them and keep them. I’ve always loved being surrounded by books. Right now in my office all four walls have shelves stuffed with reading matter—literary kudzu.

But I know that someday I will be moving from my abode. So as much as it hurts, I need to make a significant dent in my stacks. I’m trying to be systematic. 

First off, I know I’m keeping some series and not others. I’ll keep Connelly, Chandler, Parker, MacDonald, Spillane. But I’m finally ditching Ross Macdonald. I’ve read all his books because Anthony Boucher tagged him as the best of the PI writers. He has a great following among critics. But I never connected with him or his PI, Lew Archer. And I simply don’t have time to try again.

I have a shelf of hardcovers autographed by the authors. I’ll keep those. Ditto my collectibles. I have some oldies that are probably worth something. I’ll let my kids figure that out someday via ebay. 

Another stratagem: I’m reading first chapters at random. If it grabs me, I’ll keep that book (if I think I might read it again). If not, it goes in the giveaway box. Here are some books that have survived:

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
At All Costs by John Gilstrap
The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain
The Human Comedy by William Saroyan
Final Seconds by John Lutz and David August
Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey
361 by Donald Westlake
White Oleander by Janet Fitch

Sometimes the writing might be fine, but something else will come up that causes me to pitch the book. An overabundance of F and S words, for example. Or something that doesn’t seem plausible. Ed McBain’s legal thriller Mary, Mary didn’t make the cut for just that reason. I was hooked by the first page. The narrator, lawyer Matthew Hope, is interviewing a potential client accused of murder. But then he states, [I]t was my policy never to defend anyone I thought was guilty.

Ack! No criminal defense lawyer ever says that, because he’d never have any clients. The defense lawyer’s job is to make sure the cops haven’t overstepped their constitutional bounds, and hold the prosecution to its burden of proof. So nix to this book and the others in the Matthew Hope series. 

What am I looking for in that first chapter? We talk about that a lot here at TKZ. I want a grabber hook or a grabber voice—having both is a bonus. An example of a grabber hook is the opening of Harlan Coben’s Promise Me:

The missing girl—there had been unceasing news reports, always flashing to that achingly ordinary school portrait of the vanished teen, you know the one, with the rainbow-swirl background, the girl’s hair too straight, her smile too self-conscious, then a quick cut to the worried parents on the front lawn, microphones surrounding them, Mom silently tearful, Dad reading a statement with quivering lip—that girl, that missing girl had just walked past Edna Skylar.

For grabber voice, here’s the opening of High Five by Janet Evanovich:

When I was a little girl I used to dress Barbie up without underpants. On the outside, she’d look like the perfect lady. Tasteful plastic heels, tailored suit. But underneath, she was naked. I’m a bail enforcement agent now—also known as a fugitive apprehension agent, also known as a bounty hunter. I bring ’em back dead or alive. At least I try. And being a bail enforcement agent is a little like being bare-bottom Barbie. It’s about having a secret. And it’s about wearing a lot of bravado on the outside when you’re really operating without underpants. 

Nonfiction is much harder for me to cull. I read nonfiction for specific information that interests me, and I make heavy use of the highlighter. When I’m finished I keep the book because I think maybe I’ll need that information again sometime. And hasn’t this happened to you: The moment I give a book away, or let someone borrow it, not a week goes by before I need something from that very book!

So I don’t know what to do about my NF. I know I’ll never give away my writing craft books. I have several shelves of these, and they are an archaeological record of my writing journey. I often refer to them for refreshers. 

I’m heavily stocked with biography, history, philosophy, theology, reference. Alas, I can’t see myself parting with many of these. I have a full set of the 1947 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica (handed down from my grandfather, who sold them door-to-door during the Depression). I keep this because the articles in it are often so much better and more authoritative than what you find online these days. Also, in a special bookcase, is my Great Books of the Western World set, complete with the incredible achievement that is the Syntopicon. That’s obviously staying put. 

Which makes all this slow going! I have a feeling it’s going to take years to gain any significant space. I’m sure I’ll have to revisit my criteria down the line and get tougher on myself. 

“A room without books,” wrote Cicero, “is like a body without a soul.” I’m right with you there, Cic. But now what?

Do you have any advice for this melancholy bibliophile?