The Phenomenally Indecisive Book Club

Tagline: We couldn’t decide, so we’re reading it all.

The name of our new club started off as a joke that stuck, made all the more appropriate by my inability to think up a memorable name with staying power. It’s fitting. We never did come to a consensus on what genre to read other than everything, please. Like me, many of you experienced mild angst when it seemed one genre was in the lead. When everyone called out “Contemporary Literature and Fiction!” I immediately thought of no less than 12 young adult books I wanted to read, and all of a sudden the idea of a book club centered on anything else pained me. Those dozens of young adult books about dystopian societies overthrown by packs of time-traveling mythical creatures in love with humans dangled above my head like forbidden fruit. (Weird how the fruit hung in series of 3-5 and came with optioned movie rights.)

Once I decided we should read whatever sounded good, I sat down with a few avid readers to decide on our first book. It was as easy as eating a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.


I don’t need to tell you how crazy I drove Andrea, Gail, and Erin. I don’t need to tell you because I’m sure they’ll tell you in the comments. Let me explain. It’s not that I’m indecisive. No, seriously. Nicole described me best when she said, “It’s not that you are indecisive. It’s that you over-think every decision you make.”

I do.  By training or nature, I’m a strategist. I plot, and anticipate, and foresee, and predict, and then act. Then I reevaluate and course correct, often when it’s completely unnecessary. To pick out our first book I consulted several book club forums, The NY Times, The LA Times, National Public Radio, Good Reads (you can friend me at that link), Facebook, Book List, Amazon, and countless other sources. I even consulted Pinterest (you can follow me at that link) to see if I could get a feel for popular book club pics. (Don’t ask. I don’t even know.) (In my defense, there were a lot of book club boards.) (Lots of pins on The Help.) (Even I’ve read that one.)

In the end, thanks to a flurry of emails and mad Googling skills, I decided on Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles.

Here is the description:

Set in New York City in 1938, Rules of Civility tells the story of a watershed year in the life of an uncompromising twenty-five-year-old named Katey Kontent. Armed with little more than a formidable intellect, a bracing wit, and her own brand of cool nerve, Katey embarks on a journey from a Wall Street secretarial pool through the upper echelons of New York society in search of a brighter future.

The story opens on New Year’s Eve in a Greenwich Village jazz bar, where Katey and her boardinghouse roommate Eve happen to meet Tinker Grey, a handsome banker with royal blue eyes and a ready smile. This chance encounter and its startling consequences cast Katey off her current course, but end up providing her unexpected access to the rarified offices of Conde Nast and a glittering new social circle. Befriended in turn by a shy, principled multimillionaire, an Upper East Side ne’er-do-well, and a single-minded widow who is ahead of her times, Katey has the chance to experience first hand the poise secured by wealth and station, but also the aspirations, envy, disloyalty, and desires that reside just below the surface. Even as she waits for circumstances to bring Tinker back into her orbit, she will learn how individual choices become the means by which life crystallizes loss.

Elegant and captivating, Rules of Civility turns a Jamesian eye on how spur of the moment decisions define life for decades to come. A love letter to a great American city at the end of the Depression, readers will quickly fall under its spell of crisp writing, sparkling atmosphere and breathtaking revelations, as Towles evokes the ghosts of Fitzgerald, Capote, and McCarthy.

I picked this book (with the help of Andrea, Gail, and Erin) because it was the one book several people suggested in the comments a few weeks ago. It’s not a new release, so it should be available in most libraries. The reviews have been favorable, and it sounds like an enjoyable read.

“The new novel we couldn’t put down…in the crisp, noirish prose of the era, Towles portrays complex relationships in a city that is at once melting pot and elitist enclave – and a thoroughly modern heroine who fearlessly claims her place in it.”
O, the Oprah Magazine

“This very good first novel about striving and surviving in Depression- era Manhattan deserves attention…The great strength of Rules of Civility is in the sharp, sure-handed…evocation of Manhattan in the late ’30s.”
Wall Street Journal

“Put on some Billie Holiday, pour a dry martini and immerse yourself in the eventful life of Katey Kontent…[Towles] clearly knows the privileged world he’s writing about, as well as the vivid, sometimes reckless characters who inhabit it.”

“Even the most jaded New Yorker can see the beauty in Amor Towles’ Rules of Civility, the antiqued portrait of an unlikely jet set making the most of Manhattan.”
The San Francisco Chronicle

“The best novels are the ones that completely transport you to another time and place. This beautifully written debut does just that. With wit, wisdom, and rich language, Towles introduces a cast of unforgettable 1938 New Yorkers, who change the book’s heroine in surprising and absorbing ways.”
-J. Courtney Sullivan, author of Maine

“Terrific. A smart, witty, charming dry-martini of a novel.”
-David Nichols, author of One Day

“Part love story, part social observation, 100 percent absorbing.”

“It’s the Depression, and a gal Friday with a mouth like Dorothy Parker’s is dallying with the smart set…turns out she’s not the only climber. A joyride through the ups and downs of 1930s high society.”
Good Housekeeping

“A smashing debut…remarkable for its strong narrative, original characters and a voice influenced by Fitzgerald and Capote, but clearly true to itself.”
Publishers Weekly

“The characters are beautifully drawn, the dialogue is sharp and Towles avoids the period nostalgia and sentimentality to which a lesser writer might succumb. An elegant, pithy performance by a first-time novelist who couldn’t seem more familiar with his characters or territory.”
Kirkus Reviews

I’m excited to read it, but I’m really excited to start The Phenomenally Indecisive Book Club (PIBC). (I’m still not sure about that name. I know. Kill me now.) This is a book I would normally walk past, only because there are so many books to read that I am prone to making safe selections among authors I have already read. I hope each book we pick falls outside our comfort zone and exposes us to something we wouldn’t normally experience. To me, that’s what makes a book club great.

PIBC officially starts in February, so we have two weeks to secure our copies of Rules of Civility. Next week we’ll talk about where we will “meet” and how often. And, because I’ve had this question a few times now, I want to confirm that anyone is welcome to participate. There is no official membership, unless we decide to move to a private chat area like Google +, Yahoo Groups, Facebook, or Good Reads to discuss the books.


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  1. My library doesn’t have it. Boo. πŸ™ Granted it’s a small library, but it’s the only English library near me (I live overseas) and I can’t afford to buy new books very often.

    Guess I’ll sit this one out and hope for better luck next time.

  2. Bought it. $14.99 on Amazon for Kindle. How long do we have to read it? Is it a monthly thing? Will start after finished reading stupid (and yet addictive) fae book you recommended.

  3. Did the cover art sell me? Am I predictable and easy? Have I been utterly silent on this up until now because there was no way I was committing until I saw the book? Yes on all counts!

    On a whim, looked it up on our digital downloads section of the library and they have it, with a waiting list of 10 patrons for 9 copies. With luck, I should have it in 2 weeks. (Oh, new Kindle I ordered on Sunday night, you are going to be CHOCK FULL of silliness as soon as I get ahold of you. Pay no mind to the Jasper Fforde book I just got from the library and am re-reading, nor the first book of Chloe King that is on hold for me right now. Looks like I’ll be reading several books at once!) For those who can’t locate it in their physical library, see if your library system has access to a service for digital downloads. Even if you don’t have an e-reader, you can read them on your computer if that sort of thing doesn’t fully weird you out. I get it. I like paper, too.

    • Great idea, Kate! Yes, everyone should check with their libraries and see if it is available as a digital download. Anything that is a download can be read on your computer, laptop, or smartphone–even kindle and nook books. Those apps are all for free.

  4. Excellent choice – it was one of my 2011 faves. πŸ™‚ So hooray, I’m already ahead! Love the bookclub name too. Perfect. Looking forward to Feb…

    • I know, both you and Gail read this book and LOVED it. I wanted something no one had read, but the likelihood of finding a book you or Gail haven’t read that isn’t a new release is pretty slim. πŸ˜‰

  5. Love it all! And is it wrong that I got excited before I ever saw what the book was, simply because I saw the top of the cover and noticed the design was vintage inspired?! Sigh.

    And thanks for starting in February (which, I know, will be here before I know it); I have a whole slew of books to read before then. Including one by Louis L’Amour . . . according to my aunt, it’s positively criminal that I’ve yet to read a book by the man. So. Here we go . . . πŸ™‚

    • I decided–quite easily, I might add–that I would he announcing the book club pics at least two weeks in advance to give people the chance to check them out, get on hold lists, buy, and rearrange reading schedules. I’m a compulsive reader–I know how it is. πŸ™‚

  6. Yay!!!!!! I’m so excited I don’t care WHAT we read! I did start 1Q84 and am glad that’s not our first read here. It’s pretty intimidating and taking me a while to get into the rhythm. This sounds like a great place to start.

    • That was the complaint I heard about 1Q84. That, and the page count made people nervous, which I totally understand. I still want to read it, though.

      • And I just noticed last night the page numbers are printed (some of them) backwards, which makes me think I missed something and should understand what that means. Sigh…I’ll just keep reading.

  7. Lovely! I would love to be a part of this. It would be great if we could have some sort of video conference to “dicsuss” it? I need more books in my life!!

  8. yay! So exciting! I’m also in the ‘I don’t even care what we read’ camp. I ordered for my Kindle. I don’t know how book clubs work, so I am trying to decide if I should tear right into it, and then re-read it to play along with the group’s time line or try to force myself to read with the group pace? I’m a speed reader, and have a hard time not devouring books when I’m in a reading mode (husband calls the pile of books left after a weekend binge my ‘bone pile’). But when I really like a book, I usually need to read it at least once more to pick up the nuances, references, sometimes even start to nit-pick.

  9. Oooh, this looks good and it’s not something I would have found on my own. I LOVE the name of the book club. PIBC is a keeper. Really.

  10. Gah, I JUST returned this to my library 2 weeks ago- Wish I hadn’t already read it.

    Bright side- It was a really entertaining read πŸ™‚

  11. Can’t wait, but have to because there are a 100 holds on 20 copies and 20 holds on the digital version…maybe it is time to call on friends – there must be one or two that are readers πŸ™‚
    Sounds like a great read, really looking forward to getting my hands on it! Thanks Jules.

    • Get on those holds! You’ll be surprised. Kendra put herself on hold for the Stephen King book, and it was just as long. She had the book in less than a week! I’m beginning to think those hold lists are like the estimated wait times at restaurants.

      • Yes! I’ve found that regardless of the wait list, I generally have my book pretty quickly. Unless there are 200 holds on 2 books, you’ll have it soon. Digital versions MUST are automatically recalled after 2 weeks, so there isn’t any of the silliness of people not returning or losing the books.

        • Done and done – on both waiting lists….we shall see how the library waiting lists in Vancouver go (usually it isn’t too long, but I’ve never been so low on the list before)!

  12. I’ve read Rules of Civility and really enjoyed it. If you are a fan of the ‘Gatsby’ ish era, you will enjoy this. I am looking forward to the ‘read everything’ book club because I’m all about THAT premise (I’m addicted to reading. I think I read 150 books last year, not counting magazines! I read practically anything that sounds remotely interesting) Have fun with the book! I can’t wait to start seeing the comments!
    *and the book club name is a winner in my book. πŸ™‚

    • Holy cow, you read as much as I do. People always ask me what I like to read and, like you, I have to tell them anything and everything. I, too, read anything that sounds remotely interesting and am not tied to certain genre or style. Rachel, from the blog Heart of Light, is the same way.

  13. I immediately thought of Henry James after that initial blurb, and then later a review calls it “Jamesian.” So this looks like a fun & interesting read (and more fun than actually reading James!) All the talk about the YA/fantasy genre stuff makes me a little uneasy, but what the hell, I too need to be pushed out of my comfort zones. So please add this avid reader to the PICB!

    • Dude. I’m right there with you on James being fun. O_o

      I’m also there with you about the YA and fantasy. I’m sure Kendra will chime in with how…frustrated I am with YA. Is it possible to have a book that isn’t a series, or involves a fantastical plot line, or deals with a crumbling society? That’s just what sells these days. That said, every time Kendra or Carey recommend a book, I have enjoyed myself. It’s a different kind of reading, and I end of having a great time outside my comfort zone. Who knew?

      • Right?? (About everything being a damn series.) I was just going off about this last week with a friend. We both have intense, book-loving daughters who LOOOOVE Harry Potter. But since the phemonemon of HP, every other book out there is a series about fantasy & magic, etc. And then as she gets older (she’s in 4th grade), it’ll all be about sexy, sparkly vampires. Ugh.

  14. Woo!!!

    Okay, one, I LOVE the name. It fits perfectly.

    And, two, the book sounds great – not at ALL something I would usually read, so it’s perfect. Off to the library’s website to reserve my copy!

    ETA: WOW, lots of holds! (184 holds on 86 copies in my library system.) A hint for others in the same boat: getting on the list for the large-print copies usually gets you a copy to read sooner. πŸ™‚ (Large print version: 11 holds on 11 copies, much better!)

  15. Yay! I was waiting to see how this would go – I’m not a fan of Twilight-type books! I too was hooked with the cover pic. And I love that era – reminds me of my grandmother. My friends and I are taking a girls to NYC in June, aaannnnd we’ve been wanting to start our own book club – you’re 3 for 3 Jules! I’m sending a link to this page to the girls – they’re gonna be so happy!

  16. I’m also going to join the ranks of first time book club’er! The February book is definitely not one I’d ever pick for myself so it’s already excellent. I’m #64 on the hold list – and that’s usually about 2 weeks so perfect!
    I just finished reading There’s Cake In My Future which was also out of my comfort zone and I was surprised at how much I really appreciated the escape! I’m currently reading Room by Emma Donoghue and then I’ll clear the drama with Bossypants by Tina Fey. This is turning out to be a pretty well-rounded year already πŸ™‚

  17. Woot! I’m laughing hysterically because this is so not the book we talked about at 11pm last night.
    I’m excited though!
    I’m 1 of 1 on the physical book list and 17th (with 4 copies) on the Kindle edition. Either way, I am soooo ready!

  18. Oh, hah! A decision was made! Somehow I missed it. Whoops.

    Hm. I didn’t think about the fact that my twitter feed is protected. Perhaps I should rectify that.

    Anyway, I’m was totally geeked out when Jules asked me to be a part of the selection process, and I’m really happy to be part of the PIBC. I’ve wanted to join a book club for years, but my introversion always got the best of me. But now I can edit and re-edit everything I say a dozen times before anyone actually sees it. Huzzah! (Incidentally, I rewrote that paragraph at least four times.)

    I’m currently reading (and very much enjoying) The Thirteenth Tale, but it’s short enough that I should be able to power through by the end of the month. Any excuse to stay up til 4am reading.

  19. i’ve always shied away from book clubs because i felt intimidated. but this book sounds fun. i always go back to the classics when i actually find time to read. (MAKE time to read πŸ™‚

  20. I’m totally in. Three available copies in my teensy library system. I will check one out (and pay my overdue fines) straight away. Excited! And keep the name. It rocks.

  21. WHEW!!! My SINCEREST apologies from being absent from this conversation! (I’ve been in a copyediting fog but that’s not a good enough excuse!) Excited for the club to dig into this book!!

    And for those who are looking for book copies — think about posting it on Facebook. With us picking fairly popular/newish reads, you might have a friend who could let you borrow a copy!

    Also, I volunteer to be that individual who leads the subsequent conversation about who would play which parts in the movie version of this book. Because I’ve got my ideas for this one…not to mention, I LOVE doing that with books, don’t you??!!!

  22. you are all hilarious. found you through four flights of fancy via flowerpatchfarmgirl…
    i’m in for the pibc.
    the photos reminds me of the story of the street photographer
    her works were discovered at the end of her life.


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