Acouple months ago, I was in Bermuda for vacation, hanging out with my sister, her roommate, and another NorCal pal on the beach. Beach bummin’ being what it is, talk turned to the books we pulled out of our respective bags. They started chatting about The Year of Magical Thinking, House of Sand and Fog, and The Secret Life of Bees, all of which were selections they’d chosen for their S.F.-based book club. I began to feel like an outsider intruding on one of their meetings, and started to whine. “Not fai-ai-air,” I said, in the whiniest whine I could muster, “I wanna be in your book club.” Needless to say, everyone made fun of me, and insisted I could join as a remote member-all I needed was a phone and some wine. “It’s not the sa-a-ame,” I wailed. But all was forgotten once the first round of Dark ‘n’ Stormies arrived.
Until last week, that is, when joy arrived in my inbox in the form of an email inviting me to be my sister’s friend on a Web site called GoodReads.com. While my MO is generally to delete any email beginning with the phrase “Be my friend :” on the grounds that virtual friend-making is just too creepy, I trust my sister’s judgment (for the most part) and thus clicked. And in so doing, I discovered the best diversion the Internet has to offer.
I registered, and began filling my “bookshelves” with the books I’ve read, as well as the ones I’m currently reading. (Yes, I’m one of those people who’s in the middle of a handful of books at any given time.) I added comments, rated each one on the site’s five-star scale, and decided whether or not I’d recommend them. And then I discovered the best part: I can cruise around my friends’ bookshelves, too; I can check in on what they’re reading, what they think of a certain book, and which ones they’d recommend. I get an email each time one of my friends updates her bookshelves, and now I know exactly what I’m looking for every time I head to the bookstore. It’s just like a real book club-minus the whine.