Book Club Spotlight: A very special Dave Bidini appearance

Once every month, we’ll share the motivation and passion that drives one book club — it could be yours! — from across the globe. These are the people who have combined the solitary pleasure of reading a book with the joy of sharing, discussing, and debating it in a social setting.

March’s spotlight features the book club of Toronto-based writer Nico Mara-McKay (@plutopsyche on Twitter), whose work has appeared in numerous journals and magazines, most recently in Broken Pencil, The Antigonish Review and Contemporary Verse 2. Earlier this month, she managed to snag a visit from Dave Bidini, whose rock ‘n’ roll memoir On a Cold Road was a finalist in this year’s Canada Reads competition.

Nico (right) earlier this month with her fellow bookclubbers and author Dave Bidini (back).

What was the inspiration for starting your book club?

My best friend and I are both big readers, but our tastes are varied. We talked about books all the time, but often compared books we hadn’t both read. One night we were shopping together in a bookstore, and came across a discounted copy of Wuthering Heights. We realized neither of us had read it, and we decided to start a book club. That gave us an excuse to read the same books, and compare notes on what we’d both read.

Members have varied over time, but it started with my friend Jo and I, and we invited a friend of mine from high school, her sister, and my sister. Two former members moved to Dubai last year. My husband’s been an occasional participant, and there’s been the odd drop-in.

If I can, to prepare for a meeting after reading the book, I’ll also check out reviews, author bios, and Wikipedia entries to see what others thought of it, but it’s not a requirement. Most of us are well-read with some kind of background in literature, and those who aren’t are still pretty opinionated, so everyone always comes to the table with something to say.

Do you incorporate food, films, field trips, or other bonus features into your meetings?

We do requests that members bring food and wine so there’s something to drink and snack on while we talk. We rotate houses so it’s not a burden on just one person.

Though for On a Cold Road, some of us did take the time to watch Whale Music, which heavily featured music from Dave Bidini’s earlier band, the Rheostatics, and I tried to load up the CD player with appropriate period music: Trouble at the Hen House by the Tragically Hip, and the Rheostatics album Whale Music.

Speaking of On a Cold Road, why did you choose this book to read, and what did you think of it? And how did you manage to get Dave Bidini to join you?

On a Cold Road was chosen because it was on the shortlist for Canada Reads 2012, and I mentioned it was the only one on that list that really grabbed my attention. (I’ve since gone on to read the rest of them, and found them all to be wonderfully well-written.) Canadian rock in the ‘90s, a memoir from a member of the Rheostatics, from their tour with the Hip? Can’t get better than that, right?

How it came about that the author joined us was kind of random. I’d mentioned on Twitter that my book club was reading On a Cold Road, and that it was the only book that I really wanted to read from the shortlist, and Dave came back with an offer to attend our discussion of the book, which was pretty incredible of him. Of course I said yes, and after working out the dates, he came.

It was a little intimidating at first. My sister, in particular, was very nervous about meeting the author of the book we’d just read, but it turned out to be pretty cool. We got to hear a bit about behind the scenes at Canada Reads, and a bit about his other books as well. It was a lot of fun.

Of all the books your club has selected, which is your favourite?

The classics haven’t been well-favoured (Wuthering Heights was almost universally loathed), but CanCon fairs better. Anything we’ve read by Ondaatje, Atwood, or Coupland has done well.

The debate generated by Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace may have been my favourite discussion we’ve had as a group.

To be featured in a future Book Club Spotlight, email with a brief description of your club, and then we’ll talk.

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