It's February, it's cold, it's time to turn up the heat a bit on your to-read list. But not just any trashy old erotic paperback will do — you want something that will warm up your brain as well as — ahem, other parts of your body. Here are some books that will keep you warm all winter long while stimulating your intellect as well as your passion.
By Mary Roach
For you sexy science nerds out there. Can a person think herself to orgasm? Why doesn't Viagra help women-or, for that matter, pandas? Can a dead man get an erection? Is vaginal orgasm a myth? Mary Roach shows us how and why sexual arousal and orgasm-two of the most complex, delightful, and amazing scientific phenomena on earth-can be so hard to achieve and what science is doing to make the bedroom a more satisfying place. — From Amazon.com
Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair
By Pablo Neruda
Could “Neruda” be Spanish for “Swoon?" That's exactly what could happen once you start reading this beautiful collection of poems published in 1924 when Neruda was 19 (trust me, he was a much better poet than you were at that age). His most famous line: “I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.” Yes.
Red, Hot and Holy
By Sera Beak
With a rare combination of audacious wit, scholarly acumen, and tender vulnerability—vibrantly mixed with red wine, rock songs, tattoos, and erotic encounters—Sera candidly chronicles the highs and lows of her mystical journey. From the innocence of her childhood crush on God; through a whirlwind of torrid liaisons and bitter break-ups with Christianity, Buddhism, Sufism, Hinduism, and the New Age; and finally into committed monogamy with her own Red Hot and Holy Goddess, Sera shares transformative insights, encouraging us all to trust our unique path and ignite our own spiritual love affair. — From Amazon.com
Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women's Sexual Fantasies
By Nancy Friday
I first read Nancy Friday in junior high when I found my mother's copy of Men In Love on the book shelf, and whoa mama, that book taught me just about everything I needed to know about sex (the book collected men's sexual fantasies). In Women on Top, Friday collects detailed sexual fantasies from over 150 contemporary women from diverse backgrounds. Based on intimate personal interviews and letters, this book updates the conversation opened in her earlier works on women's sexual fantasies, detailing how women's erotic lives have changed over the past few decades-and remained the same.
The Soul of Sex: Cultivating Life as an Act of Love
By Thomas Moore
Known for his international best seller Care of the Soul, this book delves into a subject much more controversial, but with an intelligence and historical perspective that I haven't seen since.
Thomas Moore wants us to think more deeply about the spiritual implications of everyday life. Which is to say that this is serious stuff — no sexy beach reading here. What does interest former Catholic monk are the historical, philosophical, religious, and psychological aspects of sexuality that people tend not to consider. "We have a habit of talking about sex as merely physical, and yet nothing has more soul," Moore begins. This wide-ranging meditation moves from the history of the word "orgasm" to the mythic presence of Marilyn Monroe. Those willing to follow Moore's mind as it courses through these subjects will find it a fascinating journey, one that ends by stimulating their own thinking about the relationship between sex and the spirit.
Another book that was formative for me , and very highly recommended.
By Diana Gabaldon
Unrivaled storytelling. Unforgettable characters. Rich historical detail. Plenty of steamy sex scenes. These are the hallmarks of Diana Gabaldon’s work. Some my question whether this book is "smart," but her novels have earned the praise of critics and captured the hearts of millions of fans. Here is the story that introduced us to two remarkable characters, Claire Randall and Jamie Fraser, in a spellbinding novel of passion and history that combines exhilarating adventure with a love story for the ages.
A very strange thing happened when I read this book. It all started with a terrible cold, which was bad for my productivity (from a business-running standpoint) but good for allowing me to get in some much-needed reading time. So I spent a good part of the afternoon lying on the couch, nestled among between the tissues and the humidifier. And about 3-4 chapters in to this story about a woman who is diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer's Disease, I started to feel like I was the one with Alzheimer’s. My phone somehow seemed harder to operate. Getting up to make myself a cup of tea required more effort. That’s the kind of effect this book had on me.
Still Alice by Lisa Genova is a novel (and soon-to-be-released movie with Julianne Moore) about Harvard psychology professor Alice Howland who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease just before her 50th birthday. Alice is your typical high-achieving academic: she works really, really hard, and takes great pride in her extremely high intellect (about one extremely narrow topic — linguistics). Her husband John, also a Harvard academic but in biology, leads a similar life.
The book starts with Alice's small bouts of forgetfulness: she can't remember what an item on her written to-do list is about; soon after she forgets a word during a professional presentation she’s giving at Stanford. She waves off the memory lapses as a symptom of impending menopause. But then the little things begin to pile up and get worse — like when Alice becomes disoriented while running a familiar route — and it isn’t long before Alice discovers the truth: it’s not menopause that’s causing the forgetfulness but Alzheimer’s.
Overall, I feel like the book is well written. It's told in first person, from Alice's viewpoint, but also skillfully pulls in the lives and perspectives of her husband and three children, Lydia, Anna and Tom (and to a lesser extent, Howland’s dead mother and sister, through flashbacks).
Alice’s story is told over a period of three years, where the reader gets an up-close-and-personal view of what it’s like for Alice as the Alzheimer’s begins to take over in terrifying detail: believing a rug is a hole in the middle of the floor, entering someone else’s house and removing all the dishes, not being able to remember where the bathroom is located.
Towards the end of the book I felt like the narrative lost a bit of its momentum, and even became a little preachy (Alice's speech at a conference had me skipping over whole sentences). I wished the author would have dug a little deeper at the emotions and confusion surrounding Alice’s downward spiral. The most compelling character in the book was Alice's husband, John; I wish Genova would have worked harder to show us his emotions about having a wife diagnosed with this devastating disease. But overall it was a worthy (and fast — always a bonus) read, and I’d recommend it to anyone, especially those who are dealing with a relative suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
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One night I recently mentioned to my husband how my dentist wanted me to replace some fillings. I hate the dentist, always have, and so out of habit I started to use my old standby metaphor of how I'd rather go ice fishing than go to the dentist
But before the words made it out of my mouth I suddenly stopped myself — because I realized in one surprising instant that I really did want to go ice fishing.
I am not the person I was a year ago.
The idea that I could consider ice fishing an enjoyable, or interesting or even tolerable activity would have been unthinkable a year ago. Last January, being even a little bit physically uncomfortable was a nonstarter for me. Cold? NO WAY. Wet? Nuh-uh, not no how.
It's not like I was a mousy, pink-loving, spa-living, scared of everything kind of girl. After all, I joined the Army. I survived a divorce, then navigated single motherhood without killing myself or my kids. I ran on the treadmill and lifted weights several times a week. I was a survivor.
But "outdoorsy"? No, I was not outdoorsy.
So what changed?
What changed was I made the decision to take a risk. I came up with an idea — the concept of Outdoor Book Club — that I knew would change the world. But I also knew that idea would require me to show up in the world in a much different way than what I was used to. I would have to learn to find my way in the woods, how to put a kayak on the top of my car without help, how to lead other women out of their comfort zones and into the starry night of their own adventures.
Here's what didn't change: I have always valued experiences over things. I'm an INFJ on the Myers Briggs scale, which means I tend to be introverted but deeply committed to seeking out a meaningful life that has a positive impact on others. So the fact that I had to learn how to backpack, how to mountain bike, how to lead women out into the wilderness to discover how truly strong and amazing they could be? That became a mission I could get behind.
So I sought out the experts, and learned by doing. These days, I spend my days seeking out adventure. Whether that's calling up the editor of the local paper to see if she wants to write an article about my company, or talking with my sixteen year old daughter about her college options (which is actually pretty scary for me), I'm always trying to push myself to risk just a little bit more.
Often that means hanging out with women who were just like me, women who know there's more to life than just work and zoning out in front of the TV or internet. I help them move past their fear and into a zone of bliss called self-discovery. I help them discover that they are capable, strong, amazing, and best of all, KICK ASS.
Never could I have imagined the changes that lay in store for me
This change has also showed up in my own life in some unexpected ways, and here are four areas of my life that have completed changed since I've become more adventurous:
1. I've lost weight — effortlessly
About 15 years ago, after my first child was born, I was tipping the scales at 180 pounds and was sick and tired. I decided to change my lifestyle using the fairly draconian fitness and diet program. I won't lie, it was a TON of work. Cardio, weight-lifting, complete diet overhaul. I became lean and strong and lost 20 pounds of fat in eight weeks. Eight long, hard, ABSOLUTELY BANANAS weeks.
But a person can work out like crazy and obsess about food only for so long. Fortunately, I've found something more sustainable: going outside and having fun. Today I walk my dogs, ride my bike in the woods, cross-country ski for date night, hike with friends, kayak first thing in the morning — whatever it takes to get outside and move. Although I may have a slightly unhealthy relationship with pizza and wine, it turns out that when you're physically active as part of a dedicated spiritual and mental daily regimen, achieving a healthy weight comes naturally. I may not have the 7% body fat of my post draconian-fitness days, but I'm also a lot more accepting and appreciative of my body and what it can do.
2. I attracted an amazing love into my life
I remember a moment less than five years ago after my husband left me. It was 3 a.m., I couldn't sleep and was staring out the kitchen window at the snow, despairing at the mess my life had become, with one thought running rampant through my broken heart: no one is ever going to love me again.
It was an incredibly difficult journey back from that point, one that included an eventual divorce and a shit ton of emotional work on my own insecurities and flaws, but the transformation has been life-changing. Two years after splitting from my ex, I met Mike, who eventually became my husband. He was (and continues to be) impressed by my passion for life, my curiosity, my ability to decide to do something and then do it. He has enriched my life in so many ways that there was no other option than to marry him. Today I take risks, both physical and emotional, with him that I NEVER would've taken in my previous life. Adventure can show up in your life in some really crazy ways.
3. My confidence has skyrocketed
Perhaps as a direct result of the improvements in my weight and my relationship, or maybe the other way around, my ability to own who I am as a woman feels like coming home. I still have anxious days, but that's more of a function of what's going on in my life right at this moment (blending five kids into a new family). I finally wrote that book I've been meaning to write (I also have a novel that I'll someday finish). Today I spend my days saying what I mean, asking for what I want and generally enjoying being happy and strong.
4. I make money that is all my own
Last year I started Outdoor Book Club, and though it's barely been a year, the financial freedom that comes with owning your own business feels incredible. I'm working my ass off to market and sell the trips and workshops that I offer, and have some big plans for this company in the future. When I spend money that I make doing what I love, it's an act of strength and power so enormous that I feel invincible. In fact, it feels so good to own my own business I'm passionate about helping other women launch their own successful businesses (want to learn more? I've got a workshop for you!)
Here's how I define adventure
Eleanor Roosevelt once said “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” That sums up exactly how I live my life — whether that's deciding which book I'm going to read next, or the goals I'm going to set for the next 20 years.
The weight loss, the relationships (I didn't even mention my new network of strong women who bring joy and strength to my life in a myriad of ways), the confidence and the money have all shown up since I made a conscious decision to seek out adventure, wherever it may be hiding. Now instead of living a life of constant struggle and self-doubt, I live a life that I'm proud to have built on my own.
Let me know in the comments if adventure has changed your life, or maybe some ideas of how it will in the future. If you're still figuring out how to find more adventure, stay tuned. If you want to lead a more adventurous life, I've got some great tips and guidance coming up soon.
In the meantime, I have an ice fishing trip I need to plan. :)
Want to add more adventure to your life? Take the plunge, or leap, or spin or whatever it is you do and join us for an adventure weekend that will change the way you see the world.
It's that time of year again — time for 111 million people to turn on the TV and zone out for several hours watching grown men chase a cowhide ball around on some fake grass. Looking for an escape from all that testosterone? If you can't join me at the local trampoline park (yep, that's where I'll be headed post-meditation trip weekend — it's going to be great!), curl up with one of these decidedly feminine books that have been on my Amazon wishlist for awhile:
Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay
In these funny and insightful essays, Roxane Gay takes us through the journey of her evolution as a woman (Sweet Valley High) of color (The Help) while also taking readers on a ride through culture of the last few years (Girls, Django in Chains) and commenting on the state of feminism today (abortion, Chris Brown). The portrait that emerges is not only one of an incredibly insightful woman continually growing to understand herself and our society, but also one of our culture.
Bad Feminist is a sharp, funny, and spot-on look at the ways in which the culture we consume becomes who we are, and an inspiring call-to-arms of all the ways we still need to do better.
Red Hot and Holy by Sera Beak
With a rare combination of audacious wit, scholarly acumen, and tender vulnerability-vibrantly mixed with red wine, rock songs, tattoos, and erotic encounters-Sera candidly chronicles the highs and lows of her mystical journey. From the innocence of her childhood crush on God; through a whirlwind of torrid liaisons and bitter break-ups with Christianity, Buddhism, Sufism, Hinduism, and the New Age; and finally into committed monogamy with her own red hot and holy Goddess, Sera shares transformative insights, encouraging us all to trust our unique path and ignite our own spiritual love affair.
Clutterfree with Kids: Change your thinking. Discover new habits. Free your home by Joshua Becker
Because I have five of them. FIVE.
Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof, Sheryl Wudunn
Through these stories, Kristof and WuDunn help us see that the key to economic progress lies in unleashing women’s potential. They make clear how so many people have helped to do just that, and how we can each do our part. Throughout much of the world, the greatest unexploited economic resource is the female half of the population. Countries such as China have prospered precisely because they emancipated women and brought them into the formal economy. Unleashing that process globally is not only the right thing to do; it’s also the best strategy for fighting poverty.
Also worth mentioning here from the same authors: A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity
How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran
What do you do in your teenage years when you realize what your parents taught you wasn’t enough? You must go out and find books and poetry and pop songs and bad heroes—and build yourself. Imagine The Bell Jar written by Rizzo from Grease. How to Build a Girl is a funny, poignant, and heartbreakingly evocative story of self-discovery and invention, as only Caitlin Moran could tell it.
Yes, Please by Amy Poehler
In her first book, one of our most beloved funny folk delivers a smart, pointed, and ultimately inspirational read. Full of the comedic skill that makes us all love Amy, Yes Please is a rich and varied collection of stories, lists, poetry (Plastic Surgery Haiku, to be specific), photographs, mantras and advice. With chapters like "Treat Your Career Like a Bad Boyfriend," "Plain Girl Versus the Demon" and "The Robots Will Kill Us All" Yes Please will make you think as much as it will make you laugh. Honest, personal, real, and righteous, Yes Please is full of words to live by.
Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham
Exuberant, moving, and keenly observed, Not That Kind of Girl is a series of dispatches from the frontlines of the struggle that is growing up. Dunham illuminates the experiences that are part of making one’s way in the world: falling in love, feeling alone, being ten pounds overweight despite eating only health food, having to prove yourself in a room full of men twice your age, finding true love, and most of all, having the guts to believe that your story is one that deserves to be told.
Also, because although I don't always agree with everything Dunham says or does, I always love her style.
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
Mindy invites readers on a tour of her life and her unscientific observations on romance, friendship, and Hollywood, with several conveniently placed stopping points for you to run errands and make phone calls. Mindy Kaling really is just a Girl Next Door—not so much literally anywhere in the continental United States, but definitely if you live in India or Sri Lanka.
It's hard to find time to read, but reading adds so much to your life. Here are some books that will grab you from the beginning, keep you reading and that you'll actually finish because they're so good.
Wolf Hall: A Novel by Hilary Mantel
History buffs will love this telling of Thomas Cromwell's early career, written in first person (anyone who saw Showtime's series The Tudors will recognize the story). Funny and sarcastic, Wolf Hall is the first book in a trilogy, so there's more where that came from.
Poser: My Life in Twenty-three Yoga Poses by Claire Dederer
I love me some memoir, and Dederer's detailing of a modern mom & yoga struggles hit close to home. The book could have been cheesy had the author let it, but in the end it's a beautifully honest book that will likely motivate you to live a better life.
The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King
Fans of the BBC phenomenal show Sherlock will get their fix with this series of books based on the idea that Sherlock Holmes had a brilliant and bold 15-year-old girl as his apprentice. Both smart and adventurous, you'll finish the book hungry for more.
Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom. Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette's intensifying allergy to Seattle--and people in general--has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.
To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence--creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world.
Food Rules: An Eater's Manual by Michael Pollan
This super short read dishes up (see what I did there?) 60 smart rules for healthy eating. It's a book you can comfortably zoom through in an evening or two, and one you can keep coming back to time and again for really great advice.
Kind of Cruel by Sophie Hannah
When Amber Hewerdine consults a hypnotherapist as a desperate last resort, she doesn't expect that anything much will change.
She doesn't expect it to help with her chronic insomnia. She doesn't expect to hear herself, under hypnosis, saying words that mean nothing to her: 'Kind, cruel, kind of cruel' - words she has seen somewhere before, if only she could remember where. She doesn't expect to be arrested two hours later, as a result of having spoken those words out loud, in connection with the brutal murder of Katharine Allen, a woman she's never heard of... Sophie Hannah’s trademark dark, twisty plot will keep readers guessing until the very end.
The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani
Set in the 1930s, full of alluring descriptions, and featuring a headstrong lead character, this is a literary novel that is also full of scandal, sex, and secrets. Fifteen-year-old Thea Atwell has been banished from her Florida family and sent to an exclusive equestrienne boarding school located high in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Homeschooled along with her fraternal twin, Thea had lived an overprotected and insular existence until the tragic incident that triggered her ouster from the family. Thrust into a complicated social milieu of southern debutantes and their rigid pecking order based on money, lineage, and looks, Thea (a not always likable protagonist) struggles with overwhelming feelings of guilt and homesickness as well as the challenge of fitting into her new school. But she also begins to feel her power, both because she knows she is beautiful and because she is an expert rider. Some readers will be put off by the book’s deliberate pacing and explicit sex scenes, but others will be held in thrall by the world so vividly and sensually rendered in a novel that is as sophisticated in its writing as it is in its themes.
Amy Falls Down by Jincy Willett
Amy Gallup is an aging novelist and writing instructor living in Escondido, California, with her dog, Alphonse. One New Year’s morning she shuffles out to her backyard garden and is wholly unprepared for what happens next: Amy falls down. A simple accident, as a result of which something happens, and then something else, and then a number of different things, all as unpredictable as an eight-ball break. This novel explores the role that accident plays in all our lives. “You turn a corner and beasts break into arias, gunfire erupts, waking a hundred families, starting a hundred different conversations. You crack your head open and three thousand miles away a stranger with Asperger’s jump-starts your career.” We are all like Amy. We are all wholly unprepared for what happens next. Also, there’s a basset hound.
What other book recommendations can you make for busy women? Leave them in the comments below.
Celebrities don't often come across as the backpacking type (or at least their public personas don't really lend to imagining them out on the trail, with no makeup and dirt under their fingernails). Still, there are a handful of women who seem like they would be a blast out in nature. Here are my top eight women whom with I'd love to share the trail:
1. Jennifer Lawrence
Known as "America's Kick-Ass Sweetheart," you have to try really, really hard not to like J-Law. Her acting is all-in (I thought her performance in American Hustle was mesmerizing), and with roles like Ree in Winter's Bone and of course Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games trilogy it's hard not to imagine her as completely amazing out in the wilderness. Also, she has claimed herself to be "the fastest pee-er ever," a total bonus when backpacking.
2. Alanis Morrisette
Claiming her favorite place in the world is California's Big Sur, Alanis seems like she'd be a great conversationalist around the campfire at night (are there portable guitars)? Her songwriting skills make her one of the most memorable women performing today, and the fact that she starred on "You Can't Do That On Television" as a teenager likely means she's got a wicked sense of humor.
3. Annette Bening
Maybe it's her charm, or maybe it's the fact that she's managed to stay married to Warren Beatty for 23 years, but I feel like Annete Bening can do anything, and do it with grace (including walking miles a day with a 40 pound pack). Her roles in The American President and American Beauty, two of my all-time favorite movies, make me wonder if she'd be a fun-yet-even-keeled addition to any backpacking trip.
4. Alicia Keys
This badass R&B star made a name for herself at a young age, and has said that she loves trying new things. She's been quoted saying that she has huge calves, which puts you at an advantage in backpacking, and she once considered changing her name to "Alicia Wild." Plus, she could sing while we hiked, something that makes a long haul go faster (not to mention keeps the bears away).
5. Reese Witherspoon
Her recent performance in Wild aside, Reese is a big reader and considers herself “a big dork who read loads of books...I get crazy in a bookstore. It makes my heart beat hard because I want to buy everything." She's also a feminist — when asked who she would invite over for dinner, she said "all the female senators" and when asked what she would ask them, she replied "why there aren't more female senators." I hear you, sister.
6. Jennifer Aniston
I know this is completely ridiculous, but I've always secretly believed that Jen and I would be best friends given just 5 minutes together at the bar (good thing we'll never meet in real life). She's smart, she's independent and she's funny — all things that I look for in a bestie and a trail partner. Imagine how close we'd be after two days in the wild! (Plus maybe she'd bring along her bestie Courtney Cox.)
7. Jillian Michaels
Jillian Michaels is everyone's favorite badass, making her the ideal celebrity to get me out of my comfort zone and push me to be my best (something I do with my own clients). But I'd also like to take her backpacking because she's a writer, a vocation that's near and dear to my heart, and as an investor in the jerky company Krave, we'd have lots of great snacks on the trail. Plus she loves animals and communing with nature.
What female celebrity would you love to spend some quality time with while backpacking remote backcountry trails? Leave your answer in the comments below.
You’ve read the book. You’ve highlighted moving passages and made notes in the margins. You’ve downloaded and printed out the book’s reader’s guide/discussion questions. The food is all set (the best book clubs always include some element of eating). All that’s left is to let the magic happen.
The date arrives
Start with greeting everyone who arrives, making sure to leave enough time for socializing. If members haven’t met each other before, it’s a good idea for everyone to go around and say something about themselves, such as why they’re looking forward to this book club, and what was the book that most influenced them in childhood. In fact, this is a good idea even if you’ve all known each other for years.
Now it’s time to have the discussion. Most books have discussion guides put out by the publisher, but it’s also good to have some generic discussion questions ready to go (see my post "Book club questions that work with any book" for a helpful list). It can help if there’s one person who acts as moderator. Here are some things for moderators to keep in mind:
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Picking the right people to join your book club can be a tricky proposition — you want a nice mix of people in order to foster some really great discussion. This may or may not include all of your besties. While it’s comfortable to just invite your inner circle to be part of the group, if you really want to learn and add some rich dynamics to the gatherings, try inviting people you’d like to get to know better.
Start with friends
You know your friends, you know what they like to read. Asking friends often makes communication, and thus scheduling and picking books, a bit easier.
Make sure you have similar reading styles
If you like fantasy novels about warlords and kung fu princesses, you’re probably not going to want to invite someone who reads nonfiction business books. A little variety is good — one of the things I’ve always enjoyed about book club is reading books that are out of my comfort zone. But you don’t want to overshoot your comfort zone by a hundred miles.
Ask them if they would be interested in joining a book club & why
Whether it’s in person or electronically, ask potential members what they would like to get out of the book club. This gets people thinking before you even have your first meeting about what kind of commitment they want to make to the group, which is never a bad thing. Start them off with some background about what you’re looking for, including the kinds of people and books, to start the conversation.
Finding (then asking) people you don’t know
If you’re new to town, or want to start a niche book club (a book club that only reads a very specific kind of book), or just are looking to meet new people, you should consider asking people you don’t know. Of course, this can be tricky, but if done right, can be extremely rewarding.
Meetup.com can be a great place to start a niche book club (in fact, Outdoor Book Club got started as a meetup group). There are some costs involved with going this route, but it’s one of the best places to find people online who are looking to get together in person. You could also start an open Facebook (or other social media) group using keywords that describe the types of books and/or people you’re looking for (i.e. “Business Book Club for Women” or “Smallville Philosophy Club”).
Finally, there’s always the old-fashioned way of posting flyers at your local library or bookstore. That’s certainly a good way of finding people who are right in your neighborhood, and who have the added bonus of patronizing places that love and support books (which are some of the best people in the world, if you ask me).
Want to learn more about how to start a book club that doesn't suck? Download my kindle ebook "How to Start a Book Club That Changes the World" from Amazon today.
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As dyed-in-the-wool adventurer, I LOVE scavenger hunts. The camaraderie, the competition, the crazy photos and videos — it's one of the best ways to bring people together and have a ton of fun, especially strangers or almost-strangers. I've always wondered why people don't do them more often, but then I realized after putting my own hunt together for my birthday that they can be intimidating to plan. So to encourage more people to get out there and design mind-blowing scavenger hunts for adults (there seems to be plenty out there about kids' scavenger hunts) I've put together this handy quick-reference guide.
Want someone else to do the work? $8 to download 36 fun, creative challenges for any urban area (plus points & rules)
Choose a theme
For my birthday hunt, I chose myself as a theme. (Yeah, I know — but I figure if I don't plan a scavenger hunt, my favorite thing ever, no one else will.) Other theme ideas include a nature-themed scavenger hunt (you'd look for items out on the trail — though be sure to be considerate), a food-based scavenger hunt, or a bachelorette/girls night out party. Having a theme will not only tie everything together in one appealing package, it will help you come up with better clues and items to include in the hunt. Also, with themes you can have participants to dress up in crazy costumes (and if Halloween has taught us anything, it's that dressing up = instant party enhancer).
Send the invite
It's best to schedule the event AT LEAST two weeks beforehand, though a month or more is better. Pick a location that works best for your group size and theme; personally, I think it's more fun (and safer) if you can do everything on foot and not have to drive anywhere (unlike the University of Chicago's scavenger hunt , which is perhaps the world's craziest, most difficult scavenger hunt ever invented — it spans several states and even goes into Canada). Then decide how long you want the hunt to last — pick an end time and place, and deduct points for every minute a team is late.
Weather can be a factor in scheduling your scavenger hunt, so make sure people know to dress appropriately, especially when it comes to comfortable shoes. This may seem obvious, but at my birthday scavenger hunt, one of my friends wore flats, which made racing around the city difficult (and she ultimately ended up just quitting).
People should also know to bring their cell phone with a camera. Seems pretty obvious, but again, it's nice to give folks a heads up, in case their phone doesn't have much memory or some other unforeseen issue.
Create the clue list
This is the most fun, if the most intimidating. Create a list that's long enough so that not everyone can get every item and they have to prioritize which items to get first. Assign points to each clue, awarding more points for more difficult items (I assigned a crazy amount of points to items that I knew no one would get, but still wanted to see if anyone had the cajones to do it — like getting a tattoo. You'd be surprised at the lengths people will go to in order to win cheesy prizes & bragging rights! Plus the pictures are hilarious). Keep the list secret until the day of the hunt — you don't want folks cheating ahead of time.
Some clue ideas:
Tips for adding complexity to the hunt
To make things interesting, here are some ways to add complexities to your clues:
The pre-hunt meetup
Have everyone meet at a pre-determined location. For me, I had everyone meet at our big library downtown, since 1) I love books, and I was the theme of the hunt and 2) it was a public location that had lots of parking. It's a good idea to tell everyone to be on time, since one late person can hold up the entire hunt - so deduct points for people who are late to the kickoff!.
Once everyone arrives, give the rules of the hunt: time limits, rendezvous points, and remind people not to break any laws or otherwise be obnoxious to business owners or civilians (i.e. people who aren't part of the hunt). We were surprised at how helpful people will be when you're nice and explain what you're doing, but there are others who will not want to participate. That's fine; don't hassle them because they don't want to play. Also, you may want to stipulate that team members cannot pay for any of the items (though that's up to you; in my hunt, the teams didn't have to buy anything to win, but a couple of teams did end up spending nominal amounts to buy a drink or get a receipt for exactly $1).
Once you've gone over the basic rules, hand out the clue list, bags to carry items and pens/pencils for each team. NOTE: At this point, everyone may stop listening to you and start pouring over the list and strategizing with their team members, so make sure you get the most important points across BEFORE you hand out the list. Or not, and make it that much harder for them.
To wrap up the pre-hunt instructions, encourage everyone to think outside the box! For example, one of my clues was to find & take a picture of a Bill. I allowed a couple of teams to take a picture with a dollar bill for half points.
Warnings & other ideas
Here are some other ideas that will help your hunt go more smoothly:
After you send out everyone after their clues, it's time for you to relax — or at least head to the final rendezvous point to start setting up. I went to a local bar, ordered a beer and watched all the crazy pictures starting to come in on my phone. One thing I wish I would have done was set up a projector & a laptop to display all the pictures for the after party, which would have gotten everyone in the mood. Make sure to watch the clock as the end time draws near; remember, you'll need to dock points for every minute a team/participant is late.
It helps if you can have someone as an assistant —someone to run interference with you and the teams, and they can help tally the points (the most time-consuming portion of the hunt — it really is much easier to have the teams tally as they go, and you simply confirm at the end). Then comes the announcement of the winners, the bestowing of the awards, and finally, where everyone comes up to you and gives you a hug because they had such a great time and want to know when the next one is.
So that's it — how to have an adult scavenger hunt. If you have any tips, ideas or thoughts I'd love to hear them in the comments below. Maybe you'll get invited to my next epic scavenger hunt (or me to yours)!
Special thanks to Carrie and her North Carolina book club "Friends Food Fiction" for inspiring this blog post.
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Scheduling a time that works for everyone in your book club can be a huge headache. With everyone's different schedules and commitments, find a date, time and place can feel like a perfect storm. Here are a few guidelines to make scheduling your book club easier.
First set a meeting length
You’ll want to give your group enough time to fully discuss the book, but still have plenty of time left over for socializing. However, keep in mind that having a three-hour long book club can be intimidating for some people who are busy. For more social book clubs, evenings are a good time to schedule a meeting, so that people can stay later if they’d like to socialize more. But for more formal book clubs, sometimes lunch hours work better. In fact, my own book club was initially comprised of all co-workers, and sometimes the only times we could meet were in the executive conference room at lunch.
Pick a location
For book clubs among friends, rotating between the members’ living rooms is a good choice; that way one person doesn’t take on all the responsibility of hosting. For friendly/social book clubs, it’s best to keep the group to eight members or less, and no one should be required to host the group at their home if they don’t feel comfortable doing so. Restaurants, libraries, bookstores and even local parks and hiking trails can make good meeting spaces too (at Outdoor Book Club, we believe that being outdoors and talking about books is the best of both worlds!). If you decide to regularly meet at a public space, inviting 12 or more members becomes more feasible.
Don’t be afraid to switch up your locations a bit — maybe pick someplace different for special occasions (like reading a book that inspired a movie, you go out to watch the movie then hold your discussion afterwards at a restaurant). Or maybe for your holiday party/gift exchange, you’ll decide to meet at the botanical gardens or museum, adding an a special air to your usual book club gathering. Or maybe your book club is having an anniversary, or someone is getting married, or you just want to treat yourselves to something special for your birthdays — in that case, can I suggest planning a custom Outdoor Book Club trip (I do all the work, you just show up and be awesome)?
Sending the invite
Once you’ve got a good idea of a time, place and meeting length that works for everyone in the group, it’s time to send the official invitation.
As I’ve already mentioned, make sure you give people plenty of time to put the meeting on their calendars. Two weeks is good, but a month is even better.
Make sure the email lays out all the details, in writing, that gives everyone all the information they need to get to the book club on time. There’s a template for doing this in my book "How to Start a Book Club That Changes the World" if you need some inspiration, but basically start with passion and excitement, be clear about your agreed-upon expectations and end with a warm, personal touch that let’s everyone know how happy you are that they’re part of this amazing little group.
Want a convienent, clearly written guide that gives you everything you need to know to plan an awesome book club? Buy my ebook on Amazon, How to Start a Book Club That Changes The World.
Jill Hinton Wolfe,
I support my family and women via my blog, which is why I often use affiliate links. If that's an issue, you can go directly to the websites themselves to buy and I will never know. 2) You can trust my recommendations — I won't sell out to make a fast buck. 3) Early on I appreciated when trusted experts pointed me in the right direction. 4) If you like & want to support my work, then you'll help give others the resources they need to live a brave, authentic life.