In February we announced that we were starting a book club in our shop because, you know, everyone needs extracurricular activities. And admittedly I've always wanted to have my very own book club. The night it was my mom's turn to host her book club's meeting was also always the one day a year that we were very strictly banished to the upstairs. I always wondered what they were doing down there until I realized that they were just drinking wine and gossiping mostly. I knew that when we decided to have our own book club it'd be different (not that there's anything wrong with a good ol' mom book club, I hope to have one of those some day too).
We're only doing one book every two months so there's plenty of time for members and followers to read at their own pace. Our March/April selection was 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff, a lovely and short exchange of letters. For our second book we're about to get a little more serious. In May/June we'll be reading Census by Jesse Ball, a novel that was just published in March.
Let me just back up for a second a tell a quick story: the summer before my first year of college was also the summer when I learned to really really love reading. I'd always read quite a lot but this was the summer when I started to realize what exactly my taste in books was. When I first arrived in London for school I went to an internet deep dive searching for new books to read and landed on one called Samedi the Deafness, the first book Jesse Ball published. It arrived to my dorm in an Amazon box and I devoured it in two days. Its form was one I'd never seen before in a novel (unconventional, to say the least) and the story felt distant and totally engrossing at the same time. I had never read a book that made me think as much or one that stuck with me for as long as Samedi the Deafness did. I immediately ordered Jesse's other book The Way Through Doors and then patiently waited for more.
Fast forward about 10 years and many more books later and I can still say that Jesse Ball is my favorite contemporary writer. His books always challenge the way I read and surprise me, which is about all I can ask from a good book.
When Census first came out, Alyx (also a big fan) and I went to Books are Magic to see Jesse in conversation and to buy our copies of the book. Having read it already I can tell you that the story is most likely unlike any you've read before and is one that you may not love from the very beginning but do stick with it. It's tremendously rewarding. Census follows the journey of a sick, widowed father and his son who has Down syndrome as they travel an unnamed country as census takers. One of the things that I love about Jesse Ball's stories is that they lack a lot of the details that a reader might usually find necessary but develop in a way that is so thorough and perplexing that you end up accepting the things you don't know, understanding that their absence is part of the story. They're absolutely mind-bending and unforgettable. I won't say any more but if you need the New York Times to also convince you that this book is worth reading, click here.
Some important information:
Our pencil pairing for this selection the MD Paper Products pencil, chosen for its excellent quality and nondescript, minimal look.
We'll be hosting a meet-up for Census on June 27th, so mark your calendar if you're in NYC! We send periodic book club e-mails, if you'd like to be on our list please let us know (firstname.lastname@example.org or DM us on Instagram).