Monday, April 25, 2011

Prairie Lights getting into the book club business

Originally printed March 8, 2011.

Although Prairie Lights Books has been in business for nearly three decades, the store's first official book club meeting kicks off at 7 p.m. today.

"We've had a lot of book clubs bring their meetings here before," said Paul Ingram, longtime bookbuyer for Prairie Lights, "but we've never had one in which we choose the books and set the discussion."

And anyone who enjoyed the recent Coen Brothers remake of "True Grit" will be interested in today's discussion. To begin what he hopes to be a monthly event, Ingram has chosen to talk about Charles Portis' 1979 novel "The Dog of the South."

"It's one of the funniest books I've ever read," Ingram said. "I wanted to start off with one of that was funny."

Although not as well known as Portis' 1968 novel "True Grit" -- the novel on which both the 1969 and 2010 films were based -- "The Dog of the South" received an even better critical reception when first published. And thankfully the success of the Coen Brothers' film has brought all of Portis' other novels -- "Norwood" (1966), "Masters of Atlantis" (1985), and "Gringos" (1991) -- back into print.

Although Ingram hopes "The Dog of the South" sets the right tone for future discussions, he said he will strive for a wide variety of books and topics.

"I'm going to be choosing books that I believe are absolutely fascinating yet seldom read," Ingram said. "They'll only be books that I have a strong, emotional feeling about one way or another."

Although the book club officially bears his name, Ingram said the one thing he won't do is dominate the discussion. Because he'll choose books that largely speak for themselves, he hopes that all he'll need to do is provide a short introduction for the session and then get out the way as people begin to talk.

For information about the Paul Ingram Book Club -- which the bookstore's website describes as being "named after our buyer's ego" -- visit

Press-Citizen Opinion editor Jeff Charis-Carlson can be contacted at or 319-887-5435.

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