For the second semester in a row, my friend Tram and I led an Honor’s College Reading Group. After And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini, which we chose for our first reading group this past Fall, we decided to go with a decidedly more dated work of fiction: Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Tram and I were not complete strangers to Agatha Christie’s writings, but neither of us had heard of this particular novel, despite its well-deserved reputation as one of her best. We chose Roger Ackroyd from her vast catalogue of published works after reading a handful of the overwhelmingly favorable Amazon reviews, and it did not disappoint. Agatha Christie was an incredibly prolific author; according to the inside cover, only the Bible has sold more copies than Ms. Christie, the original mystery writer. To our pleasant surprise, Christie proved a popular pick, and our reading group filled up in a matter of weeks, with a short waitlist to boot. Of course, a few of our members would never show up to claim their copy, and attrition would take its toll as the semester dragged on, which may have been exacerbated by scheduling; we attempted to stretch a 312 page book to fill an entire semester. The bite-sized portions that this created were appealing at first, but we quickly realized that mystery novels are not designed for such piecemeal consumption. Consequently, a few of our weekly meetings adjourned early because we simply ran out of things to talk about. You live and you learn.
Tram and I once again spearheaded a weekly bribery scheme in an effort to retain our book club members, to varying levels of success. We made a concerted effort to provide some sort of sugar-loaded baked good each week; the highlight of the semester was the blackberry pie, courtesy of a generous guest celebrity chef who goes by Sojeph. I’m ashamed to admit that more than half of the baked delights this past semester were purchased, not handmade, but we made a good-faith effort to provide for our book clubbers and sometimes the bargain cookies from Baked Bear were our only option. I’m not sure if any of our attendees made it to every meeting (although I’m fairly certain that I did), but some of the most consistent also happened to be big Agatha Christie fans. I owe them my gratitude for entertaining our wildly off-base theories as we tried to predict the outcome of the mystery at every meeting, and for not ruining the shocking conclusion that left most everyone reeling. The aforementioned individuals were also very helpful when we didn’t understand Christie’s references to characters or happenings in her other books, which few of us had read.
Through the ups and downs of the semester, an Honor’s College Reading Group provides a refreshing break from the mundane, and Tram and I are currently discussing our next selection, coming Fall 2018. I don’t yet know what we’ll be reading, but I would love to have you along for the ride!