Book Club: “Endurance”

admin | October 11, 2011 in Endurance,WordSmatter | Comments (6)

At the time, book clubs were completely foreign to me. I had never been a part of one, didn’t know anyone that belonged to one, and I’d never been hit over the head with one. If anyone I knew had secretly been a member of some clandestine literary collective…they had remained faithfully discreet.

The first rule of Book Club is – you do not talk about Book Club.

I am a reader, though, and I was curious. What do they eat? Where do they meet? If two members find themselves in heated combat over an autographed edition from Oprah’s Book Club, who gets the novel…uh…novel?

The opportunity to discover the feeding…or rather…the reading habits of a local group presented itself through an advertisement in the local paper. There would be a gathering at a nearby bookstore in just a few days. The group would be discussing that month’s selection, Endurance by Alfred Lansing.

I knew the book well. It’s a favorite of mine. Cool. I wouldn’t have to study, and I could participate if need be. The perfect opportunity to explore the group’s inner workings, without painting myself as an outsider.

Endurance seemed an odd choice for a book club to me. I had just assumed the group would be primarily women, and I thought this was more of a “guy’s” book. It chronicles the survival story of twenty-eight men on a doomed expedition to Antarctica in 1914 – a remarkable story.

Losing their ship to crushing glaciers. Waking in the middle of the night as cracks run through the ice supporting their tents in sub-zero temperatures. Fighting through ravaging hunger as they sought their next meal in seemingly barren wastelands.

What enabled these men to carry on in such dire circumstances? How did their leader, Ernest Shackleton, inspire his men to follow him in potentially hopeless situations? From where did they gain the fortitude to carry on, reaching new heights of cooperation as they left no man behind?

Lots of testosterone. Didn’t seem like the cup of tea a group of women would order. “Or maybe,” I thought, “I’m just wrong and it won’t be all women.”

Well, it wasn’t all women. Because I was there. But they had each read the book, and most were especially impacted by the tremendous heart and fortitude the men in this true account displayed as they persevered through unbelievable circumstances. This book, written from the diaries of the explorers themselves, had been chosen specifically and deliberately, and it had made an impression.

One woman in particular was held in awe by a revelation. “They never really talk about getting sick in the book,” she said. “Not a cold or anything. Do you think that’s because, since it was so cold, that there aren’t any germs or anything up there to make them sick?”

I just closed my eyes and hung my head. I suppose it’s possible. Or maybe it’s because, I don’t know, because after fighting through hunger and despair and fear and triumph…they didn’t stop to write about having the sniffles in their diaries.

“Dear Diary: still hungry. No food. The ship is gone and we are alone, left to wander and wonder when, if ever, we’ll get home. On top of that, if you can believe, my nose is kinda runny. And then, that new sailor we hired at the last minute has the same fur-lined boots as me? I’m, like, so mad at him. And that jacket? SO last season.”

Club me now.

6 Responses to “Book Club: “Endurance””

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  1. Comment by Stacy — October 12, 2011 at 4:19 pm  

    Like OMG! Too funny!!! I can just see the look on your or any man’s face at that comment!! Ha! Such a riveting story of survival at its max, and then the wonder of why no mention of icky germs and for even the hint of nasty mucus! Lol!

  2. Comment by Vince FuessOctober 12, 2011 at 4:35 pm  

    That’s great, Jeff! I’m still laughing…man, I SO know the feeling! Being a somewhat “touchy and feely” kinda guy, as much as any card carrying heterosexual can be, I have attended a few book club meetings and came away exasperated as you did by the things the female mind can pull out of a page of script…sometimes profound, and sometimes WTF?!?

    I have found their unique perspective to be the very element that makes such groups interesting, though.

    Thanks for the laugh, and good luck on your next try; maybe it will be a book you can all agree on like “Cookies, Love, and Mario!”

    Take care man!

  3. Comment by AdrianOctober 12, 2011 at 4:38 pm  

    Hi Jeff,
    I half giggled reading this blog. All while thinking I have failed you in some way!! On behalf of book author’s every where I feel the need to apologize to you this was your first experience with book clubs!
    If you would like to learn more about book clubs. I would be honored to hit you over the head with tons of resources and information! Just let me know if you need it.

    Adrian =)

  4. Comment by Christine — October 12, 2011 at 5:30 pm  


    This blog made me smile & laugh. And I needed to read something with humor, after getting “bonked” in the head three times today with a soccer ball, smacked by a nylon rope, and kicked in the shin by a child “missing the ball.” (The hazards of being a PE Teacher!)

    Anyway, may I recommend a very good book to you? It’s called “The Help,” written by Kathyrn Stockett. It was on the New York Times Best Sellers List in 2009. Maybe you’ve heard of it? And presently there is a movie out by the same name. I have not seen the movie, so can’t compare the two.

    I think you will enjoy this fictional story, set in the Civil Rights times of the 60’s. I know that I was a child during the 60’s, and this book opened up my eyes to all that went on during those turbulent times. I like to learn from my reads; and this book was educational, humorous, and gracefully written.

    As far as book clubs go, they’re ok…but I just like reading a book and forming my own opinions. Then, if I like the book, I’ll just recommend it to someone…. like you!

  5. Comment by Jaycee — October 13, 2011 at 12:16 am  

    Hello Mr.McMahon,

    I have never been to a book club before and don’t know much about them, either. Thank you for sharing your experience at one. Have you been to any other ones since? Check out “The Deadliest Catch: Desperate Hours” & “The Endurance Paradox!” Don’t forget I have a really cool book for you! You just need to tell me how I can get it to you..

    I have some questions about Team McGraw. I couldn’t find the answers to them on their web site. If I email can you answer them for me?



  6. Comment by Liz Weed — October 13, 2011 at 10:03 am  

    I just joined a book club myself. And while I was hoping it would be intellectually stimulating, given it was nonfiction only books, I must admit my own frustration. We do follow a list of questions and some insights are good – (we just reviewed “Unbroken” and I loved it!) – but when it came time to pick the next selection, half the group voted based on the number of pages a book had! I was like “What?” So I am reading the one that appeared to be much more interesting yet longer. But I met some great running companions via my new found book club, so it’s not a total wash.

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