Monday, December 27, 2010

High Tea and Books at the Peninsula Hotel

"There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea" -- Henry James


I love going to high tea during the holiday season.  The Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills has a great one.  The hotel is decked out in its holiday finery and tea is served in the "Living Room." My book club goes there for tea every December to celebrate the holidays, and so our libations are combined with lively conversation of every sort, but mainly about the books we read the previous year.  It's always a festive occasion.  We dress up; the harpist is playing; we start with champagne and strawberries, and everyone is in a heightened state of happiness.

Book clubs are truly a phenomenon at this point.  Almost everyone I know is in one, some have a leader or facilitator, others do it on their own.  I have been a member of a book group ever since studying English literature at UCLA.  I just couldn't give up talking about books.
This group was formed by myself and my friend Caren, out of a group of women at my daughters' school who wanted to meet on a regular basis to talk about books.  This is a dynamic group of women who love to read.  We have been meeting for 16 years.  Each month someone chooses a book and comes to the meeting prepared with discussion topics and background material on the author.  We read classic and contemporary fiction, as well as biographies, memoirs, and other non-fiction.

This year we read an eclectic group of books.  Here is our list:

The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Sentimental Education by Gustave Flaubert
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Tattoos on the Heart by Greg Boyle
The Chamber by John Grisham
This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann 

I am always so impressed by our reading list when I see the it each year.

At our December tea we vote on our favorite book of the year. This year the winner was "The Help."  I  liked that one,  though my favorites were "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society,"  "Let the Great World Spin," and "Wolf Hall."  



For our December selection we tried something new this year.  Each member read a book of her own choosing, and then told the group about it, in the hopes of inspiring everyone with some new book choices for the upcoming year.   We all gave a little review of the book we read, and there were two that I was most intrigued with and would like to read: Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff
The Red and the Black by Stendahl.  


I would love to hear what your book club read this year, your favorite book, and what your group does to celebrate the holidays.


  1. What a great year in books!! I read a short story by Colum McCann years ago and it has really stuck with me so am REALLY interested by that book.

    My book club is new, but we read Heartburn & The Cookbook Collector. Both were great for very different reasons. And after reading this post, I think we need to start planning for a holiday meet-up next year...

  2. What a beautiful blog, I am so glad to have come across it.

  3. Unfortunately I don't belong to a book club but that's probably for the best since I'm a fervent reader and a club may slow me down. I'm currently looking forward to Must You Go on your recommendation. I'm currently plowing through Keith Richards' autobiography which is fairly substantial. One of the more enjoyable reads this year was Sophie Dahl's Voluptuous Delights. I know what you're thinking, "Isn't that a cookbook?" It is, but it's also a wonderful food memoir as well.

  4. I agree with you about Sophie Dahl's" Voluptuous Delights," it's so much more than a cookbook. I love the cozy ambiance she creates in that book. I received "Must you Go" for Christmas and can't wait to start it. But one I just finished and loved is "The Gate at the Stairs" by Lorrie Moore. Really powerful and beautifully written. Happy reading.

  5. Can't wait to do a holiday book club event next year! Loved reading Heartburn and Cookbook Collectors for ours. I'm a new book club convert and I love any excuse to get together with my girlfriends and talk all night while drinking wine and eating delicious food (last time we ordered Mozza2Go)! xoxo mommy. love you.

  6. I read A Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh once a year, a wonderful book at this time in my life.

  7. Sunday, I've just found your blog and as you can see I'm, reading backwards. My two books groups are amongst the high spots of my social life and Bookworms, at least, has some great traditions, including our annual day long meeting when we first come back together after the summer break. We meet first thing on the second Sunday in September and talk about the book we've read before lunch. We then share a plate lunch to which we've all contributed, hopefully in the garden to get the last of the summer sun, before seeing the film of the book in the afternoon. Over tea we then pull the film to pieces (it's a rare thing to find a film we think has done the book justice). We all look forward to this immensely. However, we have never thought about a shared Christmas High Tea or Afternoon Tea as your opening spread would be called in the UK. I think this is a magnificent idea and I'm already thinking of how I might bring this about and where we might go. Thank you for the inspiration.