Go Set a Watchman
Harper Lee
September 8th Republic, 7pm


The Secret History
Donna Tartt
October 6th The Happy Gnome, 6:15pm
October 13th Republic, 7pm

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  • A review of The Mental Game of Poker

    March 21, 2014

     If you play poker on a regular basis at an online casino, or anywhere else, you may be interested in a book by Jared Tendler and Barry Carter entitled The Mental Game of Poker.

    Of course books that tell you they will turn you into a poker prince, instead of plonker, are not exactly thin on the ground – and many of them are tosh. However there are some aspects of The Mental Game of Poker (and Tendler) that help to separate them out from competitors in this field. So what makes this book more worth your while than other poker self-help volumes.

    Well for one thing Tendler has the experience to back up his claims to be able to improve your psychological skills at the table whether its online at a casino like Lucky Nugget or with your friends in the comfort of your home or at a casino in Las Vegas. He started out in golf, where he was both a player and a psychology-based coach, and he doesn’t seem to have been any slouch at improving the games of professionals. It was in 2007 that he decided to focus his attentions on poker instead, and The Mental Game of Poker was the first result of this – covering key areas of psychology and game-play like motivation, confidence, emotion, logic, tilt, and risk aversion. Of course not all of the issues covered will feel relevant to you, but one of the strengths of the book is that it lets you get quickly to the areas which are.

    Once you have read the first four chapters, which give you an overview and present the author’s three psychological models, you can move to the parts of the book that will help you improve your game. This, together with the way it provides poker game case studies to back up Tendler’s ideas, make what could have been a very hard-going read into something much more interesting and enjoyable. It will still probably be rather too much for people who just play the occasional game with friends, but for real-world or online casino regulars who want to maximise their chances at the poker tables, The Mental Game of Poker should have something to help them achieve that aim.

    by Nick Allen


    Interview with The Things They Carried playwright Jim Stowell

    March 19, 2014

    An informal Q&A between Jeff Kamin and playwright Jim Stowell (The Things They Carried):

    1. How did you decide what to edit/cut?

    To start with I thought about how to change the book into a play. A play needs people talking and cannot live very long in the narrative voice. A play needs something happening and someone going through changes. A play needs characters you can care about. Otherwise who cares what happens to them?

    I came up with what I considered six must have stories.
    The Things They Carried
    On the Rainy River
    The Man I Killed
    In the Field
    Field trip
    The Lives of the Dead

    I ended up cutting all but one small part of The Lives of the Dead. I replaced it with Spin. I felt at that point in the play where Spin is placed the audience need a break. I knew what was coming next was going to be tough.

    But, there were writing-script problems with Lives of the Dead as well. It is the kind of story that only worked at the end of the script. Through a long process–a couple of years–I came to feel this story was telling the auidence what to feel. That is a bad thing. I felt the story was, as we say in theater, pointing. I love this story. But what is best for the play? That is my basic question about evrything.

    The remaining five stories are all what I call, “Timcentric.” The play is about Tim. I knew I wanted to focus on Tim. These five stories take up almost all the time I have as a playwright. I get at most 120 minutes. That is the outer limits of audience time. This play is 104 minutes and a few seconds. 52 minutes and some seconds per act.

    So I have say, 105 minutes total to tell the story. Right away you know the vast majority of the book is not going to be in the play.

    The five stories have movement. Young Tim before the war. Tim new to the war. Tim kills a man. His best friend  dies and he belives it is his fault. He returns to the scene and performs a ceremony. And the ceremony works. It is after the ceremony Tim says that he has resurfaced after two decades. And Tim says, “No. All that’s finished.”

    2. Did you have contact with Tim O’Brien about it?

    I did not. This November I met him in Chicago where he was receiving a major award. We had a short talk. Mostly I pitched the script while trying to look like I was not pitching my script. He took a copy and read it. He emailed me and said he liked it and now his job was to stand on the sideline and cheer me on. Writing books and plays two different things he said.

    He is completly hands off. But we are in contact through email. I sent him notice of the opening and he got right back to me wishing me luck.

    3. What would you cite as a major difference in your adaptation from the book?

    The detail. All the other stories. These other stories give great depth and context to what is happening to/with Tim. But, simply no time. So, that is a very big difference.

    In theater you/audience get the book in one go. Reading the book if something is getting a little too strong for you, you can put down the book. Not in a play. And a play has the human voice. The human voice is huge difference.

    4. Is your Tim character meant to be a writer telling fictional stories in the play or is it just a fictional play and not about a book?

    It’s more like he is Tim the writer going over a near final draft of his book.

    I write by talking out loud. I edit out loud and write it down. I act out everything so this way of telling mixed with writing is natural for me. But I did not start with this in mind. In the script there is a break at the end of each story for a total of six breaks with a lights and music change. In fact, the script reads at those points–[Pause. Tim moves. Music.]–Nothng about writing. It was a last minute idea. I have no idea how Tim O’Brien writes.

    5.  What have you carried and did you release anything writing the adaptation? 

    What did I release? A lot. I have written 24 play. Counting TTTC I have written twelve one-man plays. I wrote and performed eleven of them. This is the first time I have not acted the role. I gave that up. I have written and directed twelve full cast plays and I directed eleven of them. So, I have always–by always I mean close to 50 years of doing live theater–I have always either written and directed or written and performed. This time I gave up both of those roles in the same play and was only the writer.

    6. Can you speak to the story truth vs happening truth idea?

    Story truth truer than happening truth. That describes my writing. That describes theater. Story truth is truer than happening truth in the theater. Years ago, before I had ever read Tim’s book, I used to teach a workshop and tell the story from a play about a trip I took to Brazil. Then I told the story of what happened.
    Over the years when people would ask me if the stories I told in my one-man plays were true I would ask, “Did you beleive it?”

    As a young actor one day a scary director yelled at me, “Oh for Christ sake stop Acting” I didn’t know what to do. I was onstage rehearsing a play. I thought I was suppose to be acting. But now I had to stop. So, I kind of turned to glop. Within seconds the director yelled, “Oh for Christ sake, ACT!” I thought my brain was going to explode. Within a year I knew just what the director meant. So, the apparent illogical, backwards thinking of saying, “Story truth can be truer than real, happening truth” makes clear sense to me.

    Tim says, “…You start sometimes with an incident that truly happened, like the night in the shit field, and you carry it forward by inventing incidents that did not in fact occur but that nonetheless help to clarify and explain.”

    Usually the stuff you invent/imagine is part of an idea the writer has about why they are telling this story. Some idea, something, that is driving/pushing the writer. The ”inventing” part is also part instinct and part surprise to the writer. As a writer you often know where you are going but have no idea where you are.

    7.  What did you learn adapting The Things They Carried for the stage?

    I learned a lot about writing from Tim O’Brien. I learned a skill for my work. How to adapt a book for the stage. This part of the learning is very important to me.  I love writing. Learning from Tim has been a joyful process. Theater is my work and my life. I love theater so learning a new skill is also a joyful process. Difficult, yes. This story and this script means spending hundreds of hours with the guys in the book. I had to see all the images in the book many, many times. I had to go through the emotions in the book. To the best of my abilities. But that is a part of my work.

    Working on a story like this one is truly a journey into the soul of man. So, it follows that it becomes a journey into my soul. Working on a story like this one is why I keep doing theater.

    Thanks for coming to the play. And please thank everyone who came from me.

    The Things They Carried was our March 2014 pick for Books & Bars to coincide with the debut play which runs at The History Theatre through April 6.


    Embracing eBooks

    January 15, 2014

    I was against the eBook thing at first and still haven’t read a full book on a tablet or phone. That said, I am absolutely enthralled with reading comic books or graphic novels on my iPad Air.  I was hesitant to lug around my expense new Air till I got the Snugg case. And this case makes it perfect for watching videos whilst in bed. It’s sturdy, but light weight and still stylish. The strap makes it much easier to multitask, too. You can’t beat it for the cost. Wish I waited before trying a more expensive case that had less features. I love being able to prop up the iPad in horizontal, vertical or a lower typing height. I have not taken my iPad Air out of the Snugg since I got it. So don’t be surprised if I start reading my book club picks on the iPad and working my shows with a mic in one hand and the Snugg strapped iPad Air in the other. 



    January 1, 2013


    1st Tue  - Amsterdam Bar, St Paul (spring/summer)

    Happy Gnome, St. Paul 6:15pm (fall/winter 1st Tuesdays)
    2nd Tue – Republic – Calhoun Square, Minneapolis 7pm 





    Book Swap in December

    November 26, 2012

    Book swapping

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Book swapping or book exchange is the practice of a swap of books between one person and another. Practiced among book groups, friends and colleagues at work, it provides an inexpensive way for people to exchange books, find out about new books and obtain a new book to read without having to pay. Because swaps occur between individuals, without central distribution or warehousing, and without the copyright owner making a profit, the practice has been compared to peer-to-peer (P2P) systems such as BitTorrent[1] – except that hard-copy original analog objects are exchanged.


    Sounds good. Let’s bring books to swap to all our December meetings. I’ll have at least 5 trades at each show. Impress me by bringing Thousand Autumns by David Mitchell or others on my wish list.

    I’ll think we’ll bring our books up to the stage during the pre-show social happy hour and leave with new books.

    Should be fun and free. Thanks.

    The School II Friends of the Saint Paul Library
    Republic Magers and Quinn Amsterdam Bar & Hall