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Rules of Civility by Amor Towles


Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
Katey and Eve, two young and attractive professional women from very different backgrounds, are boarding house roommates in New York City.  On New Years Eve 1937, they have a chance encounter with the intriguing and wealthy Tinker Grey at a Greenwich Village Jazz club.  This encounter impacts the girls’ lives, especially Katey’s, in unexpected ways.
Rules of Civility is told in reminiscence by the middle-aged Katey after she sees photographs of Tinker in an art show exhibit in the 1960’s.

Book Club Party Ideas for Rules of Civility

Dress-up in 1930’s retro chic and since Katey and Eve met Tinker at a Jazz club on New Years Eve, have some Jazz Classics Of The 1930s playing.   You can pull out all-stops with New Years Eve decorations available at to add to the atmosphere.

It would be loads of fun to play the game Katey, Tinker and Eve played at the ’21’ Club.  Here are the questions Katey, Tinker and Eve answered.   I would love to hear how my book club members would answer these questions.

  • What were you afraid of when you were a kid?
  • What did you always want that your parents never gave you?
  • If you could be anyone for a day, who would it be?
  • If you could relive one year in your life, which would it be?

Although, Katey and Tinker gave great answers, Eve’s answers could not be topped!


Book Club Menu for Rules of Civility

Katey was introduced to high society cuisine and atmosphere when Tinker took her and Eve to the ’21’ Club.  Below are two great cookbooks to use for inspiration for your high society New York menu.  Actually, the ingredients in the recipes that I had adapted from authentic ’21’ Club and Waldorf=Astoria recipes are readily available and inexpensive.  The recipes are also a snap to prepare.

Crab Patties Recipe

Crab Patties
Waldorf=Astoria Red Velvet Cake Recipe

Waldorf=Astoria Red Velvet Cake

More ’21’ Club recipes can also be found at

You can always throw in a plate of oysters to nosh on as you and your guests enjoy your crisp martinis.

The three friends drank gallons of martinis in Rules of Civility, but my favorite description of the drink comes from Katey when Tinker took the girls to the ’21’ Club.

“… three empty glasses arrived.  Each had a trio of olives skewered on a pin that was propped on the rim of the glass like on oar on the hull of a rowboat …  The liquor was so cold and pure it gave the impression of being more translucent than water.”

Here is Lisa’s Ultimate Dry Martini recipe.

Dry Martini Recipe

Book Club Resources

Ratings at the time this post was published

Goodreads: 4.22 stars (1458 ratings)
Amazon: 4.3 stars (92 ratings)
LibraryThing: 4.34 stars (62 ratings)
My Rating:  4.25 stars  As I read this novel, I felt it had the feel of a Hollywood Golden Age film!  A pretty, smart professional NYC girl (Katey played by Carole Lombard), and her beautiful friend (Eve played by Jean Harlow), hobnob in high society with the debonair and wealthy leading man (Tinker played by Robert Montgomery).  This novel is high glamor, classy, and wonderfully moody.

Discussion Questions for Rules of Civility

  1. What does Katey mean by this statement:  “Right choices are the means by which life crystallizes loss.”
  2. What did you think of Eve’s and Tinker’s relationship?  What were the forces that kept them together?
  3. What did you think of Tinker trying to live his life through George Washington’s Rules of Civility, nicely listed at the end of the story?  Did he succeed?
  4. What did you feel toward Tinker when the nature of his relationship with Anne Grandin was revealed.  Did you feel Katey was guilty of compromising herself as well?  Explain.
  5. What did you think of the unconventional Anne Grandin?


Purchase Rules of Civility by Amor Towles at your favorite bookseller

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The Author

Amor Towles, born in 1964, grew up in Boston, Massachusetts. He graduated from Yale College and earned an M.A. in English from Stanford University. He currently resides in Manhattan with his wife and two children.  Rules of Civility is Towles’ first novel.

Recommended Reading

I love when reading leads to more reading.

Tinker’s touchstone was George Washington’s Rules of Civility; Katey introduced Tinker to Thoreau’s Walden; and Katey loved to lose herself in Agatha Christie’s Poirot mysteries.

Favorite Quotes from Amor Towles in Rules of Civility

“Right from the first, I could see a calmness in you – that sort of inner tranquility that they write about in books, but that almost no one seems to possess. I was wondering to myself: How does she do that? And I figured it could only come from having no regrets – from having made choices with …. such poise and purpose.”

“…be careful when choosing what you’re proud of  — because the world has every intention of using it against you.”

“Most people have more needs than wants. That’s why they live the lives they do. But the world is run by those whose wants outstrip their needs.”

Copyright © 2015 All Rights Reserved.

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Share your thoughts. We love your comments!

  1. Oh yeah. This is one awesome book, and guess what? They are turning it into a movie! Have you guys ever done “Beautiful Ruins” by Jess Walter? It begins in the early 1960’s (specifically 1962) in Italy during the filming of the movie “Cleopatra”, and the filmmaking world in the modern day. It’s beautifully written, and you will easily find a character that you consider to be your favorite in there.

    Comment by Flannery on November 9, 2015 at 8:38 pm

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