Wednesday, July 31, 2013

To Book Club or Not to Book Club

I’ve never been a fan of the book club for one very good reason – I like to read what I want to read when I want to read it.  I’m kind of stubborn that way.  Perhaps it’s because I was an English major in college and then pursued a master’s in English Education.  The last thing I wanted in life was someone telling me what to read, when it was due, and to have some profound opinions about it justified by textual evidence and the author’s overall thesis.

And there were other reasons…what if everyone hated the book I choose?  Or there was some know-it-all literary blowhard who dominated the conversation?  Or I didn’t like the wine.  Or worse – what if they didn’t serve wine!?!?  

That was it.  After all, reading is a solitary pursuit and if I wanted to read the latest James Patterson in lieu of Pride and Prejudice, then that was my prerogative.  I didn't need to defend my literary choices.  Because frankly, they don’t always deserve defending.  (Secret Alert: I love the occasional detritus diversion as much as the next person!)  Problem solved - I was, am, and always will be anti-book club!  Until recently…

I picked up Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and devoured it.  It was a punch to the gut and I needed to talk to someone about it.  I wanted to pour over the discussion questions.  I wanted to revisit, discuss, and analyze this juicy, twisted marriage.  Nick and Amy were delicious characters that merited conversation.  Help!  I needed a book club and fast!  So after some looking around, I found one.  And I love my book club.  Here’s why…it’s a stress free zone for five simple reasons.

*We meet regularly while allowing enough time to actually finish the book.  Every six weeks is perfect.  Life is complicated and busy so we don’t persecute those who don’t finish.  It happens.  M.W.D.H. (Members Who Don’t Read) can still add to the discussion and stimulate conversation.

*We have enough members to make it interesting yet intimate.  Eight to ten is ideal and demographic diversity allows for richer discussion.  Mix it up with age, sex, experience, marital status, etc.  

*Book Choices – We take turns choosing the books.  It’s democratic and allows members the opportunity to read a variety of authors while being introduced to new ones.

*Hosting duties should be rotated and stress-free.  You don’t need to be Martha Stewart to pull off a successful book club.  Snacks and beverages should be yum but simple.  Note: It’s okay to serve store bought items if baking isn’t your bag.

*Assign/rotate the discussion leader role to those who feel comfortable acting in this capacity.  Some people don’t feel comfortable leading the discussion, and that’s okay.  Book club shouldn’t feel like a graduate course.      

You can’t beat a good read and good friends!  A book club is one of the best ways to converge these two treasures and rekindle your literary spirit.  Whether your book club likes romance, science fiction, or the latest crowd-pleaser – attend regularly, read, and participate with gusto!  After all, books and people who relish them allow our worlds to grow larger and our problems smaller.  A book club can open the door to new friendships and fresh ideas – so proceed with caution.  Remember what Louis May Alcott said, “She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain.”

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