Have you ever been a member of a book club? How did your group choose (or, if you haven’t been, what do you think is the best way to choose) the next book and who would lead discussion?
Do you feel more or less likely to appreciate books if you are obliged to read them for book groups rather than choosing them of your own free will? Does knowing they are going to be read as part of a group affect the reading experience?
Why yes indeed I am currently a member of a book club! And Books on the Brain is ALL about book clubs, so this question is right up my alley.
This is the second club I’ve been in. The first club was very different from the one I’m in today.
There were 6 of us and we would meet every other month. The books were selected on a rotation, and we had no ‘rules’, so many times people picked a brand new bestseller that was only available in hardback. Other times a 900 page tome would be picked. One member always picked these off the wall titles that everyone hated.
Responsible, committed clubber that I am, I would read whatever book was selected, then I’d get to the meetings and find half the members didn’t read the book. So when it came time to discuss it, they’d say, “Oh, don’t tell me what happens! I haven’t finished the book yet!” How do you have a discussion if you can’t talk about what happens in the book??? Four of the six members worked together (I was not one of them) so they would go off on a tangent about something at work, leaving the other 2 of us bored and scratching our heads. After less than a year I’d had enough of this group.
I started my own group in March 2007 and it has been a wonderful experience. We tried several ways of choosing books before landing on our current way of doing things. Because I learned from my first group, I made a couple loose rules (choices should be under 400 pages, and must be available in paperback). Every quarter, members bring book selections to the meeting. Each person has an opportunity to talk about their “nominees” and then we list all the possible choices. The list is then passed around and everyone puts a check by their top 3. The books with the most votes are the next 3 selections. This has worked out so well.
I am more likely to appreciate a book read for book club than a book I read on my own, for a number of reasons. I feel a responsibility to the other club members to pay more attention to what I’m reading. I am guaranteed to get many different perspectives and reactions to the book from my book club buds and I love that kind of give and take. I research the books we read so I learn more from them. Frequently we speak to the author, which gives us a tremendous amount of insight. I carefully highlight passages and pages to refer back to during our meeting. I think about major themes, characters, structure, and style of writing more analytically than if I was just reading for fun. Being in a club definitely affects the reading experience for me.
What about you? Does clubbing (not the drinking/dancing/staying out all night kind!) affect your reading?
For information about starting your own book club, click HERE.
For ways to make your book club even better, click HERE.
To hear what other bloggers think about their book clubs, check out my series In Praise of Book Clubs. You can find that HERE.