Guest Post: In Praise of Book Clubs, Vol. 18

In this 18th volume of In Praise of Book Clubs, we hear from Shana of Trenton Reads and Literarily about her book club addiction!

I am a book club addict. Could I live without my book club? Of course. Would I want to? No! Being part of a book club enriches my life in a big way. In terms of hobbies, it ranks right up there with running and eating chocolate, which anyone who knows me well will tell you – that’s sayin’ something! I’ve enjoyed Lisa’s In Praise of Book Clubs series, eagerly awaiting new installments. It reminds me of how fortunate I am to have friends who read, and has made me think about my past and current book clubs and what I enjoyed about each one.

MY FIRST BOOK CLUB: My first experience was in a bookstore book club. Because it was officially a British book club, we read books that were written by British authors, or set in Great Britain. Many of the members were from England and I fell in love with their beautiful accents and sharp, witty senses of humor.

I discovered some great authors, too – P.D. James, Bill Bryson, Ken Follett. One of the books we read – The Quality of Mercy by Faye Kellerman – remains one of my top 10 favorites of all time. I remember calling in sick to work one day and lying in bed reading until I finished that book. (I was 28 and it was the first time I’d ever called in sick – that’s not so bad is it?).

MY SECOND BOOK CLUB: An out-of-state move meant I had to say good-bye to my British book club. I went almost two years without belonging to a group. When we moved again, my new friend Sheila invited me to join her book club. I was elated, to say the least.

I still remember the first book I read with this group: The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards. The group has been meeting nine years so it has a very established feel. In the three years I’ve been a part of it, we’ve read a wide variety of books, but most tend toward the contemporary fiction genre. The books are chosen one month in advance and although we used to meet in a different member’s house each month, we now gravitate toward local restaurants. The appeal of restaurants versus homes is that no one needs to clean their house, prepare food, or worry about getting rid of their husband and kids for a few hours.

One of my favorite discussions was the one for Whistling in the Dark by Lesley Kagen. Everyone adored the book. We spoke with the author on speaker phone, and had the opportunity to ask her questions about the book, her writing process, etc. She was so interesting to talk with –very open and honest about her experiences as a writer – and we learned so much about what it takes to write a novel and get it published. We’re anxiously awaiting the release of her next book, Land of a Hundred Wonders.

MY THIRD BOOK CLUB: As if one book group was not enough, two friends and I recently started a second group. Why, you may ask (and believe me, my husband did ask – several times!), did I decide to do this? First, since the other group was large and so well-established, I felt uncomfortable inviting people. But, since I talk about books and my book clubs to anyone who will listen, people often responded with a wistful comment that they too would like to be part of a book club. The new club is small and in its infancy, so we’re open to any book lover who wants to join.

The new group always meets in restaurants, for reasons mentioned above. We always use a discussion guide. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the amount of information available to book clubs online. Readinggroupguides.com has hundreds of discussion guides and failing that, we can often find a guide on the publisher’s website. Using a guide with questions really helps to keep the discussion on track. We usually order our meal, eat, chat about books and what is going on in our lives, then turn to the questions which inspire anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour of discussion.

Our first book was a modern classic – A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum was a favorite, and again, we are anxiously awaiting the next offering from this author. This month we will be discussing Perfect Match by Jodi Picoult and our August book is the newest release by Elizabeth Brundage, Somebody Else’s Daughter, which we decided to read after enjoying The Doctor’s Wife several months ago. We recently started choosing books three months at a time, which works well. It gives everyone a little extra time to find and read the book.

My family and I recently spent the 4th of July weekend in Nebraska with my in-laws, who hosted a dinner party in celebration of the holiday. Most of the women at the party were avid readers and we had a great discussion about books. Not surprisingly, I’ve nearly convinced my mother-in-law and her friends to start a book club in their hometown. Just call me the book club evangelist.

Blogger Bio:  A stay-at-home mom of three, Shana is addicted to books, running and chocolate.  She moved back to her very small Midwestern hometown (population: 6,500) four years ago and those addictions have saved her sanity on many an occasion.  Escaping into the pages of a good book, pounding the pavement for an hour or so while listening to an audio book on her iPod (there’s that book thing again), and indulging in her favorite dark chocolate are wonderful respites from the sometimes tedious nature of small town life. 

Shana has a degree in accounting and spent several years working in finance before jumping off the corporate ladder to be home with her children.  She is considering an English/secondary education degree because she would rather pick lint off the carpet than work in corporate finance again.  In the meantime, she blogs about her reading adventures at Literarily.

***Would you like to share about your book club here at Books on the Brain? If so, leave a comment and I will get in touch with you about a guest post!

For previous volumes of In Praise of Book Clubs, click HERE

For more info on starting your own book club, click HERE

For fun ways to make your book club better, click HERE

For a chance to win The Safety of Secrets by DeLaune Michel, click HERE

5 Responses

  1. I’d like to convince my book club to meet at restaurants, even if it’s only for coffee and dessert. I hate worrying about cleaning and bothering the little ones as they try to sleep!

  2. i really need to find a book club. seriously. it’s pathetic…i read tons of books without ever discussing them. 😦 i am going to work on this.

  3. Great post! My group meets at a restaurant for special occasions but we are hosted by the library so we often feel obligated to meet there.

    I can also see why you started that second group. What I want to know if how you manage to read so much with three kids! I have two and it’s hard to get it all in sometimes.

  4. Brava. I love this feature! Thanks for sharing your book club experiences, Shana. I still belong to my first book club, which I joined four years ago. This club, though, is established and somewhat limited in its tastes. I started a second, small book club with two friends six months ago and it floundered. I hope your new book club meets with more success.

  5. Nicole, those are pretty much the same reasons we choose to meet in restaurants!

    Curly … , good luck finding a book club! I think you’ll find it’s worth the effort of seeking one out.

    Ti, I read when I should be sleeping!

    Jessica, the second group is running at four to five consistent members, though we’ve had more a few months. The conversation is just as good, if not better, with the smaller group. Thanks for the well wishes – I hope it continues to succeed too!

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