Guest Post: In Praise of Book Clubs, Vol. 6

Heather, from Age 30 – A Year of Books, talks about her Storie delle Sorelle book club in this 6th volume of In Praise of Book Clubs.

When I started my book club back in May of 2005, I had a grand plan in mind: I would gather a group of friends on a bi-weekly basis and together we would delve into the most intriguing books we could find. Everyone would love every book and raise lots of meaningful points during the discussions. 

Well, as we all know, reality does not ever follow our grand plans. In reality, I have a dedicated group of friends who regularly attend meetings. We call ourselves Storie delle Sorelle, Italian for Stories of the Sisters. Rather than bi-weekly (was I crazy?!) we meet about once a month. Everyone does not love every book, but get this…that makes the meetings even better! 

Our most controversial book was What Our Mother’s Didn’t Tell Us: Why Happiness Eludes the Modern Woman by Danielle Crittenden. The point of the book is that the feminist movement actually hurt women in a variety of ways. Boy, did this cause some discussion! Some of the ladies completely agreed with the author’s points while others thought she was loony. One discussion centered on the age-old debate of the working mom vs. the stay-at-home mom — what a touchy subject! Our meeting was intense and needed very little direction from me as the leader. 

One good tip — if your club plans to discuss a “heavy” book, have your meeting in a fun environment. We discussed this book at our annual pool party — it’s hard to get too tense while wearing a bathing suit and drinking lemonade! 

One of our best meetings was for Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. In what seemed like a miracle for our club, everyone really loved this book. For our meeting we dressed in Japanese garb and had Asian food. We even had a special guest bring family heirlooms from WWII occupied Japan and an antique samurai sword. Because we all loved the book, our discussion was rather brief. When it seemed there was no more to say, I brought up the controversy and lawsuits that followed the novel’s publication … then we had a great deal to discuss. That new knowledge made us re-examine the novel with a more critical eye. 

Another great discussion came from Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon. This book is one of my all-time favorites, but with more than 800 pages it was a stretch for my group. To accommodate busy schedules and slower readers we decided to split the book into two meetings. Not everyone liked this book, but everyone got something out of it. Some said they appreciated the strong female characters. One member said reading about the rival kingdoms of King Arthur’s day helped her understand the rivalry and wars between the small kingdoms in the Old Testament. A few were just proud that they had completed such a long and intense book. 

My book club is nothing like what I imagined in my grand plan … in reality it’s a wonderfully eclectic, sometimes stressful but always enjoyable band of “sisters.” Our taste in books varies wildly — as does our reading speed — and we try to accommodate everyone. We found what works for us and our excellent meetings are the evidence. It’s not what I would have imagined, but reality can be better than fiction!

originally published at readinggroupguides.com on March 25th

Blogger Bio:  Heather Johnson and her husband, Chris, will celebrate their 10 year wedding anniversary this year.  They live near Baltimore, Maryland with their one fantastic son, James (age 6) and their big dog, Jasmine (age 9).  Heather founded the Storie delle Sorelle book club in 2005 and started blogging about it – and her other reading adventures – just last year.

***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 a copy of Matrimony by Joshua Henkin, click HERE by May 15th.  Josh would be happy to do an author chat with your book club!

For a chance to win a copy of The Next Thing On My List by Jill Smolinski, click HERE by May 15. You can contact Jill at her website about setting up an author chat. 

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