Have you ever been a member of a book club? How did your group choose (to, 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?
I was asked to do a guest post over at BOOKS ON THE BRAIN last month where I did write about this subject.
Yes, I have been a member of a “real life” book club. I ran a book club here on Okinawa for two years and I called it “Lit & The Island”. Pretty catchy huh? Originally it started with just a few of my closest friends and then grew a bit with invitations from other members to their friends. The group was never larger than ten people at a time but rarely did we have full attendance each month at our meetings/dinners. With the plethora of restaurants on this island, we met at a new establishment every month. It was fun while it lasted and we read some very interesting books for the most part. There were some duds though so those meeting consisted of discussions about things other than the book. Actually, there were really only a few times that the book of the month was discussed for longer than twenty minutes. I chalk that up to the fact that some of the members hadn’t seen each other since the last meeting and had a month worth of catching up to do. I was guilty of this bad habit myself too.
The way we would choose the clubs books was to have a nomination/voting night every few months. Living in Okinawa made book buying a little tricky. The multiple base PX’s and BX (Post Exchange & Base Exchange) don’t have the largest book selection so we had to order everything on-line. I think some people were able to find the chosen books at the library once in a while but for the most part it was order the book, wait for it to be shipped, wait for the Military mail to get it here from California and then get it from your post office box on base at the post office. UGGHH!!! Anyway, we would vote for three to four books at a time to make things easier. I would always bring the longest book list of nominations. Each person was then asked to tell the group about the book they wanted people to vote for and why. After everyone had their turn we would write our top three of four (depending on how many months we were filling) and I would tally the books based on vote counts. The most votes was the first book, then on down the line. We read Elizabeth Noble’s “The Reading Group”, Arthur Golden’s “Memoir of a Geisha”, Jeffrey Eugenides’s “Middlesex”, Michael Dorris’s “A Yellow Raft In Blue Water” and many others. These were my favorites of what we read as a group.
For the most part, I enjoyed reading the books we assigned ourselves to read for this club. In the beginning of the clubs existence I would read the book even if I didn’t like it but as time went on and my TBR shelf grew, I was a bit pickier with what I read. If the book wasn’t grasping me in after about a quarter of the way through I wouldn’t stick with it. I would have something to contribute to the discussion with hope that others could clue me in to what happened after I put the book down.
Now I just run this on-line book club which I LOVE! I have a little more control over the nominations and having made the time frame bi-monthly it makes it easier to read other things too. When we move back to the States I may look into joining a “real life” book club again but for now, I am more than happy to know that I am reading a book as part of a group of readers on-line. I don’t regret running and being a part of “Lit & The Island” though. I believe that everything happens for a reason and it was a lovely experience.