Book clubs, once thought of as social gatherings for rich divorcees who needed something else to do besides drink, have been insanely trendy for the past few years. Let's attribute this to Oprah.
Sadly, I'm about to quit my second book club in a year. The reason I wanted to join a book club in the first place was because in my post-MFA haze, I realized I missed sitting in a group and talking about literary things. But, I wanted the group to be non-publishing, non-literary folks, who will talk about "good vs. bad" rather than "what did you think of this use of symbolism?" Also, since I'm lazy, I wanted these people to live within a five-block radius from me. With these criteria in mind, I thought I found the perfect group last summer, who advertised themselves as "casual, fun readers" in my 'hood.
At the first meeting, the "leader" pulled out a spiral-bound notebook and demanded we all discuss the items on her numbered list. So much for casual and fun. There was also "token pretentious guy" who kept leading the conversation back to obscure French authors who had absolutely nothing to do with Middlesex. So I left.
I found another book club, and really enjoyed the company this time. Mostly young professionals with a few baby boomers thrown in for good measure. But, alas, I must leave them too. See, I had this cute idea that I'd not only have time to read for fun, but that I'd also have time to meet once a month and talk about it. Oh, idealistic youth!
For writers, book clubs, that is, the right book club, can be incredibly valuable. It really doesn't matter what you read or what you discuss. To me, being in any environment where ideas are shared can spark other parts of your creativity as well. It's also a good idea to see how people respond to certain types of books, literary, commercial, and popular fiction alike. These people are your audience, after all.
Are any of you active members of a book club? If so, do you find it's influenced your writing at all?