Monday, August 09, 2010

Joining the Club

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?

11 comments:

  1. I've never tried to find a book club because I've heard of 10 bad experiences for every 1 good experience. (I refuse to apply the same logic to my publishing odds.) But sure, I would love a group of friends with which to discuss books and eat chocolate.

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  2. I actually started a book club which I participated in for years...when I wasn't working. Then I went back to teaching and the strangest thing happened. I could no longer relate to the off-book discussions -- and you know if you put seven women in a room together with wine you're going to get off-book conversation. I tried like three more meetings and then quietly dropped out. It freaked me out so much I wrote an article about it for a grad class I was taking at the time.

    Now, you trying to read for pleasure blows my mind! I swear I don't know how the hell you even get through the things you have to read for your job let alone anything else. I honestly don't know how you do it.

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  3. I'm in a book club with my three sisters and about four friends. So far, I don't think we've all made it to the same meeting at one time. lol. I hope this next one will have a good turn out as we read The Help and I loved it. My sister is having the meeting at her house this time and we are doing a luncheon like the women in the book--minus 'the help' of course. :-D

    I think my turn to pick the book is coming up soon, and I'm going to choose Ender's Game, because I'm sure none of them have ever read a sci-fi book. It's a great book though, and I hope they'll enjoy it.

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  4. I have never been in a book club, and I too miss the good old days of college classes where we could sit around and discuss books for an hour at a time.

    Then again, I sit around at work and discuss my favorite movies with people on the internet. Maybe I should find a book club messageboard.

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  5. My book club is all around awesome! We read from just about every genre, stretching my mind and forcing me to read amazing books I wouldn't pick up on my own.

    I love hearing what the non-writers think of plot holes, flat characters or stilted dialogue and it always inspires me to go looking for similar problems in my own work.

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  6. I love my book club--15 of us going strong w/ a few changes in the lineup over 4 years. we talk books, kids, school...and drink wine. :) It's wonderful. I find I read books I wouldn't normally pick up--so in that respect it expands my horizons. And they are really supportive and enthusiastic about my writing.

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  7. I'm in a book club with about half a dozen men from my church. We do mostly philosophy/theology/politics...we digress somewhat in our conversations but the digressions are paradoxically on topic, usually. There have been some women in our group here and there but the subject matter doesn't seem to appeal as much.

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  8. I'm in a Jane Austen book club. It's wonderful group of ladies, and we talk about (what else?) JA books. We dress in period costume, drink tea, and eat cookies. We've had a Box Hill picnic, and there's a movement afoot to have a Thanksgiving dance. Hmm, I wonder if my husband is up for a costume and reels.

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  9. My best friend and I started one that we blog about (http://www.readersguildbookclub.blogspot.com). We each chose half of the books on the list, and since we live 3,000 miles away from each other, we Skype after we've finished reading to chat about it. We're both the types who like to talk about "meanings" and that sort of thing, but, for example, for "Moby Dick", we had almost nothin' to say.

    To keep it light, we always pair our books with a wine to enjoy together too. We think the transition to WASP-hood will be very easy.

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  10. @Mary Good choice! Ender's Game is definitely in my Top 5 favorite sci-fi novels - if not #1 :)

    @Kathryn I LOVE the idea of pairing a book with a wine!

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  11. I've thought about starting one at church but haven't yet. Sort of scared to in case it doesn't work out, but I'd like to expand my reading tastes, so rotating book selections would be fun. It's just hard since most people I'd want involved don't have time.

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