Friday, October 15, 2010

A Tale of Two Book Clubs

Star of the SeaThunderstruckThis month, as both of my book clubs are reading books with rather similar covers (neither of which was my pick--I'm not so fond the ocean in general), seems like an apt time for me to explain how two groups that seem so similar are actually so different...apart from the fact (or perhaps slightly because of the fact) that Book Club #1 has a good decade of experience behind it, and Book Club #2 is still toddling on its new found toes.

The Main Ingredients:
- me (whose literary eyes are bigger than her literary stomach)
- my book club of old (I first joined them in...1999? They started in '97)
- my friend (who used to be in the book club but fell away, then began to desire the formation of a new book club)

So I helped my friend start a book club.  The format of both groups is similar: 6-8 people rotate choosing a book, and meet every 4 weeks or so.  We meet at homes or coffee shops or wherever the book-chooser chooses.  The main differences lie in the fact that Book Club #1 is made up of people who live literary lives (we teach, we write, we devour and exchange books, we talk about themes and beautiful language) and Book Club #2 is made up [mostly] of people who enjoy reading, but haven't read much in a long time (smart, enjoyable ladies to be sure, just out of the habit of books).

I've come to realize that Book Club #2 is more of a "Giving Back to the Community" sort of thing right now, and that's okay.  I get to talk about themes and layers in group #1, and in group #2 I get to see people rediscover a love for reading.  Once I thought about it in this way, my perspective completely changed--volunteering with books?  It's like a dream come true!  There are worse ways to spend your volunteer time for sure (like helping your kiddos try to sell magazines to raise money for a school that you already pay tuition at.  just for example.  I'm not bitter.)  Added bonus: I don't feel guilty if I don't patronize my library as much as I'd like.  At least I'm helping out somehow.

Although these two groups serve very different purposes in my life, I'm enjoying them both.  One of favorite things about them is how the books are chosen...I love that they aren't chosen by committee.  Every once in a awhile someone will bring a couple of options, but most often we just read what is picked.  I love the surprise: not knowing what is coming next.  I love branching out--most of my book club books are ones that I would not pick up otherwise, and there have been some that I've really enjoyed (and even if I don't enjoy it, I feel more well-read.)

Do you participate in any book groups, either privately or through libraries or book stores?  Are any of your book activities something you would consider to be akin to community service?  If you are in a book club, how do you go about picking books? 


  1. I participate in a book group, but I just moved to a new city and have only been to one meeting so far! It's my first official book club. It was formed through GoodReads, so it's not affiliated with any library or bookstore. We all just bring any suggestions we might have to the meeting, or a list of books we've been hoping to read soon, and then we discuss what we'd like to read and just kind of...pick. We don't even vote! It's great.

    I like the idea of a book group as community service-esque! I can absolutely see where it could be. What a cool thing to give back: your love of reading!

  2. I've been in a book club since 1999 as well. We've had two schisms but I only ever went to one club meeting a month.

    We rotated through members' houses at first, but now we meet every month in a restaurant. I enjoy this so much more.

    I was the only non-working, mom of little kids so there's a lot less cleaning and shushing involved this way.

    We nominate a list of books once a year and then vote for twelve to read over the next year. We reserve the right to ditch a book and sub with a hot new book. This is how we added in The Help.

    One person acts as the book host each month and does the research on the author and finds or comes up with questions for discussion.

    We focus on contemporary literary fiction, though we throw in a literary biography occasionally.

    When it's my turn to bring in the discussion questions I'll usually google to find a good set already written about the book. There are lots of sites for this on the Internet.

  3. Thanks for sharing about your groups--I really love hearing about how different ones operate.

    Erin--I haven't really gotten into GoodReads because I started using LibraryThing first, and figured that their purposes overlapped, but what a great thing to have found a book club through it! What a nice way to get connected in a new city.

    Nota--I know what you mean about trying to have a meeting at home w/kids around. We typically meet at a coffee shop, but restaurants are fun too! My book group #1 reads a bit of everything--from Harry Potter to War and Peace--which I love. You mentioned literary biographies, have you read West With the Night? (Beryl Markham) Our group enjoyed that one.

  4. HP was one of our early books!
    Yes, we have read West with the Night. One of my book club friends loves 20th century adventuresses.


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