There’s a cliché about book groups: the members are all women of a certain age, keen yoghurt knitters and instead of discussing a book they drink wine and gossip. They may exist, but I have never been in a book group remotely like that cliché. But I am having difficulty, partly because I belong to too many book groups.
Why belong to a book group?
What’s not to like? We talk about books. This is not something we can do just anywhere. With the odd exception (that is people who have read The Master and Margarita) on buses and trains people don’t expect to talk about books. The opportunity to indulge in these discussions is my main reason to be in a group.
I also enjoy reading other people’s choices, books I might have missed, or may have rejected for any number of reasons: I read it before; someone I know didn’t respond well to it; I’ve heard not good things about it; I am a book snob.
I like to be social, and meet new people, especially when I moved to Devon several years ago.
Book Group wars
There are some things to guard against in book groups, I have heard. There are people who speak too much. There are people who pronounce on a book’s qualities or weaknesses and will not listen to the views of others. And there are people who are downright nasty to other members, have secret meetings, and plot to make someone leave a group. I have never been in a group like that. But I know people who have been.
My book groups
I attend two face-to-face book groups. We meet in people’s houses and drink wine in the one that meets in the evening. Both groups are serious about discussing the books.
On my blog I join in readalongs, currently Muriel Spark’s centenary #ReadingMuriel2018 hosted by Heavenali. Recently there was the 1977 Club hosted by Stuck in a Book and Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings. In the past I joined a year of Virginia Woolf. I like the on-line community, the different views of the bloggers, the slow conversation on-line and the sense of involvement in a project with others.
I have my own projects, the older women in fiction series, the women in translation series and the decades project. I also occasionally support the celebrations of birthdays of neglected women novelists.
I receive monthly novels from the Asymptote club that aims to promote fiction from around the world.You could try it.
Books about Book Groups
The Prison Book Group by Ann Walmsley
Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe
These first three are all non-fiction. The next three are novels.
The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler: a clever book, a fun and creative spin-off for ‘Janites’.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
The Readers of Broken Wheel recommend by Katarina Bivald. Translated from the Swedish by Alice Menzies
No! I don’t want to join a bookclub by Virginia Ironside, about much, much more than bookclubs.
And for a list of nine (including some of the ones I have mentioned) you could check out this article from bustle.
Book groups – so what’s the problem?
Recently I have been thinking that all this book clubbery is too much. Already I schedule my reading to meet the demands of my groups and blog plans. But this is making me feel under obligation about my reading. I want my choices back again.
The tension mounted and it became still more difficult when my blog was playing up recently. I have fixed the blog but the requirement to read certain things by certain dates remains with me.
Fortunately the resolution is in my own hands. It’s simple – I may not keep to my schedules. I don’t believe many people will notice or that anyone will suffer from this decision. But you have been warned!
Do you ever suffer from book-reading-obligation blues?
Tell us about it.
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