Anyone who reads a lot of books will be invited into a book club. Heck, even if you don’t like to, chances are that before your time is through… you will be asked to join a book club. I (as a current member of two book clubs, both semi defunct) have mixed feeling about the idea of book clubs. Reading is generally considered a one-man sport. Sure, parents read to their kids, or occasionally couples will read a book together… but for the most part, people read because they want to read. They don’t necessarily need a social reason.
Yet, on some lonely hill somewhere (or in some lonely hamlet) someone read a book and wanted to tell people about it. That person discovered rather quickly that few people want to sit and listen while he went on and on about the powerful character or insane plot twist or twisted moral that he’d found in his most recent read. So that person found a schmuck *cough* friend to read the book as well. Then they could talk together. Now if there is anything worse than ONE person going on and on and on about someone’s literary style, or their complete lack of character development, it is two pretentious book talkers. So they found another friend to read said book… and the book club was born.
I would probably be more amenable to the idea of book clubs if you didn’t have to get together to discuss the book. All this scheduling of times, with people who haven’t actually read, to sit and ‘discuss’ the book. It is such a bother. I like to talk books, just like I like to talk politics, but few people like to talk about either as much. If you fill a club with people who share exactly the same amount of book love, your club will flourish. Yet, for some reason book clubs are filled with people who admit they ‘aren’t big readers’. If I were going to form a political club (or party, or coup, whatever) you can bet that I wouldn’t invite just the average person off the street. Does this make me a book club elitist? I hope so. I don’t think the book club is the place where people are going to develop a love of literature.
In my years of being in book clubs, I have been in two that I supported fully and enjoyed immeasurably. I can (and do) claim the distinction of being the co-founder of the SSBC–Super Secret Book Club. It isn’t really a secret, but we enjoyed the name. A former roommate (also a big reader) and I lamented the fact that there were so many books that we’d never heard of and would probably never read because they weren’t recommended. Hence we cooked up a plan. She and I (co-founders and pretty much only members) of the SSBC would go to the bookstore together every so often and each pick a random book. The rules are that the selected book can not be one we’ve previously heard of, we also can not know the author. We each take our separate picks, read them, write a review to be placed inside the cover, and trade. That way we each get to read something completely out of the ordinary but have someone to share with. As you can assume, we’ve read quite a few crappy books that way.
The second was (quite surprisingly) a church book club. I tend to avoid fraternizing with other church goers in a book setting because they tend to want to read things like Seven Habits or How to Win Friends and Influence People or a whole slew of self help genre gooks. My former church book club; however, was fronted by a woman after my own heart. She had the book reading scheduled out for one full year. We read essays, plays, mysteries, historical fiction and always had an activity (instead of a dry sit down) that corresponded with each read. When we read As You Like It, off to the theater we went to watch. When we read Cold Comfort Farm, we watched the hilarious film adaptation. When we read a civil war historical fiction we got together and had cornbread and honey. Sure, we talked about the books, but then.. it wasn’t really about the books, and sadly, that made the most successful book club.