Firstly before I go any further what-so-ever I wanted to just say that I don’t claim to be an authority on Book Groups. The posts that I have been doing on them are simply my opinions and experiences of Book Groups from my experiences of a new one, a random one and one I was in just over two years before I quit. The latter lead me to this piece, which I think is my last for now on Book Groups… the good, the bad and the ugly. I actually think my book group is quite aesthetically pleasing and yes that is partly an excuse to pop a picture of The Riverside Readers on my blog again.
Anyway, I am sure you will all have been pointed to a certain article in the New York Times about book groups go sour. It was with much sadness that just over a year ago I decided that it was time for me to leave the Book Group that I had started with all the best intentions. Partly because of the fact it became a huge money sucking monster, partly because someone was taking over (never got to the bottom of if it was intentional or not) and partly because of the books I got sick of reading the latest best seller or Richard and Judy choice.
Some of you may have raised your eyebrows at that last statement as you may know I actually don’t mind the Richard and Judy Book Club, its getting people reading and that’s great. The other reason might be after seeing my list of books for book groups. I don’t think I made myself very clear in that post and actually the list of twelve books wasn’t what would by my choice of the perfect book group reads but a list of ones that (from my experience so far) have worked really well for discussion.
So why did my previous book group go wrong for me? It started off really well, a few friends/work colleagues would meet once a month in a local boozer for beer and book chatter each choosing one book and that would be the book for the month end of. By the time I left we had to bring a choice of five books and if anyone had read one it was discounted and we would vote on the others. Then the book chatter went to twenty minutes before a gossip, though the venue for dinner (?) had to be from the country the book was set in or the author was from. The final straw came when I got tired of people not finishing the books, saying they wouldn’t read ‘scary’ ‘murder filled’ or ‘too tough’ books or ‘books that are clearly for boys’. So I quit. I did for a while wonder if it was me, but I don’t think I am a hard person to be in a book group with, but I wouldn’t… you would have to ask my fellow book groupers I guess.
I do think that both the book group as a whole and each individual member has to work together to make a book group work it’s not down to just the organizers. Naturally friendships are formed or friends join together and that’s lovely at the end of the day though you all have the same goal and that is to read interesting books and discuss them. As being part of a book group I expect I should…
- Make sure everyone is involved.
- Welcome all opinions.
As a book group individual I should;
- Back up any opinion with reasons not simply ‘I loved it’ or ‘I hated it’.
- Embrace any book that I wouldn’t normally read and give it a go minimising any prejudice I may have of it for random reasons.
- Listen and not talk over people, actively encourage others to talk up.
- Enjoy myself.
There are probably lots more but those are the initial thoughts that come to mind but no book groups are the same. In the new one I started with Kimbofo the only real rules we have are that the book needs to be easily available, not too expensive and we choose in turn and that persons choice is final. Simple as that and so far I think its working really nicely and hopefully it will stay that way as I love it.
If you have read this far, and I appreciate it if you have as this was a longish post and possibly a bit rambling, I would love to hear all your good and bad tales of book groups. I know you all have some so don’t be shy out with it. In fact to make it even more fun. To sweeten the sharing even more the best book group tale (positive or negative) and how your book groups work by midnight tonight will be sent these wherever you are in the world…
Yes two lovely Chris Cleave books The Other Hand, or Little Bee in the USA, and Incendiary which has been republished. So you now have a good incentive, though I am sure you would hopefully have lots to say without it too. So now it’s all over to all of you book group’s tales and book group workings (I do like the idea of themed book group meetings does anyone do those). Good luck…