How Many Book Groups Make Too Many?

I love books. I know that sounds like a rather obvious thing to say with a book blog, but sometimes my love of books gets me into trouble. For example at the moment I am in the midst of reading the Green Carnation Prize submissions, of which we have easily had double or maybe treble what we did last year and there are more to come. I also have a big pile of books on the bedside table which I keep ‘meaning to read next’, some advance reading to do for ‘Discovering Daphne’ and another project for the blog which starts in August. Phew! So you might think considering I am part of two book groups the very thought of joining another would seem idiotic… and yet I think I have.

It’s not the fault of the other two book groups that have made my eyes wander. It’s definitely me.

You see with the book group I first joined (that in my own head I call ‘the lovely ladies of Levenshulme book group’ because it is lots of lovely women and me and Paul Magrs) I love the banter and I love the people but until this month a lot of the choices have been re-reads for me. This is of course my fault for reading too much frankly and not theirs at all. However this month, though I have no idea what day it’s happening, we are reading ‘The Lost Daughter’ by Diane Chamberlain which is a book I have never read and would go as far as to say from the cover looks like a book I would possibly avoid. It looks a bit Jodi Piccoult. However this is the very point of a book group isn’t it?

Sadly at the moment the book seems to be avoiding me. I ordered it from the library, they went and loaned it after I ordered it. I have tried book shops and no avail. I could go online, but I feel all funny about online sales after the latest Book Depository news. So if I get it and if I find out when the meeting is I shall of course be going.

The next book group I joined in part because it was organised by one of my lovely new friends up in the north and secondly because I hadn’t read the book, which was ‘Purple Hibiscus’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, one I had wanted to read for ages and ages but not quite got around to. The only issue is that I have read the next book that’s been chosen (again my fault not theirs) but I really don’t want to read it again. What is it? ‘The God of Small Things’ by Arundhati Roy. This seems odd, especially as you can see from a review of it back in 2008, when I had read it for a book group too, I came away confused but overall liking it. So wouldn’t this be just the sort of book that could do with a re-read? After all this was a few years ago. The answer screaming at me is no. I don’t want to be confused by it again, and one thing I missed in that review was how long that book took to read. I have it by the bed in case but I will see, I did love the people who went so much – a really lovely mixture. Can I not go without having to re-read it and see if I can remember it fully? I admit I remember one horrid scene in a cinema all too well.

Fate seemed to extend a hand when I found a new book group in Manchester through twitter completely randomly. I think Waterstones Deansgate retweeted them, they are the @NQbookclub. This group are a little specific with what books they choose, which is what attracts me so much – as well as meeting new book lovers that is, as they only read post war classics it seems… Classics such as ‘Revolutionary Road’ by Richard Yates, ‘Things Fall Apart’ by Chinua Achebe and next up to read is ‘Rabbit, Run’ by John Updike. Many of you will of course have read these, but I haven’t and yet they have always been books I have fancied (I did read Updike’s ‘Couples’ for a book group and was impressed with the read and the discussion was great) so should I add another book group to my reading schedule?

I am torn, especially as with ‘Bookmarked’ starting soon (exciting announcement about that soon) and the reading I will need to do for that… maybe it is too much? Do I need to give up one? I don’t really want to. How many book groups are too many? Has anyone else found that they go to a book group and each month it’s a book they have read? Does it matter if you pick and choose which meetings you attend, what are your thoughts on etiquette?


Filed under Book Group, Book Thoughts

17 responses to “How Many Book Groups Make Too Many?

  1. Wow, you’ve got a lot on your plate, Simon, but I suspect you like to keep yourself busy:) I guess it depends how strict your book groups are. I should think it’s ok to pick and choose, no? Part of the attraction of book groups is that you get to read books that you won’t otherwise read or have been meaning to, so if you’ve had a series of re-reads I can see why you’d want to look elsewhere.

    • I am a big fan of keeping myself busy, I am also a nightmare in terms of taking on a little bit too much and then getting ill (like I have gone and done lately) I need to learn a lesson there don’t I?

  2. novelinsights

    I’m always telling you overcommit yourself but it’s also part of what I love about you (your enthusiasm!)

    I just re-read your God of Small Things out of curiosity and
    a) realised I can’t remember any of it which is concerning
    b) laughed at this comment “No the author should not do all the work for the reader but they should help.”

    Not sure if I can help with the book group dilemma though. I’d find it hard to cut one out. Perhaps skip the God of Small Things one for a month?

    • I do overcommit myself, I agree but if I didnt I think I would go made and look what happened with Bookmarked.

      I can’t remember masses about The God of Small Things other than I thought it was worth a read but couldnt say that I liked it. I did skip the group in the end.

  3. If you are asking us the questions I think you are concerned about over committment. I’m not sure if book groups have a specific etiquette; the only one I contribute to is the on-line Cornflower Book Group and my view is that I read (to the end) and comment upon every book (there’s one a month) that I can borrow. I’m not going to purchase any and so far I think I’ve managed about 90% coverage. For me that’s enough and I know that to try to do more would lead to disatisfaction, both on my part and on others if it were a group that meets in person. For on-line groups I assume normally no one cares if you drop in and out.

    • Online book groups are good because you can just be sat at home, I do like the social aspect of a real group and I have made some lovely friends though book groups. I think every group has its own ettiquette but when you are new to a group you are never sure quite what they are.

  4. Etiquette-wise I think it depends on the size of the group. The one (and only) book group I’m part of is fairly small, so I do feel I’m letting them down if I don’t attend. But if it grew larger I think I would be okay with skipping the occasional month if the book was a re-read that I didn’t want to re-read.

    • All the groups are quite small. The Rabbit, Run bookgroup meeting has been postponed though so I havent had to worry about that one too much. I will go to it though as I like the choice criteria for the books and will open me to more books I have fancied reading but havent.

  5. I understand what you say, sometimes I have too many books going on at the same time and then I really have to find time to read one (or two) more.
    I never went to a book group though. There isn’t any near me and I don’t know with whom to start one.

  6. I think that if you are asking yourself the question “Should I join this book group or will it be too much?”, the answer is right there for you. i was in three different book groups once, and it got insanely crazy busy-wise, and it made me end up not really *enjoying* reading (or anything that I was reading) because of the “have-to” feeling. I am not a huge rebel or anything (!), but I used to have the ability to stress myself out by taking on too many projects (i.e. book groups in this case).

    A wise friend once told me that for everything you say yes to, you are saying no to something else. Perhaps this would make your decision easier if you considered it?

    As for the etiquette of book groups, as a former admin of a book group that went on for years, I would really have preferred someone who is committed to one book group (and the attendant responsibilities that comes with that), than someone who does a half-assed job of several groups.

    Of course, the decision is up to you. I would just think about the additional book group commitment carefully. If you can’t do it 100%, then it might not be the time/group for you.

    Just my thoughts.
    Liz in Texas

    • Ha thanks Liz, I do think if you ask the question you probably know the answer but I have you all as a wonderful sound board too.

      I have never thought about “for everything you say yes to, you are saying no to something else” that is something I should be thinking of, thanks for that.

  7. If you can, just attend one or two per month. Choose the book(s) that you really want to read and attend that (those) clubs.

    Notify the group leader that you won’t be able to attend every meeting. I hope that they are flexible and won’t toss you from the group if you miss a certain number of meetings.

    • Dear Isabel

      “Choose the book(s) that you really want to read and attend that (those) clubs.”

      I am a member of a group for almost the opposite reason – to read books I normally wouldn’t choose! Sometimes I make wonderful discoveries, sometimes I really dislike the book but always I am glad to have had my horizons expanded.

    • Yeah that might be the way forward. I think also I need to watch the groups and if they are choosing lots of books I have already read then I need to maybe not go. Sounds harsh, and is more my reading habit at fault than theres, but might be the way forward.

  8. gaskella

    Like Dark Puss, I do like reading books I’d otherwise not necessarily read -part of the attraction of a book group for me. Surely most book groups are flexible enough to not require you to go every month though… You can’t do everything and are obviously one busy man these day!

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