Three friends and I started a book club over 10 years ago, and we’ve met once a week ever since. Kids have grown, FB relationship statuses have changed, foods have gone in and out of fashion, but we still meet regularly. Most of us consider our regular gatherings the best night of the month. Why? It’s a magical combination of a pleasurable habit, a love of reading and female companionship.
One secret of our success lies the planning department: is really that if you told your spouse once a month that you were going out with the girls, he’d smirk and perhaps make noises about handling the soccer driving or figuring out a meal. But with a book club? Well… you get a hall pass, because that’s culture.
The second key is obvious – the advice and support and laughter that comes with a group of friends needs no further poetic justice.
But the real reason we keep coming together month after month is the reading. There are just so many good books in the world – both classic and contemporary. Each one opens up a world, or provides a topic or expands our minds. Some months we read two related titles, sometimes we reach back to a classic we loved in college or always wanted to read. We scour the best-seller lists and read reviews and skim off the most worthy titles right now (great for cocktail conversation and no… we aren’t reading Shades of anything…). We have a list of 11-12 books per year for ten years – and, when we look at a list of what we’ve read at the end of this year, we all feel pretty darn accomplished.
So, I challenge you to gather a few friends and start your own book club this summer. I would be happy to provide titles that you can start out with, as well as advice about the practical arrangements of the meeting. Whether to have a moderator — a great solution, especially to control those that are particularly enthusiastic talkers in the group but if you choose not to have one, at least download Reader’s Guides from the Internet to guide your discussions; whether to meet during the day or at night — this is about both your members’ work schedules and I have done both, but prefer evenings especially if you have a few really good cooks in your crowd! As the years have passed, we’ve all become better readers – learning to note important passages for discussion, improving our ability to support our arguments with examples and, best of all, choosing more challenging books each month.
Right now, we’re reading The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes, which won the 2011 Man Booker Prize in England and is on the best-seller lists in LA and NY. Barnes’ prose is sharp and efficient; the novella will provoke discussion both for it’s pithy statements about memory and time passing, but also because it reads a bit like a mystery woven (in fact, Barnes writes mysteries under another name. Best of all – it’s only 150 pages, so an easy first book for a group.
A book club can contain all women, couples, men and women – anything that suits your community. The key is for someone to keep your group organized and focused and on track at the start, until that point when it’s an accepted part of everyone’s routine. Writers form groups to push their own craft, politicos have intensely fueled debate meetings with their non-fiction choices and apparently some groups just get together for the chatting and the red wine. A Book Club has become a cliche in our culture – but, we don’t care because we love what we read (and we love each other, after all these years). To your success!
Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org for further advice on starting your group – and, will do my best to keep you updated on what we’re reading.