Booking Through Thursday - Clubbing
Have you ever been a member of a book club? How did your group choose (or, if you haven’t been, what do you think is the best way to choose) the next book and who would lead discussion?
Do you feel more or less likely to appreciate books if you are obliged to read them for book groups rather than choosing them of your own free will? Does knowing they are going to be read as part of a group affect the reading experience?
I am currently in one active book club. I have attempted to participate in some virtual book clubs, but that never seems to work out for me. I guess I need the face-to-face meeting to give me enough incentive to continue to participate. We are a small group that meets over lunch each month at work. In one sense, we are not very diverse, because we are all either engineers or engineer support folks. However, we do have a full range of political and religious views and we try to keep most of those out of our discussions.
When our group first formed, we decided to have a different genre each month. Twice a year we have a book selection meeting to pick six months worth of books. Members nominate books for each genre and then we vote at the book selection meeting. There is sometimes lobbying and we sometimes bring in copies of the nominated books. In the end, the nominated books with the most votes are selected. Usually, the person who nominated the book also volunteers to lead the discussion. If one person has more than one month, he or she will usually ask for someone else to lead. We rotate such that each person rarely has to lead a discussion more than once per year.
Having the choice dictated (so to speak) did seem rather odd at first. I have found that this pushes me to read books I would not have chosen on my own. For instance, I rarely pay attention to award winning books, but we pick one each year. If it weren't for this selection, I never would have read The Gathering. Even though I didn't like that book, I am glad that I gave it a try. I also never would have read titles by Jodi Picoult, Ann Patchett, or Sue Monk Kidd. They didn't become favorite authors, but I feel that my life is richer for the experience. I also really enjoy sharing these new experiences with my book club friends. We have one guy who would read pretty much nothing but classics if we didn't drag him into other genres and others who stay in sci fi/fantasy without urging. All bring their experiences to the discussion.
My appreciation for a book isn't affected by whether I chose it; I stay true to my convictions. Still, I find that I am more likely to finish a book that I don't particularly like if I know that we will discuss it. I greatly dislike having the ending given away during a discussion, so I will try very, very hard to finish. Reading for the club does give me incentive to read just a little more slowly and think about what I am reading more than if I were just reading for my own pleasure. If I am the discussion leader, then I spend much more time thinking about themes and questions to pose to the group. Sharing a discussion with others afterwards often brings out ideas that I had not considered. There are times when I end up with more respect for the author than I initially had.
One other thing that the book club has brought me (outside of an even bigger selection of books) is the opportunity to win prizes! My work has an annual Diversity Week celebration, which just happens to be this week. The Young Engineers group puts on a Diversity Jeopardy game each year and this is the second year that our book club has entered a team. Last year we did very well and came in second overall (and we each took home $10 gift cards to a restaurant). This year we didn't do so well and didn't make it to the final round. Maybe the third year will be the charm!