Clubbing – Booking Through Thursday

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Today’s Booking Through Thursday’s question is a combo of two suggestions by: Heidi and by litlove

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 used to go to one book group that met about four times a year. We met in one person’s house and no one actually took the lead in discussing the book. We each said what we thought about it and then mulled over various aspects of the book. At each meeting we had a pile of books brought by the members of the group or booksellers’ reviews of books to look at and decide which book to read next. It worked quite well, although sometimes we all were so polite and said we didn’t mind which book we read next. Other times one person would be so enthusiastic about a book that that was the book we chose.

I now go to another group which meets only during term time. This is led by one person which then opens out into discussion by the other members of the group. We meet in different places, sometimes in one of the local library rooms and sometimes in a members’ house. The books are chosen by the leader of the group usually fiction, sometimes poetry, on a particular theme.

I don’t think my experience of reading the book is affected by knowing that I’m reading it as part of a group. By that I mean that because I read it first on my own I can have my own experience of the book, without input from anyone else. But usually because I’ve had to think about the book for the meeting and discussed it with the others I find I can remember it better than a book I read just for myself. I also think that because other people always have some different opinions about the book or a different interpretation that this can make me appreciate the book more. I’ve never come away from a meeting feeling that I appreciate a book less than I did before the meeting.

 I’ve read and enjoyed books I would never have chosen for myself, which is good and has introduced me to new authors. The poetry sessions were particularly good in that respect as I don’t often read poetry and it was particularly good as we read the poems out loud. As one person in the group said poetry is in the mouth as well as in the ears and eyes.

The problem with both groups for me is not the choice of book, but the timing of the meetings. For the group that meets four times a year I found it difficult to read the book at the right time. With such a long gap between the meetings I was often wanting to read the book too soon and then I forgot about it. If I left it until nearer the meeting I had to rush to finish it, which was a chore. For the second group the problem is the opposite because as the meetings during term time are once a fortnight this means that I can’t read as many other books as I want to because of reading the book group book.

I’ve found much the same problem with on-line discussions of books and also the reading challenges. I like to read at my own pace and sometimes this fits in and sometimes it doesn’t. I have thought of joining a book club organised by my local library. This meets once a month – that might be the answer.

14 thoughts on “Clubbing – Booking Through Thursday

  1. I’ve never joined any book clubs before, but if I can choose, I’d choose the online ones instead of meeting face to face due to the flexibility. Choosing what book to read might be a chore, since everyone has their own opinions, but if a good system is set it’d be fun. 🙂


  2. I agree with you about the timing of the meetings. That’s the reason a real (vs. cyberspace) book club is just impossible for me in my life right now.

    Your club experiences help me see that the maturity of the group — being able to decide together what to read, etc. — is a big factor in successful clubs, too.


  3. I really enjoy moderating the two book groups that meet at our library. I try to let the members have lots of input and choice regarding the books. We are somewhat constrained by the fact that we need to have enough copies of the book in our library system. Plus it’s hard for it to be a recent book because if it isn’t well known there are enough copies and if it is popular, it’s hard to pull in enough books for each member to have one. However, I think we have a pretty good system in place. Members suggest books and I then see if they would be suitable and then prepare a ballot and everyone votes. I choose the order that the winning books are read.

    I had not ever been in a face-to-face group before leading these two groups, but I had participated in many online groups. I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I do appreciate that it is hard to get your “own” reading done when you are part of a book group. Our groups meet once a month.


  4. I’ve never been in a book club. I always think to myself, “What if I don’t want to read that right now?” I’m sort of a fussy reader, I guess.

    Have a great weekend, Margaret!


  5. Unlike you, I have walked out of a bookclub meeting with less appreciation for a book (or more). Usually though, it just strengthens my views. For instance, after reading Ishiguro’s Never Let You Go I went to the bookclub knowing that I wasn’t a fan. Hearing other people’s issues made me dislike it even more. On the other hand, I went to bookclub knowing how much I liked Saramago’s Blindness and though I was in the minority, the problems others had with the book made me defensive and I ended up feeling even stronger about it.


  6. I would love to be a member of an actual sit down and discuss face to face book club. And I think I would rather have people be too polite than one person take over everything.
    I just joined an online club but I knew one person in it before I joined. I am very excited about it!


  7. I have to agree about the timing. I usually would read the book right after bookclub met, and then it would be a few weeks till we met again and I would have forgotten some details.


  8. I’ve had a lot of the experiences you describe, particularly with the problem of getting the book read on time and making it fit my schedule. I used to read on a schedule all the time for class, but it’s nice to have more freedom now! I find myself too easily involved in clubs too, which means the number of books I choose on my own can get a little too limited. But book groups have been a great experience for me, so I’m simply making it work!


  9. I enjoyed reading your post. I could not imagine having to read a book weekly, but the once a month works for me. I belong to my local library. I feel like you that you get much more out of the book by reading as a group. I think you grow as a person and as a reader.


  10. I belong to a monthly book group that’s been meeting for over 10 years. We have a rotation schedule so that everyone in the group gets to choose a book on a regular basis (about once a year, now). The only restriction on book choices is that the book “must” be available in paperback. (“Must” because we often make exceptions…..) I like the democracy of rotation. Sure, I sometimes read a book I think was a complete waste of time, but more often I read a book that I would not have read otherwise; more often than not, it raises questions for me that lead me to other books. The person who chooses hosts the meeting and starts the discussion, but you couldn’t call it “leading” in any meaningful way. We’re all too vocal and opinionated to need a leader (but we’re polite about it). 😉


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