I Love My Book Club!

I Love My Book Club!

Six months ago, I joined a book club for the first time in my life. Actually this one calls itself a “group,” not a “club.” I have no idea what the difference is since most of us think of book groups as those you join on Facebook. At any rate, henceforth in this post I will refer to it as a book group.

I’ve lived in my town for just a little more than a year, so I was excited last July when a neighbor, whom I actually got to know at my local rec center, found out I was an author, and invited me to join. I had no expectation of the group reading my books, or even talking about them, which, it turns out, I was right to assume. I was happy about this, actually, because it allowed me to be just a regular member – no pressure.

I always kind of figured I didn’t have time to belong to a book group (or club) because I’m an avid reader as it is, and the rest of the time I’m writing, or doing all the other activities life requires. Besides, I didn’t really want to be pressured into reading stuff I didn’t want to read and, also, I’d always heard that book clubs were, for the most part, excuses to drink wine and talk about men. I can do that on my own time.

Nevertheless, when I was invited to join this particular group, I was grateful, because it meant having a chance to meet some people in my new town, and get to know my neighbor as well, who seemed very nice. Lo and behold, I stumbled into the book group of my dreams, if, indeed, I had any dreams along those lines. First of all, this group has been going for twenty-five years. Twenty-five! Only four of the original members are still a part of it, but the remaining twelve or so have been members for much of that time as well. I was truly the newbie. They gave me the list of books for the remainder of the year, and I was pleased to see I’d already read two of them. The book I was obliged to read for the upcoming meeting wasn’t really my cup of tea: a mystery, and I’m not a big fan of mysteries, but it was pretty good, and I kind of laid low that first meeting anyway.

My actual book shelf.

The group meets at 7:00 at night, the 2nd Thursday of the month, and rotates the location among the members, who all live in the same general vicinity. The women are mostly around my age. All of them are incredibly intelligent and interesting – the kind of women who get things done – strong women who have made a difference in their community over the years. As a matter of fact, every Thanksgiving, they coordinate to donate an entire Thanksgiving meal to a teen shelter, and I was thrilled to participate this year.

At the meetings we gather and engage in small talk for fifteen minutes or so, then begin discussing the book, which may or may not lead to discussions of other matters related to it. Immigration was a big one related to two books we read this fall. At about 8:30, the hostess of the evening serves dessert, coffee, and tea, and then we have more chit chat, and then disperse, though the format may change depending on the venue. Every April is poetry month.

This last September they celebrated their 25th year anniversary by having a barbecue at the home of one of the women who lives in a condo along the river, so we ate al fresco, and everyone brought something. Oh, did I mention? They can really cook, too! Our December meeting was at the home of a lady who’s been quilting her whole life, and she had these lovely Christmas quilts scattered about so we could wrap up in them while enjoying the cozy fire in her fireplace and a beautiful view of snowy hills out a grand picture window. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.

Actually, I disliked the book we read this month – very much so. The others all liked it. Yet, not only did I feel comfortable expressing my opinion on it, we ended up getting to the core of why I didn’t like it – almost like a therapy session. There was no judgement, just support and a good, rousing discussion. I’m genuinely growing to like these women a lot, and feel I’m forming a closeness with a couple of them in particular.

Finally, I’d like to share with you a few of the books they’ve read over the last 25 years (yes, they keep a list); ones that I’ve read as well, and really loved, though this is just a fraction of their entire list. There’s only one Jane Austen in the mix: Northanger Abbey (which I happen to be re-reading at the moment). Please let me know if you’ve read and enjoyed any of these, and/or if you belong to a book club and what the experience is like for you. This is new, and delightful, territory for me.

In chronological order:

  • Joy Luck Club – Amy Tan
  • Cold Sassy Tree – Olive Ann Burns
  • The Restaurant at the End of the Universe – Douglas Adams
  • Age of Innocence – Edith Wharton
  • The Bean Trees and Pigs in Heaven – Barbara Kingsolver
  • Snow Falling on Cedars – David Gunderson
  • Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston
  • Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver
  • Secret Life of Bees – Sue Monk
  • Atonement – Ian McEwan
  • Life of Pi – Yann Martel
  • Washington Square – Henry James
  • Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides
  • The Hummingbird’s Daughter – Luis Alberto Urrea
  • The Book Thief – Markus Zusah
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith
  • To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
  • The Eyre Affair – Jasper Ffords
  • Just Kids – Patti Smith
  • The Neruda Case – Roberto Ampuro
  • The Book of Unknown Americans – Christina Henriquez

 

 

15 Responses to I Love My Book Club!

  1. Our neighborhood is beginning a book club in January, though I suspect ours will lean a little more to the wine side lol. I’ve read quite a few of the listed books but have saved the list just in case sometime suggests I come up with the next book to read. I’m really excited about getting other opinions on books and definitely having some lively discussions. Hopefully we’ll still be meeting in 25 years!!

  2. So glad you found a group which has such good qualities, not just a sharing of a book. I was in a JAFF reading group but it fell apart. I consider my friends online at Goodreads as my “reading group”. They have become friends and are so good at supporting each other!

  3. Are you in Portland? I am, too! I have always considered a book club, but my taste in books is so odd. I read more 19th century books than anything else. But the list of books looks great. I am taking it to add to my (extensive) TBR pile.

    • I am, Teresa! I thought that Powell’s photo might be a hint 🙂 I’m generally all about 19th century literature too, but I was surprised to see how many books on their list I’ve read. I’m looking forward to having my reading tastes expanded further!

  4. Sounds like a great group. From the list I’ve only read Atonement and Washington Square. I love the second book and have read it many times. The film based on it The Heiress with Olivia de Havilland is a wonderful film. De Havilland won an oscar for it and it was well deserved.

  5. That’s great that you’ve found a book club/group to suit you Georgina. It’s not something I’ve ever considered doing for many and various reasons but I’m happy that you’ve found one that you’re comfortable with. The only book on that list that I’ve read is The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, which may give you a clue as to one of my preferred genres, apart from Jane Austen herself and JAFF. In that respect, it sounds as if I’m a bit like Summer. She’s described exactly how I feel about the subject.

  6. Thanks for sharing your experience. I’ve thought about joining a book club but ultimately decided I prefer reading what I want and not books on bestseller lists which is what they seem to pick. Although I’m familiar with many of the stories on the list, the only one I recall reading in its entirety is To Kill a Mockingbird.

  7. Hi Georgina,

    You’ve certainly given me a lot to think about. I’ve never joined a book club for just the reasons you described. Yours sounds wonderful, though. I still have this inkling (fear?) that if I tried one, it would be all of the things I don’t want it to be, but I’ll be more open to the idea in the future, for sure. My biggest quandary is that I really only love to read Regency and Fantasy. As far as I’ve ever been able to tell, book clubs almost obsessively avoid fantasy. I already get to read a lot of other genres for work, so I get my healthy dose of exposure to things outside my comfort zone (to keep the brain on its toes!) already, without the book club part.

    It’s great that you found such a wonderful group of people. I’m happy for you that you’re enjoying your book group 🙂

    Summer

    P.S. Nice graphics in the post 🙂

    • It’s true, Summer, most book groups aren’t genre specific, so you do have to be open to some other areas of reading. I’m being challenged a bit, as I said, because I’m not a fan of mystery, but so far only one has popped up. At least they do try to include some genre books every now and then. Sounds like you have a good job!

Your thoughts are precious!