I love to read. I suppose that’s part of why I love to write. It’s a word thing. And I’m not alone spending hours lost in a good book. In fact, I’m dedicating today’s column to book clubs everywhere.
It seems like most of my friends are members of a book club. Some are in two or more. And why not? It’s a great excuse to get together with friends and discuss books. But there’s much more than literature going on.
It’s no secret that some book clubs meet and spend very little time talking about books, focusing instead on catching up with friends, often over cocktails and snacks. These groups emphasize the social aspect. And whether or not the book is discussed is a moot point. There are also groups for the serious bibliophile, complete with discussion questions and serious intellectual debate. I currently belong to two book clubs. Both fall somewhere in the middle on the serious-fun continuum.
I joined the Lincolnshire Fields book club many years ago. We meet for lunch once a month, sharing a meal along with our opinions. With several retired teachers in the group, there are always in depth questions pertaining to characters, plot and writing style and we tend to stay on task!
The other club was launched by a friend and I while chatting about a book we’d both just finished reading. One of us asked “why don’t we put together our own book club?” And “Book Ends” was born.
We asked several avid readers to join us. Our goal was to be a casual group and host meetings in our homes one evening a month. Over the years, we’ve read some excellent books, struggled through some duds – and along the way, learned that we have some wonderful hostesses in our midst!
Book selection can be a challenge in any club. There are so many options. Do we choose a current best seller by a well-known author – maybe something on a celebrity book club list? Or do we branch out and try something less known or a little quirky? Sometimes we read older books or classics that are more readily available to borrow from the library. New editions tend to be pricey.
We also attempt to vary the genre. Usually fiction, though tastes vary, with some preferring historical novels, others wanting to dig into a good mystery and some pining for classic literature. Some members come to meetings armed with a bevy of book suggestions and others are more hesitant about making recommendations. Nobody wants to be the one to recommend a dud, but sometimes the liveliest conversations center around the most unpopular books.
Every couple of months, someone will ask; “Can we pick a light read with a happy ending for once?” This often coincides with the busy holiday season. Hence, “Book Ends” has selected “The Christmas Bookshop” by Jenny Colgan – for our December selection.
We also differ on preferred reading format. Some swear that they can’t read a book unless it’s an actual page turning experience. Others, like me, prefer a Kindle for the convenience of storing and reading several books on one device.
For those who prefer listening to books, there’s the audio book option which is handy for “reading” while walking or multi-tasking. I tend to absorb more with visual reading but do appreciate having a good book read by a talented narrator. I highly recommend “The Dutch House” narrated by Tom Hanks.
Having a variety of personality types can make for fun and entertaining meetings. There are always a few ambitious readers who plow through multiple books each month and others who find themselves reading feverishly in order to finish the book by meeting day. Some give long elaborate opinions and others are content to listen and give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a book club without someone admitting they haven’t finished (or even started) the book. I’ve been guilty on both counts. There are books that just don’t pull you in – or life gets too busy. But there is no shame in skipping a book. After all, there’s more to a book club than just reading books.
As one member explains; “I think book clubs are so popular because, though reading is a solitary activity, discussion involves group members sharing ideas, interpretations, likes and dislikes. It’s fun to learn what others think. An important function of a book club is to allow individuals to relate what they have read to their own lives. Also, mental stimulation is something that we all need. I receive such joy from moderating our book club. Each member is very special to me. Getting together with friends to discuss books—what could be better than that?” Kathy Barton, retired Centennial High School English teacher & leader of the Lincolnshire Fields book club.
While many book clubs are formed through friends, neighbors and clubs, there are also public groups at libraries, bookstores and on-line. So grab a book and join the conversation!
And if you’re looking for suggestions, here are some of our most popular book club selections:
- “Lessons in Chemistry” by Bonnie Garmus
- “This Tender Land” by William Kent Krueger
- “How Lucky” by Will Leitch
- “Redhead by the Side of the Road” by Anne Tyler
- “Sorrow and Bliss” by Meg Mason
- “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” by Taylor Jenkins Reid
- “Red Notice” by Bill Browder
- “The Christmas Bookshop” by Jenny Colgan – our “upbeat easy read” for the holiday.
If you have a book you’d like to recommend, drop me an email. Happy reading all