Editorials

The Beauty of the Book Club

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I was scrolling through my Facebook page the other day and came across a list headlined with something like “Top Five Reasons to Join a Book Club.” As an admin for a local book club myself, as well as a book blogger, I was eager to see what this page, which I shall not name, considered the top reasons to join. What I found, honestly, surprised me.

The first item on the list was extremely reasonable: “To Meet Other Bibliophiles”. This is, of course, the main point of book clubs. The rest were things like “Eating at Restaurants,” “Alcohol,” “Hearing the Latest Gossip” and, inexplicably, “A Way to Pass the Time.” Now, don’t get me wrong, at my book club we certainly eat, drink a little wine, and pass the time talking about mutual friends and interests, but by no means are those The Reasons we joined the book club. I was floored that on a list of “Reasons to Join a Bookclub” books only accounted for one reason. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like that books should at least account for a majority of one’s reasoning to join a BOOK Club. Again, I would like to clarify that I am not bashing anyone’s book clubs, especially if they do any of the above listed things (remember, mine does it too and I love it!). I’m just saying those shouldn’t be listed as the primary REASONS one joined the club in the first place — maybe just considered fringe benefits, so to speak. All in all, this is just my opinion.

I had never been a part of an actual book club before I joined the one I am in now. I say “actual” because in high school I was part of what was called a Reading Bowl team. We would read a list of books, practice learning the trivia and tidbits of information in the books, and then compete with other schools. It was like quiz bowl for books and I loved it. While it was not a true book club, it was, for all intents and purposes, a gathering of people who have come together to discuss books they have all (or almost all) read.

I guess my favorite thing about being in a book club is more than just finding other book-lovers; several of my friends also love to read. Not all of those friends live near me, enjoy deep (sometimes analytical) discussion, or really have time to sit down and just talk about books. Sometimes I just need to sit down and really discuss the depths and meat of a book with someone other than my husband and my cats (I’m only half kidding with that last bit). Whether or not someone agrees with my observations is beyond the point; the discussion itself is what nourishes my hunkered, nerdy soul.  The discussion is what I loved most about college Literature classes; I enjoyed them probably more than I should have (considering I was a Writing and Publication major, not Lit). Let’s just say that I went to school a full year longer than I really needed to, even with two minors.

(Obligatory photos of my two book-loving beauties)

The reasons to join are to be exposed to books, ideas, and discussions that you normally wouldn’t. For instance, for one of our books we read A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas. While the book had been on my TBR, it wasn’t very high because I knew it dealt with Fae and I had never read any books, to my knowledge, that contained Fae. I had nothing against the inclusion of Fae, I just wasn’t used to it. But because it was one of our reads, I bumped it to the top of my TBR and FELL IN LOVE with it. Granted, the same outcome may have happened regardless, but it happened sooner than it would have without the book club. Another anecdote: a couple of years ago I tried to read Neil Gaiman’s Stardust. I did not like it and it was one of the first books I ever DNF’d. I honestly can’t, at this moment, remember why I didn’t like it, but either way the end result was that I was very hesitant to ever try reading another Gaiman novel. Well, the book club chose one of Gaiman’s most popular books, Neverwhere, to read and I decided that, while I could have chosen not to read it, I wanted to give the book and Mr. Gaiman a chance. Needless to say, I loved it. And I’m even willing to give Stardust another chance.  Maybe.

As I said before, I do think my absolute favorite part of the book club experience is the discussion itself. When a group of people from different backgrounds come together and discuss a book, you’d be amazed at the range of interpretations you’ll get on just one book. And just the fact that you get to delve deeper into a book than you might have otherwise if left to your own devices. I’m astonished at the number of times one person read a scene one way and another read it a completely different way, honing in on  different focal points and both interpreting them as the catalyst for a major event or another scene without even recognizing the other. The discussions really allow you to see the story in just a rich and deep way and I love it.

The discussion can be organized in any way the group chooses and can differ book-to-book. Sometimes we look online for discussion questions (sometimes the books will include them as well). If there aren’t any to be found, we just think of a topic and run with it. Trust me, you will find plenty to talk about.

If you get the chance to join a book club, take it. It’s a beautiful and fun experience. And if there are no local book clubs or book clubs that aren’t quite a fit for you, make your own. One of the beautiful things about social media is that it is a great way to link up with other people and inform them of the club; that’s how the book club I’m in was started!

Are you part of a book club? If so, what are some of your favorite reads that you were introduced to at the club?

 

A/N: The books in the Featured Image at the very top are just a small portion of the books my book club has read. I just thought it would be a fun, meta inclusion to the post!

Also, for funsies, I’m considering add a feature to the blog where I write a few discussion questions for book clubs to use. What do you think?

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