I'm Clare and I used to belong to a book group. (Chorus of "hello, Clare" LOL).
I gained a tremendous amount from it. I read books that I would never have considered buying on my own. I read in many different author styles - in many historical periods - in many different genres. It was also a great way to get together with friends each month, and chat about something other than the jobs we hated doing, the news that had depressed us, and the families driving us mad LOL. We'd extend the agenda to movie adaptations, other books by the same author etc etc.
It was a joy to discuss books with other readers when it was fresh in our minds. Okay, sometimes we disagreed with the overall opinions - or was that just me?! - but that made the evening even more interesting.
And then came the cracks.
"We should try a thriller next time," someone said with cheerful brightness. "Clare can choose that one for us." Understand this, I'm not ashamed of loving thrillers and crime novels. I'm Lee Child's greatest fan, at least in my house. But it seemed my taste for suspense and romance wasn't on anyone else's list.
We read a particularly emotionally harrowing one, which I didn't enjoy. "Have you read any others of his?" I was asked. I decided not to take that as patronising. (Not yet, anyway). "I don't think you appreciate his wonderful sense of time and place." It was still harrowing and an unpleasant read, I wanted to say :(. There are other ways of absorbing the same time and place, surely?
Then we read a Booker Prize nominee. Everyone raved about it, except me. Did I agree with them to keep the peace? In the spirit of tolerance and friendship? I'm afraid not :). Letting mischief take over, I announced that I had found it to be the worst waste of paper I'd ever read. Contrived setting, unfulfilling plot, self-indulgent characters ... I bit my tongue at everyone's disapproval.
Oh, Provocative Me! I left the book club soon after. All very amicably, don't worry. My friendships are intact :). And in fact the club fizzled to a halt soon a few months later, anyway. (And I haven't used actual conversations or details of my book group, so as to protect the innocent LOL).
I've decided that although I like to have my horizons stretched now and then - and I LOVE to talk books with people! - I read such a wide and varying range of books, good, bad, life-changing and DNFs, that it's difficult to find regular soulmates. It's also not easy to commit to any kind of club when my life is up and down with writing deadlines. The best I can do is overlap on some books with friends, as and when I read them. But the real benefit of my wide reading tastes is that I can overlap with all kinds of people, not just my immediate circle of friends, and that makes for some fascinating conversations.
Fiction is fiction, I often say! If you love reading, you love A LOT of it :). And although many of us can crit a book intelligently and constructively, it's not always easy to explain exactly WHY you feel the way you do about it. Sometimes it's enough for me that a book moves me emotionally, without it having to be dissected, or indeed, prove "worthy" to be so.
So have you ever been in a book group? Online or in real life? Enjoyed it? Or not?
It's always interesting to hear how people like to share their responses to a book. Tell us what you think! :)