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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Chat or Chore? The book group

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! :)


Elise Warner said...

Haven't joined anything except for a playwright's group a number of year's ago--forgot about the Brownies during childhood. Guess I just like to read for myself alone and if I think the book is meant to be read by a particular friend, recommend it and when I own a print copy--pass it on. Then there is always the question of time...

Anne Marie Becker said...

"Hello, Clare." LOL Welcome to the recovering book club member group. ;)

I've been a member of a couple different clubs (changed when I moved to a new city - I wasn't kicked out or anything. LOL). I have to say I don' really enjoy it but I stay for the friendships. The things they pick (I've long since stopped suggesting things I like) are the bestsellers, women's fiction, etc. Which are probably great books (some of them), but I have so little time to read these days that I prefer happy endings and light reads.

The one I liked that the rest of the club didn't (and they picked it) was GONE GIRL. I really liked the book, but not the ending. Looking forward to seeing the movie soon...

Clare London said...

Elise, what an excellent point about having enough time!I confess I never thought of myself as a "joiner" since I left Brownies after 3 weeks LOL.

Anne Marie, how much better you make me feel about my choices not being on the table LOL. Happy endings and light reads - that's a blog title in itself:).

I liked Gone Girl a lot, also the movie - surprisingly, because I wasn't sure I would. I'm one of the few people who didn't mind the ending to the book - I'm not sure what othe ending would have been plausible :).

Lynn said...

I did a book club... it was not a raving success. I hated one of the other club member's favorite books, rolled my eyes at the narrator's sense of entitlement, and got very grouchy about her bi-erasure.

and when it was my turn to pick the book, I selected a very good science fiction novel (a thin one! I promise. like 200 pages!) and everyone was not pleased with the selection.

It didn't work out.

I've tried again, but getting people together all at once is a nightmare!

Jolie said...

Hi Clare. I'm in a mystery book club through our library but I only go when I like the book. I was in a more general group also through the library but once I started reading m/m romance, I got bored with the books they were reading.

Marcelle Dubé said...

I don't do book clubs. I detest being forced to read a book I'm not enjoying. Life is too short.

Elise Warner said...

Haven't joined anything except for a playwright's group a number of year's ago--forgot about the Brownies during childhood. Guess I just like to read for myself alone and if I think the book is meant to be read by a particular friend, recommend it and when I own a print copy--pass it on. Then there is always the question of time...

Clare London said...

I'm heartened by your replies, everyone, I don't feel any more like an alien in the world of literary appreciation LOL. All your comments have a similar theme - that it's important to use our reading time for our own enjoyment, to read what *we* want, and to share the love with friends as and when we choose! :) And amen to all that!

Helena said...

Having seen the books which get chosen by book groups which friends belong to, I have never been tempted to join one. I've decided there are too many books which I positively want to read to spend time trying to read books I have no interest in.

The nearest I have come is to do "buddy reads" (not a term I like) in Goodreads groups, where it is easy to opt out if I don't fancy the book. I've enjoyed discussing books that way. The readers have generally self-selected as at least potential fans given that they've joined the group (authors' groups or genre groups), so negative criticism is probably limited. I like it best when we all comment every five chapters or so, and I like the insights others have, especially when the book under discussion is an old favourite of mine.

Sandy Parks said...

I was in a mystery book club for years. It made me read outside my comfort zone. Members changed, however, and it seemed people became less tolerant of members varying selections (no desire for romantic suspense for example), and one person's desires started to rule. My best friend left the group and I wasn't far behind. I have considered starting my own group some time to get me back into reading a variety of books again (that will be right after time slows and I can get 48 hours in a day). Great post.

Toni Anderson said...

I'm not good at being told what to read. And I hate depressing books. I really hate being patronized for not liking depressing books as if I can't understand human suffering without subjecting myself to a depressing novel. I'm not an idiot :) I <3 romance :)

Clare London said...

"I'm not good at being told what to read."

LOL. That's so me :)

J Wachowski said...

Oh Clare, I feel your pain!
Have done a couple of book groups. The best part is the people, but I think of it as a chance to hear about books I might not have encountered. My neighborhood bookgroup is great about letting everyone take a turn choosing which helps.

And, after all these years (almost 20 with the same group!) I embrace the opportunity to choose things that will drive them crazy! Still have to duck if anyone mentions "In the Cut" (heheheh)

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