This guest post comes to us from one of Hardcovers & Heroines’ first readers and my mother, Martha Doherty. She’s the woman who taught me to love reading. Enjoy her post on different book clubs she’s been a part of!
I have always wished I played tennis. As I transitioned from one stage of life to the next, high school, college, early adulthood, it seemed tennis players moved with the greatest of social ease. They always had a communal game to play. They seemed to make acquaintances and then friends the fastest. I was envious. However, I am not a tennis player. I am a reader. I have always been a reader. Reading was always a solitary endeavor and so I resented the tennis players.
Then in the 1980’s book clubs started. At least I don’t remember them existing before then. Book clubs took my solitary pleasure to a collective one. I have been in four book clubs in my life. In my first book club, members were mainly young moms seeking intellectual conversation. It was dominated by an argument over whether the books we were reading were “deep” enough. I had a two year old and a three year old at home so anything that wasn’t Dr. Seuss or Julie Garwood was deep to me. I remember two books and one habit of that book club with fondness. The books are A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving and Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner. I would recommend both of these books to anyone although I haven’t read them in years. The habit I loved was we always read a children’s book at Christmas – a great way to remember an old friend, meet a new one and celebrate the season.
My next two book clubs were formed in the internet age on Meetup.com. For those of you who don’t know Meetup is a site where you can find clubs centered around a common interest. I think Meetup book clubs are particularly interesting because you are discussing the book with strangers. Most of the people from my life are fairly similar, upper middle class working mothers with similar political and cultural views. Member in my meetup book clubs have been quite different from me and from each other. In these polarized times, there is something affirming in discussing a common topic with strangers who have different viewpoints.
My final book club is one I wanted to join for years but I was never brave enough to ask to become a member. It is a group of women quite similar to me and although they call themselves a book club , I don’t think we are one. At the December meeting we choose 12 books to read for the year and supposedly set an order. However, everyone seems to read the books in different orders. So when we meet for dinner once a month we spend 1/3 of the time talking about our lives and ourselves ,1/3 of the time talking about our grown children and 1/3 of the time trying to figure out who has read what book and vaguely talking about the books in ways that won’t give away spoilers to those who haven’t read that book yet. Fun but unusual.
In every book club the selection of which book to read is always highly political. I have experienced many different selection processes, the hostess picks a book, the members vote, members come to general consensus, one person looks at all the books selected and compiles a master list to mix genres and authors. Are you in a book club? How do you select books? Let us know.