Until I retired in 2010, I never belonged to a bookclub. Joining a bookclub was an aspiration for which there was never enough time. Life was too busy. During hectic ‘career’ years I was lucky to read a book each month for pleasure. Most of my reading consisted of professional journals and industry publications — the kind of reading that often put me to sleep at night.
After retirement, I became a regular patron at our local library and met a librarian who ran a bookclub as part of her work. She invited me to attend.
I was somewhat discouraged by the chit chat at the first meeting especially when some of the members who were most vocal had not read the book! The librarian led a structured the discussion around questions that she prepared and circulated to members prior to the meeting. The questions about the chosen book made me think differently about the book even before attending the meeting.
Although disappointed initially, I resolved to give the library book club three meetings before abandoning it. By the third meeting, I had met several people. A group invited me for coffee after the meeting. One member invited me to play bridge with her. Over the years I developed friendships with most of the women from this book club. As I became familiar with the people the ‘chit chat’ felt more like conversation.
I’ve since learned that part of the fun of a book club is the casual chatting as it often leads into deep and wide-ranging discussion on many topics.
After the first experience with the library book club, I joined another book club at my church. Members of this book club rebelled at a pre-circulated questions; however, some people made notes as they read the book and brought prepared observations to the meetings.
Belonging to two book clubs along with an ambitious personal reading schedule that included Giller prize winners, Booker prize winners, and Canada Reads finalists challenged me to read books that I may never have chosen if left to select on my own. Exploring different genres including memoirs, best sellers, classics, mysteries, science-fiction and young adult literature forced me into an eclectic and diverse reading menu.
After moving to a different city last year, joining a bookclub was a priority. Since nobody I knew belonged to a book club, I began with an online book club but found that I missed face to face conversations. Members of the online club tended to write book reviews. Interaction was limited so I withdrew.
Once again, I turned to my local library where a book club was offered. The meetings are short. Attendees come and go as the club is open to all patrons but I’m beginning to learn who are regular attendees and readers. It’s a great book club as the library provides the books each month which means borrowing the book rather than buying it!
Recently, a friend proposed my name to her book club and I’ve attended two lively meetings. This book club is self organizing with members agreeing to titles for discussion. It meets in members homes with various refreshments tailored to the book. Meetings are interesting and lively.
I’ve since been invited to join a third book club. This may be one too many but I know it will result in connections with new people who share an interest in reading and bonding over a love of books.
Benefits of Bookclubs
Socializing and having great conversations about books deepens the reading experience. Although reading is essentially a selfish and solitary pursuit, some books are better understood when discussed. Insights of other readers, their comments about the plot, the themes, and the characters always highlight aspects of the book that I’ve missed. Sometimes I’m inspired to re-read parts of the books after a book club discussion.
Book clubs facilitate engagement with enthusiastic readers. People who are literary geeks offer a wide range of perspectives especially when members come from diverse backgrounds. When people have strong opinions and don’t hesitate to voice their ideas, friendly debates happen. It’s amazing how different people like various aspects of a book while others dislike the same quality. It’s not uncommon for people to arrive at a meeting stating that they abandoned the book after the first few chapters because the writing style or topic seemed a waste of precious reading time.
Understanding different techniques and styles used in various books has helped me to become a more discerning reader. Exposure to different styles of writing, different authors, and different genres also helps to develop writing skills for blogging. Reading enhances grammar skills, vocabulary, and imagination. Mental slumps often vanish and new inspirations arise as I loose myself in the genius of published authors.
In my undergraduate education, I majored in English literature. Books have changed since the 60s so reading helps me to understand current literary trends including use of non-linear plots, disjointed themes and interactive literature.
Books keep my brain challenged and focused. Book clubs challenge me to read a diverse range of literature as well as best sellers. Meeting dates create deadlines for finishing a book. Most of all, the friendships and connections with others make for fun meetings.
What are your thoughts about book clubs? Do you love the stimulation of discussing books with others? Have you had a positive experience with an online book club? I’m interested in your comments.
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