Why I Love Bookclubs

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.

Lost in a good book -- photo courtesy of Ben White
Book clubs — Lost in a good book — photo courtesy of Ben White

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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8 Comment

  1. HI Jeanette, you covered all the issues I’ve had with book clubs and why I’ve resisted joining another one after my move back to a big city. Maybe I’ll reconsider!
    Rin

    1. Bookclubs aren’t all equal! I hope you find the right book club. Since our move, I’ve been lucky. Have you tried the Newcomers Club in your new city? Newcomers has connected me with a walking group and a bridge group. They also have book clubs to explore. Happy reading!
      Be well,
      Jeanette

  2. Life long reader here. Even in my busiest times, I had to made room for novels. When there was no reading time available, I listened to audio books in the car, and now on my ipod. The only genres I actively avoid are horror, and murder mysteries. The rest is fair game — but I love good writing. I will abandon a book if the writing is too ‘grade ten’. I finally conquered Moby Dick by listening to the audio book and I must say! The writing! Sure a great story and all, but the writing… Now, to discuss another genre… have any of your book clubs attempted a graphic novel? Trust me, its a worthy reading experience and I’d be happy to suggest a few titles for you.

    1. None of my book clubs have discussed a graphic novel but I’m interested in your recommendations. I know that Margaret Atwood is exploring this genre. With your expertise and your weekly comic strip stories, I’m sure you have excellent suggestions. Please email me at jeanettelewis13@gmail.com
      Be well,
      Jeanette

  3. Agreed, retirement affords possibilities not practical during the working years. I’m still trying to sort things out and decide how to best manage my free time. A morning or afternoon book review sounds wonderful! I’ll start by checking out my local library’s programs.

    1. Good luck with finding a book club that meets your needs. Thanks to book clubs, my reading horizons has expanded and I’ve had a lot of fun!
      Be well,
      Jeanette

  4. Bonnie Parkins says: Reply

    We are delighted to have you in “Chooks” (chicks who read books), Jeannette! I belong to three clubs myself. One is a neighbourhood book club for the Blackfriars area, and it is strong on local chit-chat but sometimes it seems like the “book” discussion gets a short shrift. The way we choose a book is by looking at the library offerings on club night for available “Book Club in a Bag” which one of our members picks up the next day and we walk over to her house to pick up a copy. So there isn’t much consensus about the choice, and often it is not to the taste of the majority. But it gets a few of the neighbours out to visit and get to know each other and an opportunity to learn about other activities in the ‘hood, And sometimes there is even a good discussion about the book.
    The other club meets at the Idylwild Inn for breakfast once a month, and at a round table in the quiet turret room we feast on a pretty scrumptious breakfast on crisp white linen and lovely china surrounded by local art and a view of the Idylwild garden. This club has no pressure to read a particular book; we each bring in one or two that we have recently read on our own and give our impressions and recommendations. Several of us have taken each other’s advice and read books our friends have liked. That club started as 5 friends of a woman, recently retired, who wanted a book club so decided to make her own. We all knew Liz, but none of us knew each other, and now we’re all friends. Chooks, on the other hand, started out with my very best friends in it, and when someone brings a friend — they become one of this special gang. I sure hope you stay!

    1. Hi Bonne,
      I love the Chooks book club. The warm welcome that I’ve been given at the two meetings that I attended is appreciated. The club has a diverse group of members, all of whom have interesting perspectives! The shoe tying demo at the last meeting was fun! Who knew that that two British women would know the correct technique while we North Americans struggled with laces for a life time!
      Your other book clubs sound inspiring! How lovely to treat yourselves to breakfast at the Idylwild Inn! I’m concerned about managing 3 book clubs as well as my personal reading agenda. I hope your example will keep me on track!
      Be well,
      Jeanette

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