Wednesday, May 5, 2010

In Praise of Book Clubs

I belong to two book clubs, and if I could, I'd belong to two dozen. I love to read books. I love to write books. And I love to talk to others who love books.
I've found that my book groups do more than talk about books. We also learn about ourselves: our beliefs and values; our experiences and viewpoints.
And something more than that. We share important moments of intersecting growth. Starting from one central point--the selected book of the month--we invariably draw hugely different understandings about what the book means and its relationship to our own lives. A good book will lead the reader to personalize at least some of its content, and in book club, we ask questions of ourselves and each other that would not be asked in any other venue: what each of us would do to survive in a concentration camp; a women's prison in the civil war; the plague in an English village; the murder of our dear friend.
Our discussions also tend to veer from the immediate topic into the past, present and future. Someone usually has a childhood adventure she shares. Or we will find ourselves in rousing discussions about current events like gay marriage, the death penalty or media influence. Sometimes a book will bring up topics for the future, usually with the introduction of: "Someday I want to. . ." And for the writer side of me, the group buzzes through a virtual smorgasbord of writing ideas: a heartbreaking family situation; a friend of a friend who died and came back; the odor of a serpentine alleyway in Florence.
The few hours each month I have in my book clubs are "now" moments and are some of my favorite moments of my month. The discussions are lively, intelligent and piercing in their personal relativity. Undefined feelings I've been carrying around for days finally find a place to be expressed, and the issues of my life, whatever they may be at the moment, are at least for a few hours, put aside.


Joyce Moore said...

Rebbie: This blog really hit home. I, too, am a member of 2 book clubs. The clubs encourage me to read outside of my own favorite genre, and as you say, it broadens your persepective. Also, the book clubs both want to read my October release as one of their choices, so I'm tickled at that. This was a really good post, and well done. Thanks!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Rebbie,

I don't belong to any book clubs but agree that they are good for both readers and writers. I myself am a devoted fiction reader and read every evening and weekend. I love a variety of books. Most of us who write are also avid readers.

Anonymous said...

You hit on such an important point, Rebbie--sharing the reading experience. It's universal across genders and age groups. I've had teenagers hand me a book and say "You have to read this so I can talk about it to someone." And my husband recently brought home a book from the library . . . I was THRILLED b/c I had downloaded the same book on my Kindle. Now we can read it at the same time, and TALK ABOUT IT! Book clubs rock, and I'm glad you brought it to our attention.

Anonymous said...

I not only love talking to others about reading and writing, but it's fun to have a book club read books about reading and writing-like THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL SOCIETY and THE WEDNESDAY SISTERS.
Reading and writing go together like tea and cookies, chocolate and vanilla, ice cream and cake, scotch and soda--I better stop now!

Anonymous said...

Hi, Rebbie,
Your book clubs sound wonderful. I have been a guest at several book clubs, and the atmosphere of discovery, the excitement of new ideas inspired me. Thanks for sharing your experiences.