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.