The Beauty of Book Clubs

Expanding my horizons

Hello Friend,

One of the reasons why some do not like joining book clubs is that they are not too keen on having someone else choose a book, expect them to read it, and then to have to finish it within a certain time.

Those are precisely the reasons why I like being in a book club.

I am a member of two book clubs that meet once every month. One is hosted by the Stow-Munroe Falls Public Library (I am very fortunate to live within ten minutes of two great libraries), and the other by a local teacher. One meets in the library and the other in a restaurant.

The process of choosing what we read is similar in both clubs; members make suggestions and the group votes on what selection we will read. The flavor of the discussions differs somewhat because of the different venues, but each place has its own appeal; the library is quiet with the focus being on the book we are discussing, while the more casual restaurant setting allows for deviations from topic as we order food and drink, observe other patrons, and have our chat move to more personal levels at times. Both clubs feature all genres.

I deliberately did not choose membership in book clubs that are more specialized, such as those dedicated to crime or the classics or history and biographies, because I wanted to experience a greater variety in topics.

Mystery, suspense, crime, is what I gravitate towards. As a result, I often enclose myself in reading cocoons, where, once I find an author I like, I read only his or her books until I exhaust all available titles. It happened with Tess Gerritsen, Patricia Cornwell, Harlan Coben, and most recently, Lee Child. And the same happened with Richard Paul Evans who is not exactly a mystery writer. As you can imagine, this pattern of behavior leaves me little exposure to other fine books and authors when I alone choose my reading material.

That is where the book clubs come in. They help me break out of whatever cocoon I’m wrapped up in and free me to explore other genres. If I were not a member of these two groups, I would not have come to know the delightful, quirky characters of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, or of the intense rivalry between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse in The Last Days of Night, or of the experiences of war brides in Ship of Brides. I am enriched by the variety of books I am exposed to as a member of a general focus book club.

Besides the variety of topics that are covered, there is also the variety of perspectives that I am privileged to hear. I am usually surprised by someone else’s revelation of a point that I did not see before, or of how someone relates to a topic in a different way from me because of the differences in our lives. The discussions by a cross section of people with different experiences and perspectives enrich the sessions, and lead to a more in-depth knowledge of the work.

The time constraints imposed by book clubs help keep me disciplined. I am less likely to be tempted to watch every episode of the latest blockbuster shows on television back-to-back. I can ration my viewing to a few episodes per day and leave time for reading. It is a win-win situation for me.

The social aspects of getting together to discuss a book that we all read cannot be underestimated. I look forward each month to getting together with like-minded folk to share our thoughts as we indulge in a common interest. It is even more exciting when our views oppose that of our clubmates, but then we share our reasoning and perhaps raise questions that were not apparent before, all of which allows us a deeper understanding of the books we cover.

And if there is a book that one just cannot get into after several tries, no one compels you to finish it. You just wait and hope that the next selection would be more riveting.