I’m not a particularly obsessive person, but one thing that I do love – unapologetically – is my book club.
A small group of us – family and friends and friends of friends and friends of family – started it around six years ago. Just a group of people, who all loved reading, and were looking for a way to read more and get more out of our reading. Our membership has waxed and waned over the years as people have moved away, moved closer, had babies, taken on new commitments etc, but I have come to realise that we are (amusingly, if you knew any of us personally), considered a ‘serious’ book club – that is, we don’t just get together to drink wine (although that’s obviously a bonus) – we are there to discuss our book.
We take it in turns to select a book each month, taking December off each year to celebrate with a Christmas dinner and reminisce about the books we’ve read over the course of the year. It also helps take the pressure off at a busy time of year. We agonise about what our next choice will be or alternatively have piles of books waiting in the wings for our next turn – should we select a classic? A new release? Something obscure? Something mainstream? We prepare questions in advance to guide the discussion. We sometimes have quizzes – with prizes!! One memorable month (and I wish I still had them to include a picture), one of our members, who happens to work at the State Library, printed all of her questions on little miniature book covers, smaller than matchboxes, of classic titles. Now THAT’s love and obsession at its finest.
In our first year we tended to share books around, but I’ve personally developed the need to own every one of our book club books. I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep it up in the decades ahead (simply from a space perspective), but for now we have the room and I have become quite anal about them – labelling them by month and year, grouping them in their chronological order. In six years I’ve only missed 2 discussions (both because, rather inconveniently, I was giving birth), but I still have those 2 books and will read them one day (when I have the time…). I am also determined to go back and buy those books from the first year that I don’t have – until then my shelves will feel incomplete.
Book club means so much to me for so many reasons – on a monthly basis it is an escape, a stress relief, an accomplishment, an education, a laugh, a cry…and an opportunity to engage in meaningful discourse with other wonderful individuals with varied opinions, personalities and tastes. It has led me to read books that I would never have otherwise read . Some I have loved. Others I have hated. Some I am indifferent to. Only once have I made the decision to not finish reading a book because I was so thoroughly despising it (I won’t tell you which one…). I still maintain it was the right decision. The brilliant thing about book club is that even if the book is not to your taste, the discussion will often lift it up and give it value that you had not been able to see while reading it.
There is something quite magical about different people coming together and revealing to each other whole new aspects of a book – demonstrating how the human brain and personality can influence how we experience things. I was once in Somers General Store for lunch and bumped into a long time Farrell’s customer, who would have been in her early 70s. She started talking about her book club, which at that time had been running – continuously – for 42 years. And it still had all its original members. Now that is commitment. That is love.
That is the shared joy of books. :).
There are many ways to get involved in a book club if you’re interested – from online groups to community organised ones to just setting something up with your friends as we did. And I can assure you, it’s well worth it – even if you run out of room on your bookshelves…