What is it about book clubs that is so alluring, particular for women readers? Almost everyone I meet belongs to a book club and if they don’t, they talk about books on sites like Goodreads or small book blogs.
I remember the thrill of being asked to join my first book club, one that was newly forming roughly fourteen years ago. We were serious, that first evening, debating the kind of books we wanted to read, the way we would conduct ourselves and divvy up responsibilities, the frequency of gathering, the need for a summer break. Over the years this group has ebbed and flowed with new members joining and others leaving in an amorphous, unpredictable pattern. The books and lively discussion hold us together despite opposing views – in fact, opposing views make the evening more interesting!
After moving to Hong Kong, I thought a book club might help me make friends so when someone mentioned their group I boldly asked to join. Politely hanging back had not worked in my efforts to find kindred spirits! I attended a few of their meetings, diligently reading the books and preparing to make a thoughtful contribution. But this was a book club in name only, each book dispensed with in roughly fifteen minutes to make way for lengthy conversations about vacations, Hong kong shopping finds, the complexities of getting children into American universities, and a large dollop of local gossip. I extricated myself on the pretence of beginning a new job.
Several months later, when a friend spoke of a book club she used to belong to in Singapore, I proposed that we form a book club for two. We had a wonderful time exploring books together, our conversations often lasting more than two hours, a glass of wine or cup of tea were all we needed to get us going. Often we chose books with an Asian theme, using them as a way to deepen our understanding of that part of the world.
Everyone’s magic formula for book clubs is different. Mine is kindred spirits, a variety of books I might otherwise not read, a chance to explore these books more deeply and appreciate different points of views, a chance to learn, and a bit of socializing along with a glass of wine and a few nibbles.
What’s your magic formula?