The allure of book clubs

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.
Book PileI 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?
FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)
M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union on August 16, 2016. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website

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11 Responses

  1. Shared experiences are more intense. I have a home theater because I couldn’t afford to see all the movies I wanted in a theater. However, I admit that I’d rather share the experience of the film with an audience. I same is true with any storytelling medium including books.

  2. Less common to have blokes only, or mixed book clubs? I just follow Stephen King’s advice and read as much as I can – currently ten to twenty times as many words as I write per annum. I know some local writer’s groups have the reputation of being more social club, even marriage bureau, than writer’s workshop. We had another good monthly session this week at a local writer’s group in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, UK. All reading, laughing and commenting on 1,000 word stories we had written on a theme of revenge. I came away with a spring in my step marvelling about the wide scope of imagination and writing skill in the small group. We need a few more members so any interest – via Canada back to the UK? Best wishes, especially as the 19th draws ever nearer and you realise how much more work preparation you still have to do. Alexander.

    1. Sounds like you’ve found a great writing group, Alexander. I look for inspiration from all the folks I’ve met and am meeting on the blog as well as Facebook and so on. Other writers are such a supportive lot. Perhaps a book club specifically for writers would work? Imagine the conversations.

      1. Interesting idea. I am reading Howard Jacobson’s book Zoo Time and having quite a few chuckles as the first person commentary is all about being an author. He is also attracted by his mother law which may not be such a good idea.

  3. Our book club has been going 13+ years. I joined it a year in and the format was already cast. Food and win are key, a brief update from each member, and half the time to discuss the book. If we weren’t really discussing the books, I’d have to exit as you did. Our group has a wide range of ages and marital status. That diversity has contributed to the diversity of book choices (since each member chooses the book to discuss when we meet at her house) and good discussions. Love the book club!

  4. I go to a book club at my church, so we have shared experiences outside the book club. I find that helps me be more tolerant when someone asks me to read a book outside my personal tastes. I dropped the club for a year because they were reading books I was less interested in, but I missed them, so I went back.

  5. I realized some time ago that there were lots of readers on my block. So about 18 months ago, I launched a book club for our block. My magic formula is that everyone (usually around 10 to 12 members) comes and shares about the book he/she read and liked during the past month. We meet once a month, and the fact that there’s not one book that everyone needs to read makes it fascinating, and open to both men and women! Everyone is super excited about sharing his/her book. We ask questions and share thoughts, as sometimes someone has already read the book you present. All the genres are present. And often a member reads a book that was presented by someone else. For instance, one of our members presented Sutton last month, it sounded so good I listened to it as audiobook myself for a very long road trip, and it was just awesome!

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