Not quite the ceremonious circling of people, stereotypically women; tea in hand, books on lap, a patchwork of cardigans encircling their way around the coffee table in hues of reds and whites – although it certainly can be this, who’s to say otherwise – but a wonderful opportunity for different minds to connect together over new and different texts. Book clubs are a fantastic way to not only read books outside of your own choosing, but to experience the book outside of your own reading, interpret things in new ways and learn what parts of the text grabbed some of your peers but not others.
For just over a year I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of an amazing group of young women, strung together from various parts of life (school, university, work, siblings, etc), and brought together through a shared love or shared interest in developing their love of reading. The concept is simple: each of us host a different month of the year and we all read the book of the host’s choosing, coming together on a preselected date to discuss, debate, sometimes even rival over that very book’s content.
With a collection of very different personalities and interests, the books I have read in the last year have been of varying tastes and types, ranging from biographies to prose poems to young adult fiction. However, the best discussions have always come from the books that have sparked the most general dislike over characters, themes or just the general plot.
But why read a book you didn’t enjoy?
Because the promise of discussion can almost always change your opinion. On the way to our last month’s gathering, a group member happily claimed that she always left book club feeling completely different about the book we had just read. While your overall take on the book may remain unchanged, hearing multiple other voices share their reading of a book, which you have all recently completed, provides opportunity to engage in the book in a way that wouldn’t happen if you were reading for private enjoyment.
Reading for book club and reading for self, have become two different practices of reading. There’s the obvious challenge of working towards finishing a book you are uncertain about, but there is also the increased opportunity to broaden the way you think and approach your choice in literature, in the future. We tend to read a lot of contemporary writers in our group and it’s a rewarding way to engage in current book markets and even support local writers and book shops, with the promise of a group of us contributing by purchasing a books.
In fact, this has been a widely discussed topic in our book club, especially as we navigated the year in lockdown. Our approach to book club changed significantly, lockdown laws affecting not only the way that we saw each other, but also the way that we purchased books. With delivery considerably impacted, especially with purchases made from cheaper online bookstores such as Book Depository, we were able to discuss how we can better purchase in the future, moving towards supporting our local stores.
In this sense, there’s more to book clubs than just reading a book each month and popping in somewhere to talk about it. It’s also a safe place to share ideas, developments, even reading material outside of the club’s choosing.
Erin Lyon – publishing intern