Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff Dustcover

Book Clubs

Tracey Columns

Since the publication of my novel last year (Duck Pond Epiphany) one of the unexpected pleasures I’ve had is participating in a variety of different book clubs. Whether in person or via technology (yep, computers can bring us all together in the same room) I have repeatedly found myself engaged in lively discussion with bright, articulate, and often very funny women. The questions they ask are thought provoking, their observations keen. I always say goodbye feeling rewarded as an author and simply happy as a human being for having had the experience.

Interestingly, quite often at the beginning of every club, someone sheepishly admits that sometimes the group gets off track, that their social sharing has been known to trump whatever book they might have read that month. I know, it’s happened in my own book club. Granted, we’re all there to talk books but I find the gathering of like minded women to be a powerful evening, no matter how they decide to spend their time.

Midlife and beyond is the perfect time to join a book club. Ask your friends if they belong to one and if they are taking new members. (Be aware that many clubs have been meeting for years and some are hesitant about adding new members. It makes sense so please don’t take this kind of arrangement personally.) You can also check bookstores for lists of book clubs.

Perhaps you’d like to begin your very own. Here are some guidelines to make it happen:

1) Understand why you are starting a book club. What are your intentions, your expectations? Are you steadfastly interested in intellectual stimulation or is social connection most important?  Are you looking for friendships or simply an escape into books with like minded people? Perhaps a diverse group appeals to you more?

2) What types of books are you interested in reading and discussing? Fiction, non-  fiction, romance, biographies, travel … or all of the above! Knowing what you are interested in or conversely, open to, will help you define your club.

3) How will you find members? Begin with your friends, neighbors, service club acquaintances, or fellow church members.  Ask people if they are interested and who they might know who would also want to join in the fun.  Start small and resist the temptation to add anyone just because you have low numbers. What you are aiming for is a comfortable group of people who can get along well. Glaring differences in values and beliefs can sometimes sabotage the best efforts. 

4)  Consider how will you organize your meetings — the nuts and bolts of each session. How often will you meet? What about summers and the holiday season? Think about how your books will be selected. (Will there be a democratic vote or will the next host decide? Some clubs simply put titles into a hat and draw one out for the next month.) Will there be refreshments, simple snacks or dessert, a pot luck dinner or a monthly hosted dinner?   

5) Where you meet can also be up for grabs. While many book clubs meet in private homes, this arrangement isn’t absolutely necessary. Libraries, churches, even coffee shops are places to gather. (Be aware that the size of your group may ultimately dictate the location. But also be aware that the larger the group of people, the more things there are to consider, everything from having enough time for everyone to share an opinion to a host scheduling challenges.)  

If beginning your own book club sounds daunting, consider joining a virtual book club. There are plenty of wonderful groups meeting on-line. Signing up is easy and you have an instant group of people ready to start talking books with you! Just ‘google’ book clubs or book groups. Then, it is a matter of finding a site that matches your interests. Take your time, do your homework, and feel free to try a couple before you decide to settle in.  

Whatever your approach, if a book club appeals to you I hope you find a way to make it happen. It is time well spent. 

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