Persephone Chairs

It’s sort of funny how the noun “club” can mean a gathering of people who share an interest, or a blunt object used as a weapon.  As a verb, it can mean (very informally) to create such a group, or to use a blunt object to wallop someone.

Taking that one step further, book clubs… 

(Stop giggling.  Yes.  You could use a book as a club.  Certainly, my five-and-a-half-pound Riverside Shakespeare could qualify as a blunt weapon.)

More seriously, book clubs as discussion groups about books (often themed) can be as lively and dangerous as any battlefield.  Readers can have very strong opinions about what makes a good book, a weak book, or a book that just makes the reader go “meh.”

Three of the main characters in my recent novels, Library of the Sapphire Wind and Aurora Borealis Bridge, meet because they belong to the same book club.  At the opening of the novel, they’re engaged in a discussion of the relative merits of romance novels.  And, when they are drawn into an adventure right out of the wildest sort of adventure fantasy, they often draw on what they’ve vicariously experienced as readers to find solutions to various dilemmas.

It’s been a long time since I belonged to a formal book club, although my Friday Fragments blog does have something of the flavor of one, as readers list what books they’re reading.  I’ve discovered several books this way, and been reminded of those I’ve always meant to read.

A fascinating development in the world of book clubs is the use of a reader’s guide to provide structure to the discussion.  I can certainly see the appeal, since discussions that stop at, “Well, yeah, I liked it kinda, but I’m not sure,” tend to stall really quickly.

Do you belong to a book club, formal or informal?  Does your group use reader’s guides?  If so, what sort of things do you look for in a guide?

Or does a reader’s guide make you feel as if you’ve been clubbed?

Let me know, either in the Comments or, if you’re shy, you can use the contact e-mail listed on my website.

Oh!  Just occurred to me, “to club” can also mean to go to a club, especially a nightclub, as in “to go clubbing.”  What a versatile term indeed!

7 Responses to “Clubbing”

  1. James Mendur Says:

    The last book club meeting I went to was at a library, and was full of people gushing over “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice” and I felt I had to tone down my “OMG! SHE’S THE DEFINITION OF A MARY SUE AND HER FIRST NAME IS ACTUALLY MARY!” reaction because I sensed there would be no tolerance for someone who disliked the book on that basis.

    As for guides, I’ve never been given a readers’ guide but I’ve been subjected to writing group guides which, while intended to protect authors’ feelings and keep things civil, didn’t really allow for remarks like “your story has major problems.” To use a metaphor, I ended up commenting on the hubcaps when the car was missing an engine.

    I think a list of questions, in case the discussion goes quiet or goes too far off topic, might be a good idea for book clubs, but not a “guide” which would turn a friendly club into a test of how well you prepared.

    • janelindskold Says:

      Nice differentiation! I like that. My friend Sally and I used to discuss books, and over time we learned each other’s irrational likes and dislikes, and learned to accommodate them, so I’d say something like “these characters might be a bit over the top for you but…” and so she’d try a book for warned, and often like it. She’d do the same for me. I miss our weekly discussion SO much.

  2. HelixRook Says:

    It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a book club (at least 12 years). I wish I could say that I’ve been more invested and involved in books but work has caused chaos. Still, perhaps once my first draft is done, I’ll be able to poke around and find a group to discuss books. For now, it’s me and my coworker discussing what the other needs to read and then their thoughts. If two make a club, then I guess I’m already joined.

  3. Harried Harry Says:

    The closest I’ve gotten to a book club in the past 60 years is your “Friday Fragments”. Otherwise I’ve skipped them since I don’t like doing “homework” and enjoy reading at my own pace. Of course, these days, I have trouble remembering one book for more than 60 days unless it has some extremely good prose or ideas.

    I learned to read at an early age, but when it came to speaking, not very well until much older. My mother always told me “I talked like a Dutchman” when very young. This must be something which runs in the family since my second son did the same thing. Both of our older boys had hearing issues which required extensive medical and speech therapy. Now they read very well, talk several languages, and are engineers (I guess this counts as a language).

    • janelindskold Says:

      Sounds as if your sons had a wonderful and supportive family. Wonderful!

      • Harried Harry Says:

        We tried very hard. Two have IQs in the genius range and the third is “near genius. The lady upstairs really used a mix-master when she mixed their DNA together. The kids (getting much older now) do well and, for the most part, enjoy what they do. I’m retired but my wife is still working around the house trying her best to keep me out of trouble.

        Enjoy your week and all your efforts in doing the latest version of story in the Library saga.

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