Book club… the morning after

I read many different writers and genres. These days it is mostly, but not exclusively, fiction. Sometimes, the novels that earn the most critical acclaim fall flat with me because in my mind they are generally overproduced, or over reliant on artifice. I much prefer storytelling so tight and well crafted that it doesn’t need contrivance, storytelling that helps me, by subtle association, to understand who I am and where I came from.

I love beautifully expressed, poetic sentences; but I love honest irony, good humor, and even a little healthy cynicism just as much. I love characters I wish I would meet on the street, characters I know I will miss when the book ends. I love it when place itself is a character. I love it when a wonderfully imagined book inspires me to imagine in turn. I love it when a book makes me cry—not in a maudlin way, but because my heart has truly been touched, or because I see some small piece of myself or my history in what I am reading.

I didn’t even have a book club in my life until the last few years. Now that I do, I freely admit that I’m not the world’s most compliant member. My attendance is erratic—real life, as I am fond of saying, intervenes—and I am stubborn about my personal book queue. In fact, I’m probably just a tad elitist when it comes to the books I want to read and when I want to read them. That’s the eternal English major in me. If I have a book queued up that I’ve been dying to read, it will probably supplant most book club selections.

Book clubs take a fair amount of heat. I myself disparaged them for years, thinking I couldn’t possibly enjoy reading based on a group-prescribed agenda. But our book club is friendly and forgiving; we all contribute suggestions, and the monthly selection is pulled out of a hat. Nobody cares if you haven’t read the book, but most of us usually do.

Because reading for me has always been an “individual sport,” I never would have pictured myself liking a book club. Two years or so down the road, I’m grateful that I gave our book club a chance. At its best, it has forced me out of my queue into the wider world of other genres, other writers, other people’s preferences. At its best, it’s almost like being back in a favorite class again. The warmth of the members, of course, is not insignificant, and the patience of those who coaxed me to show up continues to be deeply appreciated.

Last night, after a lively and insightful discussion that in the end made me like the book I’d just read less than I thought I had, the question was raised as to whether we should switch to bimonthly meetings. The group’s response was an overwhelming NO. I was both surprised and delighted at the ensuing comments. That “no” wasn’t about the wine; it was about the books. Friends, there is hope.


6 thoughts on “Book club… the morning after

  1. Mary Hart

    Hi Angela- I have a suggestion for your book club. Andrew Kovac’s novel, Signal Flame. Kovacs grew up in Dallas, PA and this novel takes place during 1972 and includes the flood as part of the story. It’s a lovely, quiet book that focuses on a Slovak family whose oldest son in MIA in Vietnam and the complications this family faces. Kovac’s first novel was a finalist for the National Book Prize the year it was published. My small book discussion group really loved Signal Flame and I can enthusiastically recommend it for your book discussion group.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Joy Snyder

    After 21 years in a bookclub, it is one of the best things in my life. We are self described literary snobs , although we didn’t start out that way. We have ridiculous rules….everyone reads the book together ( no reading ahead!), no discussing before bookclub, we each take turns picking , no self help or chick lit and I could go on. We take a weekend retreat at least once a year… have been through 1wedding, many births, many deaths, a divorce and so much drama we could write a book. There are seven of us. We started with eight. We, too, frequently change our minds on how we feel after our discussions and they are often heated.
    I apologize for the rambling, but you are on to a good thing. Cherish it!

    Liked by 1 person

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