Friday 13 June 2008

Booking Through Thursday

Today's question kind of answers itself, if you read through this week's entries. At least part of it is answered, anyway...

Have you ever been a member of a book club? How did your group choose (or, if you haven’t been, what do you think is the best way to choose) the next book and who would lead discussion?

Do you feel more or less likely to appreciate books if you are obliged to read them for book groups rather than choosing them of your own free will? Does knowing they are going to be read as part of a group affect the reading experience?

So, YES, I am a member of a book group! Two, in fact, which both met this week. I love book groups; they're such a wonderful way of talking about literature without being scholarly (I also love academic English, but enjoy the divide between studying and reading groups.) One choose the books by compiling a shortlist of about four, and having an online poll (I'm currently rooting for My Cousin Rachel) while the other just decides six months at a time, from whatever people throw into the circle. My latest suggestion there was Edward Carey's Alva & Irva, which I haven't read, but looks fascinating.

To go onto the second part of the question, I don't think it really alters how I read a book (except that I'll probably be reading it very quickly, at the last minute!) - but it will affect the ways in which I reflect upon it. Except for writing about them on here, most books I read aren't dwelt upon - I don't forget them immediately, but I certainly don't spend much time considering my opinion. To have an evening spent discussing it is invaluable, and has sometimes changed my mind about a book.

I heartily recommend Jenny Hartley's book on the subject, Reading Groups, which was written up from questionnaires sent out to lots of book groups. Fascinating, and very well written. I wrote more about it here...

As always - over to you! Same questions as above.


  1. I started a reading group, by advertising in a local parish magazine. A group on twelve was formed, that immediately dropped to ten; two feeling that they had done the wrong thing. At first things went well, but it soon became obvious, that due to the group being made up of professional women, there was a huge element of competiton in choosing 'the high brow'. So many of the books were a struggle to start, let alone finish - esoteric and deadly, deadly dull. If a member (rarely) suggested Wodehouse, Sharp, or Atkinson it was quickly dismissed as 'frivolous'.
    The end of the affair happened when my own novel was published and I suggested the group read it. Their faces were a picture of 'How can YOU possibly write anything other than commercial dross!'

    It was time to give in my notice.

    Moral of this story - make your choices as wide and varying as possible, from the best seller to the obscure, from the earliest works to the present day, from deep literature to chick lit.

  2. I like your drawing! In the absence of a reading group in my area then it's blogging all the way for me - and it is a marvellous substitute. I've had more fun with my reading and met the most fantastic people online. I do appreciate books more when I have a chance to discuss them.

  3. I love discussing books so much that I do it for a living, which means that I rebel a bit when it comes to book groups. I think I fear being "told" what to read. What if I have to waste my precious, precious time reading something I don't enjoy? What if I (gasp) have to finish a Bad Book??? Nevertheless, I'm tempted to join groups like this, and I probably will this year; the pleasures outweigh the risks, as long as I can find some relatively like-minded people. I agree with Mary -- the more variety, the better.

    By the way, My Cousin Rachel is absolutely marvelous.


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