Book clubs: A new chapter

Closeup of woman reading on a beach

In today’s technological society, amidst the electronic devices bathing us in social media, you may be surprised to learn that people do still get together in person from time to time. OK, yes, sometimes we need a good reason to interact face-to-face rather than over the WiFi; once we’re done with work and other commitments, leaving the house for yet another task can be daunting. Sure, we want to go out and have fun, but sometimes we need some incentive to actually crawl out of the couch. And so I present to you the perfect marriage of friendly gathering and obligation: a book club.

Reading is my comfort, my haven, the balm to my soul, the cookies to my milk. I especially enjoy finishing a novel then having a chance to discuss it with others. (Ideally they are people who loved or hated the book as much as I did, so we can both get excited and scream a lot, but I will take whomever is willing to spare the time to analyze with me.)

Right around the time my first child was born, some of my friends decided that we should make the “let’s talk about this book most of us just read” an “official thing.” We would all read the same book, then get together to discuss it at length. This was an exciting development for me, as I had recently quit my job and could already feel the intellectual lobe of my brain mummifying from lack of use. Now I had an assignment, a dedicated purpose, and deadline. And it wasn’t really work, it was reading! With a guaranteed afternoon spent in the company of friends? Marvelous.

Now, of course, book clubs are quite prevalent. For a while, I was simultaneously in three! Many novels published today provide discussion questions tailored especially for book clubs (We shall disregard, for the moment, that these questions often rival college bluebook exams in their complexity). Libraries have entire shelves devoted to novels they consider club-worthy. Start typing “book club” into Amazon’s search bar and recommendations will autofill for you, unfurling lists of books that you may never have even heard of before.

An especially intriguing element of a book club is the myriad genres that can be explored. I usually gravitate toward young adult science fiction (I must be a perennial middle-schooler), but most of the other members of my book club tend toward other interests. Some of them pick books that I would normally never give a second glance. So with a grimace of distaste, I reserve my copy of the selection at my library. Once I have it in hand, I reluctantly open the cover and cringe at the unknown contents within, only to lose myself in the story after a few pages. Ever heard of “Gone Girl?” Yeah. That’s how that novel came into my life, as a dubious selection of my book club, long before Ben Affleck had a featured shower scene in the film adaptation.

Membership in a book club is pretty easy, and free if you successfully stalk a copy of the assigned novel via the library. This can be the most difficult obstacle: Getting your meaty paws on the book, especially when it’s a new release, only available in hardcover and the waiting list at the library is roughly 80 people long. Even non-new releases can be tricky if the book is obscure or overly popular because of the aforementioned Amazon search. I have the misfortune of living in the same small town as another member from my book club; when the title of the next selection is revealed, she and I will race to the library website to stake a virtual claim before the other. She usually wins. The odds are ever in her favor.

In these trying times of frenzied toddler activities and after-school extracurriculars, being in a book club remains an invaluable part of my life. Having the chance to chat with friends and be all literary and intellectual and stuff helps keep me sane and gives me an anchor in the turbulent Ocean of Life.

As the famous philosopher Socrates once observed, “A month without book club is like a night without stars.” Well, someone said something to that effect. Maybe it was Judy Blume.

– Wendy MacKenzie is a mother of four, Parenting Program volunteer, and voracious reader who devours books early and often.

1 Response to “Book clubs: A new chapter”

  1. 1 Anonymous October 11, 2016 at 9:45 am

    Love this article!

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