Thursday, June 19, 2008
(From 12 June 2008): 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?
I'm a member of an online Book Club Forum. It's a terrific site full of great people who are very enthusiastic about books. As someone who doesn't have a lot of people in the 'real world' to talk to about books, it's great to be able to jump online any time of day (usually when I'm at work!) or night and talk books with fellow readers. The site is based in the UK, but of course it welcomes members from all over the world.
Every month we can each nominate 2 books to be in the running to be selected for the next month's reading circle. The 3 books that are seconded the most by others are then put into a poll so everyone can vote. It's a really good method that has been working for a long time. We have also done a couple of comparative reading circles where, as the name suggests, we compare 2 books on a similar theme. One such reading circle we did was on vampires, and we read Dracula by Bram Stoker and Carmilla by J Sheridan LeFanu. We don't do the comparative circles anymore though; I think perhaps members had too much other reading to be doing to be able to commit to an extra couple of books. That suits me fine too; I'm happy to participate in the monthly discussion instead.
This month we had a tie for 2 books: Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe and The Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling. I've decided to leave Wolfe for now, but I'm reading Kipling as I already had the book on my TBR pile anyway.
One of our mods always starts off the discussion by posting several questions, which we can use answer if we choose. Otherwise we just post our own comments on what we enjoyed (or not) etc. Depending on the book, a lot of discussion can be generated or not too much. Life of Pi was pretty controversial, as I recall. I love when everyone really gets into it, rather than just posting 'I liked this', or 'I didn't like this'.
Whether or not I'm reading a book for a circle doesn't really affect my reading too much. I might perhaps put a little more thought into it and try to remember certain parts to bring up later on, but mostly I just read like I always do - read the story first, then analyse it a little afterwards. I can often appreciate a book more after I've read thorough comments from others - they might pick something up that I didn't notice.