Friday, June 10, 2011

Ode To A Book Club

Barbara: When I talk to people about my book club, it gets a whole slew of reactions. There are those that get it right away. They are part of their own groovy club, filled with interesting people and great conversations. Or I get the wistful sigh, the romantic smile: Oh, a book club sounds so great; I wish I could find a group who’d be into it; I’d love to read more books.

But most people, MOST people, fairly rant at the notion. How do you manage to read a book every month?!! Who has the time?!! Isn’t there always one smart-ass who thinks they know everything and ruins it for the rest of you?!! Isn’t it really a competition for who can host the best meeting?!! Don’t most of the books suck?!! Don’t most people not even read the books?!! Do you even talk about books or is it all kids and menopause?!!

Okay, settle down.

I’m not trying to rub it in, I’m not trying to brag, but our book club is friggin’ AWESOME! We started with just a handful of women 13 years ago when my best friend, Charlotte, opened a literary coffee shop. The coffee shop was called Wuthering Bites. Oh, it was the cutest place ever. Art on the walls, musicians every few weeks, literary readings by prominent authors and fledgling ones (shyly raises hand). Sadly, it didn’t last. But the Wuthering Bites Book Club did. And it grew.

The end-of-the-year potluck under Barbara's copper beech. Thanks everyone!
 (yes, we've all been photoshopped to look like Angelina Joli)
We are now 19 women strong, ranging in age from mid-30s to 94 (yes, a rockin’ 94, would we were all so lively, lovely, and sharp). If we add another person to the group, our living rooms will explode. (Of course, not everyone can make it to every meeting, so hosting it is not as onerous as it sounds.)

Yes, we meet once a month. We read the books. Mostly. When we don’t, we come anyway and are inspired to read them. Someone—not always the same person—might have some interesting back-story on the book or author (usually from our friend, Google). It’s not that hard to read a book a month. It’s just a few pages a night if that’s all the time you have. Of course, the books don’t suck. They’re not always to everyone’s taste, but that’s what makes the meetings so interesting. Books you wouldn’t normally pick up open your eyes to worlds you might never otherwise explore. We’re lucky: our group has a great and open dynamic, no know-it-alls or bad-mouthers. Maybe it’s the age. And we always try to talk about the book as much as we can—we’ve gotten very good at getting back on track—but yes, we also talk about life and death and heartache and illness and triumphs and efforts.

It is really really special. I don’t see most of the women outside of Book Club, but I would dearly miss them if Book Club no longer existed. I see the world through gentler eyes when I’m around them. Diverse ways of looking at the same things can have that effect on you. You can see with your own eyes that every fictional and real life struggle has its natural trajectory. And that the human spirit triumphs every time. Even if it takes a while. Or seems insurmountable.

It is complex and it is simple.

It encourages us to read read read. And books and their authors need to be championed. Where would we be without our stories? I hold my head high when I extol the virtues of my book club. Even if I don’t always tell people our private—and very immodest––name for it.

(Okay, between you and me, it’s The World’s Best Book Club.)

Deb: I think it sounds just ducky. I am the world’s slowest reader so I would not be up on the books at the same speed as the others. But I believe that anytime, anywhere a group of people comes together to read, discuss, and trade ideas and concepts is a good thing. Not everyone has to be our best friend in our lives every day. It’s nice to have people from different walks of life come in and out of our world. It makes for a more meaningful life experience I think.

So onward and upward go ye of the book club. Keep sharing and supporting. Me? I’ll be the one in the corner with the wine and the Cliff Notes! 


  1. OOooooo, Barbara - I. Am. Jealous.

  2. Rigel, I kinda have this dream of an online book club. You meet once a month at the site and discuss the book online. Too weird? Too complicated??

  3. Barbara, I was in an online book club which was an offshoot of the Oprah book club. I stayed with the group for 13 years but after a few we stopped discussing books and I just left recently because it didn't fit my needs anymore. But it was a piece of life for me. I have been in a few books clubs and all were fun and enlightening. I would love to be in yours. It looks and sounds wonderful.

  4. I'm a member of an online discussion group that reads and blabbers about diaries and journals that have been published. Always looking for new members!

    Deb, saw you at the end of Single White Spenny last night. Good thing you and Barb are not in charge of your own publicity ... honest to god, you two don't promote your TV appearances nearly enough, here among your readers, who would love to know when and where to look ... or is it just me, who doesn't watch enough TV to know what's coming on and when?

    Anyway, I'll try to catch the whole show one of these nights ... also hope to catch more glimpses of Barb in Good Dog. It's such a sweet little thrill to see either of you on screen and brag to my 18-year-old: "See there! That's my friend!"

    And then I'm disappointed that the whole show isn't about your characters. You two will have to create one starring you both, so we can see more of you.

  5. I guess I'm a day late and a dollar short to the online book club idea!! Obviously with my own excellent club, I never needed to look. But for someone like Rigel, it might be just the thing. Rigel, you and Kate know each other...

    Kate, thanks so much for your kind words and thoughts! You are so right. We don't should be announcing our gigs. Deb! Send me something I can post to the blog about Spenny : ) ! As for that show with the two of us -- we are working on it... fingers crossed.

  6. Sounds fab. I'm all for communities of amazing women. Me, I've had the Monday night painting club for over twenty years. Our fearless leader sadly passed away a few years ago, and on her deathbed said to me "keep the group going..." So I now host in my basement.
    It is so beyond books, or painting. It is about continuing friendship, community, connecting. I'm glad you're in the World's Best Book Club.

  7. Count me in!

    How about if the online book club is a spin off of The Middle Ages, we call it The Middle Pages?

  8. Hollye, your painting club sounds wonderful!! Another great idea for group connection.

    Rigel -- The Middle Pages?!!!!!! I think we have to do it just for that alone! Okay, point me in the right direction (am feeling very cotton-brained after last night's event, phew!)...

  9. I got zero sleep last night. None. Or, in the immortal words of the Pirates Who Don't Do Anything on Veggietales, "Zip. Zilch. Nada." So, like you, I am far too cotton-brained to attempt some sort of technical set up today. Sorry. I have the intelligence of a rolypoly today.

    I only ask the following: that the book club be done in an extremely tight budget friendly way. E.g. Please no picking books that are brand new and only out in hardback. Please plan the reading list and deadlines far enough in advance to give time for interlibrary loan requests or searching for a super cheap used copy and waiting for the order to arrive via media mail postage rate. Please. Thank you.

  10. As a member of THE WORLD’S BEST BOOK CLUB (aka Wuthering Bites Book Club), I am thrilled by your love note to us, Barb. We truly are an amazing group. And an eclectic one. A principal, a teacher, an artist, a legal assistant, an architect, an engineer… I could go on and on.
    And of course my 94 year-old Mom, who remembers each book better than any of us. And she ALWAYS reads the book!
    And the books. Oh, the books! There are so many wonderful reads that I would have passed over and missed out on. Some favourites are A Good House, The Story of Bobby O’Malley, The Poisonwood Bible, The Red Tent, Divisadero, The Lizard Cage… too many to mention.
    And the authors? Did I mention the authors? Just in case you’re not jealous enough, we have actually had authors come to our meetings. Wayne Johnston and Karen Connolly (twice!) instantly come to mind. What magical and amazing evenings those were.
    And our lovely Jo Anne, who keeps a faithful list of all of the books we have read over the last 13 years. And you, dear Barb, and your Copper Beech. Our end of season pot lucks are always a highlight.
    I just noticed that I have started almost every paragraph with “and”. I feel like a kid… and and and … so breathlessly excited to share! - Anne

  11. Rigel, our club has a couple of rules. Must be 500 pages or less and must be available in paperback. Also, we each bring a book suggestion to our June meeting, and then one of our members puts together the list and we all vote. The list is in place by the end of June for the following season, so we have the summer to get a head start. Good luck with the Middle Pages. Love it! - Anne.

  12. Thanks, Anne, for filling in the blanks! I wanted to mention the author visits too, but ran out of page-time! The comments section is always good for the rest. xo

  13. Are all the books fiction? Can there be nonfiction reads, too?

  14. I'm jealous, the one book club I had joined deteriorated into a monthly girls night out and is now completly defunct. I suspect out of the group only a couple of us were regular readers and may be why it failed so miserably.

  15. Rigel, we nominate all kinds of books. We don't do a lot of nonfiction, but have done several over the years. We love them too.

    Erin, maybe you want to help coerce us into doing the Middle Pages group?!

  16. What a lovely ode to your book club! I too have read some of those books recommended by my friend Anne!
    I would dearly love to be a fly at one of your meetings! Keep it going! I too am part of a book club that I love and also have read things I would never have science fiction! I hope you go another wonderful. 13 years!
    Hope Strong

  17. I would love to see a middle pages group, what a great name Rigel! I think it would turn into a really fun thing.

  18. I hate to say it but I am not a big reader,although I would love to be. With work now days it seems my like there are just not enough hours in the day. Another thing as well, when I read it seems like my mind goes in to so many thought and I think about so many things. I hate it but thats my brain for you.


  19. Thanks, Hope! I'm aiming to be at book club well into my 90s like our great inspiration, Betty.

    Erin, I will definitely keep you posted re the MP. It does sound like fun!

    And, Lyndsie, sometimes it takes practice to still the mind in order to read. It's like exercising a muscle. (but I do understand the feeling!)

  20. How many books does each person get to nominate for a round of voting?

  21. The middle pages group! Oh My Goodness what a great idea. I agree Erin and thanks for the name Rigel.

  22. Rigel, I don't want to get ahead of ourselves, but I can tell you how we do at our book club. We meet for 10 months over the year. At the June meeting (which is the "last" of the season) we each nominate 1 (sometimes 2 books). In our group, that means as many as 25 books. Our trusty Karen and Anne then amalgamate the books into a list and include a brief blurb (downloaded from the internet, ie: an official blurb). We take a week to peruse and then each of us pick our top 10 books. The 10 books with the most votes becomes our official list, and we usually read them in order of popularity. That said, we have had issues around "depressing" books falling in winter months and have since worked to fix that! If we are lucky enough to get an author to come visit (easier in a big city than elsewhere obviously), we read their book in a month/time convenient to them. I can certainly see online visits from authors as being way easier to organize than in-home visits. Anyway, lots of food for thought. And some homework to be done...

  23. Oy! That must've been a rough Jan./Feb. when y'all learned the hard way about winter scheduled depressing books. *shudders* Bad, bad mojo on that one.

    This does bring up another participation question about your group:
    Do people ever bow out for a month here or there saying, "I'm sorry, but I just can't read that book?" For example, I know my friend KatieK would never choose to read something too violent. And, I can't handle missing/dead kid books.

  24. I love this post!
    Im a member of a local book club myself, and even though when I go into the start of each session I think I have a clear cut opinion on a book, there are always people that have a completly opposite take on it and make me think twice. Book clubs are definitely great for getting lots of different angles on different subjects!

  25. Thanks, J! You definitely get the beauty. And I've had that same experience -- thinking one way about a book and then changing my mind after hearing people talk about it.

    Rigel, of course people can bow out if they don't relate to a book (or if work issues preclude availability). Fair warning: we often recommend books we haven't actually read, but have heard a lot about -- and we don't always know how things are going to pan out. If a book is too much, or too painful, we do bow out. I've bowed out due to utter boredom (with a book) :)

  26. Hi ladies - just found your site via a mention on Hart Johnson's The Naked Tart and now I get to spend my Sunday getting to know you and reading your archived posts. Couldn't think of a better way to spend the day! :-) I'm envious of your Book Club - but thanks for sharing so the rest of us can enjoy the spirit and enthusiasm by proxy. Please post updates on it. It would be nice to hear more about the experiences and maybe book choices of your group.

    Nice to "meet" you.

  27. Dianne! Welcome. So glad to meet you! We lvoe the Tart over here, and any friend of Hart's is a friend of ours :)

    Will definitely keep everyone posted on our Middle Pages developments.

  28. Barb, it sounds like your book club really is the best in the world! :) It's always nice to find people with similar interests to yours, and can be a good way to find new friends. I met my best friends in the world online, on a discussion board for a TV show. Weird, huh?

    (And I love the idea of a Middle Pages book club. That would be beyond neat!)

  29. April -- interesting that, how we can meet soul sisters and brothers online. You never know where they are, but it's always great to find them!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.