Recently a friend of mine confided in me about her book club.
"Heather, I'm in a book club where you have to read the book and if you don't finish it they are offended. Seriously offended. Your name goes a list and then if you end up on the list too many times, you're asked to leave the group. These are heavy books -- like examining existentialism and I don't know, literary musings of the literate."
"Really? Is there wine at the meeting?"
"No! Sometimes there will be hard candies in a bowl."
"Like at a Grandma's house?" It was the only other place I could imagine finding those twisted wrapper candies that tasted like dust.
"Yes! And then we take a couple of hours and we talk about the book, using pre-selected questions and everyone is totally into it. I can barely get through the book, let alone discuss how I feel about it because, well, I feel stupid, or bored or I don't know what."
"Why do you go?"
"Because I thought it would be a good place to meet people. And I love books, just not these books."
"Hmm. I hear you. Sometimes I start a 'critically acclaimed' book only to realize I'm too dumb or ignorant to get past the first chapter. I say to myself, 'Come on Heather you're not giving it a chance' and then when I try again, I feel like yelling, who would read this? Are you going to keep going to the read it or die group?" I asked her.
"I guess, for now. At least until I can come up with a better club."
BOOK CLUB TYPE I: Read It or Die.
Read it Or Die Book Clubs select books, discuss them by choice and enjoy the process. Age range unlimited. Alcohol is generally unwelcome. Food is a distraction. These clubs aren't for everyone. If you ask about a club's reading selection and they use words like, classics, or literary style...just know this might not be the place to meet other moms that want to 'sneak' out for a couple hours.
"Mom, how long have you known the ladies in your book club?" My mother is in her mid-sixties.
"Well, probably 20 years. We've been calling it the book club before there was a 'book club' trend you know."
"True. But you guys don't read any books."
"Sure we read books. We just each read our own book, go shopping and drink wine. That's the book club."
"Do you share your books?"
"Well, Loraine always gets her's from the library so she can't really share those. And Judy reads really fast so sometimes we trade books. But mostly we just recommend books to each other that we think the other person would like."
"Why'd you start calling it the book club then?"
"Because our Florida trip always involves reading, but mostly we read wine labels -- they are like really short books."
Book Club Type II: Read it, then Drink it.
No books are selected for group reading. Reading any book is considered a good sign but not necessary for membership in the club. Alcohol is mandatory and food is both welcomed and savoured. There is a strict requirement of friendship to belong to the Read it and then Drink it Club and not all applicants will be accepted.
"Heather, you should come to our book club. It's fun."
"What do you guys read?"
"Oh, different stuff. Sometimes we read fiction, or non-fiction; sometimes we do something from the best sellers list or we'll pick a new author. It just depends. We meet on Wednesdays. We rotate houses."
"Is there wine?"
"Oh, for sure. And food. Sometimes we talk about the books and sometimes we talk about life. Most of the ladies are happy to get out for the evening -- read a decent book and then enjoy some socializing."
"That sounds good. Does everyone actually read the book?"
"Some read it, some don't finish it -- some apologize because life got the better of them and they didn't even get the book. It happens."
I nodded in agreement with her statement and added my own thoughts. "I agree. Books are so personal. There have been times when someone recommends a book and when I read the back cover, it talks about the death of a child or a mother with three kids, battling cancer - and I'm sure there are great lessons and insights but the storyline feels too close, too possible. I love being moved by a book but I can't read books that paralyze me - do you know what I mean?"
"Yah. I do know. It's hard enough to get to a meeting -- arranging everyone's schedule so I can get away -- let alone read the book or read a book that makes me feel utterly depressed. Read it, don't read it, whatever you want, but just come."
Book Club Type III: Read it, Don't read it, but Come and We'll Hug You.
Books are selected for their enjoyment, ease of reading and sometimes controversial content. Books are discussed or not discussed, food is always available and alcohol is a silent soldier happily waiting on the counter top. This is the warm-hug of book clubs; happy to have you, happy to share books, and most importantly, happy to share life.
Books are doors that open into a vast and unending variety of worlds and experiences and the book clubs we attend are the real doors that open into peoples lives so we can share those words and our journeys.
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Happy Slice Everyone.
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