What is a Book Club?
Now, this may seem like a simple question, especially for you. If you’re reading this post on my tiny little corner of the web, chances are pretty strong you’re a fairly avid reader who’s likely been involved in a book club at some point.
Or one of my family members. (Love you guys!)
Maybe, just maybe, I’ll give you something new today about book clubs or—at the very least—spark an excitement in you.
To dive right in, here’s my completely non-academic definition for you on what a book club is:
A Book Club is a regular meeting of a group of people
coming together around a literary focal point
for a common purpose.
Seems pretty straightforward and solid, right?
Let’s break it down:
So, a book club meets monthly on the same day, same time, same location?
Not necessarily. For some groups, “regular” could mean bimonthly, quarterly, twice a year or something else altogether. The time may be adjustable based on the members’ schedules. Some groups may meet in one spot every time—like a library or a church or a local business with a community room. Others rotate meeting at members’ houses. Some may even meet at local parks or restaurants.
Then, a book club is a formal affair with minutes kept and attendance scrutinized?
*Joy looks off into space as she pictures a room full of men in three-piece suits, puffing on pipes and sloshing their whisky during a particularly animated discussion of the literary merits of Chaucer.*
Okay, I’m back.
Not usually. Book clubs tend to be much more informal, though they don’t have to be. Have you watched The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society yet? It is so good, you must watch it! After you read the book, of course. Anyway, that little group took their discussions and readings quite seriously, and I adore them for it!
“Group of People”
How many folks are we talking here?
I would say you need at least two. Although Gollum/Sméagol would probably have a highly entertaining meeting on his own! I’d pay big to watch their discussion about the ending to The Return of the King.
“We hates it! We hates it!”
Back to the number a “group” connotes … I wouldn’t be so bold as to declare a maximum number of people in a book club, but they do tend to be on the smaller side. Although, how cool would it be if we packed out the Saints’ Superdome to chat about a book?
“Who dat say dey gonna read dem books?!?!” (And that’s how Joy was thrown out of New Orleans.)
With chanting like that, discussion could get a little challenging!
But, we’ve got to meet face-to-face, right?
Back in the good ol’ days, yes. Although, Book-Club-by-Letter sounds fascinating! (And, there she goes to jot down another Shiny New Idea!)
Today, we have Skype and Facebook LIVE and so much more.
“Literary Focal Point”
Well, at least we’re agreed that we’re all reading the same book.
Oh, come on!
Hear me out … the traditional format for a book club requires the group to choose one book that everyone reads and then discusses. But, there are other options with this too.
They could choose to hear presentations from one or two members each time where they share what book they’ve recently read. They could also choose to take a genre and each read a different book within it to report on. Same thing with an author or a subject time period or a specific region for the authors.
The possibilities are endless!
Neither common nor a purpose, right?
It could be common. Of course, it could also be unique.
Don’t worry. We’re pretty safe with purpose … though what that purpose is becomes the question. Right off the bat, I’m sure you’d say the purpose of a book club would be to share a good book with others. While that’s true, I believe the best book clubs run far deeper.
To be honest, the purpose of a book club could vary from member to member. Some may desire the personal enrichment that comes from regularly reading literature. Others want to broaden their exposure to various types of books. Some find both a purpose and a release through attending.
Let me give you an example from my own life to show you what I mean.
Soon after my oldest child was born, I started my first book club. We were a ladies-only group and most of us were new moms with little kiddos under foot. This became our escape—our monthly chance to foster our mutual love of reading while we got some much-needed adult time away from the little creatures that clung to us all day long. Each of us had some sort of literary background—some with degrees; all with a lifelong love of reading.
For us, our common purpose was to have an outlet for our interests with likeminded friends who were trudging through the same season of life at the same time.
How can it benefit you?
Now that we’ve established exactly what a book club is—HA!—how can one benefit you?
Honestly, this is a “let-me-count-the-ways” situation for me; but I’ve whittled my list down to five for you today.
· Brain Exercise
Do you ever play those games that exercise your brain? I love those things!
Active participation in a group like a book club—with their lively, often deep discussions—can do the same thing for you.
· Broader Literary Experiences
Most readers get rather stuck in a book rut. We read through the entire Louis L’Amour shelf at our library. We hop aboard the whodunit train with Agatha Christie, Mary Higgins Clark and others. We make sure to steer clear of the nonfiction section.
Whatever our preference (or aversion), we tend to camp there. While there’s nothing wrong with having a favorite genre, I’m bold enough to say there’s quite a bit wrong with never reading something different or—dare I say—out of our comfort zone.
When you’re part of a group that reads together, chances are (unless you’re the Sherlock Holmes-Only Reading Group) you each have a different preferred genre or two.
Put you all together, and you’ve got a well-rounded bookshelf, my friend!
· Built-in Literary Community
One of my passions—which you will hear much more about in the coming weeks and months—centers around the promotion of a literary community.
I won’t take much of your reading time now to go more in-depth with this topic, except to say every reader is part of a literary community whether they realize it or not. Some are a party-of-one member; however, when they join a book club—Voila!—built-in literary community!
We all crave community. Many of us find this most within our local church. We get it with our family and friends. Some find it at their gym or country club or neighborhood bar where everybody knows their name.
Book clubs pull people together with a common interest and offer them an opportunity to get to know one another in surprisingly deep ways. After all, you can’t discuss Jane Eyre without diving deep inside your own psyche.
· Friends and Memories for Life
And, tying on with that last one, the people with whom you experience the classics or discover a brand new favorite author or bemoan the letdown of an over-hyped new release will be your friends for life.
The memories of the laughter and tears you share over books will stick with you long after you’ve all moved to various corners of the globe or taken up new positions at work or transitioned to a different season of life.
That’s true of the two traditional in-person book clubs I’ve had the great privilege of being part of; and it’s equally true of the online book club I’ve slowly started via my social media networks. (More on that in just a moment.)
Where do I sign up?
If you’re not already involved with a book club, I’d venture a guess that there are several already in your community. Check out your local library, coffee shops or local businesses.
Don’t have one nearby? Start your own!
You do have another option … find an online reader community. You’ve got tons of ways to do that, but I suggest you check out Goodreads—one of my favorite websites of all time. It’s a giant book club itself, but you can also find smaller, more specific clubs within their groups.
Oh, and give me a follow while you’re there!
Last, but—I believe—far from least, is my own online book club. If you’ve followed me for a while by subscribing to my newsletter or through social media, you will know what I’m talking about. If not, you can catch all the previous chats on my Facebook page!
If you’ve hung out on my social media pages or happened to catch the January Book Club, you might also know that the club’s getting a tiny facelift for the new year.
I will be re-launching it in a few short weeks with a new name and even more excitement and purpose than I had in the beginning. Won’t you join me for the unveiling?
What about you? Have you ever been part of a book club? Are you part of one now? I would love to hear all about it—the good, the bad, the wine of choice. Comment below or shoot me an email any time. I love to chat!
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