Monday, March 24, 2014

The Best Book Club in the Whole Wide World

We might not wear feather boas or glittery tiaras when we meet (though I am thinking of suggesting such at the next meeting), but we have the best time when we get together to discuss our latest chosen tome.
Our group formed one afternoon in the spring of 2011 and though some of the original members have dropped out or moved away, the rest of us have persisted. We have read over twenty-three books in the last three years though meeting on a consistent basis depends on a myriad of facts.  We all have two lives – our daytime filled with family, jobs, and other obligations, and our writing life with all its deadlines, some self-imposed and others dictated by legal contracts.
Though we can bake and hostess with the best, we meet in the evenings at a cool, local coffee shop.  This way we don’t have to worry about adding more stress to our complicated lives and we don’t overstay our welcome.  Our book talks usually end when the employees start turning off lights and stacking chairs onto the empty tables.
We choose a book, pencil it into our calendars, and decide when to meet next.  We give ourselves six to eight weeks because of our other obligations and remind each other as the deadline approaches.  Some read old school – in paperback or hardcover copy, but others read on their iPads, iPhones, or by audio book.
We look at each book from two perspectives.  We study plot, characters, and themes, but because we are writers, we also look at the biz of book writing – studying the craft, the market, and targeted audience.  We dig up what we can about how it sold, its book reviews, and anything we can about the author.
We have purposely covered all genres – YA, classics, and current best sellers, but because the six of us are avid readers and constantly on the lookout for hidden gems, we have read some works that didn’t sell well or ended up in the published slush pile. (Most often, we end up agreeing with the bad reviews.)
In the last twelve months, we read The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian (because of its references to Gatsby), Into the Free by Julie Cantrell (because of its stellar reviews), and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and Divergent by Veronica Roth (because of their lucrative movie deals). Over a busy summer we each read a book of our own choice and shared it with the group, and in the fall we each read a different Jane Austen. It was an interesting experiment, but we didn’t get as much out of it as we do when we all read and analyze the same novel. Our next book is non-fiction, a first for us since most of us specialize in fiction.

What makes this the best book club in the whole wide world is not what I have learned about the craft and business of writing.  It is not about the bound books. It is deeper than that.  It is about the bonds we six have formed while commiserating over what we liked and disliked in the books we have read. It’s the discussions that have led to sharing of personal experiences.  It is the friendship shared over a cup of coffee (or a smoothie) and a book, a simple book.  

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