So you want to start a book club.
Great. I did too.
To help you get going, I’ll let you take a page from my book, as it were. (Book clubbers enjoy many hearty laughs at clever word play like that.)
ªWhat clever word play?”
Moving on—for starters, you’ll need a book to read and members to read it.
“Is it really that simple?”
Oh if it only were.
Okay, you like books, and many of your friends are great readers, or they
say they are—you’ll soon be the judge of that.
My book club started up with a bang—ten members at our initial meeting. We were presented with several book candidates. After being notified of the winner, we scurried off happily to start reading.
Six weeks later we met to discuss “The Catcher in the Rye. One person had called to say he was sick and couldn’t make it. Everybody else said they’d be there, but two of them didn’t come anyway. The first no-show I called after the meeting gave the classic excuse that supposedly makes one bullet proof, “I forgot,” The second member gave the new standard lame semi-apology, “My bad.”
We agreed to kick those two out. And when the person who claimed sickness, came down with the 24 hour flu again, right before the next gathering, he was summarily, um, “dismembered.”
Here’s our standard drill. We theme our gathering at somebody’s house or a bar, restaurant, or coffee shop. When we read a book by a Brit, we either met to discuss it over scones at a tea room or bangers and mash at an English type Pub.
When we read “Moby Dick,” instead of selecting the obvious, a seafood restaurant, I made a bit of a stretch by choosing a tattoo parlor (Queequeg connection).
On the plus side, I came away with a tramp stamp.
What do you think is the number one reason for book clubs to succumb to death by attrition?
“People not reading the book?”
We had two people who consistently thought that with the opening chapter under their belt, they were qualified to discuss the whole book.
These time wasters got booted out.
That made us a cozy and still viable book club of five people
The discussions are the payoff. If you genuinely liked the book and many of the others in the group also did so, that’s the best. And it’s interesting to find out why somebody else didn’t like it.
Although, many times it’s just because he’s what we call in the upper echelons of the literary circles I habituate, “a jerk.”
Too many of the following member types can sound the death knell of the group:
One. Mr. Negative.
Oh, he read the book alright, but apparently it was tough to read when every page produced a hard-to-maintain curl of his upper lip. “Who cares about the petty problems of idle rich in Jane Austen’s novels?” “People could never travel faster than the speed of light.” “This book stinks, all of his books stink, and if you like them, you stink.”
Two. Gushing Gertie.
Every book seems to be by her favorite author. If you dare to put it under the microscope of criticism, what kind of unfeeling monster are you? What’s worse, this Pollyanna said “Crime and Punishment” would make a great musical comedy.
Three. The Visiting Professor.
Say you’ve all just read, “Anthony Trollope’s “The Warden.” Not only does this pedantic ass go on about it being a prequel to the more famous “Barchester Towers,” (which we all knew from the blurbs), he’ll go on for a half hour on where the book should stand in a ranking of all forty seven of the author’s novels.
Four. Hard Core Hard Cover.
If he had his way, we’ d all be reading limited (preferably signed), first editions. Trade paperbacks, mass market paperbacks, and heaven forbid, ebooks, are beneath him. According to this snob, you really can tell a book by its cover.
Five. Pass the Mustard.
She’s there to lunch, so any earful you get from her will be in mid mouthful.
We lost one member who couldn’t take any more lectures from Number Three.
Down to four members. Then, after I found that the other three considered watching the DVD or listening to the audio book to be “the same as reading the book,” I cleaned house.
Book club is in one hour.
I hope I show up.