I belonged to one at the MAC (Midlands Arts Centre) in Birmingham some years ago. Over 20 people turned up for the first meeting and by about the fourth gathering, the numbers had dwindled down to three of us! (One of whom was my friend Chris who hadn’t even read the book for that month – I think it was Silas Marner – but managed to blag her way through the ‘meeting’ and spoke more than anyone else – including the leader – impressive!).
Then I belonged to a different one – also at the MAC – which combined reading and writing but most of the first two or three sessions were taken up by deciding – and voting on – which books we should read for the rest of the course. It was hilarious – but also a nightmare! We just seemed to go round in circles: no-one could agree. I remember suggesting ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’ and it being ‘pooh poohed’ because it was – gasp – a Richard and Judy Book! I shut up after that. (But I read it anyway and it was fantastic).
The good thing about Reading Groups (if you can stand some of the strange people they attract!) is that they encourage you to read books you might not otherwise attempt. Chinua Achebe’s ‘Things Fall Apart’ springs to mind. I’d never have read that without my Reading Group and it’s one of those books that, once read, you can never forget.
Anyway, just in case you’re thinking of setting up your own reading group in September (I only say September because that seems to be the month when everything starts up again!), the Mslexia website is kindly giving away two ‘Reading Group Starter Packs’, worth £25 each and featuring: 8 copies of newbooks magazine, 8 books, a Reader’s Journal, plus hints and tips on setting up a new group.
The closing date is 31st August and you can enter here. (The answer, by the way, is Elsbeth Lindner. Aren’t I good to you?)
And if you’d like to read the highly-recommended ‘Silas Marner’ then pop over to Vanessa Oakes’ wonderfully-named blog, ‘Desperately Seeking George’ (that’s George Eliot), where she’s giving away no less than 20 copies of the book! Just leave your name in the comment box by 31st August.