Have you ever been in a Reading Group or Book Club?

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.

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6 Responses to Have you ever been in a Reading Group or Book Club?

  1. I’ve never been in a reading group – not likely to in the near future either due to lack of time, but imagine it would be interesting.

  2. Alice says:

    I’m part of a very informal book club. We meet monthly in the pub! I was a founding member and it’s been going for almost six years now. It seems to have got less formal as time’s gone on and now, we tend to only talk about the book for an hour or so then just relax and chat. I’ve really enjoyed being part of the club-it’s where I met my husband so it will always have a special place in our hearts!
    When we first advertised it, literally heaps of people showed up but now it’s down to a more manageable six or so. We’ve had times where numbers have really dwindled though. We used to choose the books by quite a complicated process of people emailing the ‘coordinator’ a title they thought would be suitable, then after a set time, the coordinator would email out the nominations to everyone in the club, and we’d vote on what we wanted to read. it worked pretty well and meant people could suggest whatever they liked, but we now just take it in turns to pick a book each month which works just as well.
    I too, really like the fact that book clubs encourage you to read books you might have otherwise never thought to try. The Reader by Bernhard Schlink reallty stands out as one of those books. It’s so devastating but I loved it! Barbara Kingsolver, Andrea Levy and A.S Byatt and Jonathan Franzen are other authors the club has introduced me to 🙂 Of course, we’ve read books i haven’t liked as well, but it’s all part of the fun!
    What a long blog comment! I could talk about reading all day!

    • Alice
      I always think that reading groups are mainly populated by women – so well done on finding your husband at yours! (There must be an article or a story in that!)
      All this chat about reading groups has made me yearn to join another one but it would just be another form of procrastinating (ie: not writing), I’m sure!

      • Alice says:

        Yes, I was surprised too! People always find it funny that we met at a book club! You’re right, there’s definitely a story or article there somewhere.
        Thanks for recommending Things Fall Apart and Silas Marner- I definitely want to read both of them. Oh, and we read The Time Traveller’s Wife as a book club and found lots to discuss in it! A very good suggestion in my opinion.

      • Alice, I agree – The Time Traveler’s Wife is perfect for a reading group! One of the friends who’d joined in the ‘pooh poohing’, by the way, ended up reading the book even before me and had to, rather sheepishly, admit, that she had thoroughly enjoyed it! They didn’t make a bad job of the film either (Eric Bana – yum!!), but I didn’t cry my eyes out quite as much at the film as I did when I read the book!

  3. I’ve just entered the George Eliot comp. – thanks for flagging it up, Helen!

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