Monday, May 24, 2010

Literary Pursuits

Tonight (it is almost 1 am) I am "officially" posting two (in actual fact three) posts as I have gotten behind on my posting. Like my post on the Al Franken book, "Lies, And The Lying Liars Who Tell Them" this post concerns a book I have read/am reading. It is called "The Book Group Book: A Thoughtful Guide To Forming And Enjoying A Stimulating Book Discussion Group" by Ellen Slezak.

Perhaps it is not the most exciting title for a book but the book itself is quite interesting from what I have read so far. A friend and I, in much the same vein as a book club itself, took turns reading out loud many of the various essays on individual book clubs that make up the bulk and the most interesting part of the book.

The book is basically in two parts. The first part is the aforementioned essays. The second part is made up of book lists of the reading lists of many of the book club's who had a member or members submit an essay to the first (best) part of the book.

In this book there are essays by groups that meet or have met at one time as often as weekly (!) but mostly meet monthly. There are essays by groups that are strictly women's book groups (no men allowed!) and one that is made up of (surprisingly) four married couples and has been going on for several years.

There were even not one but two groups that I've read about so far that have been going on for well over fifty years! One group had been going for seventy-six years as of when the book was written in 1993 and another was started in 1926 (the year my now 83 year old mother was born).

The club that started in 1926 apparently is called The Arts Club and rather uniquely is not only one of the ones that elects officers to deal with the business of their club but has kept detailed minutes that go back to the original year they started in 1926 and have been archived in the the local university!

Some of the groups other than just the one with the married couples in it have men but that is apparently somewhat (probably not surprisingly) rare. Two of the thirty essays are by male members of the book clubs spotlighted. Being that they are the exception rather than the rule I read both of these articles already (as you can see I am cherry-picking essays and not reading them in the order they are in the book).

Having read many of these essays with my friend over the course of a day spent together I can say it has whetted our enthusiasm for potentially starting a book club of our own. We have pretty much decided that if we do start one that it would be a small group of about 4 to 6 people.

The clubs that I/we read about had anywhere between 4 and 30 some active members. We believe smaller is better. Which is good as we want to do it out of our homes, switching off between members. Also, we want to keep it intimate as neither one of us wants to be "on display" in a big group.

As for a focus on either fiction (like most clubs) or non-fiction (the odd club) or a mixture (some clubs) so far it is 50/50. I am a non-fiction advocate while my friend is partial to fiction. So it will be mixed. One wonders what the focus the other two to four as yet unknown members will prefer.

We plan on going the route of each choosing two or three books each that will then be voted on by all members with one title chosen from each person's choices. This seems the fairest option for picking titles. I can only hope that some of the other people who we end up with will also be partial to non-fiction as that is not seemingly the book club norm.

This pretty much brings me to the end of this post except to ask my readers what your thoughts are on book clubs. Have you ever belonged to one? Would you like to belong to one? Do you have any "housekeeping" suggestions if my friend and I start a bookclub?


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