Thursday, January 23, 2020

Review of Book Clubs

Belonging to a book club can be a fun and rewarding experience.

book club photo
Book Club Luncheon Outing January 2020
I have belonged to a book club for the past 17 years.  I always look forward to the next meeting and discussing the books we have read.

Book Club Information Online

I did some research online in preparation for writing this post and found there is really no "one size fits all" approach to book clubs.  

There are book clubs hosted by groups of friends, by libraries, by publishers, by churches, by special interest groups and a multitude of others.  You can find online book clubs, clubs that meet at peoples houses, clubs that meet at public places and library sponsered clubs meeting at the library.

Some book clubs have books selected by the sponsoring organization or person and others have members select the books.  There are book clubs that only read one genre of books such as a mystery book club or a history book club and others that read a variety of different genres.

In looking for some history on the start of book clubs, I came to the conclusion that the discussion of books in groups dates back as far as we had the written word.  In the USA I found references back to 1634 on a ship headed to the Massachusetss Bay Colony and another literary society started in 1727 by Benjamin Franklin named Junto.

My Experience in a Book Club

The book club I belong to has about 12-14 members at any given time. This seems like a good amount of people for a good discussion.  Each month there are some people missing but we still have enough for a lively discussion.

Our club actually started 20 years ago and still has 5 of the original members.  As members have to leave due to illness, moving or other obiligations new members are added to our group. I joined when we moved to the area and a friend invited me to join the group.

We meet once a month at a different members house and that member leads a discussion on the book and provides refreshments for the group.  

We read a variety of different genre's, each book is chosen by the hostess for the month.  The hostess will have given us the name of the book and the date she will host the meeting at the previous meeting.  So we have a month to obtain and read the book.  Some members get the book from the library, some order an ebook online and others purchase a paper book.

We try to stay on topic, but sometimes that is difficult as we have been together for a long time. Sometimes we just need to set some time aside to socialize before we start the book discussion.

For refreshments we might serve wine and/or soft drinks and a variety of snacks.  We usually end the evening with a dessert.  Many of our hostesses will look for a food theme from the book and serve a snack or dessert that fits that theme.

Over the years we have done some fun things with the group.

  • Several times we have invited an author to our meeting to lead the discussion of their book.  It is fun when we find a local author to do this.
  • We have gone on field trips before.  One in particular that I remember was to a historical house in the area where one of our members is a docent.
  • Another time we decided we would try our hand at writing a book.  We each wrote a chapter and then passed it on to a member at the next meeting to write the next chapter.  We did not have a plan ahead of time about where the book would head so it was a surprise to all of us when we got the final story.  It wasn't a particularly compelling book but it did give us an experience of what an author goes through in writing.

Guidelines for a Book Club based on my Experience

Here are some of my thoughts on book clubs.

  • Set your schedules a year in advance ( or at least 6 months).  Before we did this we spent a lot of time each meeting discussing who would have the next meeting.  Now we send around a sign up sheet each January and everyone picks a month.  They don't have to choose the book or the exact date till the month before.
  • The hostess should plan a few questions to help get the discussion rolling.  A lot of times these questions can be found on the author's or publishers websites.
  • Having prepared questions are a good way to get the discussion back on track when someone tries to sideline it.
  • Keep  an open mind to reading types of books you  wouldn't normally choose.  I have read so many books in book club that I would never have chosen, but when I read them they are great.  It has really broadened my horizons in my reading.

Books we Have Read

In the 17 years that I have belonged to book club we have read nearly 200 different book.  I can't begin to list them all in this post but here are a few of the ones that we have read in the past couple of years that I thought you might enjoy.

The first one is the one we are reading for this month.  It is a historical fiction book, which is one of my favorite genres.  This was a very interesting book.

The next book is one we read last year.  It was an interesting study involving cooking and the different personalities that took a cooking class.  It was different from others we have read but I found it very interesting.

Here is a list of several other books we have read in the past several months.

  • Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  • Big Little Lies by Lianne Moriarity
  • Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan
  • The Book Club by Mary Alice Monroe
  • Leaving Time by Jodi Piccoult
  • No Way Back by Andrew Gross
  • Long Road to Mercy by David Balducci
  • A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline
  • I've Got My Eyes on You by Mary Higgins Clark
  • The Address by Fiona Davis
  • The Trapped Girl by Robert Dugoni
  • Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
All of these are books that I enjoyed and would recommend.
Happy  Reading!!

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  1. Mary Beth, your book club sounds like so much fun! Years ago I belonged to a book club and enjoyed it. Someday I'll join one again. Your list of books is impressive!

  2. Your book club sounds wonderful! What a neat way to socialize while adding to your adventure in reading! Thank you for the guidelines!

  3. Delighted to hear you enjoy your Book Club so much, Mary Beth. I belonged to one many years ago several ladies in my church decided to begin. There were about 10 members and we were together for about 2 years until 6 of the ten members, including me, became pregnant. The other 4 were older ladies and decided we better dissolve the group as this condition might be 'catching'.... LOL. Actually, we had to break up the Book Club because none of us had time for it any more with this bunch of new babies coming. :) I did enjoy it and may join another Book Club some day. I read voraciously anyway. Thanks for including your list. I will check some of those books out.

  4. I've never belonged to a "book club" that meets on a regular basis, but do belong to Goodreads. I find that my time is so limited these days that actually going out would be hard to do. Too many other obligations take top priority. I like the idea though because you really get to know people by sharing ideas and thoughts. Lucky you! I like your list and think I have read all of them!

  5. What an interesting topic for a review. I would enjoy being in a book club. Can't believe I have yet to participate in one given all of the reading that I do. I have read some of the books you list here. After you reviewed the School of Essential Ingredients, I immediately read that book. Quite an interesting book. I also loved Leaving Time.

  6. How very awesome! I've never been a member of a book club, but it does sound like your group is fantastic and fun. What a lovely way to share the love of reading with friends. I'm sure it is enlightening at times. As I read over the list of the past years selections, I can see there are some I wouldn't pick up on my own. Definitely a great way to expand your interests and knowledge of a variety of genres and authors.

  7. Mary Beth, I’ve always thought it would be interesting to join a book club. Not driving limits my mobility, but I had no idea that there were also online book clubs. That’s something I plan to look into. I think the social aspect is important and holding the meetings at the members’ homes, in round robin fashion, sounds ideal. I love that you also take field trips together and invite local authors to your meetings. (BTW, I, too, read and really enjoyed The School of Essential Ingredients after I read your excellent review of it.)

  8. So many good books are released every year. I love our book club for a few reasons including that it encourages me to pick up books that I might not normally read. Yours sounds like a great group, Mary Beth.

  9. Sounds like your book club is a great experience for you. I have never belonged to a book club, but our Bible study group is similar. We pick a book of the Bible we want to study and rotate leadership. The leader supplies the discussion questions. We are in our third year now and our members have become very close. Some of us even carpool to get to the meetings. I wouldn't have time to join another group, even though the public library does have a club.

  10. Wow, that is fantastic - reading so many books and belonging to a book club! I've never done that. Not sure I could, but I sure enjoy the conversation and analysis part of the meetings.


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