Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Do You Book Club?

Book clubs. Love 'em or hate 'em, they aren't for everyone. Finding the right one for you in terms of genre read, way they are run, the amount of food/alcohol/giggles, the people who make up the group and many more variants means it might take a while to find the right one for you, but when you do, WOW! Such fun to be had.

Oprah launched the world's most famous Oprah's Book Club back in 1996 and helped get America and the world reading again; she also launched the careers of numerous unknown authors. There were also a few controversies over the years, but overall, it proved that people still love a good book. 

Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook fame started another global book club, this time online via FB, called A Year of Books earlier in 2015. It's designed to get the world talking, debating, challenging, thinking about a range of social issues by nominating a new book every fortnight, then inviting people to discuss. 

Every major newspaper will have a book review section, national magazines will review new releases. Book publishers will promote their new releases online, via websites or twitter feeds. In Australia, there is a TV Show called, The Book Club (on the national broadcaster, ABC). I'm sure other countries have similar shows, I'm familiar with this one. The show is in it's 9th season, which says a lot about the quality of the show, and the love of reading.

I reckon, if you ask around, you could find a book club close to you, regardless of where you live. And, if there's not one, it's so easy to reach out to a friend and start one. It only needs two of you to agree on a book to read and a date within a reasonable time frame to meet up to discuss. 

The fact that the book is the focus of discussion encourages conversation, and distracts from the fact you may not know the other people well - you soon will!

Book clubs come in all shapes and sizes. 

Some are super serious. 

Some have wine, and lots of it. 

Some are a mixture of both. 

I prefer the mixed type. A little bit of chatter, a little bit of wine ..........

If you Google 'how to start a book group' there are oodles of suggestions from various organisations, publishers, libraries and existing book groups - there's one to suit everyone.

Here's a few tips from my time in book clubs:
  • Have someone be the coordinator. They email the group the dates of book club, confirm titles and organise venues. 
    • Take turns to choose the book
    • Take turns to Host the discussion, or
    • Meet at a coffee shop or pub
  • Try to plan what you're reading a few months ahead so the group can plan to purchase or borrow from the library and share the book around the group.
  • Set a specific time to meet/discuss. 
    • eg: 7.30pm for 8pm start/finish at 10pm sharp.
  • Who ever suggests the book for the month should 'lead' the discussion
    • why was the book chosen
    • give some information about author
    • offer reviews of book
  • Depending on the time you meet, you really only need provide snacks and drinks, nothing fancy (one book club I know of provided a full dinner first, which was nice for the people who were coming from work)
  • The coordinator should summarise the book clubs discussion and email the group, so that those people who were not able to make it can still benefit from the discussion.
    • Include any notes, reviews etc
  • Some Clubs rate the book on a scale of 1-5, and keep a record.
    • Patterns emerge over time which may be helpful in selecting future titles
    • Great for those with short memories to recall what's been read, especially if the group has a high turn over (i.e.: expat groups)
  • Places where you could start a book club
    • Creche/School parents
    • Church
    • Sports team
      • spouses/partners of players
      • parents of kids in team
    • Community library
    • Neighbours
      • Great way to break the ice with neighbours
    • Work Colleagues
      • lunch time discussions
    • Golf Club, tennis club, gym etc

My first foray into book clubs was when we arrived in Dublin 9 years ago. The Club has an evening group and a day time group; G suggested the evening group might be more fun for me, as MissM was a toddler, and my grown up conversation opportunities were limited. What a clever hubby he was (and still is). Nine years on, we're bbbaaaaacccckkk and the two groups are still going strong, and I'm really enjoying being part of the group. 

We have a fabulous coordinator who ensures we have a varied reading list, nominated by people within the group, usually from their home country. We've all read books we would never in a million years have thought to read because of the way we choose them. Reading books that have been originally written in another language, only to be translated into English is very curious. There's a core group who turn up every month and others who float in and out depending on commitments. I turn up most months, tho often struggle to read the book. 

When we arrived in Yokohama there were several book groups going and most of them were 'full' so new arrivals were on a waiting list. I was fortunate to arrive at a time when several people were leaving the same book group (some to new adventures, others just opted out) so 4 of us started at the same time. OMG this book group was very serious indeed. I remember our first book, the woman who chose it actually gave us written homework to do before the next get together. MrsA and I met at my place over coffee to 'study' together then realise while we were laughing, it was from nerves and not enjoyment. 

We soon broke away from that group, and started a new one, with like minded ladies (I'm sure men enjoy reading, but they don't seem to join book groups, do they?) who enjoyed reading and laughing - at the same time.

In between moves, I had an idea to start an International Book Group on FB with friends who I had been IN book groups with so that we could continue sharing our interest .... one thing led to another and a few years on, we've nearly 100 ladies from all over the world talking books, writing, literature, and libraries. 

It's one global six degrees of separation. 

The interesting thing about it is we don't talk about anything else but books. No one knows anything about anyone else (unless they are friends in the real world) other than their taste for books. We haven't befriended each other in other areas of our FB time, and no one has abused the page with self promotion.

We don't all read the same book at the same time, but rather share what we are reading, and what we think - global recommendations, across all genre. 

People disagree with a view, or say they don't like the genre/author, and it's done politely and with a lively discussion via the keyboard. 

It someone's in a reading slump and asks for help, within minutes there's a long thread of comments, suggesting authors, specific book titles, or remedies. 

We all love commenting on those silly Top 100 lists like Top 100 Books to Read Before your 50; or Top 100 Children's Classics - the varied opinions are even better than the lists!

I've no idea how many nationalities we represent, or where we live, but we are globally minded, and love to read. We've a few authors amongst us, tho they don't promote themselves in that way, or their novels; we've several journalists; a couple of teachers; so the conversation about language, grammar, style, method etc is discussed from time to time. People like moi learn a lot!

There's a love affair with holding a book, as well as causal relationships with kindles and e-readers (especially when (a) on holidays or (b) living in a country where books in your preferred language are hard to come by); we relish traditional libraries, and celebrate pop-up libraries on a beach. 

Some of us read on kindles or e-readers, while others prefer to hold the book. I bought my kindle when we lived in Japan as getting hold of English books from the local library was difficult, and amazon didn't always allow delivery to Japan (bet you didn't realise that about online shopping - not everything is 'allowed' to be delivered to where you are) AND, the big one for me, I didn't want to end up with a lot of books I'd only ever read once to have to dispose of them one way or another when we moved on. 

We DO have books at home - MissM has a lovely collection of classic story books, and readers, while we invest in coffee table style books collected on our travels. 

I'm really proud of the impact our online book group has made to the members of the group, and each time we welcome one more new friend to the group I am reminded that reading, whether a book or a kindle, listening to an audio, seeing the plot on the screen binds changes reading from a solo activity to one to be shared. 

With friendship

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