After 32 years on this Earth, and at least a good chunk of that as an avid reader, I can finally say I’ve attended a book club. I went this past Tuesday. Can you believe it? How I have I not done this before? This is like going 32 years without trying cotton candy, trying it, and kicking myself for waiting so long to devour such sticky sweetness. Going to the book club, though, is apiece, I think, with my continuing journey to better mental health. Because after the book club, I had two immediate reflections: a.) that was awesome (cotton candy, baby!); and b.) I know I never would have done that even three years ago, and clearly I didn’t. The reason I wouldn’t and didn’t is because of my prior issues around social anxiety. That venturing out on my own to join a group of strangers, even to talk about books I’ve read and loved, would be a step too far for my anxious self. I’m glad I’m mentally well enough now to have jumped at the opportunity, and gone through with it — because something else I would have done in the past is registered for the book club, read the books, prepared my notes, and then … simply not shown up.
The book club was hosted by my local library, which is literally less than five minutes from my house, making it convenient and cutting across any impulse I might have to “ghost it.” I wasn’t sure what to expect with that, having not been to a book club: Was the library hosting the space or actually leading the book club? Would it be some random person from the community? It was actually hosted and led by the library through one of its staff members. This particular book club, the Paired Book Club, was started as a one-year commitment by the library. I believe the library staff member who leads the club will rotate at each meeting, however.
Paired Book Club (for those 18-years-of-age and older) is exactly what it sounds like: you have two months to read two books, books chosen because they have have overlapping themes, genres, characters, etc. Something connects them. For the inaugural meeting, we read two books I’ve previously reviewed: Anatomy: A Love Story, and House of Salt and Sorrows. Now, even though we had plenty of time to read those two books, I’m anal about making sure the books are “fresh” in my mind, so, naturally, I read both of them a week before the book club met. I also bought them, which is a weird thing, I suppose, for a library book club, where I could have borrowed them from said library, but I like to physically own the books I read!
The evening of the book club, I also refreshed my memory again by reading my reviews and jotting down notes in a notebook. I like to be prepared! Again, not knowing what to expect. I probably looked like a super nerd, but I don’t mind. I also started to wonder if I was going to be the only male at the book club, given that both of the books lend themselves to a female audience. As it happened, I was the only male from the public. The staff member who led the book club was also a male. It was us two, and three women. The women were seasoned library book club members, having previously been to a different reoccurring book club (a Monday one). They were super nice, friendly, and welcoming! I also was worried about domineering the conversation because I was so eager to discuss the books. I tried to pick my spots, as it were. Hopefully I succeeded in not domineering the conversation.
It was so much fun, guys. Think about it. When you finish a book you like a lot, what’s the first thing you want to do? Talk about it with someone! Talk about the characters and the stories, and if there were any twists in the plot, and do you think so-and-so survived? And what about this that didn’t make any sense? Were you confused, too? What did you think about that scene? On and on. One of the most fun parts is no matter how prepared I came into the book club with notes, once you’re batting around thoughts and ideas with other human beings, it makes you think about additional ideas you previously didn’t have and/or a new way of looking at the books. It’s a freakin’ thrill to discuss a book you love with someone else! And importantly, joining the Paired Book Club encouraged me to read two books I ended up loving I wouldn’t have otherwise read on my own.
I should say also, I’ve been lucky the last 10-plus years to have a sister-in-law who is also an avid reader, specifically of Stephen King novels. We’ve always had an informal two-person “book club.” Our reading doesn’t always align, but when it does, that’s a thrill, too. We both just read/are reading the first book in The Dark Tower series, The Gunslinger.
I originally thought the conversations around the books might sputter out far shorter than the 90-minutes allotted to the inaugural book club meeting, but it didn’t. We had a lively, fun conversation the entire time, and I was downright giddy, folks! Then afterward, the library staff member and I were geeking out over me finally reading The Gunslinger.
If you are like me and love reading books, but for whatever reason also avoided joining a book club, I highly encourage you to take that step. You won’t regret doing so. Who regrets eating cotton candy, after all?!
Thanks for the story! I’m an avid reader who has had some bad book club experiences in the past (i.e. where the books aren’t discussed at all), but maybe I should give it another try?
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I’m sorry you had bad book club experiences, but I would certainly give it another shot!