First let me say, I don’t hate the idea of book clubs. I think it’s a truly wonderful thing when a group of people who love to read to get together and discuss a book. But for me personally… not so much. I’ve been invited to join many book clubs over the years, and it’s never worked out. So I spent some time analyzing the reasons why.
Reason #1: I have NEVER liked a book that’s been chosen for a book club. I don’t know why. Maybe just bad luck. Maybe my favorite genres just aren’t book club material. Outside of school, I’ve never believed in the idea that there are certain books you really “should read.” Pleasure reading is a pastime of delight, and people should read nothing other than exactly what they want to read. Whatever the reason, I find myself struggling not only to finish the dreaded book club selection, but also to come up with some insightful things to say about it. Way too much pressure.
Reason #2: Being forced to read something on a deadline takes the fun out of it. It’s kind of like getting a job as a taste-tester in a candy factory. Sounds like a dream job, but once you have to do it… it becomes kind of a drag. The truth is, I’m usually a pretty fast reader. But the moment I’ve been given a date for the next book club meeting, reading that book becomes the very last thing I want to do. Maybe it taps into some latent rugged, American individualism within me that I just don’t like being told what to do.
Reason #3: Choosing a book is a very personal matter. I have a small list of books that I consider my favorites, and I’m passionate about these books. Opening that up to criticism from other readers is risky. I once recommended a selection to a book club and almost everyone hated it. I felt pretty stupid, but also gravely offended on behalf of my beloved text. I understand the whole point is to expose yourself to differing opinions, but there’s something so sad about discovering that someone dislikes a book you think is perfect. (Just ask my niece, who’s still reeling from my critical blog post about her favorite show, Glee.) Sometimes, you’d just rather not know.
Reason #4: For me, reading is about the inward journey. It’s not that I don’t value the opinions of others, or enjoy hearing what other people think. I do. But I read to escape. To delve into another world and get lost in the characters, the setting, and the drama of the story. Sometimes, you just don’t want others along for the ride. I’ll finish a great book and spend hours in my own private world… re-living the story, imagining myself there. It’s a solitary thrill that can only come from a good book.
Reason #5: I don’t enjoy a debate. I much prefer to connect with like-minded people who enjoy the same kind of books that I do. My mother and I share a love of historical romance and we talk about them all the time. My sister and I will spend hours discussing the British authors that we enjoy. A local friend introduced me to the fun and exciting novels of Suzanne Brockmann and we dish about her stories at length. My nieces and I love to talk about the YA fiction that we read.
So there you go… maybe I’ve been in book clubs all along, and just didn’t realize it.