Friday, May 2, 2014

be your own book club

A dear friend of mine recently contacted me about book clubs.
She is a new mommy to a darling little boy, and has long wanted to be a part of a great book club -- but she has some questions and reservations. For instance, 

How do I find one?
Where do I look for a book club that reads what I want to read?

Reading a variety is always nice and challenging and interesting, but there's always that ever-present thought that (especially as a new mommy!) my free time is valuable. I want to read things and have discussions about things that are edifying and beneficial and, frankly, my-time-worthy. 

I was extremely fortunate when a good friend from church invited me to her book club. I hadn't even thought of looking for one, but as soon as she asked me about joining it, I was thrilled. I started attending about a year after we moved to Virginia, and the first thing I read with them was The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. It was a novel from 1859, considered to be one of the first mystery novels ever written. 
It was a book I had never heard of, and probably never would have read otherwise -- but this was a group of women who were smart, well-read, interesting, passionate, fun, friendly and thoughtful. Everyone had input and ideas and the discussion was great. 
It was a great group to be in, and I ended up loving the book so much! It really surprised me. It was a great introduction to a group that had been going on for 5 years before I got there. 

The group had developed and grown and changed over those years. Sometimes there were only a few women there, sometimes we had to pull up extra chairs to fit everyone at the table!
It has continued to grow, and the content is ever-changing as well. We have read older literature, from Wilkie Collins to F. Scott Fitzgerald to Jane Austen to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle...looking at classics and beloved staples of our reading histories. We have also read young adult fiction, and current popular dystopian novels like Hunger Games and The Bone Season. We've read some mystery, some thriller, some religious, and even one cookbook of sorts -- Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist. We met up and brought food from our favorite recipes in the book, and discussed it with biscuits and soup and coffee and cookies. 

We take turns picking the books, relying on a laid-back voting system. Generally a handful of women will have an idea for what we should read next, and we all decide which one we should go with. Occasionally there's only one suggestion, so we go with that. Sometimes one of us will have read something we love and want everyone else to read it, too. Or maybe, through rabbit-hole discussion, we find out that most of us have never read something like Peter Pan or The Great Gatsby, so we all decide to revisit a classic.
We meet once a month, to give us time to read and discuss. 

My advice to my friend, and to you?

Be your own book club.

Tomorrow morning I will have my very last book club here in Virginia. It is going to be extremely bittersweet.
The sweet part? Venturing to start my own book club in Arizona!
I think someone looking for a book club might shy away from starting their own because, as previously mentioned, time is valuable. It may seem like a big responsibility, or too big of an undertaking. 
But all you really need for a book club is 2 or 3 women you know and love, a place to meet each month, and a book to start with. 

Starting it small with women you know (it could even just be your mom, best friend or sister!) will solve that doubt of being comfortable and being able to really speak your mind about what books you all want to read. It will be a small group of women with the same ideals but different perspectives and favorites, who understand you and love you. And they, in turn, will most likely know a few other women here and there, and the club will naturally grow and change over time. 
Finding a place to meet is easy; for a natural hostess personality, having it in someone's home would be ideal. You could switch up who hosts, or have it at the same place every month, potluck style. Everyone can bring snacks, and you can have the coffee pot going. Or, (which is how we do it), find a great Saturday morning place, somewhere semi-quiet like a coffee shop or diner and meet there! Breakfast and coffee for all, no prep or clean-up required. 
Picking the first book is easy. Start small! Pick a book that's only a couple hundred pages, and something that will be fun to discuss. Maybe even something you've read before. Something like Great Gatsby, which is short and iconic and always a great reread, if you read it back in high school like I did and didn't quite appreciate it as much as you might now. 

I hope you give book-clubbing a chance. If you do, I'd love to hear about it!
And if you need any book recommendations, I am here for you!

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