Discussion: Book Club

Posted November 19, 2018 by Nicky in General / 8 Comments

I’m somewhat convinced to post an opener for my book club choices on Habitica here, starting in December, but in the meantime I wanted to ponder a little about picking books for a book club. It can be really difficult: do you want to pick something people will like, or something people will discuss? Often those won’t be the same thing at all: a book group I was in had months of fruitful discussion about a book we universally loathed, while a book we loved had maybe five comments in the whole thread. The discussion is often better if a book is divisive, too: if one person criticises it and another digs in to defend it, and nobody’s feelings get hurt, there are hours of discussion to be had.

Confession: mostly, I pick the books for the Habitica book club with three criteria: 1) it’s a different genre to the last two months’, 2) I own it and 3) I want to read it sometime soon. The whole intent was to cut out the difficult bit where people vote on a choice or someone forgets that it’s their month to pick or whatever, and just make sure that it’s a book I already own, want to read, and think could prompt some discussion if anyone feels into it. (Most successful pick in a while for the latter is this month’s pick: The Genius Plague, by David Walton.) To a great extent, it’s a commitment device: I told these people I’ll read it, so I guess I’m gonna have to.

(Sometimes it works.)

If I’m picking for a book club in the real world, discussion is probably the primary thing on my mind — but also trying to balance everyone else’s known likes and dislikes. Is this book going to provoke a political argument? Is this book going to just bore X silly? Is Y going to be a child about what happens in chapter ten? Just sharing a book I enjoyed or expect to enjoy has never really worked, mostly because I feel like other people expect something worth discussing.

I’d love a book club where people abandoned lists of discussion questions or considerations of what other people would like. Every month, a different person would bring along a book they just really loved. Okay, discussions would sometimes just be handflappy “omg the bit with X and Y doing the thing!”… but that sounds kind of nice, and I have no doubt that discussions would still arise organically, not due to intent but simply because books are like that, if you give them half a chance. There would be a strict rule about never telling someone else their taste sucks just because it differs.

To be quite fair, my favourite book club is pretty much like that and consists of two people: me and my wife. Discussions are random, tastes mostly align without total agreement ever being likely or desired, and I’ve never had to offer to crown her with a tub of guac. (Sorry, Robert.) Someday, for the sake of Wife Book Club, I might even get round to reading Republic of Thieves.

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8 responses to “Discussion: Book Club

  1. I see a lot of people enjoy book groups in real life and in online formats, people doing group reads and readalongs or buddy reads, and they seem to enjoying it and the discussions that follow. I sometimes think it’s a pity that I’m not a part of it! But there are genres I never read and even in the ones I do like, I’m very specific about what I read in them. Group reads and book groups aren’t for me, sadly! Mind you, I do pass most of my books on to my dad to read and we have brief chats about them so that is sort of a book group of two!
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    • I have sometimes boggled at the choices in reading groups and just… not wanted to try it, even with my relatively catholic tastes on that front. It can be a very weird environment for book choices!

  2. Online book clubs seem at bit at odds to me, given that I personally don’t do these kind of reads for oh so many reasons. Going to someone’s house every month can be different, and many people love this kind of club because it’s usually a group who are friends in some way or other. So good luck with an online version.

    • I’ve always had online book clubs on and off, and really posting about the month’s pick here is just an extension of what I’ve always done. We’ll see if anyone is actually interested when I do it!

  3. Honestly, my favorite “book club” is probably the discussion I have with other bloggers on the blogosphere. My husband doesn’t read as much as I do and he isn’t as passionate about books as I am, so our conversations usually start and end with: “Did you like the book?” “It’s okay.” Not fun. There also aren’t too many opportunities for me to find others in my area that share my genre interests, I would have to go closer to the city for that and it’s quite a trek. So you guys are pretty the only outlet I have to gush and rave about books!

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