Tag Archives: Book Clubs

The Politics of Book Club Discussions

I recently hosted our monthly book club meeting where we discussed the young adult novel I’d suggested, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, by Erika Sanchez. I’ve read the book twice and found it funny, entertaining, and relevant, in terms of dealing with serious teen issues. Plus, I was able to relate to the Mexican American cultural aspects that it depicts. During our discussion, I got the impression the others weren’t crazy about the book, and they especially disliked the main character.

In the three years that I’ve been an active member of this group, I have sometimes been surprised at the reactions the others have had to the books that we’ve read. A couple of times, I have disliked the books we’ve read, while the others have enjoyed them. We usually do have a consensus one way or the other though. But if I’m outnumbered, I try to defend my position as diplomatically as possible. I would never come right out and say I disliked a book. That could cause hurt feelings. I have also made a point of reading each book cover-to-cover, even those that I disliked. I think it’s only fair to do that, unless you find you simply can’t get through a book you particularly loathe. I haven’t hated any book that much.

Though I hosted the book club at one of the library’s I managed years ago, that was part of my job, not my personal life. Being in the group that I’m in now has been an enjoyable social experience for me. It’s interesting to see the types of books the women choose to read and, of course, to participate in the discussion we share. On the downside, I’ve now read several books I didn’t want to read, and a couple I truly didn’t like. On the plus side, I have loved some books I otherwise might never have read.

Next month, I will blog about titles I think would make good choices for book club discussions.

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Book Club Suggestions

Yesterday, I attended my monthly book club meeting. We had a very good discussion about the Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama and the Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Our club doesn’t always have such deep discussions, because, frankly, some of the books we read are not that deep. Though we tend to avoid political issues, on occasion we have ventured into more serious topics, such as death and racial discrimination. It’s certainly possible to have a lively back-and-forth after reading a popular novel, but for me it’s not as intriguing as when the discussion turns to weightier subjects, as it did yesterday. Here is a list of books I’ve recently read that I believe would encourage a serious book club exchange:

The Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. It’s a self-help book on a grand scale. Our discussion touched on religion, the role of education in influencing personal behaviors, and particular challenges we have faced within our own families.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, a novel that is currently getting a lot of attention for its timely views on racial issues in the African-American community, from the perspective of a teenage girl.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. If a book club is not afraid to delve into a classic that is relevant to today’s U.S. political climate, it will certainly inspire opinion and conversation.

A Deep Dark Secret, by Kimberla Lawson Roby, who is a prolific author of novels that deal with real issues in society (for example domestic violence, infidelity, mental illness, etc.). A Deep Dark Secret is a novella about child abuse. At times, I found it difficult reading, but it gave me a lot to think about.

In a Lonely Place by Dorothy Hughes. Published in the late 1940s, this is an interesting look at the role of American women during that mid-century world, and one man’s horrific misogyny. It would be interesting to pair the book with a viewing of the film of the same name, starring Humphrey Bogart. There is much to compare and contrast.

In Search of the Perfect Book Club

I’ve belonged to a few book clubs and have to admit, with no shame whatsoever, that my favorite was the one I chaired as a library manager. I know. It’s kind of conceited to feel that way, but the truth is, if you lead the discussion, you can control the flow of the meeting and keep one person from dominating the conversation. It takes some practice to lead a book club tactfully, but it pays off with satisfied members who enjoy meeting regularly to discuss their reading.

One club that I joined a few years back was a busy one with over 25 members. I only attended a few sessions, because I didn’t care for the format. Each member read a book related to a general theme (for example, when the theme was “First Ladies,” I read Curtis Sittenfeld’s American Wife) rather than read the same book and share their opinions. Another club I belonged to for a short time was a group of eight women that met twice a month at a restaurant. It was enjoyable but less about the books and more about the food. It was hard to remember what I liked about Barbara Kingsolver’s latest when I was busy drooling over my chicken piccata.

I plan to join a book club again, someday when I’m not busy doing a million other things, and I’ll consider these factors before becoming a regular member:

1. How large is it? More than 12 members is too big. I like to have an opportunity to share my opinion without interrupting or being interrupted.
2. Does everyone read the same book? This is a nonnegotiable. If not, I won’t join.
3. Where are the meetings held? I prefer a library setting because there are fewer distractions (no chicken piccata to drool over), but this is not a nonnegotiable.
4. Who leads the group? Is she tactful and fair? Does she encourage everyone to share?

Until I find my perfect club, I’ll hang out on Goodreads, where I can share the books I read. That will have to do for now.