I have been a member of various book clubs over the last 50 years. These have been amazingly varied.
My current club is very well run and although lots of fun it has serious guidelines on membership and reading material. It is the most satisfying of the different types I have been involved in.
The first rule is the number of participants and we settled for 12 on the basis that we run the meetings from one of the member’s private houses and usually this is the maximum for comfortable seating. This is not a burden as there is less than one meeting each year in any member’s home. Once every twelve years you get to host Christmas!
We meet on the second Tuesday of every month, from 11am to 3pm and two members are nominated to critique the chosen book. After they have finished their reviews the remainder of the group get to have their say. Then it is lunch break.
Lunch is always lots of fun filled with chatter about many more topics than books. Each person brings a sandwich for shared platters and the hostess offers a glass of red or white wine and a soft drink. Lunch finishes with fruit or cake and tea or coffee. We then return to the sitting area and discuss the books we have read. This part I love as it is possible to borrow/exchange books, pick up a link for an electronic book or at worst to know the book spoken about is not to your taste. After a few meetings you get to know the person presenting a book will be one you have a lot in common with, or one whose choice you often dislike.
In October we sit down with a list of books for the coming year. As we meet in December for Christmas lunch without a book review and we take a break in January owing to many members having holiday commitments we choose 10 books. There is one classic, one nonfiction and eight fiction books. We vote on the 10 books to be read. A nominated member types up the list, the date it will be critiqued, the venue, the host’s name and telephone number and the names of the two people critiquing.
We have had a few disappointments with books chosen from reviews, so now we have nominations from members who have read the book and feel it is suited for discussion. The book is critiqued by the person who recommended it. It is mandatory to ring ahead if you are unable to be at the meeting.
This book club is a great success and there is a waiting list to join. The joke is you need to wait for somebody to die to get a place.
When my children were young we had a pseudo book club in our neighbourhood. It was a great chance to get together and hear the local gossip but not for the promotion of reading and literary works. Often the book hadn’t been read and often everyone was too tired from babies and juggling family, work and home duties. However, we did enjoy a glass of wine, a cheese and biscuit and it was a good girl’s night out.
Another book club I was part of was for expats in Solomon Islands. There were no book shops, not even second hand ones and the few books brought to the island were shared over and over and got a bit tatty. The problem was getting new books to review. Once a year members were nominated to buy four copies of the same book. With 10 people nominated to buy we had books for months ahead. Therefore, when I returned to Australia I would buy the books to take back for future reading. I scored a tome and the four books put me into excess baggage! The major problem with this system was that the books had to be read very quickly as each book has four or five people waiting for it.
As expats come and go so did the dynamic of the club. Once again, lots of chat, food and drink but not really a deep commitment to the books or the critiques. As this club did not have nominated members for each critique, the plan was to travel in a clockwise direction with one speaker at a time. However, often it became unruly with several people speaking together. Another problem was that by the time we gathered the books many of those who had chosen them had left the island and the replacements were not too keen on past choice. One good thing though, was we had many participating males. Probably because social life is limited and it was a way to meet people and enjoy a social outing.
Yet another club I was briefly attached to had a book and the D.V.D. of the film adaption. This was good in many ways but made for a very long night. Once again it was a mixed bag, with many loving the book and not the adaption or vice versa. The book was critiqued, the film shown and critiqued and then the comparisons were made. I only attended a couple of times but it seems to me that the choice of books would be limiting to suit D.V.D. availability.
I have chosen to be part of a separate D.V.D. club that meets once a month for dinner followed by a movie. This is held in a small restaurant and the D.V.D. is supplied by a member who nominates a month prior to bring the film. There are twenty members and attendance must be confirmed five days beforehand. The menu and the film are unknown until the actual night.
In summary I love my current book club and it certainly keeps me on my toes. I also find reading the nominated books is excellent as it gets me out of my comfort zone. I would recommend a book club to everybody who loves reading, social interaction and the ability to share books and ideas.