This is the first place I’ve lived that I haven’t been in a book club.
Almost twenty years ago I started one with my roommate from college. It was a small group, a handful of women newly married and just starting families. The only rule was the book had to be easily obtainable in paperback or at the library. Each month we met at a different restaurant, nothing fancy, but it was a welcome break from our regular busy lives. We rarely talked about the book for more than a few minutes, but we still called what we were doing a book club. Maybe it made our outings seem more legitimate. (It sounds better to say to your husband, “Hey, honey I’m off to my book club,” rather than, “You watch our one-year-old tonight, I’m going out to eat with my girlfriends.) When my husband’s job was transferred out of state, one of my first orders of business was to join another book club.
This turned out to be harder than I thought. Apparently, some book clubs are a little chummy and hard to break into. One group I discovered had a certain number of members, twelve, and basically, one of those people had to die or move away before the group would accept another. I was allowed to attend one of their meetings and it was hardcore. They met at a coffee house. One woman presented research she’d done on the book. I, a former high school English teacher, was a little intimidated by the seriousness of the probing discussion questions. Sheesh. Couldn’t we just chat about what we liked and didn’t? Then gorge ourselves on pastries? No matter. No member died or moved away. I had no chance at membership.
A few years later I stumbled on a great group. Some women I worked with were talking about an upcoming meeting and the book they’d just read. It was something I had just read too and I mentioned it shyly. Could I possibly come to the next meeting? Were there any rules about new members joining? The ladies looked at me like I was nuts. Of course I was welcome. The more the merrier was their motto. We met at each other’s houses for dinner every other month. It was very laid back. The hostess chose the book (again, something easily obtainable). Our book list over the years was a good mix of popular fiction and literary, non-fiction and short stories. Many of the members happened to be writers, which led to interesting discussions about character development and plot choices. The Christmas meetings everyone read a different book and gave a brief book talk. One year it was a children’s book. Another year it was a classic we were embarrassed never to have read. I read Great Expectations. Not sure how as an English major I had missed this along the way.
When my husband got transferred again, finding a book club was one of my priorities, but complications ensued. My first lead was another one of those Member Must Die Before We Accept Anyone New groups. There were two other possibilities, but neither panned out. I quit looking.
I still read a lot, but I’ve found that I don’t branch out as much from my comfort zone. That’s one of the cool things about being in a book club—you have to read stuff you wouldn’t normally pick up. And you have a reason to get out of the house and socialize. Sure, I get that with my bunco group—(for those of you unfamiliar with bunco, it’s a dice game that makes Yahtzee look complicated. It’s strangely fun and there’s wine)—but it’s just not the same. Sigh.
I’m thinking about starting a virtual book club on this blog. I’ll keep it very low key. One of us will suggest a book. We’ll “get together” next month to discuss. For the three or four of you who are reading this, what do you say?