At the end of last year my friends and I formed a book club. This is the first time I had belonged to a book club so I wasn’t sure what to expect! Altogether there were four of us and we chose a book each, meeting every few months (we were all PhD students so didn’t expect everyone to have much spare time for ‘fun’ reading!)
Here is what I learnt from being part of a book club, and why you should join one:
1. It will open up your book choices
My favourite thing about being part of a book club was that it forced me to read books that I wouldn’t have necessarily chosen myself. We set some rules to start with – nothing over 400 pages, nothing too ‘heavy’ (we’re all psychology researchers so deal with heavy enough stuff day-to-day!) and it had to be fiction. Other than that we were free to choose anything. In the end we read the following:
- The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (my choice)
- God is an Astronaut by Alyson Foster
- The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
- Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
I don’t think I would have taken any notice of God is an Astronaut or The Rosie Project if it wasn’t for the book club. I found it refreshing to be given a book to read rather than choosing it myself. Because of this I felt like the book needed to prove itself to me and so I read it with a more critical mind. I won’t review the books here, but I might do a separate post on my book club book reviews, so watch this space!
Although we only read these four books as part of the book club, we also spent some time at each meeting discussing potential books to read, and recommending some of our favourite reads to each other. I have since read a number of books discussed at our meetings, all of which I have thoroughly enjoyed!
2. It will help you think more about what you are reading
Sometimes I find myself reading books upon books and forgetting what I have read very quickly – I have a few books I can hardly even remember reading! I find this is especially true for those real page-turners that keep your gripped while you’re in the moment, but there’s no particular part that really sticks in the mind. I would say that some of the books that we read in our book club would meet this description, but because I was approaching them from a critical point of view, and subsequently discussing them, I have a much better memory of the books.
Not only did I find that I was thinking more about the book while reading it, but I also thought about it more afterwards. By discussing it with others I was able to take their views into consideration and pick up things on that I hadn’t initially noticed during my read. If you really like a book you’ll know how much you want to hold onto that feeling that reading gives you – by being part of a book club you can make that feeling last just a little bit longer!
3. You can find lots of book club materials online
I was surprised to find that most authors have discussion or book club guides on their websites (I don’t know why this surprised me – I guess I just never thought about it before!). In fact, in two of our four books there was a reading guide at the back of the book – bonus! Funnily I’ve never seen this in a book before I actually needed one, I guess we must have chosen some very book club-esque books!
I found these guides really helpful to steer the discussion at our book club. We certainly didn’t need help getting started with our discussions, as psychologists we are used to talking and sharing opinions, but the guides really helped to keep the discussion on track, and gave us an opportunity to think outside of the book, and how the issues written in each novel related to our own lives. I will certainly use these guides again, including for reading outside of a book club. I might even use a reading guide to structure my first few books reviews to help me articulate my feelings about the book.
4. It provides the perfect opportunity to just sit down and chat!
One of the rules of our book club was that we had to discuss over food and drink! Whoever picked the book got to pick the location of the book club meeting, and each time we met in a pub or bar over dinner and a drink or two. Not only was it great to discuss our book choices with fellow book lovers, but it was also nice to have an excuse to just get together and have a very enjoyable evening!
We’ve now ended our book club due to members moving away, but I am hoping to form another one soon. Some of my friends and I are thinking about starting an online one so I will share my experiences of that in due course.