Monday, December 3, 2012

Book Clubs

In celebration of this week's book, The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls by Julie Schumacher, we're going to tell you a little bit about book clubs.

In case you don't know what a book club is, it's a group of people who read the books and talk about them. In that sense, Cassy and I are like a two-person book club (of awesome), because we choose a book to read, read it at the same time, and then come together to discuss that book before we start the cycle over again. This makes us a single-title book club, because we read one book at the same time.

One of the most famous single-title book clubs is, of course, Oprah's Book Club, of which I'm sure most of you have read at least one of the books, whether you meant to or not.  Cry, The Beloved Country; Love in the Time of Cholera; A Tale of Two Cities; all of them have ended up on Oprah's book club list. Originally, Oprah's Book Club was a part of her self-titled talk show. She started it in 1996. Each month, she chose a book for her and her viewers to read, and then the book would be discussed. There was often a huge increase in sales of any book selected for Oprah's Book Club (referred to as "the Oprah effect." because Oprah is a media behemoth.) When her talk show ended on May 25, 2011, so did the book club. Not one to disappoint her beloved followers, Oprah revamped the book club and gave it a new home online, creating Oprah's Book Club 2.0, which began this June.


Online or broadcast book clubs are popular, because you don't have to get together with a group at a set time (and if you don't tell anyone you're participating, then you don't have to answer to anyone if you don't finish the book.  I, on the other hand, have to answer to Alex.  She's a meanie when she doesn't finish book. ;)). One of my favorites (in theory; I don't follow it as closely as I'd like) is from one of the best library-themed webcomics I know: Unshelved.

Then you have local book clubs, where a group of people get together in person to give their opinions and impressions of the book they read together. These can be held at libraries, bookstores, schools, coffee shops, or one member's house.  

The biggest problem with single-title clubs is that it can sometimes be difficult for everyone to get their hands on a copy of that specific book in time to read it for the designated discussion date. This isn't such a problem if you're willing to buy every book, but that is expensive and impractical. Book choices must be carefully selected, taking into consideration many factors, including availability.

There are also multi-title clubs, which help alleviate the problem of availability. Typically, these clubs work like this: Imagine all the members of the multi-title book club sitting in a circle. Everyone starts with a different book. They all finish reading these books around the same time, and pass the book they just read to their left. This continues until everyone has read all the books. There are other ways to accomplish multi-title book clubs, but this is a fairly common practice.

Beyond the regularly-meeting (in person or online) book clubs, there are one-time book clubs. I recently attended a professional conference where the keynote speaker was an author. One of the sessions at the conference was an author-led book club meeting. The idea was that anyone who wanted to participate could read the book before the conference, and discuss it with others (including the book's author, how cool is that?!? Dude, I would have been all over that.) during that session.

There are lots of different names for book clubs, including book discussion meetings, literature circles, book groups, reading group, common reading programs or common reads.

Book clubs are really great because, as Alex and I discovered when we left college (and part of the reason that we started up this blog), often when you read a book, you're bursting with things to talk about.  Do you think she should have ended up with him?  Why do you think the author put children in a book about mice?  Do you think this could really happen?  By having someone to bounce ideas off of, to talk to about books, they can not only discuss the ideas you had, but open up whole new possibilities that you never even thought of.

Alex and I, though (as you see by reading) we have a lot of the same opinions, we have totally different ideas and backgrounds.  For instance, Graphic Novels are really her thing, but by listening to her, I'm learning how to do things like "read" the illustrations.  Book clubs also help you make connections.  Wrote a book but need someone to read it?  Who better than a brutally honest book club to help you out, people you've known for awhile but trust to be honest and insightful with your work?

Now that you're dying to join a book club, how do you find one?
- Check the bulletin boards (or website) for your local library.
- Do the same at your local bookstores (big chains or mom-and-pop).
- If you're in school, ask at the library (or student activities) if they have one.
- Google! Since Google has gotten smarter, it will likely recommend local book clubs first, but you will also find online book clubs.
- Ask at work. (Don't know who to ask? Try HR.)
- Ask your friends! If none of them already belong to one, maybe they'd like to help you start one yourself. (I'll have tips for running a book club on Thursday.)


  1. I've always wanted to join a book club. Thanks for sharing!

    1. We are here to serve! (To be honest, I never really knew how to go about it before this post either.) :)