Like a lot of book nerds, I belong to a book club. We meet once a month and discuss a book chosen by the person hosting the meeting. That’s actually my favorite part. We have to read books that someone else picks out, which means I’m often forced to read books I wouldn’t ordinarily choose on my own. I tend to gravitate toward sweeping family sagas like The Corrections or & Sons or anything by Tom Perrotta. I’d be happy rereading the entire John Irving collection chronologically, though I have my own ideal nerd order to read his books. Hint: start with Garp first. But no one else is as enamored by these stories as I am, and that’s fine by me. Because of Book Club, I’ve had the opportunity many times over to be happily surprised by graphic novels, young adult books, narrative nonfiction, and British mysteries that I may never had heard of or thought I would be interested in. Some of these selections have become all-time favorites (yes you, 1Q84), and that’s a total win.
Over dinner and wine, the group attempts to launch into a detailed discussion about the book for that month. We’ll take apart the plot, characters, tone, and style, talk about whether or not we liked it and why, consider what the book is “really” about—that sort of stuff. I say “attempt” to discuss, because it doesn’t always go that way. Sometimes we get started on the characters or setting, and something about the way the conversation turns reminds one member about her grandmother’s experience as an immigrant. And then another might mention that she’s visited where the book takes place, in fact, it’s where her son attends summer camp. Someone else might follow up with, did you sign up Virginia for indoor soccer? Practice is at Greenfield—we could carpool. Wow, another member exclaims, this flour-less chocolate cake is to die for. Can you email me the recipe?
And every month, at least one of us realizes about 10 minutes in on a conversation that’s now turned into a discussion about hair removal, we need to swing this ship back around to Their Eyes Were Watching God. Yeah, sometimes we get distracted and go off on tangents far from whatever book it was we were supposed to be discussing. I can appreciate that. Book Club is social, and we’re there not only to talk about books, but also to shoot the shit. And eventually we come back around to the star of the show: the monthly book.
One month, we may talk about our vacation plans, summer camp options, Josh’s new job, how horrifically early back-to-school sales are, Lasik surgery, and How to Be Both by Ali Smith.
Next month, it’s my turn to host. We’ll be discussing our holiday plans, the stupid shit our families pulled on Thanksgiving, puffer coats, Josh’s new job, Lasik surgery, and Francine Prose’s Blue Angel.