A Book Club with a Difference

Don’t get me wrong, there is no such thing as a bad book club. But there are definitely book clubs that are less concerned with books and more concerned with…wine. And while I like these book clubs (and wine of course), I have always wanted to be part of a book club where we spent some time ACTUALLY TALKING ABOUT BOOKS.

When I got back from living in London in 2009, I was bored of book club meetings where we just gossiped and spoke about men and sorted through a tired selection of mass market paperbacks. Although it was nice to share books and have an excuse to meet socially so we could exchange them, I was looking for something different.

So I said to a close girlfriend: here’s an idea, how about we start a book club where we invite guys too and we all read the same book and discuss it at a regular meeting? And so Book Group was born.

There are a few rules to Book Group:

  1. You must never refer to it as “Book Club” – it is “Book Group”. Basically because we are snobs.
  2. A total number of 10-12 people is ideal, with an equal distribution of men and women. And it is preferable if none of these are in a relationship with each other (it works better this way, plus it means no babysitters are required).
  3. We meet every 6 weeks at someone’s house and whoever is hosting gets to choose the book we all have to read. We experimented with all reading a particular author or genre, but we’ve found that reading the same book seems to work better.
  4. As the host/hostess, you MUST serve a delicious meal. As we’ve got older we’ve definitely got better at cooking too. I remember one book club where the boiled potatoes were so hard that they ricocheted off my plate and hit the wall.
  5. You must ALWAYS attempt to read the book, even if it’s not your usual type of thing.
  6. If you can’t make it to a meeting, you better have a very good excuse (i.e you’ve just had a baby; or you’re out of the country; or you recently broke your leg).

Over the years, we’ve read Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga, Crome Yellow by Aldous Huxley, Anna Karenina by Tolstoy, Jack Kerouac’s On The Road and Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – amongst so many others.

We’ve read biographies and children’s books and prizewinners and classics. We’ve read books I’ve hated, books that left me lukewarm and a few that I’ve really loved. I’ve sat and listened to conversations that have spiralled far from the topic at hand, debates and arguments on religion and politics and gender and relationships and parenting.

I’ve also sat at these dinner tables realising how little I know. Over the years our book group has included a journalist, a psychologist, a lawyer, an editor, a professor, many over achievers and those clever people in finance who do things I don’t think I’ll ever be able to wrap my head around.

Reading, at its core, is all about learning. Whether you’re learning more about a famous person, or about economics, or about the unpredictability of the human heart, you’re always learning something. And I suppose that’s what I love about it.

What I love too, is that as busy as our lives are, Book Group has survived nearly five years already. Sure, some people have left and some new people have drifted in, but we’ve managed over the years to keep it going – and that’s pretty cool.

Here’s to the next five years and to all the places we’ll go…

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
(Dr Seuss, You Can Read with Your Eyes Shut)

P.S. Our latest read was Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch which I just LOVED. Review to follow soon.



8 thoughts on “A Book Club with a Difference

  1. I’ve never been part of a book club and have been thinking about joining/starting one. I really like the idea of a book group and the rules you have – if I’m going to find the time to read a book – I’m sure going to want to discuss it rather than gossip – which I can save for afternoon teas instead 😉

  2. I am part of a ‘book group’ which is quite different to yours.
    There are 8 of us, only women and We do call it a book club.
    I am the youngest at 30 and the oldest is maybe 70.
    We do not prescribe books, we just discuss books we read and sometimes share them. There are times we find ourselves fixated on certain authors.

    We meet once a month and people are usually good with attendance and we are good in that we save the wine for after the books have been discussed.

  3. Hi Mabel – your book club sounds awesome, with a great range of ages. And we are probably not as good as you in that we do drink wine while (and before) we talk about books! Thanks for sharing.

  4. We had a book club just like yours! It was great to have to read whatever was chosen – it was really challenging and helped me find a lot of books I liked and ones I didn’t. We have all sadly drifted though but you have inspired me to try start it up again – maybe with a whole bunch of new peeps!

  5. Book Clubs in all forms are great. We (4 bridge ladies – your Mom was one) started the BBC (Bridge Book Club). Only 8 of us – we play 2 tables of bridge from 1.30 to 3.30, have tea and choose books (and sometimes chat about the books), then play more bridge and finish off with some drinks. Just love it.

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