June 12, 2008 – Have you ever been a member of a book club? How did your group choose (or, if you haven’t been, what do you think is the best way to choose) the next book and who would lead discussion?
Do you feel more or less likely to appreciate books if you are obliged to read them for book groups rather than choosing them of your own free will? Does knowing they are going to be read as part of a group affect the reading experience?
My answer: I belong to an amazing and very friendly online book club, The Book Club Forum. We have a new reading circle every month, and the book is chosen through a very democratic process. Early in the previous month, we are allowed to nominate and second the books we want to read for the next month. The three books that received the most seconds are placed in a poll, and members vote on which they want. The winning books (or books, in the case of a tie) are given their own thread, where members post their reactions to the book. We have a great admin, Kell, who leads the discussions and gets us thinking more deeply about the book.
I have participated in a few of these reading circles, but I tend to enjoy books that I myself chose. The great thing about the forum, though, is that the threads stay up, which means that when I do get around to reading the book, I can add my thoughts to the circle’s discussion, and read what others have felt about the book. No member is under any pressure to participate, but I believe that the reading circles add greatly to the forum’s general book discussions.
However, I don’t think I would really enjoy participating in a face-to-face book club if it meant I had to read the chosen book, especially if I had had no input on its choosing. Even though I’m a book lover, I tend to resist reading books that I have to read. This explains some rather questionable grades in my high school English classes (why should I read The Grapes of Wrath? It’s boring and I don’t want to read it.).