Thursday, June 28, 2007

Why I am not in a book club

It's funny, but as much as I read, and as much as I like to talk about books, I am not, nor have I ever been, in a book club. I like the idea - it sounds like fun. But I don't know...there's just something about having to read a particular book and having a deadline to finish it in. Maybe it's because I was an English major in college, and there were always so many books to read, and never enough time to relax and enjoy them.

One of my favorite things is when I've finished a book, and it's time to choose a new one. What do I feel like reading? Am I in a mystery mood, or do I feel more like reading a fantasy, or a memoir, or a nonfiction book? For children, adults, or young adults? Is it time to pick up a book in a series I'm enjoying? Or should I try something completely new? There are always so many choices, between my stack of library books and ones I've picked up here and there, waiting on my bookshelves.

There's something about having to read a book that makes me feel like not reading it. That makes the other books in my book piles so much more attractive and alluring. I want the book I'm reading to be the book I want to be reading. Not a chore or an obstacle. Reading a book at the wrong time can totally ruin the experience. There are books that I have tried to read but could not get through, but when I gave them a shot years later, I was unable to understand what the problem was the first time around. I think that for me, having to read books increases the likelihood of "right book, wrong time" syndrome. And I think I'm just kind of ornery about the whole thing.

A few years ago, I transferred my "books I want to read" list from my notebook to the computer. And as I added books from time to time, the list grew from a single page to many 2-columned pages. One day it struck me that it is highly unlikely that I will live to finish all these books I've put on that list. Not that I'm that old, but there are just so many books on it, and I read lots of other books besides. It made me more determined than ever to make these books I really want to read a true priority.

At times, though, I do feel a bit wistful. If I had a group of friends with similar reading tastes to mine, would I consider it? I don't know. Maybe. If good food were involved, that would be a definite plus! But then I finish a book, and there's the delightful which-book-should-I-read-now time, and know that if I had a mandatory book to read, I'd be feeling cranky about it.


  1. I see your point, but having been a founding member of a book club my take on it is this:
    the book club expanded my reading - it introduced me to writers and styles that I otherwise would never have picked up on my own. I feel like book club has expanded my reading horizon and thereby opened my mind, I feel more comfortable with the idea that I could be a literary type, cause I've read more than chick lite or historical fiction.

    Yes, there were times when reading a book club book was a chore, but other times it was nice, when we got a real gem.

    I liked our book club because we chose books on a rotational basis, so everyone got a turn to pick a book - it was fun to see what people would pick, kinda indicative of their personality. Maybe if you can find a bookclub like that it would be more enticing?

  2. I feel the same way as you. I never know what I will be in the mood for and I hate anyone telling me what to read. Especially when it's books I don't even like!


  3. I've found that online book challenges are the best of both world ;) I've really enjoyed them and have just completed my first two: the Once Upon a Time Fantasy challenge and the Banned Book Challenge. The great thing about these is that you're discussing similar books with other members of the book blogging circle, but at the same time, you're reading books that you chose to read for the challenge. I tend to pick books off of my TBR list so that I'm knocking titles off of the list too. There are always great challenges going on out there. Right now, I'm doing a Newbery challenge and a Classics challenge. There's also a mystery challenge going on, a travel challenge, nonfiction challenge, and the list goes on and on. Great fun! But clubs aren't for me either.

  4. Yes, VA Gal - I totally see your point. I think that's part of my occasional wistfulness - it would expand my horizons, etc. But I think I'd still be grumpy. Especially if someone made me read a tear-jerker-terminal-illness-adultery-in- the-suburbs-child-abuse-suicide-of-a-loved one novel. A friendship could be ruined over that. :-)

    Mailyn - I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels this way!

    And Chris - yes, the challenges are intriguing. I think that's what made me start thinking about this book club post in the first place. I like your approach of picking books off your tbr list that fit the bill - sometimes I find I do need a shove to get to some of them, ones I know I want to read but somehow just never get around to. Maybe I'll take the challenge plunge one of these days (if only to annoy Tuffy of the insulting post ( -about-reading-or-cranky-much/)

    How do you get hypertext links into comment forms, anyway?

  5. Darla, I can absolutely understand where you are coming from. I was so happy to finish my MA in December so I could read what I want.


    I joined 4 online book clubs through Yahoo. So far I've been pretty lucky with what has been "assigned" (some I've even nominated). If there is a selection I don't want to read, then I don't. But I think most of the reason why I did join is because I got tired of looking at my books on the bookshelf after finishing a book and not being able to decide what to read next. Challenges help me with this also. Urg!

    Thanks for coming by my blog earlier.

  6. I've never joined a book club either. There are so many things in life you HAVE to do just to survive or pay bills or whatever.. no one is ever going to tell me "what to read/ when to read"..duh. I can be stubborn as a bull when it comes to "i will read when and where I want..and WHAT I want!"

    On my own I can set the book down and not go back to it if I so choose... or leave it a few days when "life interrupts" and go back to it when I want to..

    If i ever joined a book club, I know I would put pressure on myself to finish it.. once I commit I am hell bent to finish.
    Readin should not be a pressure deal.. it should relax and enjoy and wisk you away and into the book!

  7. Trish - it's funny how different we all are in our approaches to reading! I love the indecision between books, and you don't. Good thing there are lots of book club choices (or not) out there! Thanks for stopping by - I enjoyed browsing through your blog.

    Deslily - I feel the same way - definitely no-pressure. That's the whole point, as far as I'm concerned!

  8. I've never been a part of a face to face bookclub, but I am actively involved in several online book groups, including a few that have no group read--it's just open book discussion. Members can participate in buddy reads if they'd like. And of the groups that have group reads, none require participation--thank goodness because I rarely read the assigned book!

    I'm usually on my own reading schedule, whether that be dictated by my mood, challenges, or what I have available at that moment. My work schedule isn't always reliable enough for me to attend a face to face group, but mostly it's for the very reasons you mentioned.

  9. Wow, Literary Feline - that sounds like my kind of book club! Although just visiting book blogs and talking like this is kind of bookclubbish, too, isn't it? And I like the idea of buddy reads. That might be doable!

  10. there are so many comments on here that this may be just a repeat, but here goes anyway.
    i TOTALLY sympathize with your aversion to obligatory reading. there was no better way to guarantee that i would put off reading a book than to assign it for class. in high school and college i was expert at reading the first few chapters early on and then staying up the night before it was due to finish it. the same with writing. ... as evidenced by my awesome delaying-the-thesis-writing ability.
    however, i find that having a club is different for me. it's more of a communal experience for me. and it opens me up to stuff i may not otherwise read. and to discuss a work while its fresh in everyone's minds opens me up to their opinions and life experiences.
    i'd like to have a film club for the same reason. the church Honey and i used to go to in Texas had several book clubs and a film discussion group. i remember going to a discussion of dead man walking and loving the conversation. the opinions were varied and earnest and respectful and it was a beautiful experience. i've had some book club discussions that were similar - though not as wrenching.

    but reading (and writing and filmwatching) are essentially solo activities, so sometimes people appreciate them more en solo. when i grow my brain cells back, though, i hope to get more communal with all of those again.

  11. I think I'd really enjoy a movie club - even if you don't care for the movie, you've only invested a couple hours of your time, and it's still fun to discuss it. I've been trying to get a book/film discussion group going at my library (where we already have several active book clubs - of which, ironically, I'm the coordinator!), but no luck so far.

  12. Well written article.

  13. Thank you, Tamah - and thanks for stopping by!


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