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home : blogs_old : tone's book zone April 17, 2015

Tone's Book Zone
By Sue Tone
A blog for readers and book lovers. Postings will include information on book festivals, library activities, local authors, classroom visits, book groups, writing and publishing tips, reviews, bookmakers and bookmaking, and how volunteers can help children and adults acquire a love of reading.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What's so great about Book Clubs?

 by Sue Tone

Who's got the best run, most fun, bar none, number one, not to be outdone book club in the Quad-communities? Could it be the Wild Women of Prescott and Prescott Valley, now in its seventh glorious year?

I know these wild, wonderful women because I was invited in three months after it began in 2004.

I wanted to talk here just a bit about Book Clubs, how they are run, what makes them fun, and best of all, what are some of the best, bar none, books people are reading this summer.

What does it take to create a book club other than gathering a bunch of readers? The WWBC has one rule: the book must be available in paperback, or there must be close to 10 copies available in the Yavapai Library Network.

We've limited the number of participants to 10 because we all like to talk, and any more than that and we find ourselves engrossed in side conversations and missing out on what Carol or Gretta or Donna are talking about on the other end of the couch.

Here's how we work the club:

1. The person hosting the monthly meeting - we rotate homes - gets to choose the next month's selection.

2. The person who selects the book does a little research for information on the author and background on the subject.

3. The hostess provides drinks. Everyone else brings a potluck dish.

4. We meet on the second Thursday of the month.

And that's it. Some of us are retired, some work part-time, and some fulltime. Some travel extensively and can't be at each meeting - most will read that month's book anyway. Seems like something always arises at a later meeting that taps into something we read previously.

We all agree that there's a certain amount of anxiety when our time rolls around to chose a book. Sometimes I pick something out months in advance of my turn. Other times I can't make up my mind and I'll have two or three books to pass around before asking everyone to vote. Most frustrating, but not surprising in a group of readers, is to find out several members have already read what I considered the perfect pick.

And we all agree that our tastes differ. When we read Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi, four of us hated it and four raved about it (a typical response it seems, if you read some of the 5-star and 1-star reviews at Amazon.com).

A few books have had total support and enthusiasm from everyone, for example, The Day The World Came To Town: 9/11 In Gander, Newfoundland by Jim DeFede, and most recently, The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak.

We've read classics - The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, The Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.

We've read NY Times bestsellers, Oprah's Book of the Month selections, Pulitzer Prize winners, and non-fiction.

Lately, we've been talking about creating a rating system, like 5 stars for the Best Book Ever and 1 star for So Bad I Couldn't Finish It. We could keep track on a spreadsheet by each individual. It would be ridiculous to average the scores. I mean, that would give Reading Lolita a solid 3 stars, and frankly, I would rate it lower than that. I did not finish the book, but those who loved it wouldn't be happy with a 3 star average either.

So here are some questions I am posing to Book Clubs in the Quad-Communities - or frankly, anywhere. You can copy and paste into the comment section at the end of this blog, and add your answers. I think it would be interesting to see what others are enjoying in the way of good books, good discussions, and good friends.

1. When and how did you form it? Does your club have a name?

2. What happens during a regular meeting? How does the discussion part work? Is there a leader?

3. How does your group choose its selections?

4. How does your group select its members?

5. Do you have any rules?

6. What do you get out of your participation with this book club?

7. List your top three books ever.

Thanks, everyone!

Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, June 23, 2011
Article comment by: Zona Grady

Response to Oscar: My book discussion group does have men participants. I agree it adds some variety to the perspectives, also some interesting book choices. In addition, I suspect it also helps keep the conversation on the purpose of the gathering: discussing the book and the writing process, and not so much on idle personal chatter.

Posted: Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Article comment by: Vida Pollock

In response to Oscar's question about men participating, I've seen a few men involved. I suspect there's something about sharing food that glues groups together, and that may not be a convenient thing for many men to do. My husband was trying to put a group of history buffs together before he died.

Posted: Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Article comment by: Ted Johnson LibraryLand / PV Public Library

The PV Public Library has a couple of Book Discussion Groups. The one I participate in usually meets on a Friday toward the end of the month in the Library. We discuss a variety of books, often using the tool "Chat'n Carry" provided by the Library. This is a bag of books, 10 copies, sometimes in multiple formats (e.g. large print, audio CD, regular print). Questions are included and the checkout period is 6 weeks. Another group meets here the 3rd Tuesday of the month. They are more organized, having already picked out the titles they will be reading in advance for months. Each group is open for anyone to join and participate. Rules? What's that? haha We stress mutual respect, listening, and being open-minded.

Posted: Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Article comment by: Oscar Frank

You mention only women in your clubs. Are there no men interested? I would think mixed group would bring in interesting perspectives.

Posted: Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Article comment by: Vida Pollock

Our book club began with a nucleus of five of my favorite people about 22 years ago in Phoenix. Like the Wild Women of PV & P, we convene once a month, rotating hostesses who get to select the book. We meet at 7 p.m. at a restaurant, also selected by the hostess, and arm ourselves with dinner before proceeding to the meeting home to stuff on dessert provided by our hostess.

We, too, have read mostly fiction, memoirs and a few non-fiction. We've had the same experience with size that you have, but we have no rules that limit membership which has fluctuated between 8 and 12. We've had several mother-daughter pairs--two presently. Occasionally an expert in the area we're reading about joins us. We once read a "teen" book, and invited some teenagerss to meet with us. They confided later that they were amazed that we disagreed with each other without getting angry, and they wanted to start a club, too.

We liked books by Amy Tan, Barbara Kingsolver, Khaled Hosseini and other fine writers. But, surprisingly, the quality of the book does not seem to determine the quality of the discussion. We've had some great insights inspired by some not-so-great books. We've never used a book-rating system, but it sounds like a wonderful idea, and I'll propose it to my friends at our next meeting.

Geography is our biggest enemy. Three of our original members have moved far, far away, and we travel all over the Salt River Valley to meetings now. One member comes from Los Angeles, where she works. When it's my turn, the group comes to Cottonwood.

It's hard to say what we get from our group. We've come through weddings, divorces, deaths, job changes, etc., and what we get from the books and each other changes. For me, the book club is a much loved rock.

Posted: Friday, June 17, 2011
Article comment by: Gretta Larson

Great article Sue and great topic. I look forward to what other book clubs have to say and some of their favorite books. I loved Lolita in Teheran and that's the fun of the discussions at book club.

Posted: Thursday, June 16, 2011
Article comment by: Zona Grady

1. When and how did you form it? Does your club have a name? My group formed last November - it does not have a name but probably should.

2. What happens during a regular meeting? How does the discussion part work? Is there a leader? We are all authors currently working on novels, so we are reading from that perspective. The idea is to improve our writing through reading great works and discussing how to apply what we've learned.

3. How does your group choose its selections?
We throw our names in a hat. Whoever's name gets drawn picks the next book.

4. How does your group select its members?
They were hand-picked by me, the group founder.

5. Do you have any rules? Yes. Since we are all actively writing, most employed, and time is limited, we meet every other month. We must choose from Pulitzer Prize winners, and only novels (no anthologies).

6. What do you get out of your participation with this book club? It is a wonderful practice in reading "as a writer" in order to improve our own abilities. Plus, personally, I have now read 4 books that I probably wouldn't have chosen on my own, and enjoyed each in a different way. Of course, the opportunity to get together with other writers and discuss our craft is always wonderful.

7. List your top three books ever.
How can I narrow it down to three? How about my three favorites for this year? Blood Meridian-Cormac McCarthy Shavetail - Thomas Cobb and Deadwood by Pete Dexter

By the way, love your blog. You should do it more often!

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