This post is about my first ever book club, which took place last summer. Some girlfriends and I were done with school (three of us had graduated), but we were heading different directions at the end of the summer. Of the 5 of us, one was studying abroad in Palestine and Ireland starting in July, and one was moving to Spain for a year. We wanted to do something fun and personal that would keep us connected in this next stage of life. My friend Claire, the one who moved to Spain, had heard the book The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay was an excellent read for people in their 20s. We immediately went to the nearest used bookstore and purchased our copies, excited to be doing something so intellectual and grown-up.
In the group, we have 5 distinct personalities. Claire is fun-loving and focused her energy on making the group enjoyable for everyone. She loved the quality-time aspect of the book club despite knowing she was about to leave the country for a year. Lauren loves the finer things in life: literature, wine, cheese, and Audrey Hepburn. She often provided the goodies during group discussion - which always included wine. Jill wanted to hang out with her best friends while enjoying good wine and conversation - the book was less important than the company. Carly is a planner, and was often focused on the schedule of reading and making sure everyone stayed on task and took it seriously. Also a wine-lover. Then there’s me -the token English major and all-around reading junkie. Who also drank wine.
While wine greatly enhanced our book club experience, it was by no means the main event. I am fully in support of drinking while discussing literature - it helps with the flow of conversation and smoothes over the less-savory aspects of the content. Enter the novel. First and foremost, it was fantastic - easily one of my favorite novels I’ve read outside of school. I went on a Michael Chabon binge soon after finishing Kavalier and Clay with The Yiddish Policemen’s Union and Telegraph Avenue. We didn’t stick to the timeline as well as we would’ve liked, and most of us ended finishing the novel on our own after Carly left for her studying abroad trip. But we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves during the few weeks we read the novel, and here’s why.
As I mentioned, we drank wine. We also often had cheese, bread, and salami. Depending on the time of day we met, we had an appropriate snack: brownies, cake, quiche, olives, etc. While the wine was a staple, switching up our snacks was a pleasant way to keep the group from getting stagnant. There was always something yummy to look forward to, in addition to the discussion and company.
We’d been studying in college for years. We had no wish to make this book group a boring lecture or discussion setting where we were fighting sleep more often than we were contributing. Claire adapted one of our favorite game-night games for the novel: it’s called Bowl of Nouns, Fishbowl, or the Noun Game. We had strips of paper on which we wrote characters or nouns from the novel - we all wrote five or so, then put them in bowl. There are three rounds: Catchphrase, where you try and get your teammates to guess the noun by any means, save saying the word itself. The second round was charades, and the third one was one word. By the third round, everyone has heard all the clues twice, so it’s a little easier. We played it almost every time we met up - because it was a fun and entertaining way to learn more about the characters without getting boring.
I don’t think our particular book club would have been as successful had we not all been friends. We were able to forgive each other for not showing up on time or reading the correct amount of chapters, but at the same time, we respected each other enough to respect our time together.
While we didn’t adhere strictly to our reading schedule, having a basic structure was very helpful. We didn’t need to spend 3 months on one book, nor did we try to read one book every week. Be reasonable with your time frame - you can’t expect everyone to read as fast or slow as you do. Respect the game, but don’t bank on uniform reading.
- A Really Good Book
Honestly this makes all the difference. I recommend reading excerpts or first chapters of a few books before settling on one, or at least doing plenty of research before choosing. No one wants to be stuck reading a boring book that they’d never choose to read on their own. Luckily for us, The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay was absolutely fantastic and easy to stay focused on. I’ve attached my review of the novel below for anyone who wants to read it.
In my opinion, book clubs should be fun, and the people in them should genuinely enjoy reading as well as the company. Also wine. But seriously - it was a fantastic experience, and it allowed us to connect in an intellectual yet personal level that we hadn’t experienced before. We’re hoping to get started again this summer. Have any of you had a book club? What was your experience like, and how could you make it better? Do you have any book recommendations for fellow book club enthusiasts? Comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org with your book club stories.
[images from http://pixabay.com/]