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?
So, YES, I am a member of a book group! Two, in fact, which both met this week. I love book groups; they’re such a wonderful way of talking about literature without being scholarly (I also love academic English, but enjoy the divide between studying and reading groups.) One choose the books by compiling a shortlist of about four, and having an online poll (I’m currently rooting for My Cousin Rachel) while the other just decides six months at a time, from whatever people throw into the circle. My latest suggestion there was Edward Carey’s Alva & Irva, which I haven’t read, but looks fascinating.
To go onto the second part of the question, I don’t think it really alters how I read a book (except that I’ll probably be reading it very quickly, at the last minute!) – but it will affect the ways in which I reflect upon it. Except for writing about them on here, most books I read aren’t dwelt upon – I don’t forget them immediately, but I certainly don’t spend much time considering my opinion. To have an evening spent discussing it is invaluable, and has sometimes changed my mind about a book.
I heartily recommend Jenny Hartley’s book on the subject, Reading Groups, which was written up from questionnaires sent out to lots of book groups. Fascinating, and very well written. I wrote more about it here…
As always – over to you! Same questions as above.