I have been a member of a book group for about 17 years now. I love it, it is a collection of friends I have got to know purely through their reading. Six of us have been the core of the group for many years, we meet once every half term, choosing whatever book takes the collective fancy. We take on friends’ recommendations, book reviews, check out books we found in shops and chat about them until we all decide on one. This way we also discuss books more widely and it leads to other recommendations apart from the ‘book group book’.
The only rule is that no one must have read the book before. Some in the group read a lot and widely so that is sometimes a challenge, but we have read some amazing books over the years. We don’t all finish the books as sometimes life is too busy to waste on a book that you’re not enjoying, I have noticed that the most avid readers are the ones that are most comfortable with abandoning a book. There is discussion to be had in why the book was abandoned, sometimes that has little to do with the book, and more to do with the rest of life, and that gets discussed too. Over such a long time, there has been a lot of life and the group has been a safe space for me on many an occasion.
I like the discipline of a book group, and there have been times that those are the only books I read in a year. But most of all, I love the chance to discuss the book afterwards. There is great pleasure to be had in reading a book and then going back through it and discussing it, it’s like reliving the whole experience and makes it come alive. There is no pressure to have something clever to say, sometimes a lack of comment speaks volumes about the book. It is always good to hear what others think though.
We have had the delightful experience of finding a book that we all loved and which we have made ‘ours’, I am convinced we are the six biggest fans of John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany.