Why I Love Book Clubs
For anyone suffering from "I hate chit-chat" disease, I know an escape. Join a book club. I love nothing better than talking about and hearing about what we're reading. And book clubs exist for that sole purpose. They're an outlet for people who go to other social gatherings and feel awkward until someone starts talking about a book. And they unite people of different ages and political affiliations.
I've met with a group called Readers P.S. for many years now. When I joined, several members were in their nineties but still bright, curious, and engaging. I wanted to be like them as my years passed. As these members have "graduated," more have joined.
One of our founders, Dr. Norma Faubion, died last September. She still presides over us from her picture that stands on the refreshment table at each meeting. She inspired us to choose good literature, dig into challenging non-fiction, and read more deeply. I loved her, miss her, and would not have known her without the book club. She was a formidable professor at Angelo State University and did not put up with foolishness. So, it's all the more lovable that she wears a hat and gloves in her picture. Sally Lehr, another beloved book club member, took the picture at a party at her ranch. In defiance of the rural setting, Sally's invitation said, "Hat and gloves required." In Norma's picture, there's a hint of defiance in her eyes and in the off-kilter hat she wears.
Besides getting to know other book-lovers, book clubs give us a slew of recommendations from people we know so we don't have to depend on the New York Times bestseller lists or Amazon ratings. I've read bad reviews about books I considered masterpieces. The books often got panned because they didn't fit with the rigid moral perspective of some readers. I've also read great reviews of books full of romance or adventure--good stuff--but poorly written and full of flat characters. Book clubs help me separate the grain from the chaff.
I've joined another book club that meets at my church. (It's open, and one does not have to be a church member to join. I like that.) We recently met on Zoom for a lively discussion of "This Tender Land" by William Kent Krueger. When the meeting was over, I felt closer to the participants. We shared a common love.
If everyone loved books and belonged to a book club, maybe we'd all get along better. But there would be less scintillating conversation at parties.