Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Blog About Book Groups

Earlier in 2009 I set myself the mission to join more book groups and did indeed join two. One of these was an in the flesh book group and one of them was online. Neither of them I have been back to. The online one was great but it felt a little bit disjointed, and while I love using the comments on this blog to have a good discussion or listen to your thoughts on the varying books I read that you have read or want to, that is more a forum than a book group and though you can have a nice coffee whilst you discuss the books you might be waiting 30minutes for the next person to say something.

The in the flesh book group wasn’t bad either except for two things. Firstly it was organised by emails, I have never had so many emails about long lists, voting for books to then make a shortlist to then make a top five choices to be voted at the next meeting. I was tired before I had even gotten there. Then new rules came in that we couldn’t vote for the same book twice. I would have let this slip but things didn’t change when we actually met. True we did discuss the book for two hours which I think is about average however ‘the group leader’ wouldn’t let it happen naturally we had a formula, and we had to follow online questions as well as bring in our own. It was a bit of a regime in all honesty and funnily enough I haven’t been back since.

Now I do have a Rogue Book Group with the lovely world touring (and therefore not blogging) Novel Insights and indeed whilst she travels round the world we have a list of five books we will have read in time for her arrival back in the UK. It’s really relaxed and we just have it at one of our houses, we have known each other for 23 years and though we have the same tastes we like to challenge ourselves too. We originally started a book group about three years ago. It started when we wanted to see Memoirs of a Geisha but see it first so we read it, saw the movie and then had a good natter about both after.

We had some book loving colleagues and so we started meeting in a pub once a month with one member choosing a book and everyone reading it, as you do. Then it became a bit of a monster. We started going for meals, which was lovely, and then having a list of five books to be voted on which again was a good idea. Until people started to say things like ‘no Jane Austen – they are girls books’, ‘no crime I cant bare murder I won’t sleep’ or ‘nothing too long or too hard’. Meals soon had to match the setting of the book or the authors nationality and then we stopped talking about the books after ten minutes. I sadly decided to leave.

So that might answer the question of why I am hesitant to start a new one which I would quite like to do. In fact I met a friend last week who is really really keen to start one of for us to join one together. I started doing some research and was surprised how hard book groups are to find. I thought London would be teaming with them but they seem a little like secret society’s and also I did try a book group a year or so ago which was so cliquey it was untrue (and it was a library group which surprised me). I always hoped to join a book group like the TV show on Channel 4 (see picture below) a group of diverse people who love books and make new life long friends, maybe that’s too much to dream. Mind you my Gran is a member of two and she has a wonderful time at both and has met some lovely people whilst reading some wonderful books.

So what should I do? Should I give more online book groups a go? Is there anyone out there in the ether of the internet in London be you a blogger or a blog follower who is up for it? And for the rest of you some more questions… Are you in any reading/book groups and how do they work? How do you choose what you read? Have you made life long friends? Have you had some book group nightmares? Do let me know!

18 comments:

Sandy Nawrot said...

I have my doubts about online book groups. Someone out there may have found a good one, but I believe they are a rare thing. This is mainly what prompted me to start blogging...I can't find any satisfactory interaction online OR in real life. The real ones seem to get bogged down, like you described, or spent more time gossiping and bitching about husbands/kids/etc. than the book in question. I personally believe there could be a rewarding one in real life, provided that you find the right group. Probably a small one, all with open minds that won't complain if you decided on a thriller or chunkster. I wish you luck! If I lived in London, I'd join you!

Savidge Reads said...

Awww Sandy thank you, could you not do a monthly commute? I am determined to hunt one down, I loved my book group to start with when it wasnt one or two people swaying votes and causing issues, I dont know how it happened it really saddens me.

claire said...

What a great post, Simon. I'm not a member of a real book club, but I really like reading about others who do. I've only just joined Cornflower's Book Group, because she chooses really wonderful obscure titles that I just want to read. I guess with blogging, even without being in a book group, reading along with other bloggers is kind of a good thing because it pushes me to read something that I would normally put on hold for another day. I do get how online groups are more like a forum than an actual discussion, but it is a good enough alternative for someone who isn't part of a book group in person. :)

Molly said...

I have wanted to be a part of a "flesh and bones" book club for about two years now. I researched my local area by going to independent bookstores, chain bookstores, libraries, and even checking Craigslist. All to no avail. I asked personal friends if they would be interested in a book club, and while there was an interest, there was no commitment.

I wished I lived in London (for several reasons). I love the idea of meeting at a local pub once a month and discussing a book in an informal setting with fellow bibliophiles. I wonder if there is a way to set up a virtual pub? If so, I would be the first to join your group.

Savidge Reads said...

Claire - Thanks that's very kind of you. I am thinking of joiing Cornflowers book group as the books she chooses (I have been doing my research) all sound diverse and you wouldnt normally pick them which is what all book groups should be about.

Molly - Your local hunting has given me some ideas of where I should go off hunting next! I love the idea of an online local pub, though how would you drink?

farmlanebooks said...

I have been a member of several on-line book groups, but haven't found an great one yet. It is always nice to read books at the same time as other people, but I have got more from read-alongs with other bloggers than I have from the book groups.

I have been a member of cornflower's group for a few months, and will still read-along if she chooses something that sounds interesting, but I think a reading group on a blog is quite limiting. Everyone tends to just leave their thoughts, and there is no real discussion/debate. There needs to be more interaction, and I'm not sure how you achieve this.

I'd love to find a real-life book group. I haven't really looked into it, but I can imagine it being quite hard to find one to satisfy your individual requirements.

I’d love to join your book group, and could make it into London occasionally, but I think the distance would be too much for me to consider a regular commitment.

Good luck with finding/creating one!

Savidge Reads said...

Thanks Jackie it seems much harder than you would ever think to find a great book group. However I am thinking that I might just have to start my own which I would love you to attend even if its only now and again! I agree with you completely on the read alongs which reminds me... Sea of Poppies????

Candy Schultz said...

Well damn if you started one I might have to move to England. Over here I think 'book group' is just a euphemism for a bunch of women to get together and chit chat. I only joined one but they mostly didn't finish or even read the books and they would spend about five minutes on the book itself. Needless to say I didn't last very long.

If you could figure out how to do a virtual one I would definitely give it a try. Probably it should carry the caveat that if it didn't work out it would fold and unfortunately it should probably be limited a bit or you will spend all your time administrating. Oh do give it some thought though.

BookishNYC said...

Hi -- I have belonged to an Anthony Trollope reading group on Yahoo for several years. We read 3 or 4 of the novels each year, picked by general consensus but with a vaguely consecutive overall "plan." I believe there are 50+ members of the group, most of whom are "lurkers," with about a dozen people actually posting quite frequently. I enjoy it a great deal -- although I have come to "know" a number of the members online, the focus is always on the BOOK under discussion. I agree that "live" book groups tend to devolve into just an excuse to get together and socialize -- which is great, but not a book group, is it? Good luck in finding a like-minded bookish group -- online OR live.

Candy Schultz said...

Simon in thinking about this it occurs to me that we already have a virtual book group. We all visit each other's blogs, we write about the books we love and why and also those we don't like, etc.

Maybe we just need to have read alongs, everyone read the same book and do a review and then we can comment on each other's take on the book. This all sounds like a lot of fun.

Kim said...

I agree with Candy, we already have at least the basis for a virtual book group here on yours and each others blogs. Why don't we consider getting together on the phone, using skype (which is free, of course) once a month - time difference for people like me and the folks in the US may be a consideration, but it would be worth a late or early call once a month, just need to have someone with conference call capability and a dial-in number.......we could even have a glass of wine or two (compulsory rule of the group, of course :)
If you decide on something like this, then count me in, Simon.

Candy Schultz said...

Ooh Kim that sounds lovely. I stay up all night over here so maybe I could fit in.

farmlanebooks said...

The skype video conference thing sounds really interesting. I'd love to give it a try, but I know how awkward video conferences are in a work environment - meeting face-to-face always feels much easier. I'm up for trying though.

Matt said...

I gave up looking for a book group in my city, after going to a few that didn't really do it for me. I didn't renew the one to which I was invited because they tend to read very long epic books and dwell on one book for about 4 meetings! I agree with Candy that book bloggers have developed an informal book group since we all communicate on the books what we read.

Recently I have thoughts about if I shall belong to a group because my reading whims would get into the commitment. If I do find one that is highly compatible to my taste, I won't hesitate to join.

Savidge Reads said...

Wowsers you guys have been planning and plotting havent you all! I like the skype idea only I dont think I have a microphone on my comp and also it would mean we all have to have webcams! I do also really really want to get involved in an in the flesh one too. But if my Gran can have joined three I am sure I can manage two!

Kim said...

Just thinking creatively, Simon, in this age of easier communication - not planning really:)
I have to agree that face to face meetings and discussions are, without doubt best, but, second best has to be over the phone. Would have loved to give it a try. Good luck with your group search - keep us posted.

StuckInABook said...

Oh, book groups can be wonderful! I've been in three In The Flesh ones, each slightly different, but all very informal. I think that's the main thing. Jenny Hartley's book Reading Groups is fascinating, by the way - she did a survey of book groups, and her book is a response to that, the different styles and ages etc.

I say, go for it! You can decide what sort of group it'll be, and it can be incredibly fun.

And my recollection of The Book Group on Channel 4 was that not much reading ever happened...

WorkingWords100 said...

Here's one, but it's not central London.

http://iknitlondon.com/kniterati.html