Book Club Day Number One came and went.
And went well.
I was pleasantly surprised, actually. As I have mentioned at least a million times before, I’m not a book club guy. I love to talk to people about books, but I hate the idea that it takes a set of questions and a specific “book of the moment” to do it.
Here’s the thing, though. I’ve never had a bad book club experience. I have no reason to hate book clubs. In fact, all of my contact with organized book reading has been quite positive.
Once, I begrudgingly trotted off to a To Kill a Mockingbird book club (thankfully located at a bar). I found that I enjoyed it. Quite a bit, actually. We often veered off of the subject, and we just sat around and agreed with each other, for the most part, when we actually did talk about the book, but it was a great meeting of the minds. If by minds I mean “people who like reading and drinking beer.”
Coming into last night, though, I was a little skeptic. I didn’t know what to do. We all had read the book, but I was pegged to be the “in charge” guy, the one who was supposed to keep order and spur thoughtful discussion. The book of choice – Zadie Smith’s White Teeth – was my personal selection, and it was a dense novel in which everything has multiple meanings. I wasn’t quite sure how to tackle the content.
Do I ask questions? Should I start off with rules? Is it okay to just say “how did everyone like the book?” and go from there?
What I found is that we didn’t need to come into the meeting with any knowledge of the themes or understanding of major concepts. I never realized it until last night, but a book club is designed to bring people together in support of reading good books. Reading is a solitary exercise, and book clubs help bring a social aspect to light. The only people that will understand a discussion of White Teeth are people who actually read it.
The five people who got together last night all viewed White Teeth with different eyes, forming different opinions and making different judgments. From there, we came together to discuss our version of the book – our specific viewpoint that gave differing preferences to certain characters and acts, ending differently irregardless of the sameness in the words.
It’s not about what you read, it’s about how you read it. And without a meeting of the minds, I’m not aware of any other viewpoint besides my own. I read, but I don’t learn. I consume, but I don’t develop. I didn’t need to feel any stress going into the book club.
All I needed to do was talk. All I needed to do was tell my part of the story.