Book Clubs

The Good Sister has been chosen by the Women’s National Book Association as one of this year’s twenty best choices for book groups – a “Great Group Read“.

Hard to believe, but before Oprah, book groups weren’t common. Long ago my mother belonged to something called The Delphian Society which was, I think, devoted to the radical idea that women had brains enough to handle Plato and Descartes.

After Oprah began making her personal book-of-the-month pick, book clubs sprang up everywhere.

Drusilla Speaks2Last Wednesday, I met with a group in Escondido that took me under its wing when Wildwood came out ten years ago. Ever since, they’ve invited me to talk with them about my latest. It’s one of many groups I’ve spoken with this year. I come away from these discussions feeling more excited about books and writing and readers than I did when I went in.

The Escondido Welcome Book Club has been around for twenty years or more in one form or another. What’s given it such staying power? Here are four things I’ve observed.

1. This group of women has a shared set of values which is not to say they march in lock step, not at all. Each has opinions and some are a little eccentric, some argumentative, snooty, down to earth, etc.

2. When they disagree (on something like homosexual marriage or abortion, for example) they do so with tolerance. They listen to each other without rancor or judgment. How nice that is!

3. They read books of all kinds and participants make an effort to read what’s assigned. This keeps the gathering focused. It’s not just a chance to drink coffee and gossip together.

4. Members know how to laugh and digress and then return to the book. They can be distracted, but the book is what interests them.

I’ve never belonged to a book group and I’m afraid I wouldn’t be a very good member now. I read constantly but usually I’m in my writer mode when I do it. Right now, having just watched The Tudors on DVD, I’m reading The Six Wives of Henry the VIII, not my usual thing but I’m riveted.

Sometimes, I’m asked for suggestions for book clubs and I often recommend:

The Cook Book Collector by Allegra Goodman

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

Marylin Monroe: The Biography by Donald Spoto

Girls by Frederick Busch

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

All are great reads and should prompt good discussions among friends.

What are you reading these days?

Do you belong to a book club and if so, what makes it work. Or not?

Drusilla is available to speak to your book club! In person, over the phone, and via skype!

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