Prior to this assignment, I had actually never been to a formal book club, so I did not know what exactly to expect. Without using any specific names, I participated in a book club at my library that meets in the morning. I do not know if this is how all book clubs are, but this book club was more like a group of friends chatting about and discussing a book than a strict Q&A session.
The group meets every month during the school year at a corner of the library’s adult fiction section called the “Conversation Corner,” where conversation and talking at a respectable level is encouraged. Registration is not required for this book club and no snacks or drinks are provided, but everyone who attends the book club meetings is invited to go out to lunch together following the meeting. While the book club does not claim to read any particular type or genre of book, almost all of the list of books the club plans to read in the next year are realistic literary fiction books that deal with and discuss social issues.
For this book club meeting, there was a bit of a mix-up on what book the group was discussing. The library’s monthly newsletter erroneously said it was going to be Circling the Sun by Paula McLain but the actual book was supposed to be Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance. Out of the ten women that attended the book club, three of us were first-timers and had read the wrong book. Because of this, Circling the Sun was discussed for about fifteen minutes in the beginning of the meeting. This book club had actually read the book last year, so that might have been the reason for the mix-up. Luckily, most of the women remembered the book from the previous year and could briefly discuss it with the group.
When it came time to discuss Hillbilly Elegy, one of the ladies who appeared to be the organizer for the group started off the discussion. She was the one got the meeting started, emailed the other book club members, and guided some of the discussion during the meeting. The regular attenders of the book club were sent a reminder email that included the discussion questions, and paper copies were available for new attenders and people who forgot to print out their own copy from the email. Of the discussion questions listed, none of them were strictly yes or no questions. They were more opened ended, such as questions like how do you think this relationship impacted the main character or talk about this situation or event and the main character’s views on it.
Everyone had the opportunity to and did talk in the discussions, however about four of the women led most of the talking during the book club. If someone had something to say, though, everyone allowed them to speak and voice their viewpoints and opinions. The woman who I believe is the organizer for the group hardly asked any questions. Discussion was, for the most part, just allowed to flow from one topic to the next. Because of this, the discussion only got to about half of the printed book questions, and they were answered somewhat indirectly.
During the discussion, there was, at least to me, a feeling that these women all thought similarly in particular areas. When certain topics arose during the conversation which I disagreed with, I did not want to say anything, partially because I was new, had not read the correct book, and was only planning on attending this one meeting, but also partially because I was uncertain how my comments and opinions, sometimes in stark contrast with others’, would be accepted and viewed.
While I do not think I will be returning to this particular book club, I enjoyed the discussion and sharing of different views book clubs allow. When I have completed my MLS degree and am not so crazy busy, I am excited to join a book club where I can develop friendships and discuss interesting and sometimes challenging books.