Many of you may already be members of book clubs which often form in neighborhoods, among school parents or students, at your local library, senior center, community center, or from meet-up groups. I have happily been a member of a neighborhood book club which I joined shortly after moving to Atlanta in 2007. Although I have changed neighborhoods a couple of times since joining the group, I have remained faithful to my book club. Each month I look forward to sharing good food, conversation, laughter, and company with this group of women. At the close of each year, one member hosts an always delightful holiday party, and each member chooses a book to share with the group for the coming year. We do have a leader, but we have few rules, unlike some book clubs! Our group is all female. While there is no obligation to provide wine, it does seem as if most of our members particularly look forward to sipping wine while discussing our monthly selection. Often, we try to coordinate the food served with references to meals or items eaten by characters in the book, or to the ethnic cuisine referenced.
DCPL was kind enough to offer staff members free tickets to the preview presentation of Karen Zacharias’ “The Book Club Play” currently at the Horizon Theater in Little Five Points. I went to the play with my son, not quite sure what to expect. The theater itself is quite intimate, with the stage level with the first row of seats. The living room setting was very realistic and cozy, with all seating quite close to the stage.
Prior to the performance, the audience was asked by theater staff if we belong to a book club, and if so, what are the reasons that we continue to enjoy these groups. Among the responses were neighborhood gossip, wine, good company, and food. Funnily enough, no one mentioned the books! Personally, I have discovered many books and authors that I would have otherwise not read without the recommendation of other readers, and the insight of fellow readers is always valuable too. The Book Club Play was entertaining and certainly more dramatic than most “real” book clubs, but the characters were convincing and experienced transformation through the situations caused by a new member being drafted into the club and the reading selections he brought to the table. The premise of the play is that a renowned international documentary film-maker will be filming all of this particular group’s meetings. As the members of the group reveal their intimate secrets despite trying to keep them covert, their relationships evolve.
What I find most interesting about book clubs is that while reading is for the most part a solitary activity (unless one is reading to another or being read to), the book club is almost entirely a social rather than an intellectual or intimate event. When I read, it is for my own edification, personal growth, as well for entertainment. I love fiction because of the sense of intimacy which occurs as I share a selection of a stranger’s most innermost thoughts, musings, and feelings. Reading is the place, in my opinion, where we are the most close to other people’s true thoughts and feelings. A sense of anonymity is created by the remove of the book itself, written by a person whom we most likely won’t ever meet or encounter. This artistic replica of reality is then cloaked in a fictional layer of characters and situations which allows both reader and author to expose with true freedom of expression the tenderly vulnerable aspects of self and relationship.
While I do share some of my reactions to books read at book club meetings, I most look forward to reading books that other people in the group have suggested. In this manner, I get to know these women just a little bit better, and I enjoy the opportunity to read books which I would most likely not have otherwise encountered or read.
What do you like most about your book club?