I just finished reading Kathryn Stockett’s The Help for my book club in June. We were originally supposed to read Meg Rosoff’s award-winning How I Live Now, but one of our book club members read the book early and hated it, and went on at length at our last meeting about how vile it was and also how Rosoff had gotten everything wrong about England (said book club member is Welsh; I pointed out to her—and to everyone—that Rosoff has lived in England for the last 20 years, so I doubt she is completely unfamiliar with it). After she went on at length about how much she disliked the book, we almost had no choice but to pick a new one, and even though I relented it made me angry. First, nobody else in the book club got a chance to read Rosoff’s book, so no one could offer up an opposing or different view. We were simply to take her word for it that it was a terrible book. Second, it seems to me that a book that causes someone to form such a strong opinion is exactly the kind of book that is right for a book club, because you have something to discuss. I don’t think every choice should be controversial, and I hate to think anyone feels marginalized by the selections time and again, but I also think it was unfair of this member to hijack everything before we could read it and have a fair discussion.
This seems to be a struggle we have over and over again in our book club. Most of the women only want to recommend something popular or something that they have already read and think of as a safe choice. While I certainly understand not wanting to waste time on a book I am not enjoying, I also joined a book club so that I could get a broader view of things, and so I could have discussions about books. When everyone simply nods and agrees that the book was lovely, that tends to be the end of the discussion. So what, then, is the point of a book club? Why not a supper club?
And I hate to admit, but I wonder: Do mixed (male and female) book clubs have the same issues? Is it book clubs in general? Is it simply the mix of personalities in the group? For the most part, I enjoy getting together with these women every month. We are all very different, but the only real point of tension we have is book selection…not a good thing for a book club.