Why won’t someone invite me to a book club?
I know! For years, I would hear people gurgle on about their “fabulous” book club, about evenings filled with laughter and banter in the company of equally erudite friends. Some shared their cookies with each other, a behavior undoubtedly encouraged way back in kindergarten. Some shared wine and meals that were evocative of the era and geography of the place they read about, also a good hands-on way to learn about the world, a la elementary school. But none shared an invitation with me. I hoped. I looked wistful. I sulked. I felt like I was in middle school again.
Then, one New Year’s Eve, in another of my long trips down Self-Pity Lane, a thought occurred to me. What is keeping me from starting a book club of my own? I thought about the worst thing that could happen and decided that being found out as an inexperienced fraud wouldn’t be that bad. Pen in hand, I jotted down the names of 15 old friends. (In addition to having known most of them for 30-plus years, they were also old. Sorry friends. If the truth hurts, wear it.) These were women whom I thought might enjoy some of the same books I like but would also push me out of my reading ruts and expand my horizons. I composed an email invitation, pushed “send” and waited nervously. In a very short time I heard from most of them, and most agreed to give it a spin.
I had lined out a democratic system where we would take turns choosing books, but in the interest of time, I ended up planning out the entire first year’s reading choices with little input from others. No one seemed to balk at my dictatorship. I set the date for the first meeting, put on the coffee, baked some goodies and waited for them to arrive. In my scaredy-mind, I had imagined their faces in my living room, looking blank as I tried to get the discussion rolling. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. I darned near needed a referee whistle. I’ve found that most books have discussion guides posted somewhere on the Internet for poorly prepared leaders like me and I thank those who provide them from the bottom of my heart.
We’ve been happily meeting for many years now and have enjoyed each other and the books. Over the years we’ve found that some books lend themselves to discussion more than others, but some of our favorites have included “The Help,” “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet,” “Sarah’s Key,” “The Sparrow” and “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.” We’ve read a lot of biographies and nonfiction as well, including “Bonhoeffer” and “Man’s Search for Meaning.”
So, now that I’ve perhaps convinced you that you, too, would enjoy a book club, I’m sorry to inform you there are not enough chairs in my living room to accommodate all of you reading this. So, that leaves you with three options:
• Keep looking wistful when friends blather on about their lovely book club. That will get you nowhere.
• Start your own club today. If I can do it, you can do it. Drop me a note (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll even share our reading lists and some further guidelines to help you launch. Be sure to ask about our book-club discount at the store.
• Join Inkling’s new Facebook book club, Into the Wardrobe, named for the adventures that ensued when the Pevensy children walked into the wardrobe and out into the wonders of Narnia. Just search Facebook for Into the Wardrobe, and though there are several sites with that name you’ll find ours near the top. Just “like” our page to be able to join in the conversation there.
The March pick is “Life Itself” by Roger Ebert (Hachette, $15.99). We’ll give you two to three weeks to read the book and then post a question a day toward the end of the month. Simple as that! You can pipe up with your 2-cents worth and it may give a priceless perspective that enriches us all. I do my best to respond to each comment, and all the other members will be able to comment. Before long I’ll need a referee whistle to get a word in. That’s what I hope.
Step Into the Wardrobe and you’ll find a nice group to travel with. You’ll have to provide your own cookies, but there is no need to clean your house.
• Susan Richmond owns Inklings Bookshop. She and other Inklings staffers write about books in this space each week.