The Joy of Book Clubs
As our first Newsletter and Book Club Good Read choice goes out today, it got me thinking…
What makes a good Book Club? Over the years there have been so many different iterations, from wine-fuelled, tea-driven, and cake-laden, through more scholarly and serious, with heated debates and even full blown arguments, and now virtual versions, where pyjamas and pets seem to be de rigeur.
Do you have a preferred type? I feel like I’ve moved through all at them at one time or another. While most of the fuss seemed to centre on actual book choice, for the greater part, discussions were sometimes passionate, but never mean. And I liked that people truly cared about the books. Even if they hated them, it was fascinating to hear someone else’s take on a story. As a reader, I was often truly surprised that people’s responses could vary so widely, and I learned lots from the opinions of others. As a writer I was both heartened and astonished by people’s reactions. They say the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference, and I think I would actually rather someone hated one of my books than was just, well, meh about it. After all, hate is a strong reaction, so something in the book must have moved them.
Of course any response to a book, or a film, is unavoidably subjective, but I don’t believe that makes it less valid. On the contrary, a personal understanding of and reaction to a story matters hugely. I might go so far as to say we cannot measure the value of a book without that personal gauge. How can something be beautifully constructed, cleverly written, neatly paced, well told, and yet not resonate? The way a reader connects with a story is surely the most important indication of its success? So that my negative reaction to a book is as important as someone else’s love of it. And perhaps there should be no ‘average’ score. Perhaps those ratings we all chase as writers and sometimes rely on as readers when judging a book should not be seen en masse, but as a collection of individual responses. I know that when I write I do so for one, single, solitary, beloved reader, and it is their individual response that matters to me, whoever they are, and whatever it is.
What have your experiences of Book Clubs been? Do you have a favourite type? What has been your best or worst experience of them? I’d love to hear it!