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Archive for the ‘31 Days’ Category

Day 13 – Poetry

My gut reaction when anyone mentions poetry is “I LOVE POETRY.” Which is true, for the most part. I really love poets, though. Many of the poets I know are sensitive, intuitive, empathic people. They are disappointed hopefuls. They see how good the world could be if we would just [fill in the blank]. They are not necessarily happy but often wish they could be. They really wish the people they love could be happy.

I think you need at least a little bit of all those things to write poetry. Well, to write good poetry.

To be clear, I am not a great judge of good poetry. If someone strings a phrase together in a way I enjoy, I like it and call it good. Some might argue that is the standard, but I’ve been led to believe it’s not.

The poetry I love usually springs out of pain and/or beauty the poet finds in their personal experience. See Donika Kelly’s The Renunciations. Jeanann Verlee’s Racing Hummingbirds. Terrance Hayes’s American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin. Mary Oliver’s Winter Hours.

I like writing poetry, but I feel ill-equipped to write it well. I have taken courses and am working my way through Oliver’s A Poetry Handbook, but I still feel shy about the poems I put out most of the time. I wonder if that’s just part of the process and so maybe I shouldn’t worry so much about it but just keep writing. My worry doesn’t often listen to “should,” though, so here we are.

Do you like poetry? Do you have recommendations? I’d love to hear them!

I love books and writing about them.

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Where do I read? A better question might be – where don’t I read? I will read standing in line at the grocery store.

But if I’m settling in for a nice, long reading session, I want it to be comfortable. Cozy, even.

I start by selecting a chair.

In my current apartment, I have three main places where I enjoy reading for an extended period of time. The chair pictured above is set up to be my official reading chair. It reclines, but not so much that I can’t still enjoy a drink while I read. There is a bookshelf on one side and a window on the other, and it usually has a lamp behind it to ensure good lighting at night. During Christmas, however, that corner is the best space for the tree, so the chair and the lamp get moved. This year, the lamp never made it back over there, so this has become the morning reading chair (when I can take advantage of a lot of natural light).

The big red chair in my living room is usually just where I eat and/or watch TV. But it has also become a reading chair simply because that’s where the lamp has been this year. It’s not within arm’s length of my current-reads shelf, but it’s comfy enough, and there is a ottoman in front of it. So while settling in takes a little more effort, it works well once I do.

The third place I read in the apartment is in the office. When I have an online meeting, I block out some time (usually 30 minutes to an hour) beforehand just in case I need to review notes from the last session or otherwise finish preparations. I’ll fill up the water bottle, make a cup of coffee or tea (or glass of wine, depending on the meeting), and then take a seat in the cushy chair (that I moved out of the living room when I was working from home all day) at my desk. I hardly ever need as much prep time as I set aside, so as I happen to be in my library, it just makes sense to spend the rest of the wait reading. I often find myself lingering there after the meeting is over to finish the chapter I started.

In addition to choosing a chair, I also make sure I have several books stacked nearby in case I start reading one and decide I’m in the mood for something else. Before I begin reading, I like to have something to drink – at least a bottle of water but also usually a warm beverage of some sort – on the table beside me. I put a blanket within reach just in case I get chilly once I get still for an extended period of time. Once I’m there, I can read for hours.

Do you have a particular place where you prefer to read?

I’m writing about books and reading all month.

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It’s National Coming Out Day, a day to honor the experiences and stories of LGBTQIA+ folk and to advocate for representation of queer identities in media, books, TV, etc. To that end, I have several recommendations. After all, what better way to celebrate than with reading?

In no particular order:

  • Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan – A fun premise and some very sweet moments. An exuberant celebration of friendship and love and the importance of finding people with whom you can be your full self.
  • How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones – This is the first book I read in 2020, and if that didn’t set a tone…I love this beautifully written memoir.
  • The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller – Gorgeous retelling of The Iliad (you should read it even if revisiting Homer doesn’t sound appealing).
  • Carry On by Rainbow Rowell – Be still, my fannish heart. Rowell took the fictional series her main character geeked out over in Fangirl and made it into an actual series that exists so that the rest of us could squee along with her as Simon and Baz’s relationship developed. Tomorrow, the box set of the trilogy releases, and the holidays are coming. I’m just saying.
  • I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver – I just finished this one on Friday, and as I type this I’m sitting here getting teary over this heartbreaking and hopeful story. I really do wish the main character in this book all the best. They deserve all the good things.
  • Darius the Great Deserves Better by Adib Khorram – I started this one last night. I was already rooting for Darius since reading the last one (Darius the Great Is Not Okay), so I’m looking forward to this next chapter in his adventures.

Obviously, there are way more books that center or reference coming out stories than these, and apparently my list is skewed in a generally (although not completely) masculine direction. Looks like I have some more expanding to do. Here’s a good list to start with for all of us.

Happy National Coming Out Day!

I’m writing about books all month.

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I’m pretty goal-oriented, and there is an almost inevitable touch of competition embedded in that trait. I try not to let it spill over to my reading life, though. It’s too important to me to to reduce it to some type of race.

When I set my reading goal for the year, part of the thrill is the challenge of reading more than I’ve read in any prior year. Not because that somehow makes me better or wiser or whatever. It doesn’t. I simply get excited at the thought of finding even more time to do one of the things I love most.

Sometimes when I talk about the books I’ve read recently (which is often – just try and get me to stop – it’s a lost cause), the person I’m talking to will say something like, “I’ve only been reading this one book for the last [insert arbitrary length of time].” As if that’s not JUST AS EXCITING. In fact, the longer it takes to read something, the more impact it’s likely to have, so I definitely want to hear what you have to say about it.

Whether you spend five minutes a week or five hours a day reading, my only concern is this – do you enjoy it? Because that’s the whole point.

Reading is one of my favorite pastimes. It’s fun, relaxing, informative, engaging, etc. I read to learn and to be entertained. I read not only to unwind but also to connect with others.

The goal I set each year is not an arbitrary number, but it’s not a competition, either. It’s a wellness meter. How much time I spend reading (and thus how many books I finish) is a direct reflection of how I’m doing. When I’m not reading, it’s usually because I’m either too anxious, depressed, or over-committed to have the time and/or the focus to do so. When I’m not reading, I’m probably also not writing (or doing much of anything creative, for that matter).

I probably had more free time in 2020 than any other year in my entire adult life, but I didn’t even come close to my yearly goal. The first month of that year that I only read one or two books the whole month, that was the only sign that I wasn’t doing ok and needed to seek help that I, in that particular state, was able to recognize.

By contrast, right now I am 16 books ahead of schedule on my goal for this year, and I’ve been reading about the same number of books every month. Which DELIGHTS me, because it means that not only has my ability to focus been fairly consistent but also that I’ve not been too busy to make time for the things I enjoy.

I don’t know what reading means to all of you (although I’d love to hear it – drop a comment if you’d like), but it’s part of how I make sense of the world and my place in it. It’s not something to just be crossed off a checklist or used to feed some weird delusion of superiority. It’s not a competition.

For more of my musings about books, click here.

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There is something about sitting next to a bookshelf – especially one of my own – that I find simultaneously invigorating and soothing. It must be the fond memories of the books on it that I’ve loved. The anticipation of those I’ve not yet read. The inevitable, distinct smell of a collection of books that vary in age, how many hands have touched them, and how far they’ve traveled. My bookshelves are great roommates.

A few years ago, my 31 Days series was a celebration of shelfies – pictures taken of my bookshelves. Like the books on them, each shelf tells its own story.

Like the one pictured above, with the whimsical pig bookend holding up books I’ve had since childhood. It captures the reminiscence of Scholastic book fairs and the special visit from John R. Erickson, creator of the Hank the Cowdog series, to our small town elementary school. Technically I wasn’t in elementary school anymore at that point, but my mom made sure I still got a signed copy.

Or the one below, that holds some of my favorite serving pieces as well as the bulk of my foodie/cookbook collection. Everything I know about being a good host came from someone who used to own one of those pieces or from the wisdom shared in one of those books.

The next picture is another cross-section of my life. The little plant that could, a cutting from my friend Sarah in a planter that my mom just knew I had to have. Larry McMurtry’s most popular novel as well as the one we read for Follow the Reader (also nurtured/led by Sarah). Part of the latter half of my fiction collection, including books from some of my favorites – Louise Penny, Haruki Murakami, Toni Morrison, Ann Patchett, Joyce Carol Oates. Just thinking of these authors makes me remember where I was when I discovered them and what their books helped me through.

When I have a larger library, some authors are going to get their own shelves. Meanwhile, I’ll arrange my Isabel Allende collection however it will fit. She is the reason the As already get their own shelf, when most other letters of the alphabet have to share. The Bs are quickly catching up, though.

The shelf that holds most of my nonfiction is probably what you saw behind me if you’ve had a Zoom meeting with me in the last year or so. I don’t have quite as much nonfiction, so there are also children’s books, stacks from authors I like who write both fiction and nonfiction (but I feel like they would miss each other if they were separated), and books from my academic years, which are mostly nonfiction but with a sprinkling of poetry and short story collections (some, apparently, in German). As with most of my shelves, I also have small pieces of art nestled between, in front, and beside the books.

The look and smell of my books is what makes any place I live feel like home. You could probably learn a lot about me by spending some time perusing them. Maybe that’s why the first place I go when I’m left to my own devices in someone’s home is to their bookshelves. I always learn something I love about the people who live there.

I don’t just love looking at books – I also love writing about them! So that’s what I’m doing this month.

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As I mentioned yesterday, I attribute part of my ability to read as much as I do to the use of different media. I have five apps on my phone through which I read, but I have other bookish apps that I use just as much (if not more). Today I want to talk about the five I probably use the most and why I like them.

[Aside: While I do have Audible and Kindle on my phone, I didn’t list them here because I’m trying to wean myself off Amazon, which is not easy because many of the indie writers I like to support only sell through Amazon currently and also because Amazon owns so many things.]

  1. Goodreads – Yes, I know – owned by Amazon. And I’m open to alternatives, but I haven’t found any that can come close to everything I have through Goodreads. Most of the tracking I do, I do through this app. Because of Goodreads, I can tell you every book I’ve read since 2012. I also have a gargantuan TBR list stored there. Best of all, I get a lot of recommendations from people I’ve met through various walks of life – online friends from fandom/writer groups/book clubs, face-to-face friends, coworkers, friends from grad school, writer contacts, and a unique group of like-minded readers whom I met through the app itself. It’s social media for readers, which some days, is the only kind of social media I’m into.
  2. Scribd – Through this paid subscription (currently about $10 a month), you can choose from their large selection of ebooks, audiobooks, magazines, short stories, essays, etc., and there’s no limit to how much you can read or save to read later. I don’t find every book I want to read there, but it’s my frequent go-to for book club selections when I have already exhausted my book budget for the month and there is a waitlist for them at the library. Or when someone else puts a hold on a library book I’ve started and I can get it to them faster by finishing the book on Scribd. I also use it to keep track of specific TBR lists (e.g., my books about joy that I’m reading this year). As with most subscriptions, there’s no guarantee that any book that is available now will always be available, but I use the app enough that it definitely saves me time and money in the long run.
  3. Kobo – This is my “ultimately replace Audible and Kindle” app. It offers the same kind of subscription for audiobooks (1 credit for a monthly rate), and you can either have an ebook subscription (all you can read for $10/month) or you can purchase the ones you want to keep individually. It gives you a list of titles that you can get for free (and also lets you prioritize your favorite genres), and each purchase also earns points toward free books. If I ever purchase another ereader, it will be through Kobo. I feel like it’s trying to be every reading app I love but in an even more organized and user-friendly way. It seems like it’s here to stay – so much that some of my fave indie authors have worked their way over to also sell through Kobo, which is exciting.
  4. CloudLibrary – This is the ereader/audiobook app that our local library uses, so it’s the one I use. My current selections through CloudLibrary are the audio version of a print book I’m reading at night because I’m at a part that is very exciting and I have errands to run this afternoon, which will delay my getting-home time and I don’t want to wait until I get home to hear what happens next, my current lunchtime book, and the next book in the Phryne Fisher series because the library doesn’t have a print copy. It’s free through my library login (also free). Selection, of course, varies according to what the library purchases. It’s worth checking out which ereader your library uses (I also like OverDrive and Hoopla but don’t use them very often).
  5. Libib – Y’all. I have a lot of books. So many that when I’m out and about at bookshops or library sales or garage sales that I find myself veering toward when that stack of unwanted books looking for a home catches my eye on the drive-by, I don’t always remember off the top of my head what I have and don’t have at home. Especially if it’s by an author I particularly like (and thus compulsively buy). So I am cataloguing my collection, slowly and surely, through Libib. You can also keep track of the music, games, movies, etc., you own, if that interests you. The free version does limit you to 5,000 items, which is plenty at this stage of my collection (really, if I ever need more, I should just quit my job and become a library). Also, you can share your shelves with others (useful for people who browse bookstores on my behalf). If my home ever catches fire, this is what I’ll use to rebuild my collection/annoy my insurance company (because priorities).

Do you use these apps? Others? What do you like about them?

I’m writing about books all month!

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Step 1 – Always have at least one book with you.

So…I read a lot. I read every day. I also read quickly. Sometimes I slow it down a little when the poetry/prose is really good, the same way I take smaller, slower sips/bites when I want to savor a particularly delicious glass of wine or a decadent meal. But I spend several hours each week reading, and my normal reading pace – where I’m still getting all the details, as I don’t consider skimming reading – is fast. So it’s not unusual for me to finish 12-15 books a month.

I have several reader friends who set yearly goals and encourage their followers on social media to do the same. When their check-ins are posted – “How are your reading goals going this year?” – I often refrain from commenting. There’s a good chance that it would come across as braggy from me, and that’s not the point of reading. That’s not how I feel about reading. Because if you set a goal for reading 25 books this year, and you have finished 20 of them, you are doing great. If you set a goal of reading 12 books this year, and you have finished 1 of them, you are doing great. I bet it was a really good book. Any amount of reading is great, and I’m happy for you!

I do enjoy beating my own record, though. A little healthy competition with my ownself is fun for me. Also, there are so many books I am interested in that I want to get to as many of them as possible before I die.

If you are interested in upping your own reading goal or just finding time to read more, there are many tips on the internet for how to do so. Everyone’s life/schedule is different, so some of those tips will work for you and some of them will not. I have two jobs, I make time to work on my own short stories or novel, and I’m active in my art community and church (plus – I have all those book clubs). So if I want reading to be a integral part of my life (and I do), I have to intentionally set aside time to do it. Here’s how I make time to read:

  1. I always have a book with me. If I’m trying to finish up a book for a discussion that’s happening soon or a book that’s due at the library in the next few days, that book is in my bag. Or I intentionally choose the ebook copy so that it goes everywhere my phone goes…which is everywhere I go. Which leads me to…
  2. I read via multiple media. Home decor to me is buying another bookshelf. I love the feel of a printed book in my hands. When I’m at home, that’s usually how I read. It’s part of my nightly ritual. I also love the convenience of ebooks and audiobooks, though. I have five reading apps on my phone, so I’m never at a loss for something to read no matter where I am.
  3. I schedule blocks of time to read. That trick that I learned in college where, for every hour spent in class, I scheduled 2 hours outside of class to complete the reading/homework? I just kept doing that after I graduated (albeit on a smaller scale). In addition to my nightly 20-30 minutes, I have at least 2-3 hours every week that I specifically set aside to read. That is, I put it in my planner as an actual appointment. Do I have plans tomorrow night? Yes, I do. I plan to finish the book due at the library on Saturday.
  4. I have reading marathons. Sometimes, a few hours a week are just not enough. About four or five times a year, I hunker down for a whole weekend (or as part of my vacation) and read like it’s my job. Sometimes I participate in an organized online marathon such as Dewey’s Readathon or the 24in28 Readathon [Aside – this is where not being snotty about whether listening to audiobooks is really reading (IT IS – do not get me started – or maybe do get me started. Maybe that will the topic of its own post this month because I have strong opinions) comes in handy, because 24 hours in just two days is a hell of a long time to be sitting down.]. But most of these reading intensives are just me vs. the TBR list. Speaking of…
  5. I have huge TBR lists. I mark books as “want to read” on Goodreads, and I have large virtual libraries saved on all five apps. I have a handwritten book journal where I keep lists and highlight them when I’m finished. I subscribe to many email lists that send out notifications of new and upcoming things I might be interested in, and I add the ones that intrigue me to at least one of my TBR lists. I have several books checked out from the public library at any given time. I have an enormous book collection in my apartment, and it just keeps growing. There’s no way I’ll ever finish all of them, but that’s not the point. The point is that the question is never “Is there something I want to read next?” but rather “Which one of these hundreds of books do I get to start today?” That question always has an answer.
  6. I read several books at a time. I listen to an audiobook during my commute (or almost any time I’m in the car alone). I read one of the ebooks I’ve started during my lunch break or when I’m waiting on a virtual meeting to begin. I have several books stacked by my reading chair because I’m not always in the mood for the same genre every night, and staying interested in what I’m reading is crucial for keeping it a regular habit. At any point, I likely have at least four books that I’m reading a bit of each day.

Do you have tips on how to read more? What are some of your habits?

I can talk about books for days. Specifically, 31 days.

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One of the first “adult” novels I read was Danielle Steel’s Fine Things. I was probably 10 or 11, it was summer, and I was restless. We went to the library once every week or two, and I checked out the the maximum number of books I was allowed (whether by my mother or actual library policy, I don’t know), which was ten. I had exhausted my library selections and had already re-read my own small collection numerous times. So I went to Mom and uttered the two words we knew better than to ever say –

“I’m bored.”

Usually, this declaration received an enthusiastic vow to find us something (usually cleaning-related) to do immediately and for many hours into the foreseeable future. As much as I hated washing the wooden baseboards, though, I was desperate.

I was a reader without a book. In a word – ennuied.

Instead of the usual to-do list (which she mysteriously happened to always have on hand), Mom suggested I read. Like I hadn’t thought of that. When I explained my dilemma, she proposed an alternative. Why didn’t I choose something from her shelves?

Anything?! I marveled. I can choose anything there?!?

Apparently so. If I could reach it, I could read it. I darted out of the room to begin my feverish search before she changed her mind.

I’m not sure if she forgot that she had the romance novel on a lower shelf or if she really was ok with me reading it at my tender, pre-pubescent age, but Fine Things was the main book that stood out to me (Sins of the Fathers by Susan Howatch was also a contender).

In it, I discovered a whole new world of people interacting in what seemed to be (to my young, sheltered eyes) scandalous and brazen ways. Of course, my delicate sensibilities did not deter me from reading. I was hooked from the very beginning.

I’ve never considered romance a favorite genre until recently, but that may just be because I didn’t consider a lot of the books I read with romantic elements to be Romance ™. Is Chocolat a romance, or just a delectable story about opening a p√Ętisserie in a small town in France that happens to include some love connections? Does Nina George write romance, or are the books and the food the real love interests in her stories? Surely Jasmine Guillory (start with The Wedding Date) and Helen Hoang (The Kiss Quotient) are romance. I can’t wait to tuck into my next Alyssa Cole (How To Catch a Queen was pretty hot) and, while not set in contemporary times, all of Outlander as well as Bridgerton are on my TBR list. I also am a fan of Jemima J (and other Jane Green books) as well as the occasional Sophie Kinsella (The Undomestic Goddess pictured above is one of my favorites of hers).

I think part of my decision to embrace my love of romance novels is that I’d rather call these books “romance” than “chick lit,” a term I’m not super fond of. Because you don’t have to identify as a chick to love a good meet-cute (or a steamy sex scene). Both romance and chick lit genres have been the targets of disdain for “serious” readers (whatever in the world that means), but I don’t give that attitude a lot of credence either.

Whatever you call it, I love it. I read a fair amount of difficult topics, but I also like a tidy ending that promises years of happiness to come for the characters I’ve spent the whole book rooting for.

I’m spending October writing about the books I love (and hope to love in the future).

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My first book club of the month meets on the first Tuesday, so tonight is our meeting for October. We’re discussing Lisa Wingate’s The Book of Lost Friends, which I am enjoying. If you like historical fiction, particularly regarding the post-Civil War era and the plight of enslaved people during/after/seeking emancipation, give it a read.

This was the first book club I joined. It kinda set the standard for how laidback I like a book club to be. The person who hosts it is a friend from grad school, and pre-pandemic, we met at her house. We’d each bring food to share. Sometimes there was a theme, but mostly it was a motley potluck of whatever sounded good to us. There are a couple of great bakers in the group, and the host kept an emergency cake in the freezer, so there was always at least one dessert. The other common offering for meetings was plenty of wine. We have met online since March or April of 2020, and while I miss the delicious food spread, I love that we can include members who have moved away through Zoom. Also, there is still wine; it’s just in our own houses.

I appreciate that we don’t have to finish the book to be welcome. In fact, when the reminder went out a day or two ago, someone automatically replied, “I have 140 pages to go!” I also have not finished it yet, and the meeting is at 7:00 p.m. (I can do it! I think!). The unofficial rule on spoilers seems to be that we will try not to give too many details away if someone who hasn’t finished is intent on doing so and doesn’t want to know what happened, but that’s not usually the case (for the record – I personally don’t mind spoilers. They don’t take away from my enjoyment of a book, show, movie, etc., at all). We always talk about the book a little bit, but unless it was super juicy and we all finished it, the actual book discussion is usually short.

The best part of this group is getting to know and staying in touch with these amazing women. We keep up with what’s going on in each other’s families/lives. We share advice when it’s wanted and take each others’ sides in rants about work, difficult family members, and bad customer service. We give each other book recommendations and take bets on which of us will/won’t like next month’s selection. Also the host has a little free library on her porch and will pull books that she thinks we’ll enjoy to put aside for us.

I love having these book friends in my life.

I’m writing about books all month – click here to see the master list!

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Book spine haiku

I love sharing what I’m reading with other people, but other people don’t always care (or at least not as much as I do). I’ll start to fangirl over the latest book I’m reading, and they’ll nod and smile and listen for a few sentences. Then their eyes will glaze over, or they’ll start looking around like they’re searching for someone – anyone – else to talk to, and their part of the conversation will start to sound like, “Huh,” and “Uh-huh,” and “Oh, wow.” So I finish the sentence I’m on and set them free.

My book clubs, though, give me plenty of space to say everything I want to say about not only the things we’re reading together but also what else we’ve all been reading since the last time we met. We share recommendations and lend each other our own copies of things we think someone would particularly like. If you enjoy talking about books at all but also notice that sometimes when you do, people look like they want to run away, joining a book club may be just the place for you.

The trick is finding one that matches your book club personality.

Not all book clubs are the same. Some focus on the more social aspect of the gathering, while many are super serious about dissecting the plot devices the author used in the novel. And unless you start it yourself, the expectations for how discusssions are going to go have already been set, and they’re unlikely to be changed by a new member. The best way to find a book club you enjoy is to look for one with the structure you like.

There are a few key factors to consider when you’re trying to match your book club personality to an existing group:

  1. Are there snacks? This may not seem like it’s related to the discussion at all, but the presence (or absence) of snacks, how many snacks there are, and who provides it all tell you some things about the expectations of the group. An elaborate spread, dinner, or potluck, complete with wine or other festive beverages, probably indicates (with one key exception I can think of, as you’ll see below) that this is mostly a social gathering that happens to have reading as a theme. If the conversation veers from the selection you’re discussing that evening, that’s probably not a big deal to anyone there. Coffee and tea with a few light refreshments provided by the host, on the other hand, probably indicates that they expect the discussion to be mostly focused on the book or genre scheduled, but they want you to feel welcome (or at least awake on a Saturday morning at the library). No snacks means serious business. You don’t have time to eat or drink anything – you have plot and characters and symbolism to discuss. Also, if you had food, you might spill on the book, and they wouldn’t like that at all. The only book club more serious than one without any food or drink is one with themed food and drink (and also maybe costumes).
  2. Do you need to have finished the book to attend? This is the main factor that matters to me. Even as someone who almost always finishes the books we discuss each month, sometimes I need the option not to. First, life is too short and there are too many good books out there to struggle through one I’m just not enjoying. But I still want to hear what other people liked/disliked about it. Second, a great book club for me is always going to be about more than books. Book people are my people, and I’m theirs. Meeting with them each month is one of my favorite parts of my social life, and I don’t think I’d be comfortable with the idea that I’m only welcome if I’ve done the homework. You, on the other hand, may think that reading the book should be the bare minimum expected of attendees. After all, if you want to delve deep into the discussion of the book, it can be a bit of a bummer if others weren’t even interested enough to finish it. Knowing where you stand on this issue before you look for a book club to join can save you a lot of frustration.
  3. How is the discussion structured? This question speaks to the practical aspects of the meeting, including how long you spend talking about the book, who leads the discussion, and how you know when it’s finished. You may be looking for long, relaxed evenings where you start by talking about what everyone liked about the book, which turns into a discussion about how it compares to other things you’ve read, which turns into musings on how it challenged or changed your perspective and what it means in the grander scheme of your life, culture, or the world. Perhaps you just want a short, casual meeting with other readers structured by a list of 10-15 questions designed to spark discussion about the book you all read before you go on with the rest of your day or evening. Other book clubs choose to just play it by ear, so the actual time you spend discussing the book can last ten minutes or two hours, depending on how much everyone has to say about it. If you have a definite preference, it won’t take long to decide whether a particular book club is right for you.
  4. Are you a good fit for the personalities in the group? I once attended a few meetings of a group formed through a local bookstore. I was drawn to it because the focus they advertised was on feminist themes in classic literature, which sounded like it was right up my alley. It didn’t take long for me to realize that we weren’t a great fit, though. The members were enthusiastic, smart, witty, and friendly. They were also mostly professors or grad students in various English programs in the area, and they clearly didn’t want to avoid (or explain) the jargon known to those in their field in order to be more inclusive. They also did not appreciate my thinly veiled disdain for their insistance that some books are literary and some are not (implied – fluff, less than, not for serious readers). My tastes veered a little too much in the direction of the experimental for them. I think we were all relieved when my schedule suddenly “changed” (i.e., I intentionally made other plans those nights). But that’s how it goes. Just like with any other social group or relationship, sometimes everything looks right on paper, but it just doesn’t work. It may take a few meetings to figure it out that you belong, but once you do, it’s wonderful.

If you want to join a book club but don’t know where to start, this post gives a lot of great suggestions. Then it’s kinda like dating. You go out with a few of them until you find one (or three or four) that works.

What kind of book club do you enjoy?

I’m talking about books all month long!

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