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    Tuesday
    May082012

    5 ways to kill your book club

    Move over Boden spring mac, the middle class woman’s essential ‘must have’ is membership of a book club. Book clubs make us feel all is right with the world. They’re a chance to see friends, talk about something else other than kids, schools and work, and - crucially - to feel a bit superior to the TOWIE watching masses.  

    But book clubs are fragile entities. It’s easy to kill them. Here are 5 dangers to avoid if you want to keep yours going strong. 

    1. The over opinionated friend. Yes, of course, the point of the book club is to talk about the book - to share ideas, pick apart the prose, discuss the feelings the words evoked. None of this is possible if one member insists on shrieking ‘It’s an allegory!!!’ ‘It’s a bloody allegory, why are we still talking about this?”  Because no one will want to ask the over zealous member to leave, the book club will either have to start meeting in secret (awkward) or just give up altogether (sad, but preferable to hideous discussion with the book club bore.)
    2. Over ambitious theming. If your book club is going strong, you may be tempted to stretch it a little further. Wouldn’t it be fun, someone will say, to make some food that goes with the book? We ate pie with the Life of Pi, hot dogs with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, but it was a good few months before anyone felt brave enough to follow the authentic Ukranian national dishes, (and music) that accompanied A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian. Keep any food simple. Crisps and olives will do. Just don’t forget the wine. But....
    3. Too much Sauvignon Blanc. It’s so nice to be out on a weekday, and one more glass won’t hurt, but it’s very easy to get carried away. Soon the book discussion is dispatched within ten minutes, and the rest of the evening is spent dissecting husbands and exes and polishing off another bottle or two.  Terrible mid week hangovers utterly wipe out the warm glow one expects from a book club, and people will stop coming.  
    4. Laziness. Can’t we just watch the film? What about the BBC adaptation on DVD?  The book club that drifts away from books towards discussions of Sean Bean is destined for failure. 
    5. Middlemarch.  The death knell for a book club. Someone will confess ‘I’ve never read Dickens’ and it’s only a short hop from there until ‘we should try the classics’ rears its fearful head.  Attempt anything pre-1900 and over 450 pages and your book club will shrivel up and die. 

    P.S It is seven months since our book club started Middlemarch, and we have no plans to meet soon. 

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    Reader Comments (7)

    So, actually what you are saying is, 'By all means read something that you can't talk about and that is short, because otherwise things get too interesting and too long for my measly concentration span.' Or do you desperately wish to read 'Mrs Dalloway', 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' or 'A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man'? They are short enough, Joyce has also written some short stories. Woolf too. Ah, but I forgot, that modernism is a little too difficult, even if it is short, no doubt. I doubt whether your 'over-opinionated friend' would actually get to the point where an allegory coms into question at all (although Saramago could get you somewhere, but not that I have a hope in hell). I'll bet it's no. 'Middle class' has come a long way, as it seems.

    May 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKirsten

    You could of course simply recruit only intelligent people who can actually read, analyze and discuss without recourse to wine, food or films. Like my brilliant book group! Our discussions are fast and sometimes furious - always interesting.

    May 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLindsay

    I have to disagree with everything you have to say about book clubs. We formed a new book club at the beginning of this year and our first book was Middlemarch. We all enjoyed it and talked about it for over three hours. We have since read several books, baked foods to fit in with the themes and decided that we want to include classics several times a year. In fact our present book is Dombey & Son by Charles Dickens and we have thoroughly enjoyed it despite it being pre 1900.
    I guess we have done everything wrong in your eyes but we are happy to be the book club that breaks all your rules.

    May 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlison

    You're a terrible human being, Sharon T!

    (Six years, 72 classics, no signs of stopping.)

    May 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMike Bevel

    This article is meant for middle class women who join book clubs so they can feel superior. All points seem correct, when viewed in context.

    May 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSahas

    Essentially, I think that I and my three classics-reading colleagues here feel far more superior to the writer of this article and anyone who were not to read anything pre-1900 than the average middle-class woman who feels superior to whoever her inferiors might be, because she happens to have a book in her hand which she can't comprehend because she hasn't read the things that it is based on. What does that make us? Aristocracy?

    May 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKirsten

    I have a nice book club that adheres to these rules, generally speaking, though I am still envious of the posters here whose book clubs are more intellectual!

    I'm an American in Washington DC -- for those who are interested in swapping book club book suggestions intercontinentally, three very American books I'd recommend to any book club are: Curtis Sittenfeld's American Wife, Charles Portis's True Grit (even if you've seen the movie -- the voice of the protagonist is amazing!), and Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad. (Though I'm not sure all my fellow book club members would agree on those 3!).

    What 20th and 21st c UK books would you recommend to us?

    May 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSara

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