“Nothing bonds two people so well as loving the same books.”
--Lena London, A Dark and Stormy Murder
I am a member of two informal book clubs. One is a four-times-yearly gathering of interested faculty at the school where I teach. I am the unofficial “leader” of the club because I always come with about 30 typed questions that I hope will generate interesting discussions. These aren’t downloaded from book club sites; I always write my own because that is more authentic to my reading experience, and—well—I’m a bit obsessive.
The group has enjoyed many wonderful conversations, and in two cases we Skyped with the authors themselves and directed our questions to them. Those were wonderful experiences that allowed us to take our questions about text straight to the creator, the generator of that text for some deeper insight.
In every one of our meetings, I find myself getting to a point at which my heart beats faster, my face grows hot, and I become sort of enraptured by the way that literature can lift us to higher understanding. We learn things, discover things, TOGETHER—in a way that only this type of gathering can achieve.
And so I would conclude that for the same reason I love to discuss literature with my students (who are themselves amazing, insightful observers of human nature), I love to discuss a good book with my book group.
My other book group is a recent creation, born of an e-mail that I sent to people on my block. It said, “Is anyone interested in starting a block book group? Not the kind where people just use a book as an excuse to drink wine, but the kind where we actually read and discuss a book?”
To my great pleasure, many people responded. I have nothing against wine—my husband sells it for a living—but when I have a book gathering, I want us to focus on words, on chapters, on thematic meaning. And many other people wanted to do that, too! Our first meeting was a gathering of five women (a few more couldn’t make it). Our second had only four people (again, schedules were a problem), but our third looks like it might be a very large gathering because word has spread—we met to talk about books, and it was fun!
I don’t always feel as if I have time in my schedule to prepare for book group. But when I read the book and then meet with my book friends, I am always glad that I made that time.
If only more people knew how much joy, how much deep satisfaction was at their fingertips at any given time in the form of a good book, and how even more wonderful that experience can be when enriched by the insights of other people who have studied the same text.
This Thanksgiving, I’ll be grateful for many things, including (as ever) books, the people who write them, and the people who read them, and the powerful culture of learning, sharing, and insight we can build together.