The Big Question

January 8, 2009 at 6:08 pm | Posted in Book Blather | 1 Comment

My book group is meeting today, after a two-month hiatus.  We’d decided to skip trying to meet during the holidays, and we used the time to read Wally Lamb’s 900-page I Know This Much is True.  Now we’re back, and we’ll have a few new members.  This brings up what I think is a fairly significant question.

What do we read?

The purpose of a book group is, obviously, to read books and discuss them.  Ah, but the focus of the group is another story.  There’s a pretty broad spectrum between pure socializing on one end and intense, knitted-brow literary analysis on the other.  My group tends to be a little scattered, and we always spend the first half hour eating.  We’ve started doing a potluck salad bar – which has been a great success – and tonight I’m bringing my chocolate mousse cake with raspberry sauce.  Certainly a group that enjoys talking so much it’s hard to say goodnight, and puts out such a fine spread of food, has something going for it.

The tricky part is in choosing books.  It seems like we have our best discussions when at least a couple of people really didn’t like the book and others did.  When we’ve all liked it, there just hasn’t been much more to say than why we liked it.  But if we choose books based on their ability to generate discussion, we might wind up leaving someone in the lurch.  How long would someone stay in a book group if she never liked any of the books?  Regardless of what dessert was featured that month?

Last month I read something unusual – a regency romance novel my mom sent me as part of another package.  Now, I loathe romance novels.  I am so not into romance as a concept that… Better not to go there.  Anyway, I read this book with one aim in mind – to be able to discuss it with my mother.   She reached out to me in my medium – in a way – so I did my best to reach back in hers.  The quality of the book was a moot point.  Granted, though, I wouldn’t be willing to do this every month.

Currently my book group is reading through a short list of books we chose by committee in a special session last summer.  When we get through those, we’ll be back to the drawing board.  The big question is, do we choose books based on their ability to generate discussion, their literary merit, or their appeal to the most members?  (I seem to remember that the movie Indecent Proposal had people talking about ethics for months after it came out, though, in spite of not having seen it, I suspect it was a terrible film).  Probably there are books out there that could meet all three criteria, if we can but find them.

I look forward to introducing this topic tonight, and I’ll report back on what the group has to say.

Advertisements

1 Comment »

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

  1. I’m inclined to think that many works that generate great discussion and have strong literary merit will not appeal to everyone in the group, and I agree that that’s a great way to generate more conversation. Sula by Toni Morrison is a book about which I’ve had very heated discussions in both academic and informal settings. I strongly recommend it, particularly because it has all of Morrison’s trademark skill but is more accessible than many of her other books.

    For something more contemporary, The Gargoyle is a great discussion starter. Just a few suggestions…keep us posted on what you all come up with next.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.

%d bloggers like this: