I have a confession – I once belonged to a book club. It was about 4 years ago and I sensed that many of my friends were weary of listening to me compare the lush descriptions of scenery in Kerouac novels to Steinbeck novels and describing the humor of Northanger Abbey. See, my friends are into novels written in the past decade. So I decided to look into book clubs to 1) find an outlet to discuss literature and 2) expose myself to novels written after 1960.
I tried doing a quick search for local area book clubs. After looking through various book club rules, I found these clubs were a bit too stifling. Rules such as:
- Must attend X amount of book club meetings
- Must read each novel by a certain date each month
- Must come prepared to engage in discussion, etc…
Okay, so the expectations weren’t unreasonable but it was more effort and commitment than I was willing to give. I then came across an online book club hosted through one of the local universities. All you had to do was sign up via email and be added to the group’s email listserv.
It was the perfect solution – all selections for the next 3-4 months were posted online which allowed time to find the book in the library or to order (this was before the e-book explosion), discussions started around the 15th of the month and continued via email until the end of the month.
Other pluses to the online book club were:
- Members were from places all around the nation
- It had a good mix of both male and female members.
In addition, it exposed me to current literature as in books written within the past two years. We read selections by Jeanette Walls, Walter Mosley, Salvadore Plascensia and Mary Ruefle to name a few.
I was an active participant for about 2 years and I enjoyed the book club for the first year. During the second year I started to get, well, annoyed with the more active book club members.
One member in particular always seemed to be two months ahead of everyone else in reading the selection. Not two days after the current month’s discussion would end, this member would already start with the “almost done with the next selection –who is ready to discuss” emails.
Then there were the barrage of “unsubscribe” emails every month. It never failed- when the new announcement would come out each month reminding the group what the selection, the points for discussion and the starting date for the discussion – there would be no less than 10 emails each month from members who no one had ever heard from.
The group listserv administrator would then repost the instructions for unsubscribing with the disclaimer that it may take up to a week to be removed as there is only one person taking care of the unsubscribe requests.
The fact that these emails would come through each month were not the irritating part of this – it was that these unsubscribe emails were so irate! I never understood how a friendly reminder about a book discussion could elicit so much anger, especially since they would have had to sign up in the first place to receive emails. Don’t believe me? Below are a small sample of these emails, which of course I kept in my archives!
“I have tried to withdrawal from this list in the approved manner and I was not removed. I am still getting notices. Please make it stop. I do not enjoy your book selections.”
“Please unsubscribe me from this list. I don’t have time to read books.”
“I just sent an unsubscribe email yesterday. Please unsubscribe me NOW!”
My favorite was from a member who decided to send downright rude comments everyday until they were removed. When that didn’t work, they just went sarcastic:
“EXCELLENT BOOK CLUB HERE!!! WONDERFUL, BEAUTIFULLY BEHAVED COOPERATING FELLOW BOOK LOVERS. A REAL JOY TO BE A MEMBER!!!!!”
Around late 2009, the listserv was disbanded and moved to a private blog format. Anyone who wished to continue in the book club would have to register and subscribe to the blog. I decided that was my cue to let go. It was an interesting journey and it exposed me to authors I otherwise may not have found on my own, but even in an online format, it became tiresome.
How about you? Have you been or are you currently part of a book club? Did you enjoy your experience?