Book Club Blues

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:


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?


8 thoughts on “Book Club Blues

    • Hi Tina,

      Thanks for stopping by again. I bet you have your hands full with textbook reading which I’m sure leaves you little time to even think about book clubs.

  1. That’s a great story. I’ve never been in a book club, and although I’d probably be interested in joining one I wouldn’t know where to begin looking for one! In saying that, I have a great group of friends who enjoy reading and are fantastic at suggesting and discussing books, so I suppose that’s kind of like my own little book club anyway?

    • Hi Katy,

      That is really all you need – an interested group of friends who enjoy discussing books. I think the informal discussions I’ve had about literature tend to be more invigorating than most of the “formal” discussions anyways.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. I met a great group of women through a book club about five years ago. We always had a great time, getting together, catching up, eating, drinking some wine. Oh, yeah, and talking about the book. Yeah, right! After about a year, most of the members stopped reading the books, but we all still got together for a while. Then a year or two ago we stopped meeting, at least for book club. We still see each other during social functions, because we all did become really good friends. But I loved that group, specifically because it didn’t take itself too seriously. I’ve thought about joining another club, but I’m afraid of getting into one of those groups you mentioned – you MUST read the book and you MUST attend X number of meetings, and everyone is so VERY pretentious about their thoughts on the book. I’d rather not deal with that! 🙂

    • Hi Sara,

      Thanks for dropping by! Glad to hear you had a positive book club experience. Even though the book club didn’t last, at least you walked away with a new group of friends. Sadly, I can’t say that I built a friendship with anyone through the club. Even though you’d get a core group of about 8-10 people who’d always contribute to the discussion – there were always new people who’d stay with it for a few months then drop out.

      I know what you mean about getting stuck with a pretentious group. There were definitely some members that fancied themselves as literature experts and god forbid if your thoughts on the novel weren’t a deep or contained references to at least 5 other authors. But at least with an online group I could just hit the delete button if the discussion of the novel became too ridiculous.

    • Sara, I am currently in a book club and my experience is very similar to yours. One of our problems is that we are very small (only 5 members) and are very close – I have worked with 3 of them and love all of them dearly. We are not pretentious – seeing we tolerate having people discussing books they didn’t have time to read. We periodically laugh about the heated discussion we got into about the symbolism of something in a book and the motivation of the lead character. I don’t even remember the book although if I looked on my self I could find it. Anyway, the disagreement happened because the plot had taken a BIG turn in the last three pages and Pat (another one) didn’t have time to read the last 4 pages.
      Anyway we do more talking and playing cards than discussing books now. Last night we spent some time discussing “Lord of Misrule” – a really different read and I was the only one who liked it. I miss the book discussions because I like to talk about what I read. I could take a literature class but I don’t want to have the pressure of reading that much in that short of a time. My daughter has a Ph.D. in comparative literature but our tastes are way too different – I have a stack of books she wants me to read and she has some I suggested. Of course neither has read the other’s suggestions. Is that a mother/daughter thing????
      Nicole, why don’t you start a blog book club and we will put you in charge of designing a logo. How cool is that!

      • Hey, that is a pretty good idea. Let me launch this spotlight award in the next week or so and then I can put together some ideas for a book club of bloggers. I do miss having the book club and it’s too hectic for me right now to find one in-person.


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