I have been talking about my new book club for a while on my weekly news. It is not mine as in the sense of creation or ownership of it, but it is mine to the extent I belong to it. The usual thought is crossing your mind – how on earth did you get yourself in a book club and how do you even find time to read. Yes, I joined a book club and I plan to stay on it. It is women only, invite only. And it is an experience I am certain we are all making.
What is a book club?
Well, in theory a book club is a group that meets to talk about a book. Ours is going towards fiction books, and as I just said, it is women only. We are all connected through work. It is funny. I am very close to some of them and not so much to others. They are mostly senior to me, but everyone gets treated as equal there.
I was at first surprised with the invite, but must admit also proud. I know this was a group of very successful women and truth be said, I was delighted to be part of it. So if that meant having to read a book, here we go. I do question if I am worthy at different times, but I try and focus on the fact that they did not have to invite me in the first place, so I will take it that I have earned my place.
How does it work?
Easy, we get to choose a book and read it. Obvious right? And then you talk about it as much as you want when you meet. We have not been too structured about it. I found a piece about “How to create a book club that does not s*ck” so let’s see how we have done on their recommendations:
- The People: this is the most important thing. Close enough that you want to meet them and relate to them. Distant enough that it is not just a bunch of friends meeting and there will never be a book read (not that that is a bad thing).
- The Purpose: that can be learning, networking, meeting people outside the office. For us it is clear – 90% talking about work environment and the like and 10% about the book. I may be being generous on the book side. It is an easy way of networking that replaces going to a football match together and works perfectly well to building better relationships and collaboration back at work.
- Type of Meeting: I am surprised to find that you can have a book club online, but then again I remember that I joined the RAD book club but never activated it! I guess I will have to give that a go at some point. We are definitely meeting in person, which meets our purpose. Because we want to make it informal and comfortable we have been meeting at each other’s homes, with only 1 rule – no one gets to cook. We have been working on our Deliveroo ordering skills.
- The Timing: I find that we are not being over-achievers and trying to do a book a month. We have probably gone 2 months in between meetings which I find extremely reasonable. So far we always had 5 out of 6 in attendance so I don’t think it gets better than that in our line of work. We even tried to face time the missing element this time around. We do early evenings after work during the week, to ensure it minimizes the clash with family plans.
- The Process: Finding books is probably the hardest. The first one was the source of the idea for the creation of the book club, and it was a true hit with the group. After that, it is hard to follow. We now use doodle for the poll to be slightly more techie (as well as for the calendar dates). We are keeping the topic at fiction for now, and no other restrictions, so the list can be pretty broad. The group is so far polite enough not to show strong disagreements.
- The Structure: ouch, this is the part we are not doing that much. I guess this recommendation goes for book clubs where perhaps some members may be more introvert. They even suggest a poll. I have to check that one out!
- The Recommendations: After the first book club we gathered around the endless bookshelves at the host’s house to get a few ideas. I think we were all a bit scared to see so many books in one place and outside the library. I must admit, I discontinued paper books for a while due to back pain and London space restrictions. So we did not conclude much there. I personally have used a combination of Goodreads most read and my readers recommendations for the next round so let’s see what the vote says. Please do send in your recommendations!
- The Discussion: it seems this again we are not being that great. Apparently author sites have ideas of book club questions or activities. And did you know that many authors are willing to chat with book clubs? I am going to have to check that one out in my next one!
That seems like a lot of work!
Let's go to the practice!
Book Club #1: Circe
The first book was Circe, by Madeline Miller. It is a page turner. As I started going, I could not believe how much I missed fiction. I will admit it. A good 5 years ago (or more, who knows), I took fiction out of my reading list. I used to believe I only wanted to read fiction in my free time, as I did enough learning while I was working. But since I started my growth path, in fact I went to complete opposite way – perhaps too extreme I admit.
I have been addicted to fiction forever. When I was a child, one of the best times of the year was June, when the Lisbon book fair was on and we would go with my parents to get books. The authors would be there. All the books were at good value. And my parents gave us a large budget to spend on books (close to as much as you could read in a summer, and reading was my main beach activity for 3 months). As I turned the pages on Circe and found out how much I still remembered from Odysseus, I remembered how much I loved reading. I did not want to stop really. It was not difficult to finish this one.
On the day, I think we lasted a whole 10, if not 20 minutes of the evening talking about Circe, and about how much it reminded us or not of the Greek Mythology most of us learnt in school. It was also a woman book, with a lot of messaging under the lines. Definitely recommend it!
Book Club #2: Blindness
I rather call it “An Essay about Blindness“, which is the original name by Portuguese Nobel Prize Winner Jose Saramago. No, I did not recommend it because he is Portuguese (though I could), but rather because is so different from anything I have read before. I must have read it some 15 years ago and some of the scenes were still so vivid in my mind the moment I started turning the pages.
Blindness is a page turner for whole other reasons. The book is so difficult to bear, so crude on humankind (or lack of it) that all you want is to find the page where it all turns to the best. All of us were chatting how we had to make it through that middle peak horror part, where it seems like nothing can get worse.
I finished it on the morning of the book club. Funny enough, I did not really remember the end, because the end is uneventful. That is the point. The author is but doing an essay about how humans would act if they go blind – in mass, and for no reason. It is potentially too realistic. And you just want to try and say that would never happen. Knowing it would. If you have read it, you know what I am talking about. If you have not, brace. It is not for the faint of heart. I personally avoided reading in the night time.
Book club is really about connecting (and perhaps wine and food). Talking about the random subjects. Office gossip – serious or funny. Thoughts and worries or other questionable topics. Chatham House Rules apply on our meetings, though I am sure we all use what we learn to adjust ourselves back in the office through time. Some things I wish I did not know. Others I am surprised at my own blindness.