Michelle and I met because she mooched Black and Blue by Anna Quindlen and then ended up stopping by my blog when she received the book. We’ve had a few conversations over email and she’s agreed to answer some questions about her book club. If you read all the way to the bottom, you’ll be able to take a virtual tour of where her book club meeting is held!
Without further ado…
How long has your book club been in existence?
Members of our group have been meeting for about five years – since the original members started it as a different sort of “Mommy and Me” group. The “babies” are now between four and six years of age. Word got out about what a great group it was, and for the last few years, we have had new members joining at the rate of about four per year.
Does your book club have a name?
Nope – just “Book Club”.
How many people are in your book club?
There are fifteen of us on the e-mail list, which is how we handle most of our housekeeping issues. Many of the original members have moved on, and we’ve enjoyed being able to invite others to join us, on an on-going basis, with a particular emphasis on inviting people who have recently moved to our city. We live in a university town with a large military base, so there are always newcomers in need of new friends here.
Is your book club open to new members? How do new members end up in your book club?
Most of us have a hard time NOT chatting about books and book clubs whenever we are in a social situation, and it is surprising how many people are intrigued by the thought of belonging to a book club. If someone expresses interest, we usually bring it to the rest of the group right away, and the potential member is added to the e-mail group and invited to the next meeting. To my knowledge, we have never turned anyone away.
When do you meet? Is it a set day every month, or do you work it out so it’s on a different day but convenient for everyone?
It is almost always the second Thursday of the month, at 7:30 pm. Since statutory holidays do not tend to fall on Thurdays, there is never any real reason to postpone a meeting. The number of members in attendance always fluctuates – we might have ten people one month and only four the next, but the show goes on, in any case!
What kind of books do you read?
We tend to read mostly current literary fiction, but we usually end up reading a “classic” and at least one memoir, every year.
How do you choose books?
Anyone can suggest a book at any time. One book is read and discussed per month. We usually choose the books two or three months in advance, in order to allow everyone enough time to find and read them. A couple of our members borrow copies from the library. Sometimes we borrow from friends or from each other. Lots of us buy our own copies, many by purchasing online.
Which book generated the best discussion?
None in particular stand out. We always seem to have something to say about what we’ve read. We’ve never had any nasty discussions – our club consists of a great group of supportive women who do their very best to make sure that everyone feels comfortable and safe sharing their thoughts and opinions.
Do you invite authors to join your discussion when you discuss their book? How do you handle having the author in on your discussion if some or all of the members didn’t absolutely love the book?
We’ve never invited an author to join us. Our city of about 120,000 people isn’t a great stomping ground for the big writers, as we are a good two hours from the major cities where they may have tour stops.
Do you have one person who moderates the discussion?
Yes we do, and we also have two alternate moderators in case our chief moderator can’t come. One important aspect of the moderator’s job is to summarize the evening and the discussion in an e-mail update to all of the book club members, which is sent out within a few days. This also serves as a reminder about what needs to be read next, and a confirmation of our next meeting date, time and venue.
Have you ever had a professional moderator moderate one of your meetings?
How long does the discussion last?
We joke that the book discussion is only an incidental part of our evening, but in fact, we’ll start discussing it as soon as as few of us arrive, then catch ourselves and hold off until everyone who is expected arrives, go off-topic, and frequently come back to the book again before the night is over. The meetings usually last about two hours altogether.
Do you eat food at your book club meeting?
Always! Thursday night is wing night at our regular venue (a cozy restaurant lounge with couches), and most of us take advantage of the half-price special. In the summer months we try to meet at other restaurants – those with patios, to enjoy the nice weather and a change of scenery and menu.
How do you decide where the meeting will be held?
We always meet at a local establishment and we enjoy the freedom that this gives ALL of us to enjoy the meeting without any pressure to provide a clean home and refreshments. So many of us are moms that a night out “in public” is just what we’re craving.
Is there anything else about your book club you’d like to share?
Some of the books we’ve read include: Bel Canto, The Kite Runner, Suite Francaise, The Other Boleyn Girl, The Memory Keepers’ Daughter, The Red Tent and My Sister’s Keeper. We are always pleased to read books by Canadian authors when we can.
The running gag is that soon we are all just going to start going by the name “Michelle”. With three Michel(l)es, two Loris, soon-to-be-two Karens, and two sets of children named “Owen and Charlotte”, we are starting to wonder whether we need some more diversification in the group 🙂 We’ve also decided that our husbands need a book club as much as we do. We’re hoping to invite spouses to one of our summer meetings to see if we can entice them into starting their own group.
Since Michelle’s group meets at a public place, you can take a virtual tour! Check out this virtual tour of Tom’s Place and you can see the couches that Michelle’s club plop themselves on to…in the back two corners of the room. How cool is that?!