Saturday, 14 April 2012

The Heavenly Guide to Book-Clubbing with 'The Book Club Bible'

So you have joined a book club and this month it is your turn to select the next text.  What do you choose?  You don't want to pick a book that you have already read, because that goes against the whole point of joining a book club, but you want your book suggestion to be a hit with your friends.  Do you rely on the tastes of the person working in your local book shop, or search on-line for recommendations from book-bloggers like me?  It might be worth a try, but there is an alternative:  'The Book Club Bible', published by Michael O'Mara Books.  
Inside you will find a two-page spread on each novel consisting of a short, non-spoiler synopsis; opinions from a reviewer or 'ordinary' reader; discussion points; focusing on themes, characters and writer's style; background information and suggested companion books.  What could be more simple, or more useful?  
The books are listed alphabetically under the author and they range from classics, such as 'The Scarlett Letter' and 'Catcher in the Rye', to modern texts, like 'The Book Thief' and 'The Lovely Bones'.  Believe me, if you love books, you will want to curl up on a sofa and devour this delicious paperback. 
Alongside the various book suggestions are page-long lists of recommended texts under various headings, such as: 'Top Ten Crime books' and 'Top Ten Quick Reads'.  These are invaluable lists, especially if your reading group selects books based on genre or theme. With over 200 suggestions inside, this handbook is a must for anyone in a book club and for simply anyone who is searching for that perfect book.  
And if this book inspires you to set-up your very own book club, here are some tips to get you started:

  1. You don't need to know everyone in your book club.  You could ask four of your friends to join and ask them to each bring a friend.  You will get to know each other soon enough. About eight or nine people is enough.  Any bigger and you run the risk of people breaking up into smaller groups during the discussion and the overall meeting collapses into a free-for-all.
  2. Avoid turning your meetings into a cooking competition by establishing a simple routine: the host provides a light cheese and wine supper, although alcohol is not obligatory and can lead to some very passionate debates!  
  3. Each member should read the book - make this a must from the outset.  Stimulating conversation depends on it.  If there is one 'rule' that needs to be agreed from the start, this is it!
  4. Books should not have been read before - this ensures that members do not get offended if you did not like the book they selected. If nobody knew what the book would be like beforehand, then no one can be blamed for selecting it.
  5. Meeting on the last Thursday of the month say, or the first Tuesday, gives the club a regular routine that people can plan their lives around.  
  6. Effort should be made to ask each member what they thought of the book at some point during the night.  This will ensure that no one person will dominate the meeting.
  7. Make a schedule for the first eight or nine months, depending on the number of members, so that each person knows what month they will be hosting ahead of time.  
  8. Call your friends over and get reading!
While book clubs may be seen as being purely in the domain of women, I do know of one male book club where the members meet in a quiet upstairs room at a pub, thereby avoiding all the hassle of hosting, cooking and frantic house-cleaning.  How ingenious.  That way, it becomes all about the book and if I were to ever begin a book club in the future, that is certainly how I would do it.  So what is stopping you?  With these suggestions and 'The Book Club Bible' to get you started, your meetings will surely be blessed!

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