In college one of my favorite classes was called “American Lives”. We read twelve biographies over the 16 week term. For each meeting, the 20 of us would circle the chairs and have a thorough discussion of the book of the week (longer books received two weeks of coverage). It was my perfect class: We were discussing a shared reading experience on a deep level. There is no hiding in a circle, and participation was more than 50% of the grade.
We crossed cultures and eras and explored themes that resonated across them all. Initially it was hard for me to defend my position with references from the books. I’m so glad I was forced (under threat of not receiving and A – oh my!) to develop such a valuable skill. It was one of many take-aways I received from the class, including a greater appreciation that my experience growing up was not representative of everyone else’s.
Ever since leaving school, I’ve been trying to duplicate the experience. As a result I have joined many book clubs. My first was a group of women – primarily who attended my high school, but it also included outsiders (like my grandma – no not that one or that one – Barb‘s mom). I think we made it four books before life got in our way.
I’ve tried several other book clubs, including Great Books, but they have never met my need. After grad school (the second time), I decided I was not going to force myself to read another book. They get 50 pages to draw me in or get thrown to the curb. Unfortunately book clubs are built on the concept that everyone reads everything to sustain the group. So unless I form a “Books Tammy Likes” club, I’m sure I will have a hard time finding what I’m looking for … and convincing others to join that club would take more energy than I have!
How do I fill this need? Anyone have suggestions? Are any of you in book clubs that work? What is the secret?