Recreating an Experience

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.

Lakota Woman
My favorite book from that class.

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?

5 thoughts on “Recreating an Experience”

  1. I have spearheaded a couple book clubs that I really enjoyed. I love a mix of ages and backgrounds. Makes for a lively discussion, but yes, you have to have committed people. Committed to reading. And I’m like you, I don’t give a book too long to hold my interest. So, the thing about a book club is that it often nudges me to read something I wouldn’t otherwise choose. That’s been good. It also gives me a deadline to finish. I’ve joined a couple clubs that I quit after a month or two. It has to be the right fit, doesn’t it? I like bookclubs that have a certain theme for a year. Like in one we did biographies or auto-biographies for a year. In one we did Oprahs’ book club pics. One we did historical fiction. One we did books that had something to do with art (fiction). One we did female American authors. And so on. Those got richer as the year went on because you had the whole compare and contract thing as the year and the books developed. What have been your positives and negatives with book club experiences, Tammy? Specifically?


    1. Your book club experience sounds exactly like what I am looking for! I like the theme idea. For some groups, the lack of commitment to finish the book became an issue. I know that is rich coming from me, but showing up to a book club meeting and asking the group not to discuss the ending because she hasn’t finished it yet bugged me to no end!

      The other groups I stopped going after there were 2 consecutive months of books I didn’t want to read. I’ll force myself through one for a group that has promise, but not two, especially not in a row!


      1. Maybe try thinking up a theme you’re interested in – and poke around – at work? neighborhood? one friend will have a friend and then that friend will have 2 friends, etc. It’s rich to me when there are old and young. I tried a local book store for bookclub lists after my last move – but they were snooty left wing types with whom your opinion could not vary. Never went back.

        Have you ever seen an on-line kind of venue? Hmmmmmm…….


  2. I’ve wanted to be in a book club for years. Was never invited and/or couldn’t find what I wanted. Now I’ve started one with each of my children – just the 3 of us. We take turns picking books this summer and then have a discussion. It’s a win/win!


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