I have been avoiding book clubs all of my adult, book-reading life. I just wasn't crazy about the idea of meeting at somebody's home once a month and having to read books that were picked by people who might have very different taste from mine (i.e. books that I couldn't get through). I was also concerned about having 1 or 2 people who dominated the discussion, with no restrictions or parameters. I had simply heard too many horror stories. I'm sure you're all dying to know why I changed my mind. Actually, I didn't.
How so, you say? Well, here's what happened. I was interviewing Meg Waite Clayton (her interview will be coming up) at Town and Country in Palo Alto. We were at Peet's, which is a couple of doors down from Books, Inc. At the end of the interview, she mentioned that Books, Inc. meets once a month (the 4th Tuesday of the month) to discuss the latest in books. I figured I would give that a try. So on the 4th Tuesday of August, Joni and I went to Books, Inc. to check it out. Well, unfortunately, I had misunderstood Meg (hopefully a hearing, not a comprehension, problem!). I thought it was a general discussion of several books. It turns out that they read and discuss 1 book, like all (most?) book clubs do. The difference with other book clubs is that, first, Margie Scott, one of the owners of Books, Inc., picks the book; and, second, Margie also moderates. This way, no one person can dominate. Although we couldn't participate in the discussion that night, we hung around and very much enjoyed the process. We decided to read the book picked for September, The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern, and come back for the next meeting.
How was it, you ask? It was a blast. There were about a dozen people there, and I thought everybody spoke in turn and thoughtfully. And Margie did a great job of asking questions and knowing when to cut off the discussion and move on. We enjoyed it a bunch. We are unavailable in October (thanks to Memphis at the Center for Performing Arts), so we started getting ready for November (The Wedding Plot, by Jeffrey Euginedes of Middlesex fame). I figured we'll just take October off. But wait, what is this? Here comes an email from the Los Gatos Library saying, among other things, that they also have a monthly book club. I can't (won't) do 2 book clubs in a month, but since I couldn't go to Books, Inc. in October, and since I did have time to go to the Los Gatos Library book club, I figured, what the heck. So it was Tuesday night of this week. Although the librarian in charge, Melissa, is a young girl (I'm guessing late '20's, maybe early '30's), she did a very good job. The book was Rules of Civility by Amor Towles (I've already blogged about this one). There were 10 of us, I think, and there might have been more if not for the presidential debate. Like at Books, Inc., everybody contributed, and nobody dominated. And just like Margie at Books, Inc., Melissa did a good job of moving the discussion along. I enjoyed this one too. Who knows when I'll get back there. If I can't make Books, Inc., or if LG picks a book that I've already read, then I won't hesitate to go again.
This post is not designed to rag on home-style book clubs. I've spoken to many people who enjoy them (I've also spoken to many people who have left them). I'm just saying that they're not for me. If anybody is interested in either the Books, Inc. or the Los Gatos Library book clubs, let me know. I will be happy to give you all of the pertinent information.
P.S. The Los Gatos Library hands out loaner books at the meetings for the following month's selection. Books, Inc., of course, is trying to sell books.
P.P.S. (I've always that 2nd P. is kinda dumb) Both book clubs last about an hour.