Wednesday Featured Book Club: Read Em’ and Eat
Week three and I have a new book club to feature today. I have been talking with Christie at her blog Read Em’ and Eat. I would like you all to warmly welcome Christie and her Book Club.
S: Good morning Christie! I am settled here now with coffee cup in hand. I am so excited to hear more about your book club! Lets start with the name of your book club.
Christie: My book club actually voted on a name three or four years back, but no one can seem to remember what it is- so it couldn’t have been very good. *g*
S: That’s kind of funny! I remember we did that in my book club as well before we found one that stuck! Tell me a little about your group.
Christie: My book club formed in 1998 and we’ve been going strong ever since. We’ve had a few face changes, but we’ve also had many long-time members. Our general rule of thumb is that we like to keep the number at around 10, but if you leave book club, the door is always open for you to return. I do the schedule for the year and try to give about 5 weeks between meetings. We always meet on a Tuesday night beginning at 7:30 – that’s never changed. Currently we have 10 women in the group…with one member on hiatus, for a total of 11. We range in age from 40-late 50s.
S: How do you choose the books you read?
Christie: The format for our book club seems to work really well for us. Each member gets one book pick per year. They reveal their book at the previous meeting…so for example the book we are reading for September was revealed at our last meeting of the year, which took place in early July. The reveal is a BIG deal and everyone loves to see what we’ll be reading next. I know that some clubs throw all sorts of choices into a hat and choose at random…and some make all their reading decisions at the start of each year, but we’ve found this method works really well for us. Part of the reveal is the explanation of how that book came to be your pick and what other choices didn’t make the cut. It’s fun to hear about what other books were considered. Sometimes there is a squeal of delight when the book is pulled out of the bag (like with The Time Traveler’s Wife) and sometimes there is a gasp of dismay (like with The Elegance of the Hedgehog - it was my sigh, I admit, as I’d tried to read the book previously for another book group I lead and I just *couldn’t* do it…but I *have* to finish for this book club!)
S: Who leads your discussions?
Christie: The person who reveals hosts the meeting at their home and leads the discussion. They can lead the discussion in any way that works for them…but the best discussions are always those where the hostess has prepared and keeps us focused. Not an easy task!
S: Any special meetings?
Christie: The only time we’re not in the revealer’s (I know, that’s not a word!) home is the Christmas meeting- we generally eat out. The Christmas meeting is a coveted spot – everyone wants that meeting because there’s no work involved. We try to give it to someone who could really benefit; this year it’s going to a woman who’s starting a new job and will be extremely busy at that time of year. The Christmas meeting is also our gift exchange. We each bring a wrapped gift (and the wrapping is gift enough!) and everyone chooses a gift. We don’t Yankee swap, though.
S: Do you ever get together for any other reasons than the book club meeting?
Christie: We’re not a group that generally does things together outside of book club, although several of us did go away for a weekend a few years ago and we’ve got another weekend away planned to mark our 10th anniversary- which we didn’t actually celebrate. We do go to movies and readings when we can, but we’re all busy.
S: I love that the Christmas meeting is a coveted spot! That is so fun! I like that you each take a turn hosting.
Christie: Hosting just once a year makes it less onerous for everyone because, truthfully, the book is only one part of the book club experience for this group. We also LOVE to eat and we seem to be blessed with book club members who love to cook so even though the food is meant to be nibblies…sometimes the hostess gets a little carried away and we have three course meals! (It’s ridiculous, of course, but no one complains too much!)
S: Any rules that go along with choosing a book?
Christie: The only rule about the book we choose is that we can’t have already read the book- this encourages everyone to do a little research and it also makes for less hurt feelings. (Imagine if you chose your favorite book of all time and everyone in the group hated it!) We also generally steer away from non-fiction (although we have read a couple memoirs) and hard covers (although we’ve done a few of those, too). I would say we read literary fiction for the most part…and have hardly ever (if ever) read genre fiction.
The person who picks has to make sure the book is available and that used to be more of a problem before online stores like Amazon and Chapters. Until last year we didn’t even have a big bookstore in town. That said, the University book store was always willing to order books for us. A little planning does make a difference though. I waited too long to make my selection this year and so I chose a book (At A Loss For Words) partly because there were enough copies available at the store and it was terrible! (So terrible, in fact, that I won the coveted “Book I Enjoyed Reading Least” prize this year…particularly devastating because I won “Book I Enjoyed Reading Most” last year for Fingersmith.)
S: Any “book club gone bad” stories or funny happenings?
Christie: We’re a feisty group- no question – and we’ve had some terrific discussions. For example, despite the fact that my book stunk this year, it did bring up all sorts of questions about love and whether or not it was possible to fall in love with someone a second time around. We had quite a frank discussion about sex that night, too. We had a huge shouting match over the book The Attack – hurt feelings around the table. We’ve had a couple books that no one but the host read (The Known World springs to mind). It’s always interesting when the group is oddly divided about a book. For example, everyone in the group LOVED The DaVinci Code and Eat, Pray, Love…except for me and one other member. When a book is universally loved (or hated) it’s more challenging to have a balanced discussion- although it’s certainly possible. When we’re reading a book no one likes we exchange sly comments when we meet each other out and about…although we don’t say anything outright. (The rule is that we’re not allowed to talk about the book before we meet. *g*)
S: How do you keep things fun and exciting for the group?
Christie: I don’t know how we’ve managed to keep things lively all these years. Perhaps it’s the wine! It might be that we’re not all best friends (although some of us are); we’re certainly close. I think we’ve tweaked ourselves here and there over the years. We went through a period where we didn’t get around to talking about the book until it was almost time to go home. I didn’t like that, though, so I sort of enforced the rule that social hour could commence only after everyone had said everything they wanted to about the book. (This usually coincides with dessert!) That works better. The hardest thing is to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to say what they want to say and avoid repetition. It’s hard with a bigger group and we’ve found that a question asked and then sent around the table doesn’t work as well as each person getting their very own question to answer and then allowing time for others to weigh in if they have something to add. Still there’s lots of talking over one another and shouting and laughter. Some meetings are better than others…but, that said, I enjoy them all.
S: Any advice for other book clubs out there or for those who would like to start one?
Christie: Every book club has to find what works best for them. Chemistry is important, I think. We have some strong personalities in our group, but that’s okay. I think it’s good to share the responsibility for choosing the book and hosting so the onus doesn’t fall on one person every time. (One of the women who joined our group a few years after we’d started was in a group but she hosted every single meeting. Yuck. I just think that’s too much to ask of anyone.) I think everyone has to be on the same page about how the group is going to work. The ladies in my group call me Madam President, not because I am, just because I do the housekeeping stuff. Oh, who am I kidding: I’m the boss and they all know it!
S: Christie this was so fun chatting with you about one of my way favorite topics and probably yours too, books! Thank you so much for taking the time to come over to One Persons Journey Through a World of Books and share your book club with us.
Readers – I encourage you to stop over to Read Em’ and Eat and say hi to Christie and browse her wonderful blog.
If you are interested in having your book club featured in my Wednesday Features on Book Clubs, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Also… please take a look at the book clubs I have featured in the past weeks: