Friday, 17 July 2009

Book me into the book clubs


Tuesday turned out to be one of those manic, ‘where-did-the-day-go’ days when I never got to leave the office until after 7pm and, even then, I knew I had left behind me a lot of work that I should have really completed before heading out.

In normal circumstances I would happily have done so but I was determined on this night not to leave late as I had a very important date. It was a date for the second official meeting of the new book club I had recently signed up to join.

Although I hope I could never be considered “bookish” (although isn’t it strange that this should be considered an insult)? I am a greedy, almost insatiable, reader and I love to lose myself in a good book. (Or even a bad book if there are none other available).

However, unlike a TV programme or a film, which you often watch with other people, one of the frustrating aspects of reading is not having people consuming the ‘product’ at the same time to discuss it with. And that is why I was so keen to take the plunge and join a book club.

The one I have signed up for has been tentatively set up in the village where I live and although there were only four of us the first time (and this crashed by a whopping 25 percent on Tuesday!), I already feel that this new chapter in my book reading journey is one that I’m going to happily stick with until ‘The End’.

When they first formed, book clubs seemed a strange idea, to me – a sort of extended English A level tutorial and something I didn’t think could work. But, I’d heard enough people say how much they enjoy them that I thought I would give one a go . . .

The first thing I can say after these two meetings is that such clubs really do broaden the (reading) horizon. I like to think I have an eclectic taste in reading matter but the truth is most of the books I read tend to be what could be described as modern fiction, particularly that designed for the adult male. In all honesty, they are mainly ‘sophisticated’ comedies or thrillers that often invol+ve destroying Nazis.

I do read a fair bit of non-fiction as well but once again the subject matter is quite similar with football, Nazi-bashing, music and male angst featuring heavily!

But, the two books I have so far consumed in my new club have not had a single swastika in sight.

Both, (the first a teenage novel by Jennifer Donnelly and the second, an Orange Award winner by Rose Tremain) are books I probably would never had picked up off the shelf but I’ve certainly got something from each of them – not least the fascinating talks they provoked with my fellow book club members at the end of the process. I enjoyed the debate as much as the book (even more in the case of the not-that-great Jennifer Donnelly one to be honest) and I guess that is the point.

We’ve already chosen another book that I’d previously never heard of for next month and this, if anything, is making me read even more of my own choices now too so I too will have something to bring to the party.

As a further bonus, on mentioning my entry to the world of book clubs to my journalistic colleagues here at Bath, we’ve now decided to form our own (obviously highly-intellectual) club which kicks off next week and which means I will have to read another book I would not have chosen before. They say reading broadens the mind – well it seems book clubs are set to do the same.

There are already a number of clubs in and around Bath for fellow potential readers to sign up for and if my experience is anything to go by, I would say just go for it. This is a great way to meet new people, meet new authors and discover new fictional treats.

Oh and if you want a recommendation of a good men’s-orientated book about Nazis, then I’m your man!

1 comment:

Martin said...

"I've been a member of the talking book group at my local library for several years. I joined to give myself something to listen to in the car while travelling home from evening shifts (there are only so many Radio Five phone-ins you can listen to) but the majority of the members are blind people, or 'the seriously visually impaired' as we are supposed to call them these days; they hate that. Talking books, whether on cassette or CD, are a real boon to them. I know some of our little group who get through two or three books a week.
Not only have I found several new friends, including the 82 year-old great-grandmother who amazes me every month with her razor-sharp brain and positive attitude, but I have vastly widened my reading range. At the moment, for instance, we are listening to Nevil Shute's A Town Like Alice. I have previously dismissed this as the kind of book I would have been forced to read in English Literature A-Level classes 30 years ago. Having tried it, I'm fascinated although some of the descriptions of Far East prison camps during World War Two are painful listening.
So Sam should stick with it for all these reasons and if reading about book groups and discovering they exist encourages our youngsters to enjoy reading, they will have been worth it."