They should he heaven, but somehow, many of them just don’t quite work. Publishers pretend that they work because they (the publishers) often include discussion questions in the back of he books. Nothing starts an argument faster that choosing what the club will read during the year. Some want all Nora Roberts. Some want all Tom Clancy. Some want a mix of mainstream bestsellers. Others want prize winners.
Logistics are a problem. Some people want the latest books off the press while others can’t afford to buy them until they’re finally issued in mass market paperback a year later. The public library may or may not have enough copies for everyone in the club.
The best clubs seem to be focused on a specific genre, one that’s decided upon at the begining of the year. That way, the members know what they’re getting into and nobody has to feel put-upon when it comes time to read and discuss books they don’t like or care about.
Staying on the plan is difficult when–as often happens–most of the people in the club are behind on their reading. Sometimes they skip meetings because they’re embarrassed and sometimes they skip because if they’re on chapter 3 and most of the club is on chapter 7, the discussion will be filled with spoilers. And then, too, those who keep up with their reading often get ticked off at those who can’t keep up due to numerous real and imagined excuses.
Discusssing the books one likes sounds like fun, like a good way so spend the evening, but then when it’s time to start talking, it turns out that reading really isny a priority in people’s lives. After all, the statistics are pretty grim when portraying reading habits. Trying to make it a priority seems like having to go back to school and being saddled with homework.
What’s your experierience? Have you been a member of a club that really worked? If so, what did the moderator do to make it work?
Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of contemporary fantasy and magical realism stories and novels.