Despite the fact that I really enjoy reading, I had never participated in a book club until this assignment. Some of the ladies at my church had just started a book club a few months before–I’d meant to go to the first one, but then didn’t make it. This month we were reading The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown which had been on my “To Be Read” list for a while. I figured this was a good way to kill two birds with one stone (completing my homework assignment and reading a book that I’d been meaning to read).
When I showed up, it was initially just me and the girl who was hosting (I’ll refer to her as T). We chatted and started eating the snacks that she had prepared. After about half an hour another lady (who I will refer to as A and who is more or less in charge of the book club) came by, but she had only managed to read half of the book and could only stay for about 30 minutes. I could tell that T was really eager to start discussing the book, but it seemed like A was more wanting to just chat and socialize. She asked me about myself and was very excited to hear that I’m studying Library Science—I think A is under the impression that I may be able to resurrect this book club. We talked about book club turnouts from previous months and why the turnout for this month may have been so low. We figured it was probably the book choice that had deterred people as probably not many of the women in our church were interested in reading about sports. It was then decided that I (first time participant that I was) should be in charge of hosting next month’s book club.
We finally did get into talking about the book, though we tried to stick to topics from the first half of the book so that A could participate as well. T had prepared some questions ahead of time and we started discussing some of those. We talked about the time period and what else was going on in the world during that period of time. We discussed the main character, Joe Rantz, and his early childhood. Overall, we felt very sympathetic towards him and the things that he went through at such a young age. The discussion was a little difficult because A had not finished the book. She didn’t necessarily understand some of the things that T and I would mention and we had to explain some of what happened in the end of the book to her.
After A had left, T and I were able to talk a little more in-depth about how we felt about the book. T did a good job of asking questions that really provoked thought and weren’t just yes or no questions. She also did a good job of letting me give my response and didn’t dominate the conversation. She obviously had some thoughts about the book and had been thinking about the questions that she wrote, but she still let me speak first.
The discussion that T and I had was really interesting because we both liked and disliked different aspects of the book. T really likes reading non-fiction and she found the history parts of the book fascinating but had to drag herself through the sports sections. I was the other way around. My husband graduated in Journalism and is currently working on the sports desk for a local newspaper. As a result, I have been exposed to a lot of sports writing and have developed an appreciation for it. I think having that base helped me to enjoy the sections of the book about rowing. On the other hand, I didn’t find myself enjoying the parts about Germany and Hitler’s Propaganda Department. T and I were able to have a good discussion about the book despite our differences, but I do think the overall experience would have been more enjoyable if more people had showed up.
After arriving back at my apartment, I immediately started thinking about what book I should choose for the book club that I would be hosting. I thought about all of the books that had been previously read (Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson, The Help by Kathryn Stockett, The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom, and The Boys in the Boat). It sounded like the first two books had a rather good turnout but the second two didn’t. An issue with The Boys in the Boat was that it’s a very popular book right now, so none of the libraries had available copies—in order to read the book, you probably would have had to buy (like T and I did). I knew that I wanted to pick a book that the library had available book club copies for and one that would be a fast and fairly easy read. In addition, since this is a church-based book club, I wanted to be really careful about choosing a book without any kind of questionable content in it like language or sexual content. I ended up picking Austenland by Shannon Hale. The book club is supposed to be next Tuesday and I’m hopeful that we’ll have at least one more participant than we did last month.