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Gone Clubbing

Recently, I joined a book club. The local listings on Meetup afforded several options for book clubs in my area. I wasn’t anticipating actually meeting in person during these times of Covid, so I suppose I could have joined a club that wasn’t close by, but I decided to stay local. Here’s the description for the book club I selected:

This group is for people interested in discussing books about challenging topics ranging from diversity and inclusion to the environment and the economy. And in the best of book club traditions, it’s mostly about getting to know our neighbors and making new friends.

We read a book a month and meet online for an hour to discuss the book and share our own stories around the book’s themes.

Part of the impetus for this decision came from outreach I have been doing to book clubs throughout the country requesting that they consider my novel as a club selection and offering to participate with their club members to discuss my novel. I realized that it might be helpful to get a feel on how a club operates with respect to selecting books and engaging in discussion. Fortunately, the club I joined has an excellent moderator who does a great job in facilitating discussion that uses topics and situations in the book to allow members a chance to share not only their thoughts, but their own experiences.

I realize that clubs are going to differ in how their meetings are conducted and the quality of the discussion will both be determined by the book and the participants. Something I didn’t realize is how stale my reading selections had become. I’ve written both a science fiction novel and a thriller and have tended towards reading books from those genres. I also have written a couple of self-help health books but have no interest in reading that genre. I also enjoy books that deal with consciousness and spirituality, but these are not light reading material. The club selections have forced me to read titles I have not only never heard of, but they are books in different genres and are nothing I would normally even consider.

The first book I read, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis gave me a fascinating perspective and insight into the culture and politics of a slice of America that I knew little about apart from pejorative stereotypes. Not only was it well written, but I found it entertaining at times and quite educational.

The next book, Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family represents a type of writing I have regularly been exposed to in articles but have not read in book-length in a long time–narrative journalism. Quoting from the book listing, it details: “The heartrending story of a midcentury American family with twelve children, six of them diagnosed with schizophrenia, that became science’s great hope in the quest to understand the disease.”

This second selection reminded me of watching a documentary instead of a drama, but it isn’t dry at all. In fact, the story had additional relevance for me since the genetics of schizophrenia, discussed in this book, was a topic I researched heavily when writing my science fiction novel in which one of the main characters suffered from this disorder. It turns out that the author began his research the same year my book was published.

I never would have considered reading either one of these nonfiction titles, but both provided excellent reads and an opportunity to participate in excellent discussion. I don’t consider myself to be well read, and I have a pile of books just waiting, but I may decide not to read many of them. There is a limited amount of time to read. Now that I have sampled some different types of books, my palate has changed. New tastes in literature beckon to be sampled. I’ve been subsisting on the same literary diet and had simply forgotten how enjoyable it is to try something new and the importance of keeping it fresh.

I tend to be an introvert and I don’t go out much, especially during this epidemic. Now that I’ve gone clubbing, I’ve met some interesting people, read some interesting books, and developed a better understanding of book clubs and of myself.

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17 thoughts on “Gone Clubbing

  1. I very much enjoyed this post, Victor! Especially this:

    “Now that I have sampled some different types of books, my palate has changed. New tastes in literature beckon to be sampled. I’ve been subsisting on the same literary diet and had simply forgotten how enjoyable it is to try something new and the importance of keeping it fresh.”

    Indeed! Though book clubs are not for me, I’m glad it has proved a positive experience for you. I’m too strongly opinionated to be anything but an irritant to the other members, even though I endeavor to be tactful and courteous when expressing myself in public. Some unquenchable fire in the belly and fever in the mind inevitably colors my rhetoric, causing some other(s) to become offended at the intensity and directness of my expression. (This is also why, in part, writers groups don’t work for me.)

    On the subject of trying “something new”, may I ask: What is your opinion of “year’s best” anthologies? I find that they are a delightful, engaging, eye-opening and rewarding way of sampling genres you might not otherwise read. There are “year’s best” anthologies of science fiction, horror, detective fiction & crime, essays, science, etc. What say you to these?

    PS. I marvel at your courage in joining book clubs in order to get face-to-face feedback on your own book, once it’s been introduced as a topic of discussion. How has that worked out for you? Any stand-out moments or take-aways from those experiences?

    PPS. I corrected a typo in your post: “we read and book a month” to “we read a book a month”. Hope you don’t mind! I should have asked permission first.

    Liked by 6 people

  2. victoracquista says:

    Thanks for your feedback, Carl!
    Working backwards, I clipped the description from the group, but I didn’t note the error. Thanks for correcting it!
    Despite having contacted 50 groups, I am not aware of any clubs selecting my novel; although, several have gotten back to me. One group meets at the Escondido Public Library. The librarian invited me to participate in their writers group as an invited guest and I have a Zoom meeting scheduled. I am hopeful that some clubs will select my novel. I provide additional information when I make the request, my publisher has a special discount for book clubs, and I have prepared discussion questions–all of these hopefully improve my chances.
    As for anthologies, I have several lying around from over the years and have only picked through a few stories. I like The Rabbit Hole series and another group I’m involved with (Sci Fi Roundtable) has produced some good volumes. I’ve strayed somewhat from anthologies, not by any conscious choice. I find them to be enjoyable insofar as exposing me to new authors and stories. But I also find that I’ve become very critical as a reader, analyzing story and character and plot and dialogue and narrative structure, etc. In some ways this interferes with my reading. When I start reading an anthology, if I come across several that irk me, I often won’t read the rest. It’s not fair to the authors I haven’t read, but I’m just being honest.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. mimispeike says:

    Like Carl, book clubs are not for me. I’m too busy and when I read, I want to read what I want to read, that few recreational readers would be interested in.

    But I applaud you for your energy and interest. I hope it turns out for a way for you to sell books.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Thanks for that, Victor. As a writer in a certain genre, you’re no doubt right to read as much of that genre as possible – at least that’s what’s recommended. I don’t do enough of it myself. I write crime novels but don’t read that many of them, which is probably a mistake. I tell myself that it means I don’t become too fixated on the conventions of the genre, but I don’t know if that excuse is valid. The positive note is that my reading is very eclectic. I’m currently going through all the unread books on my shelves – a broad selection in many different genres.
    Out of curiosity, is there a reason this post is private? I wonder if that’s why the ‘like’ button doesn’t work.

    Liked by 5 people

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