The best book groups, I believe, are more than just the books. It is the interaction between those who make up the group and their combined love of reading, it is also the care that develops for each of the members of the group. This is the third book group I have belonged to. The first, I realise now, was superb; great readers with good grasp of the craft of writing and keen to analyse what it was they read. That group met in a church hall. We put in $2.00 to pay for tea and coffee and plain biscuits – the whole purpose was to talk about books and we did that with vigour and often much laughter. The second was more social and pleasant enough but I wanted more stimulation and although the wines were usually good and the nibbles even better the range of books was limited and so I quietly excused myself.
The third group and the one I now belong to is a mixture of the two. Good discussion and good wine and nibbles. There are a range of ages and we meet every six weeks. That gives those who have less time because of work commitments to have time to read and it means that when we do meet we are all very keen to talk about the books. The system we have is that each meeting we all put in $10.00 as there are 12 of us in the group that is $120.00 to spend on books. Each person has a turn as the book buyer and they can choose any books they want. They can be new or second-hand and at the end of the year all the books that are left in the boxes go back to the original purchaser. It is a way to extend personal libraries.
There are various ways of buying books and we try to support the independent bookshops. It was Tess’s turn to buy for our last meeting so she went to Doris Mousedale’s new shop Arcadia. Doris recommended ‘The Museum of Innocence’ by Orphen Panuk a book set in Turkey – all 537 pages of it. Tess took it home and read it and thought it was boring and dreary, so she went back to Doris and told her so. It is to Doris’s credit that she listened and although she didn’t agree with Tess she gave her a book which she thought the group might enjoy – Tess went on to buy several more books, but a cheer for Doris who values the business from a book group. I am about to read the new book ‘The Vagrants’ by Yi Yun Li and after a brief glance at the first page I think it will be a winner. There are often tart comments about book groups – “You just drink wine and gossip” is one I’ve heard. Well yes we probably do but we also read and talk about our books and we have a damn good time.
Rae's column can be read at: freshwordsdaily.com