When I retired a few years ago I was regularly quizzed on how I would spend my oodles of new-found leisure. “Read more books” was my repeated response. Of course, I haven’t read nearly as many as I planned – there’s always so much to do when you’re retired!
Many friends have resolved the ambition to “read more books” by joining a book club. Most speak glowingly of the enjoyment derived from getting together with others to discuss and analyse a shared book, often over a glass of wine and a meal. There’s companionship and the exchange of opinions and the discipline imposed which gets the books read. But despite those reassurances joining a book club wasn’t my thing.
Until recently! A friend, a seasoned book clubber, said a spot had become available in her circle and would I like to join? Curbing my instinct to graciously decline I chose to do a trusty old SWAT analysis on the proposition. My reluctance hinged mostly on the disciplines involved: to read a book I may not like; to have to read according to a set timetable; the tricky dynamics of groups, especially when you don’t know the other members well; the risk of the group being too much “club” and not enough “book”; my responsibilities to the group dynamic.
On the potential plus side? The discipline would ensure I completed at least one book a month – what better way to “read more books”? I would pay more attention to the writing so I could substantiate views on the read – it’s easier to say you’re enjoying a book than to explain why. I would be introduced to tomes I might not otherwise have considered. And then there’s always the enticing meal and glass of wine to enjoy with refreshing company.
My SWAT research turned up useful musings on the very subject which have, serendipitously, given me a couple of other potentially interesting blogs to follow. Not surprisingly both aired similar reservations to mine when mulling to-join-or-not-to-join decisions.
Since becoming a book clubber we’ve read and discussed three novels: The Miniaturist by British writer Jessie Burton; Someone, by American Alice McDermott; and the current selection, Australian and Booker Prize winner Thomas Keneally’s Daughters of Mars. I was engaged by Someone, the story of an ordinary life in the Irish American Brooklyn community told in modest style, the characters so finely drawn. Jessie Burton’s debut novel took my fancy less, building unrealised intrigue. But as a window into the life of the well-to-do merchant class in 17th century Holland it held the attention. Thomas Keneally’s account of the lives of Australian nurses in the First World War, drawn from the journals of actual participants, falls into the category of “epic”, and is a timely read given the recent ANZAC centenary. I’m pleased we have six weeks between meetings this time to do justice to the almost-600 pages which foster profound feelings of admiration for the courage, skill and spirit of these Australian women of a century ago. We can be truly proud of them.