Monday, October 19, 2009

Book Clubs

I was reading an article about why you should resist the lure of book clubs by Adam Sternbergh and I thought it was a little uncharitable. Or at least it made me think about book clubs in general and whether or not I would like to be in one.

I rarely seem to read the same books as my friends. The only time I get to talk to them about books, it seems, is when I borrow them directly from them. (The exception would be George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, which most of my buddies have read and enjoyed. In my opinion, the series is fun because it's grittier than most fantasy novels out there and it has a way of going in directions you wouldn't expect if you've read a lot of fantasy novels. The first book, A Game of Thrones, demonstrates this extremely well. George R.R. Martin pulls something so unusual it hooked me on the series.)

Anyway, I like to talk about books when I can. I like to hear other people's opinions on characters I like and dislike, on plot twists, or their general observations. If you talk to other people about books, they can show you aspects of the story you may have missed. And that's cool, the sharing.

Would I join an actual book club? I'm thinking not. Mostly because of this:

...We talk about the chosen book for a few obligatory minutes before we move on to the part of the club I think most of us really look forward to, which is not talking about the book.

I like books, but I can really only go on so long about them. Some books have more I'm interested in discussing than other books. Agreeing to read a specific book and feeling obligated to come up with things to talk about kind of reminds me of school. I like it fine when I have opinions, but if I'm indifferent it's going to be pretty dull unless someone else is really passionate about the story. That, and I'm slightly too reclusive.

I think the article raises some a good point - that books should not be treated as an incomplete experience if they're not discussed in a group setting. There was also an interesting commentary on the intimacy of reading:

Which brings us back to the intimacy of reading. Consider something even as silly and modest as this article: I’m in your head right now. You have graciously allowed me to slip inside the private sphere of your consciousness, if only for a few minutes. (It’s like a twist on that hoary babysitter horror movie: The voice is coming from inside your head! ) This is very different from how we experience any other kind of art: no matter how much you enjoy a painting or revel in a symphony, there’s not a sense that the painter has hijacked your eyes or the composer has hijacked your ears. The writer, though, hijacks your thoughts. (Hello! Hello! — I’m making you say that right now.)

I've thought that was a little freaky myself.


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