When I was in high school and college, I often dreamt of the day when I would have more time to read for pleasure and join book clubs (preferably those in some forgotten back corner of a dusty used book store, with a cat that runs around... but I digress).
Now that seems beyond laughable! I barely have time for coffee with a beloved friend, let alone a project that requires reading a book then talking about it! Ha! The silliness!
A few weeks ago, I picked up the book The Dante Club from the library - one of those impulse check-outs. The reason I had avoided it in the past was, what I would like to call, "The Book Club Factor." At the bookstore, I would pass this title on to the customer who wanted "something light and easy for the book club that has read every other book-club-book, one that they could read in a week, but that was serious and thought provoking, had no naughty scenes... oh, and in paperback." It was forever stained with this in my mind.
Perhaps this is a bookseller/librarian thing or some sort of book elitism (which is probably closer to the truth), but the title, cover and tag line of such books make me want to throw them across the room. Is this the type of thing that all book clubs read?
Thankfully not, but at the same time, yes!
Slate.com, one of my favorite places to go for news and thought pieces, has a book club - The Audio Book Club, that is. One that takes these "book club books" and other reads, and tears them apart both for better and worse.
Have I been prejudiced? Yes. Am I going to go out and buy Eat, Pray, Love? No.
The only podcast I have listened to, so far, was for Omnivore's Dilemma, which I have read. I found the hosts' comments valid, important, and sometimes frustrating (in a good way).
This is what caused me to pull The Dante Club off of the shelving cart and take a look at the back, giving it a chance... then I read that some "New England Saints," my favorite authors, were solving a crime where the murder was reenacting the circles of hell from Dante. SOLD!
Currently I am halfway through (hey, I was on vacation! And that, for someone who works and loves books, means little reading and lots of tv watching) and enjoying it. Funny thing is, basically, the book is about the powerful impact of book clubs. How discussing and debating books with like- and differently-minded people dramatically increases the effect of the material.
Lesson learned: Book Clubs can inspire good reading, or, at least, an enjoyable bashing of a popular book... and if that fails, you might be able to solve a murder along the way.
As I move through some of the books that I have recommended to hundreds of customers and patrons with less prejudice than before, maybe I'll find a group of like-minded paraprofessionals who alternate between the light (popular) and heavy (depressing) reading. But who, most of all, meet in an abandoned corner of a used bookstore... preferably with a cat.