Last night I went to my book club meeting.
Yeah, that’s right: I am in a book club. I know that sounds kind of lame and family sitcom-ish or something, but I adore my book club. (If I were the type to add hearts to my writing, I would have done it there. But I’m not. So I didn’t.) I was brought into it by someone who knew someone who knew someone who found it on craigslist back when I knew almost no one in Vancouver. Most of the gals in it are people who I only know from the club, so I only see them the once a month that we meet, which adds some anticipation and always makes for a fun time.
Now me, I read a lot. Even more than I go to the movies. It’s like breathing and if I don’t have a book on me somewhere, I get agitated. I’ve bulldozed through the works of all my favourite authors and am at the stage now where I go to the library and just grab half a dozen books, almost at random, and hope for the best. If someone recommends something that I haven’t read, I’m always grateful, because it gives my library search a focus. So by the same token, it’s great to just have a book I’m supposed to read, rather than dealing with the bother of picking it out. And a lot of times the books we read are ones I wouldn’t have ever chosen for myself, so it broadens my reading horizons.
Because I read as much as I do, the book part of the book club is not a major thing for me. It’s really just an excuse to meet up and it gives a focus to the proceedings if conversation lags. Which means that I was very lucky in finding this particular book club, because it’s pretty relaxed. There are ten of us and we rotate houses for meetings. Everyone brings some food and drink. We usually talk about the book for an hour or so, and then just eat, drink and chat. It’s a fun night and I always look forward to it.
I’ve heard of other book clubs where people have to give reports and prepare answers for all those silly questions that seem to always come in the backs of books these days. It just sounds a bit too much like work for a leisure activity, if you ask me. In my club, we’re more likely to just talk about what we thought. Sometimes there is more to say than other times. One thing that is a real treat is that if we happen to chance upon a particularly affecting book, it’s fantastic to have other people to discuss it with. Discussing a book with someone who hasn’t read it, or hasn’t read it recently, just isn’t the same. It’s got the same mutually unsatisfying quality as telling your dream to someone else.
There’s something very cool about being part of a club. It creates a commonality with people you might think you have very little in common with. In a book club, obviously what you have in common is that you like books and you like talking about books. Over time our group has discovered other things too, as you do. I like this aspect of clubs because I think people do have more in common with each other than they think, but so often focus on their differences instead. And in a world where there are a lot of people fighting — on large and small scales — with a lot of other people basically all the time, it probably doesn’t hurt to move the focus away from what makes us different and toward what makes us similar instead.
Also, when you join a club, you feel like you belong to something, something human. This is a fabulous feeling. There is a great deal of value in individualism, of course, but I think that the trend toward making it a priority has pushed a lot of us not toward its ideal attributes of achievement and self-actualization, but instead to a place of isolation from others. Everyone is looking out for number one, which is fair enough, because probably no one else is going to (except maybe your mom.) But when that’s where you’re coming from, it makes it difficult to connect to other people. If you belong to a group though, it gives you an entrance to make connections. (I tend to think the more groups you can find, the better.)
So yes, I like my book club because it’s fun to sit with a bunch of ladies, eating, drinking, and talking about books and a lot of other things. But for me, at least, it’s taken on a lot more significance than that. It’s given me a monthly commitment to look forward to. It’s given me a sense of belonging to something worthwhile. And it’s given me a connection to and feeling of belonging in Vancouver, a city I have adopted for the time being, and one that (I think, anyway) can be really hard to connect to.