I’m a pretty avid reader and always have been but I haven’t always been too huge on “bookclubs.” I’ve had many opportunities to join them in the past and I’ve only agreed to it once. One of my good friends started a Young Adult Novel bookclub and I joined that (I wasn’t always good at reading the assigned book though and would show up just to hangout about half the time. I was, basically, the dead weight of the club). This is why it might seem surprising that I’m starting a bookclub of my very own!
I got the idea months ago. It just kind of “popped’ into my head one day and wouldn’t go away. So I decided that I would start a bookclub that would try to avoid some of the major pitfalls for which I’ve avoided such clubs in the past.
As much as I love reading, there are moments when it can feel like a slog. Anytime I just can’t get “into” a book, it makes reading it all the way through feel a bit like a chore. This goes double if it’s required reading. When reading for fun, if I really dislike a book I always have the option to simply stop reading and move on to something else. (I had to do this with Eat, Prey, Love. Not only did I not find it to not be the empowering story people kept telling me it was—I frankly found her to be a bit whiny and childish—but her over-use of commas drove me nuts. What was her editor thinking???!!!) Since graduating college, I’ve had very little required reading in my life. I love the autonomy of reading being solely my hobby, done on my schedule, reading whichever book I fancy. The few times I have had required reading, unless I really LOVE the book, reading just feel a bit less enjoyable for me. An obligation.
The other downside of bookclubs is genre burnout. Many bookclubs center themselves around a particular genre that everyone in the club enjoys and can bond over. This is nice from an organizational standpoint as it give your club a central theme and a focus. There are so many books to choose from that have a narrower focus gives you direction when picking your monthly book but for me it can cause genre burnout. I read book from a wide range of genres: mystery, crime, suspense, fantasy, sci-fi, fiction, nonfiction, biographies, cookbooks, the classics, etc. I tend to swap between certain genres that I associate with different seasons. For example, fall heading into winter feels like the season for fantasy for me (probably because as a kid, every Harry Potter and Lord of The Rings movie came out this time of year). I don’t like being locked in one genre, but rather flow between them whenever I’m craving a switch.
Sometimes I just don’t feel like going through an in-depth analysis of a book. There are books that I can talk about for days and there are other books where the most I feel like saying about it is, “It was readable.” Nothing feels worse than the obligation to add some insightful tidbits to a conversation when you have very little feelings about the book you read.
For me, one of my favorite parts about a bookclub is having someone (or multiple someones) to geek out with over a book I’m enjoying. When I get really into a book or book series, I find myself trying to get everyone else I know to read it too just so I have someone to talk to about the book (usually my mom, who is also an avid reader). Bookclubs give you a built-in social group and forum for sharing your excitement over a book you recently read. Bookclubs are also a fantastic way to keep yourself reading when you’re in a bit of a reading slump or expose you to new reading ideas when you’ve completed your reading list and are looking for something new to sink your teeth into.
I really enjoy the social aspect, so long as it doesn’t start feeling like an obligation. I’m not looking to be part of a group that judges you if you just didn’t get around to reading the book or for skipping a month here or there. But I am looking to be part of a club that feel like a supportive community of friends and fellow book-addicts (or aspiring book-addicts). Let’s make a bookclub that feels less like schoolwork or mandatory discussion group and more like a book-loving social club.
All things considered, how am I structuring my bookclub? I want my bookclub to be open to anyone who feels like reading. For this reason, I decided to create both an online community and discussion section and a casual in-person meet up for anyone in the local Portland-Ore. area. We won’t be sticking to a specific genre but moving between them as we see fit (preventing genre burnout one book at a time). I’ll be posting the book selections well in advance so you can pick and choose which months you feel like participating and plan ahead (I’ll try my hardest to mostly select books that are also available on Kindle and/or Audible for anyone who prefers those methods of reading). You can keep up with all the information on the bookclub (what we’re reading, the online discussion group, and announcements for the in-person meet ups, etc.) in the bookclub section of my blog (always located on the top navigation). Our first book selection is up now!
GRETCHEN IS A WRITER-BASED IN PORTLAND, ORE. SHE GOT HER START AS A JOURNALIST WORKING ON THE SUSTAINABLE FASHION AND RESTAURANT BEAT BEFORE MOVING INTO COPYWRITING AND ADVERTISING WORK. SHE CURRENTLY BLOGS AND WORKS AS A FREELANCE WRITER.