Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Book Club Terrified

I met with the new-to-me book club last night. I found out when I got there and was chatting up some of the members, that the club has been meeting for four years now. Impressive, eh? Perhaps one of the keys to its longevity is that they meet every six weeks as opposed to every month. I know I felt stifled, back in the day, at having 1/4 of my reading decided for me each month (as I tend to read 4-5 books per month). Somehow six weeks seems so much airier.

We had about fifteen participants, and our hostess for the night took the opportunity to introduce me to everyone straight away. Next, we moved on to deciding the book for the next meeting. "This is where we always run into trouble," someone said. They asked for any books I might recommend.

In a hazy fit of deer in the headlights hysteria--and thinking someone else would suggest a title once they got the niceties of letting me pitch an idea out of the way--I took a blind shot in the dark and pulled a suggestion out of my behind.

"What I Loved, by Siri Hustvedt!!" I exclaimed. Following up with a short blurb that it's "about the New York art scene, a family drama, and it sort of unravels into a thriller." They were intrigued.


Now the pressure is on. Really on. A brand new group of people and I suggested one of my favorite novels that also happens to be a very psychologically twisty, intense, sometimes obscure novel. I have to have faith that these are not "nice only" book club readers. I might've shot myself in the foot right off. I like to think What I Loved is very discussable whether one actually likes it or not. There's a ton of food for thought, and I've never had a problem recommending it before, but this is not my usual crowd of readers. And they're face to face! If they rant and rave in distaste and horror, I'll have to watch it instead of simply reading it from behind the safety of my monitor. I might offend them. I might scare them. They might never take another suggestion from me again!

I'm overreacting, certainly, but there is still some iota of pressure to perform. Plus, I'm leading the discussion.

If nothing else, maybe I can get them all liquored up on too much wine before the discussion. Then I'm home free.


  1. If it makes you feel any better, I still don't like to recommend books to my book groups and I've been meeting with them for years! Well, I should say books I love. I don't want to be hurt - ha,ha... I'm sure it'll be great! Of course you'll have to keep us posted on how it goes. Oh and as you recommended the book does this mean you have to sort of lead the discussion? Just curious how your group handles that.

  2. Yikes! I'd be scared, too! And you have to lead the discussion? You're a brave woman!


  3. Iliana, that does make me feel better!! lol Good to know I'm not in a one-woman boat.

    I do have to lead the discussion, ladies. In fact, I think I said something to the effect of "Oh, it's ok. I'm a teacher. I'll bring a white board and markers and feel right at home."

    Good times!

  4. Drat. I think I have an exam that day. :( And, if I didn't, I would SOOOOOO be there for you. ;)

  5. andi, I understand how you feel. I always feel like that when I choose a book for book club. It's like having someone pass judgment on one of your children. It's a humbling experience. But, it sounds like you've chosen a book that will lead to a good discussion. It really doesn't matter if everyone likes the book, or not. Sometimes, it's the ones that some people hate that makes for the best discussions. Anyway, good luck and have fun!

  6. Believe it or not, I have never belonged to a real live book club. I've thought about it lots, but I always chicken out at the last minute!

    But this book sounds really good to me, Andi! I'm adding it to my list.

    And yes, I definitely think wine is the answer. Of course, I tend to think wine is the answer for most everything.

  7. I joined the book club when I moved here and although I like going, they are way too into reading books about the horrible experiences of Muslim and Sub-Continental women. If I read about one more woman getting her teeth kicked in by her husband, I am going to scream.

    I am suggesting that next year we read classics, and I am going to offer up The Quiet American as my choice.

  8. It's a wonderful choice, Andi, and I would have said perfect for a book group. There's so much to discuss and even if the ideas don't grab you (how could that be?) the writing is beautiful. I'm sure it will go down very well indeed.

  9. I hate recommending books and movies too. No one really has my same tastes, and I'm always afraid they are going to look at me funny if they hate something I love!

    Of course, the book you recommended sounds fantastic!! I haven't heard of it before.

  10. I certainly understand your trepidation. I voted for us to read Love in the Time of Cholera in my book club last month, and everyone, everyone, hated it!!!! I was so surprised because I love it.

    But I do think this book club wants to read for leisure, not to study literature, something I do naturally - whether or like it or not - and their reasons for reading are great - just not always the same as mine.

    good luck, and if it helps, I, too, am adding the book to my list.

  11. I am curious to know what they'll think of it. There's a lot there to discuss so hopefully they're up for it. You'll have to report back after the meeting to let us know how it went.

  12. I always get the hebbi-jebbies about recommending a book for our book group, partly because so many of our group only have time to read one book a month and if you happen to have chosen one that no one likes. But, someone has to do it and at least if you take your turn now it's going to be a long time before it comes round again.

  13. Cdn, it would be a great and wonderful comfort to have you there cheerleading. *sigh*

    Thanks, Lisa! They're very nice people, so I'm sure it'll be fine, but my fingernails might not survive too well until then. ;)

    LOL, Becca. First, I think you'd LOVE this book. Second, you should definitely try out a face to face group. Or online even! They're all fun. And finally, wine for everyone!

    Lu, I would be out of that book group in a heartbeat. While I've read a number of great books in that particular vein, reading them over and over would make me wanna kill myself! Three cheers for the classics suggestion.

    Thanks, Litlove, that's my hope. And if nothing else, it gives me the excuse to lay my review books aside and dive headlong into a favorite.

    Thanks, Stephanie! Give it a look. Hustvedt's writing is completely addicting.

    Andi, I hope you like the book, too! It's really one of my all-time favorites, and I can't wait to re-read it. I've been lucky in most of the groups I've belonged to--we've had a good mixture of analyzers.

    I definitely will, Nat. When I suggested it I thought about some of the online groups that have discussed it, and I hope we have as good a time with it.

    That is a lot of pressure when it's their solitary book per month! Another reason I'm glad we only meet every six weeks or so. I would hope they're reading other things in between!

  14. We nominate then vote on our book selections for my f2f group. I'm tucking this title away for my next nomination, as I've wanted to read it ever since you first raved about it (years ago??). I'm sure it'll be a great discussion and your new group will love you.

  15. Thanks, Les! I hope y'all enjoy it if it's picked. And I can't remember when I read it exactly. It's been several years.

  16. Now you have me wanting to read it. Another to add to my TBR list. I get those strange looks at work about what I read and watch. I really don't care anymoe. I figure they are the ones missing out.

  17. It can be so hard to make book recommendations to a group. There's bound to be someone who dislikes it, but the hope is that most people will at least enjoy it half as much as you do.


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