Book Club Experience
During one of my visits at my local public library in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, I asked the librarian at the help desk if she could give me information on joining a book club. She showed me a current monthly calendar which had the words, “Book Groups” on it. I was looking for one that would take place that same day or later in the week. She was discouraging me and said I should sign up for one at least a month in advance and obtain a copy of the book and prepare for the book club meeting by taking notes and really analyzing the author’s message and themes. Also she told me that I should notice the structure of the book and get to know the characters. If applicable, I should make comparisons to other books and authors. I felt a little overwhelmed listening to all of this information but I kept quiet. I didn’t know that a Book Club could be so intense and studious! After she had finished talking, I did tell her that I was just planning on observing a discussion for a graduate class I was attending. She appeared to be relieved to hear that news. Well, I signed up for a Book Club discussion on “How to Be Both” by Ali Smith. I was not familiar with the author or the book. I would like to digress for a moment to say that in my library district there are fifteen Book Club discussions going on each month at the ten branches throughout the library district. You can sign up in person or online and be kept up to date on your book club through email. Anyway, I picked my book club at the branch I was familiar with and this particular one met every third Thursday at 2:30-4:00pm from January 2017 to October 2017.
Who is asking the questions is there a leader to do people take turns?
There were ten women ranging in ages from approximately early fifties to a seventeen year old. We had to go around the room and introduce ourselves. There were members that had been in previous book clubs together in our group. I didn’t mention I was doing this experience for an assignment though. There was definitely a leader and her name was Daisy. She wasn’t affiliated with the library but she was a high school librarian.
If there is a leader, does the leader answer the questions as well or let the attendees respond first?
The leader of the group, Daisy was really enthusiastic and simmering with restraint but she did hold back and allow others in the book club to answer the questions that she asked us. I did notice during discussion that everyone had stickies’ in their copy except me and even some had a notebook.
What type of questions asked? Were any involving just yes or no answers?
As I previously mentioned in here, I had never heard of the author or the book but I was open to learning about her in my group. First, there were no yes or no questions. One of the questions- What are some of the types of dualities or binaries explored in the novel, implicitly and explicitly? Another question focused on how the book had been printed in two ways, half with the section “Camera” preceding “Eyes” and half the other way around. She asked how their experience of the novel as a whole was different depending on which section they read first. Also if they think one order was stronger than the other, and if so why? I really thought the questions were thought provoking, serious and analytical at times. While listening to the discussion, I was really regretting that I had not read it prior to the meeting.
Do all attendees actively participate?
Yes, all of them participated except me. Daisy would go from one person to the next for each question and not one person passed on answering a question.
Do any attendees swoop in and steal all the spotlight?
No, everyone was really respectful and polite to each other.
What is the atmosphere of the discussion, where is it taking place at?
The atmosphere was open and friendly but at times intense because of the questions that the leader, Daisy asked the group. It took place in a conference room at the branch.
Are snacks or drinks provided?
The leader and some book club members brought snacks such as vegetables, cookies, homemade muffins plus water to the discussion.
What types of books does this book club normally discuss?
After the book club ended, Daisy told me that they read adult fiction and the next book would be “Hood” by Emma Donoghue. I was invited to sign up and join them to discuss that book next month.