Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Book Club Pet Peeves

I've belonged to a bunch of book clubs, and I'm in two now. In general I really enjoy the opportunity to discuss books with other readers, to add a social element to the usually-solitary activity of reading. But there are definitely some things that drive me crazy about book clubs.
  • When people who haven't read the book drive the conversation. Look, the rest of us took the time to read the book and come prepared. You didn't have time? Fine. Don't come to the meeting! Or just listen and don't offer your opinion when you don't know what you're talking about.
  • An unfocused moderator who lets one dominant person take over. Usually in the group that dominant person is myself. So book club leaders, watch out for Marie and people like her. She just never shuts up.
  • People who hated the book and won't talk about it except to say how much they hated it. When I hate a book so much I have nothing more to say than that, I just don't go. Because what's the point? It's almost the same as not having read it, because you only have one thing to say. If you're going to go, just say it once and let people with more nuanced opinions talk it out. Folding your arms and scowling doesn't add very much to the conversation.
  • When the snacks are no good. Haha just kidding. Or if there are no snacks.
  • Picking out of print books. This has happened a couple of times. If you're selecting a book, just make sure it's available. Learn how to read online listings so you understand the difference, or ask at your local independent bookstore. The best thing is to see it on the shelf. If you don't, ask and make sure people will be able to get it. Then check your library to make sure it has copies too.
  • Going off-topic. We're here to talk about the book, not your personal issues, so put away the tales of childhood trauma or bad relationships or vacation or whatever. And please don't bring in politics or religion unless those are an integral part of the book.
  • Telling someone their ideas about what to read are unwelcome, for any reason. If someone wants to contribute, at least listen and be respectful. If the group wants to pass, fine, but treat people with courtesy. You don't have a group if everyone leaves. 
  • Picking the same kind of book over and over. Unless your club specifically specializes in YA, or dysfunctional family memoirs, mix it up.
That's all I can think of right now. What are your book club pet peeves?


Anonymous said...

I started Books & Brew at my library. We meet once a month at a local bar/coffee house. There's no assigned book; we go around and each person says a little bit about something he or she has been reading. People can ask questions or jump in with a comment, then the next person goes. We did have one person who reads so much she was sort of the alpha (and I could have that tendency, too, depending on the month) so we set a limit last time -- talk about 1 book you loved, then if we have time we'll go around again. The library staff take notes and send out a list of the recommended titles. It's fun, low pressure, we all get the beverage of our choice, and we leave with a bunch of new titles on our tbr lists. It IS hard to keep people on topic and to keep someone from dominating -- that seems to happen in every group at some point. I definitely get your point too about someone just repeating that they hated the book. No fun!

Judith said...

I think your list is superb, and touches all the bases from my viewpoint. I've been a member of lots of book clubs in the past, though I haven't been in one since moving to the Adirondacks. I'd like to refer to your list if and when I get a group of people together to start a book club.

It doesn't bother me if one or more people hate the book, so long as they express exactly what elements made them hate it and also provide examples. It surprises me how often people will say they hate a book and are unable to articulate what was bothersome. So I'm the one who's apt to encourage, and I will say, push a book hater (persistently while trying not to be rude) to figure out why they hated it.

If there's anything I hate, it's when a group strays off-topic and resists members' efforts to get back to discussing the book.

Great post!