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Book groups?

 
 
Reply Wed 30 Apr, 2003 10:07 am
Book groups are a popular way for people to get together to talk about books, have food, and drink wine. I'd love to hear people's experiences with book groups: Do they last, does the group stay on topic (i.e., discuss the book) or drift into other topics, do you find yourself reading and enjoying books that you would've missed? Do mostly women partake, or do men show up, too?

And what's the best venue for meetings: people's homes, cafes, taverns, book stores?

I've had my own experience, but I'd like to hear from others!
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Tartarin
 
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Reply Wed 30 Apr, 2003 12:02 pm
I've never been in a book group (not being a groupie person) but I know people who are and who meet in each other's living rooms. Me? I think a cafe is more European, has a kind of panache, more fun, more open. Get a good conversation going and maybe complete strangers will join in, much as happens in these forums. Here's what I think would be really fun: find an internet forum group about books and make a plan to meet as a kooky group just to talk about books in general, maybe bring a couple of favorites along... I'm dreaming up an Amtrak book club, friends who get together once a year to talk about books while moseying along on a tour...
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Dartagnan
 
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Reply Wed 30 Apr, 2003 01:33 pm
I love the idea of an Amtrak book group, partly because I often ride the trains anyway, and always bring lots to read when I do.

I actually joined a group, somewhat because I liked a woman who was joining. I wouldn't have done it otherwise, because I'm not a joiner, either. Now neither of us attend, though we remain as friends. My problem is that I have a stack of books to read that I want to read, and reading books for the group was a distraction. Maybe I'm too much a snob to be a good member...
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Tartarin
 
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Reply Wed 30 Apr, 2003 03:05 pm
Uh-oh, D'art. I'm a snob too -- or, if not a snob, very much stuck in the rut of my own tastes! But what about a book club in which everyone reads whatever they want to read and get together to talk about the books. Book discussion group. Like here in the Books forum, only in person. On a train. Let's start that!
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Tartarin
 
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Reply Wed 30 Apr, 2003 03:07 pm
I bet you already know about this: http://www.bookcrossing.com/
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Tartarin
 
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Reply Wed 30 Apr, 2003 03:14 pm
Here's what we do, D'art: We take a particular line -- say, train to Chicago from the West Coast. Either we all start at the same place, or we hop on at wherever, along the way. On the train we get to read, talk, eat, drink, read, talk, look out the window. When we get to Chicago, we do something fun -- maybe take in a play and have a great after-theatre dinner, walk along the lake, whatever. Now, if only I could afford Amtrak...!
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Dartagnan
 
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Reply Wed 30 Apr, 2003 03:32 pm
I love the idea of the train/book tour!

As for a book group in which we get together to discuss books that each other has read (but not read in common), it's another great idea. I have a friend with whom I have such an informal arrangement, and we've actually call it a book group. We get together for lunch or a drink, then each talks about the books we've read. Great fun...

[I just checked out the Book Crossing site. I'd heard of it, but it sounds like it's really evolved. Have you partaken, Tartarin?]
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ehBeth
 
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Reply Wed 30 Apr, 2003 07:39 pm
The bookcrossings site is part of my e-signature - I've looked up their local meetings and one of them is at a coffee shop near work. I'm hoping to arrange doggie daycare one night to join them.

I tried being part of a book club for about 2 years. It kind of wore me down - too many people that i really didn't want to know. The group continues to meet - the core group has been together for 5 years now. I knew i had to leave when one of the members picked a Harlequin romance to be read when the meeting would be at her house. Ok - i'll read one at the laundromat - but discuss it? it was tough.
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sozobe
 
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Reply Wed 30 Apr, 2003 08:47 pm
I just helped form one. First book? "Lucky Man", by Michael J. Fox.

Sigh.

I really really like live face-to-face discussion of books, though (as well as online), and discussion with a group of hearing/nonsigning people is one of the toughest things to do. (One on one for example is much easier.) This is a Deaf group that my friend and I got together, so I'll put up with <deeper sigh> "Lucky Man" if I can get to some good stuff.
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Dartagnan
 
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Reply Wed 30 Apr, 2003 08:59 pm
ehBeth and sozobe: You've both just hit the nail on the head re the problem I have with the concept of book groups. I'd love to sit around and talk to people about books I want to read, but the idea of reading books that are assigned (and that I don't want to read) turns me off completely. I mean, isn't that what high school was about?

I wonder if there are groups that have some kind of focus, say a genre or a period. That might be interesting. But maybe what I'm really longing for is a college lit class, and those days, alas, are way long ago...
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mamajuana
 
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Reply Wed 30 Apr, 2003 09:09 pm
I was once part of a book group in my town. We met at the library, and it started off okay (most of us knew each other - it was a small town). Together we picked out what we wanted to read, then sat around and discussed. Then the librarian, who had joined the group, got sticky. Turned out she had a proscribed list, insisted on moderating every discussion. Then we discovered that the Superintendent of Schools - small town -, who was part of the group, never actually read any of the books, but did discuss them. The group broke up, and I never joined another.

But we've had some pretty interesting discussions here about books and related topics, and they've worked. I've liked them better than the one I had joined. Tartarin, your train meeting sounds like one of those ideals - I'm another one who likes train travel. Maybe we could put it all together online? Say, pick out a train or two, describe it, and settle back to discuss our books?
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Tartarin
 
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Reply Thu 1 May, 2003 08:55 am
It would make such a great book itself, Mama! Imagine a group of people who've become friends online who set off on a trip together through incredible landscapes, just to talk -- primarily about books but not exclusively. They have the sort of ticket which lets them get off the train when they want to, catch another one. A Eurail pass, kind of. Aside from doing the trip, the writing about it would be great fun.
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ossobuco
 
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Reply Thu 1 May, 2003 10:50 am
I like the train idea too, except I would have to see the art museum after we got off the train in Chicago! Alas, my budget has gone down to zero after a recent trip. I had the good fortune to ride from Chicago to LA and back on a train several times as a child, loved those trips.

The trips might work better in concept. I can see sticky wickets with people ending up alone, alone, in a dreary outpost, as night falls, no, no, I mean it would take a heap of planning to coordinate.

I don't take well to assignments, and find too much analysis of a book can kill my enthusiasm even as it clarifies all sorts of things about the book for me.
But if I happen to have read it and you happen to have read it, voila!

Plus I tend to like a two or three people conversation at any one time, and that tends to happen here even when we have many more people...it happens sequentially here, with people chiming in and conversing at different times.

I bet a fair part of that train trip would be non-book conversation. We get off the subject more than on in the a2k art chats, but we still make passes at talking about the announced subject. Since those chats are usually two hours and people come and go, you can miss the nubbin (sp?) of key discussion. But we don't care, so far anyway. Plus, one just has to mention the subject again and off we go.
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mamajuana
 
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Reply Thu 1 May, 2003 12:55 pm
D'art - assigned reading does kind of take the edge off it, but that's what my college lit courses were, anyway. I once took a course that devoted the entire term to the Don Quijote, in Spanish and in English, and it finally got so boring for me I learned to knit (in class, hidden behind a very large person).

But reading what you all have to say - this discussion in itself would make a book. I've only done stories, but then, we each have a story. Maybe we should put them together, with the common theme being books we've read , where we're going, how we get there. A project for a summer day (and I hate hot weather!)
Rolling Eyes
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blatham
 
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Reply Thu 1 May, 2003 08:17 pm
Being the non-fiction addict I am, I need fiction assignments or I don't get such books read.

The train idea is lovely, but almost any reason to get a group of friends together on a train sounds delicious. There ought to be a murder, of course.
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Hazlitt
 
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Reply Thu 1 May, 2003 10:33 pm
Regarding Book Discussions
D'art wrote:
ehBeth and sozobe: You've both just hit the nail on the head re the problem I have with the concept of book groups. I'd love to sit around and talk to people about books I want to read, but the idea of reading books that are assigned (and that I don't want to read) turns me off completely. I mean, isn't that what high school was about?


D'art, your thoughts here exactly reflect my own thinking. I have only so much time for reading, and I don't want it to go for things I'm not interested in. Here is an option that might work for some of you. If you live in a city that has a university, check to see if they have an ILR program (Institute for Learning in Retirement). I happen to live near such a program. It works like this. All classes are peer taught. What that means in our case is that anyone in the program can initiate a class. I have been in the program for five years. Last year I decided I wanted a class in literature. I ended up starting my own class of short story discussions. I got a co-coordinator to do it with me, and we chose the "Best SS of the Century" anthology edited by J. Updike. I decided we'd read the book from front to back taking the stories in chronological order. I produced a reading list sign up sheet to be passed out to the class. We had 60 stories and 30 2 hour class sessions. Class members were required to sign up to lead a discussion on two stories during one class session. So every week we have a different person leading. We had 16 people sign up for the class.

The leader is strongly admonished to lead by asking questions that heer compiles ahead of time. At the end of the discussion the leader may provide bio material on the author. Discussion leaders cannot pontificate. They move things along with their questions. Participants must stick to the story. Anyone who starts off, "That reminds me of what happened to my uncle..." gets their head chopped off. We don't allow it. They must stick to discussion of the text. Leaders who lapse into lecturing get an admonishment from the class members.

The participants come from all walks of life,but have in common that they are serious about the discussion. Following morning class we have lunch together. For me, it's like a dream come true.

There is also a novel class wherein they assign a given number of pages per week. Everyone commits to not reading ahead, so that they are all discussing the material that all have read, and no one has special knowledge of what is in the next chapter. I think they do three a year depending on number of pages. I have never been in this class.

The tuition for this program is about $300 for the year, and for that the student can sign up for as many as three classes. That would be 3 time 30 sessions or a total of 90. In addition each class has an option of having 5 sessions during the summer, usually in July-August. Is this a bargain or what?
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ossobuco
 
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Reply Thu 1 May, 2003 10:52 pm
Yes. but I want to know what happened to the Uncle....

sigh.

So with Hazlitt et al I like the train thing, sorry, ehbeth, I have too many classes after classes under my belt, at last I am free to say no more, no, I won't even teach again, please peel me a grape. Or throw me a pear.

A murder, hmmm, cool, perhaps arsenic after the service?
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ossobuco
 
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Reply Thu 1 May, 2003 10:53 pm
I meant the service of hot cocoa, a staple in my train memories, in a silver pot.....before we all retire to the Observation Car.
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Hazlitt
 
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Reply Fri 2 May, 2003 06:52 am
Oss, I certainly recognize that the discussion format that I have come to enjoy is not for everyone. The train trip sounds good too, and I'm sure you'd hear plenty of uncle stories.
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Tartarin
 
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Reply Fri 2 May, 2003 08:30 am
One feature of THIS book get-together is that we don't all read the same book. We just bring along our favorites, books we've been planning to read, whatever. We talk about 'em, we lend 'em, we let them lead us into conversations about absolutely anything. The point, of course, is the conversation. What puts me off book clubs is the tinge of self-improvement. Having learned not that I have no room for improvement but that improvement doesn't work on me, I just wanna read what I wanna read when I wanna read it, okay?

Are we allowed to pick the murder victim from among A2K posters?
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