Book Clubs

I’ve mentioned it a few times here on the blog but I’ve been a member of a book club for 14+ years. Wow. How can that be? Anyway, the club has been around forever and for years and years I’ve enjoyed it but recently, say within the past year it’s been a struggle. I can’t really say it’s due to any one thing but the biggest issue is probably just new people and how some of them just rub me the wrong way. I read the books but I am not attending the meetings. I haven’t really decided what to do long-term.

I considered starting another club but conflicting schedules are always an issue and I know if I do not have a set date and time it will get bumped and I would hate for that to happen. Plus, the new people component. I am a friendly type for the most part but stupid people piss me off. I’ve no patience for stupidity or rudeness and it’s impossible to keep them out when you create a public group.

So then I considered an online club but do they work? Are they fun? I’ve been IN a few and although I loved the hosts and we talked on the side about the book, the conversation piece of the group (between all of the members) was challenging. To really get in on the conversation you have to turn notifications on and when you get dozens of emails dumped into your inbox you suddenly get resentful. The online clubs I am referring to were setup in Goodreads. If you use another venue that works better, let me know.

I think that is why I enjoy blogging so much. I love to talk about books with all of you and although there are many of you that I haven’t met in person, I’ve gotten to know you pretty well. These days, interactions span several days (if not weeks) and flit across social media platforms such at Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. There is not a day that goes by where I am not connecting with readers in some way and I love it! No time constraints either. I can wake at 4am and know that someone is out there talking about books. It’s like a dream to me.

So my question for you is this:

Do you think traditional (face to face) book clubs are as popular as they were three years ago? Why, or why not?

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53 Responses

  1. No…I don’t think they are…but my idea is that they could be if they remain smallish?

    I always thought I would love to meet with a few close friends to discuss books while sipping a great glass of wine. But when I saw the Booklist…I withdrew and have never thought about joining another one…another friend still in it said they don’t even talk about books any more…

    I am just not a club kind of person…

    • I’ve been pretty lucky with the group I found but every year we have a influx of new people since it’s a public group and sometimes the new peeps are hit and miss. I’ve enjoyed most of them, but there is always that one, irritating person that just rubs you wrong way. And with me working all day, and then showing up for what should be a fun, sometimes relaxing evening, getting irked over an idiot really bugs me. I like the social aspect of a group too. I like when we meet off site because then we have food and drinks. LOL. Otherwise, we are at the library and limited on what we can bring in. The downside to too much food and drink is that we tend to not talk about the book as much.

  2. I like interacting with people face-to-face…I’ve finally found a book group that has stayed together through more than 2 books! I’m loving it. I think these groups continue to be popular.

    I’m trying something new in September with Thaisa Frank — we’re going to discuss one of the short stories in her collection Enchantment, but I haven’t gotten any entrants into the giveaway yet. I have 4 copies available. UGH…I think its the summer and lack of readership at the moment, but I wanted to have a fun online discussion…we’ll see what happens….I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

    • I know you’ve been trying to get a group going for a while so I am glad that this one is working out for you. Online discussions work for me, but I know that they don’t work for everyone. I can spend an entire day going back and forth and interacting with readers but most people make a comment on the book, and then that’s it. For that reason, I do think face-to-face is better.

  3. My problems with in-person book clubs are timing and location. Sometimes, they’re on the other side of the city (at a pub, which doesn’t really help). Or, they’re at 6 o’clock, right after work, when I’m tired, and I have to go home and rescue my pooch to take her out for a walk.

    On the topic of rude people… It really ruins the vibe if you can’t share your opinion if someone jumps down your throat for disagreeing. Even when I was in school, some of my competitive peers would try to trash anything I argued. It doesn’t facilitate discussion… it just makes me want to keep my mouth shut.

    • The last few meetings I attended, there was this one lady who actually made a face and snickered every time she disagreed with something. THEN, the side conversations would start while someone was taking. Our leader is good at dealing with that kind of stuff, but when it happens, I just want to get up and leave. I don’t have the patience for it after a full day of work.

  4. Book clubs definitely aren’t as popular or trendy as they once were. And I think the success of face-to-face groups depends on the luck of the draw. Either you find the right mix of people or you don’t. I got really lucky with my group a couple of years ago. Our core membership is battle hardened book club survivalists who have tried club after club to no avail until we all found each other! And our core group takes the club so seriously that we’d never let new members come in and shake us up in a bad way. We call it tough love, but stupidity and rudeness have no place in my house (which is where most of our meetings take place).

    As far as online clubs, I’ve done the goodreads route as well and the conversations just never took off. Also, I found that people are much ruder hiding behind their computers than face-to-face. So I wouldn’t trade my group for anything in the world, even when a bad egg makes her presence known! But then again, I run my group so the tone is set by me and maintained by me and obviously this helps.

    If you ever decided to create your own group but worry about the commitment, I’d suggest co-organizing with one or two other people who can pick up your slack when need be. This has worked well for my group!

    • Co-organizing is an excellent suggestion and I agree with you about the luck of the draw. We had a good run for so many years, new people were bound to join at some point and with that, you can’t keep the same dynamic and in fact, I know some members wanted new blood just to shake stuff up a bit.

  5. Good question. I don’t really know but my guess is that book clubs still seem as popular as they were a few years ago. I hear from friends or relatives that they’re still in book groups in other cities etc. People like getting together talking books, even it’s just a few people. And maybe there’s a bit of a reading renaissance going on with all the e-Readers and the blogs and such. (I guess that’s what the NYT’s Timothy Egan wrote in a column back in April.)
    I was conned into joining a small book group of like 5 people about a year ago. I didnt really want to join it because I thought it’d be either a) burdensome or b) a bad booklist but luckily I have been pleasantly surprised. I’ve enjoyed most of the books and the people have been cool. So I guess I lucked out.

    • The reading list is a huge deciding factor for me and the group that I’ve been in, chooses for the year so you know up front, what’s on it. Our lists have been pretty good and there is usually quite a bit of variety too. We may not always like the books, but they are usually discussion worthy. As for your small group, I really like a small group. We have like 15 core and then there could be anywhere from 12-20 at a meeting. When it gets into those larger numbers it’s less intimate and honestly, turns me off. I prefer small.

  6. I don’t know if books clubs are as popular as they once were, but the one I’m in is struggling for many of the reasons you cited. One person rarely reads the book and comes to the meetings for the “social aspect.” She tries to hog the conversation and got mad at me one time when I told her we were there to discuss a book. I sent out reminders for our last meeting 10 days before the meeting and got a quick reply from someone who said she wasn’t coming because she didn’t have the book yet. We also have one member who loves to talk about her – it seems every book we read is really about her. It all makes me mad because I read the book and come up with questions and items I want to discuss.

    • Oh Kathy, we’ve had a few of those. It’s aggravating isn’t it? If they need the social aspect but don’t want to read the book, then they should start their own club where they can talk about whatever they want. It helps that our club picks books for the year. I mean, there really is no excuse for not reading the book when you’ve known about it months in advance.

  7. I belong to four book clubs and one of those is done through facetime or skype as I have moved to another state and we found that the best way to communicate.
    I enjoy each one of my bcs for different reasons. I’m not sure whether they are more or less popular, but I know that the older I get, the more I crave belonging to clubs. If I didn’t belong to them, I would not be reading the diverse books that I am forced to through my clubs.
    For me, bcs are more popular, and I had an easy time finding them in my newly moved into area. I’m 45 and semi retired, and the bcs that I am in are of an older generation. I love that! I love hearing stories about each members past or an event that closely links any of us to characters and plot.
    I have tried an online club through Barnes and Noble but I could not keep up with the threads…it became overwhelming and therefore easy to quit.
    Sad will be the day when I have no book clubs to look forward to attending!!

  8. It’s wonderful you’ve been part of the same book club for 14 years. But I guess that might also make it more upsetting that it’s changing for the worse. Are you planning to remain a member or trying to decide what you want to do?

    I don’t belong to a book club now. I think I’d like too but sometimes I wonder if it’s the idea of belonging to a book club and the experience I hope it will be that I’m attracted too. The reason I say this is because I belonged to a book club for 2 years around 2007 when I lived in a different part of Brooklyn. I really liked the host and some of the members were wonderful and I really enjoyed some of the meetings. But somenew members joined about 6 months into my participation and things kind of went downhill. Two women in particular, to use your words, rubbed me the wrong way! They spoke often and loudly, over other members voices and constantly tried to dominate the meetings. These women had no qualms about disagreeing loudly and forcefully with others and also persisted in getting the books they wanted to read chosen every month. It got to the point where when one or two of these women weren’t at a meeting several others expressed their happiness! There were also several members who rarely read or finished the books yet came to the meetings. At first I thought it was a one time thing, maybe two times but it was every month. If the book discussions were long, they’d start to complain!The meetings sometimes felt like a chore rather than a fun and interesting thing to do. I like people and talking with them and especially have good discussions about books but I get aggravated by annoying people!

    I like the idea of an online book club mainly because it’s easier for me, physically, but I find it somewhat awkward and difficult to discuss topics in groups online. The problems you stated are the same I’ve had with online book discussions.

    I’m not sure if book clubs are as popular now as 3 years ago although I suspect not. My guess would be they’ve been replaced by book clubs on Skype as well as online.

    I’ve wondered a few times if/how the advent of e-readers has impacted traditional book clubs, too., but that’s a different topic!

    • Are you in my group? LOL. The two ladies you mentioned, sound very much like two we had in ours. And you’re right. I am not sure what I am going to do. I do love discussing the books with the core group, it’s the other 10% that turn me off. I could just take the rest of the year off but when they choose the books for the year in January, it wouldn’t feel right for me to be a part of the selection process since I was gone most of this year. Know what I mean? Also, which no one has mentioned yet. The use of mobile devices can be a plus or a minus during the discussion. Sometimes, we’d ask a question and then ponder it but now, someone whips out their phone or iPad and just looks it up. I’ve done it, when trying to remember a book title or movie title, etc. But it’s a blessing and a curse.

  9. Ti, I’ve only been in one book club and I quit after a few meetings, because I couldn’t stand the people and the fact that everyone felt that we all had to agree on the book – whether we liked it or not. It was annoying. The only good thing that came out of the book club was a friend I made – we are still friends to this day. I’ve tried those online book groups on GoodReads and I’ve found one that I like and that I actually participate in – its pretty fun. Aside from that, I don’t belong to any other group. I would love to be in a face-to-face one, but where I live, there aren’t a lot of book lovers, so that’s pretty much not gonna happen. I guess that is why I enjoy blogging – getting to talk about books with other avid readers is a blast. And just so you know Ti, if you ever created an online book club, I would definitely be up for joining and helping out.

    • Yeah. I totally get what you are saying. So much of it comes down to the dynamics of the group. People can say that they don’t like a book, but TELL me why. Don’t just scrunch up your nose and make a poo-poo face. I don’t care for a lot of books I read but I can usually find something of value in them. If I ever decide to start an online club, I willdefinitelyhit you up for some guidance!

  10. I don’t think book clubs are as popular now as they were back then, but I like the one I am in now. It’s hard to run a club, as I found out when I tried to do it several years ago. Most of the women came just to gab, and one woman tried to force my hand to make the book club a Christian themed book club. She wouldn’t read anything with sex, childbirth, or death in it, so she just stopped coming. A lot of the others just hated the books that we were reading, and came up with books to bring for selection that were seriously cheesy. I eventually gave up and joined another club.

    • Yes! I worry about the cheesy component too but we vote on what’s pitched so usually we can steer clear of the cheesy titles.

  11. I’ve been searching unsuccessfully for years for a F2F club that was right for me. The moderators in the (2) groups I’ve tried were weak and did not control the meeting and/or eliminate side conversations — for me that was a problem.

    I would join an online one if if it was more literary in nature.

    • You don’t want to start your own? I think I would be good at getting it going, but because I seem to have such a lack of patience when it comes to challenging personalities, I’m not sure it’s something I should explore.

      • Unfortunately, I HATE haing to lead anything. Make me the “point person at work” and I grumble and lead grudgingly…LOL

  12. I think the new club Serena started and to which I belong has been so successful is because it’s small (only 8 of us) and private and some of us were friends beforehand. We’ve all become friends since, and the meetings turn out to be late-night affairs, with book discussion first, then food, then games and chatting. We’ve had to shuffle dates quite a few times, but we manage to make it work.

    I wouldn’t want to deal with rude people either. I think in this day and age face-to-face clubs are harder to form and keep together, but I like the face-to-face aspect because I need to have book conversations that occur away from the computer, though I love all my blogging friends.

    • My interest always seems to wane when new people join. I realize it’s a pattern with me. Most of the new people that join I have come to really like and enjoy. But I will never understand the new person, who knows no one yet comes on board and tries to run the show with overbearing comments and loudness. I don’t remember being loud when I first joined. I mean, people typically listen to see if the group is for them. If anything, they are too quiet.

  13. I have been wary of joining a face-to-face book club for all the reasons you and others have mentioned. I think read-alongs help fulfill my need for book discussions but would be willing to try an on-line book group. The topic of which books to read is a sticky one.

    I belong to a couple of Goodreads groups that choose monthly reads by polls. I should really give one of those discussions a try.

    • Read-alongs are good because they are short term. I’ve participated in a few and have hosted a few. Who could forget Moby Dick! Ugh! But overall, I have fun with them.

  14. I have pretty much decided that I’m not going to participate anymore in the real life book club which I have been a part of for over three years. I had a great time when I attended, but there were several factors which made me decide it was time to quit – the biggest of which was a lack of time on my part. My kids’ activities and my husband’s travels were making it more difficult to make time for the monthly meetings. But that wasn’t it entirely. The group had continually lost members until it was just three or four of us at meetings for months on end. And the books chosen weren’t ones that I wanted to read about 75% of the time.

    I belong to several goodreads groups but haven’t committed to participating in a group read on there because of all of the other reading I have going on. I really do prefer the in-person aspect of book club to the impersonal messages flying back and forth on a forum in goodreads – mostly because I don’t really know the other members that well. It’s different with the book blogs that I visit. Those bloggers who I visit daily are the ones I’d love to live near so that we could all visit each other and chat about books over coffee. So visiting book bloggers and messaging back and forth with them is my substitution for an in-person book club at this point.

    • Man, we are totally on the same page. If the bloggers I visit lived right next door to me, I’d be in so much trouble! We’d talk books all day. The kids would be unwashed and unfed and my husband would forget my name. I’m sorry your club didn’t work out. Losing members, especially contributing members, can be a real loss for sure.

  15. I have never been in a face-to-face book club and have always wondered what attending one would be like. The first thing I think of is – food! It seems like there’s always some wonderful edible something or other at book clubs, plus wine, of course. I’m not very fond of getting lots and lots of emails, so the online type that you describe wouldn’t work for me. For the most part, I find book blogs and social media feed my need to discuss and learn about new books.

  16. I love my bookclub but it truly is almost ‘book club light’ because the actual discussion is minimal — if we remember to even chat about it at all. But it’s fun and it is a diverse group of people that I enjoy spending time with. We meet at a restaurant or at a member’s home and we also have a FB page, plus goodreads. We keep talking about fieldtrips – like after reading Wild, we almost committed to a day trip on the Appalachian Trail but I doubt it will ever happen.
    I have one friend that we continually swap books and meet for coffee to chat. and the online readalongs lately have been awesome. I suppose these things ebb and flow as lives change, people move on, technology evolves.

    • I hope you do get to have a trail outing. That would be fun. You could make-up t-shirts and do a photo journal to share with your readers.

  17. I’ve been in two book clubs. The first was great. It made me read things I would not have otherwise picked up but our leader moved and the group fell apart. The second group I joined….I didn’t like the books that were picked so I didn’t read many of them. The other thing I didn’t like about it was you had to host the group at your home and feed them lunch! Too much time and trouble. I like meeting in a restaurant better but then it’s hard to hear sometimes and you need a designated driver! Plus the older I get, the less willing I am to tolerate people that I don’t like!

    • I admit. I chuckled when I read your response because you are THE entertainer!! Always cooking up yummy tidbits. I would love to be in a club hosted at your house :) But,I do understand that it’s suppose to be a break for you too so cooking and hosting and all the set-up would be a drag after a while. I, too, have a hard time tolerating difficult personalities. My time is too valuable to spend irritated over some twit’s comments or remarks.

  18. I’ve never been in a book club, and honestly, like you, that is partly why I love blogging. I actually enjoy it when someone has a different opinion on a book or character. It enhances the reading experience for me.

    That’s why I love when I have a really good group of students when I teach composition and lit or American lit. We get some great discussion going, and there’s nothing like it.

    • You’ve got some lucky students! I think lit classes that include a lot of discussion are the best. I took acontemporarylit class a couple of semesters ago (just for fun) and although there were a lot of papers to write, the discussions were awesome. At the beginning of class, so many of the students were reserved and quiet but by the end, we were rapping poetry!! It was so cool. That’s how she got the students to relate to poetry…through music.

  19. I love my book club – but we hardly talk about the books any more as we’ve become such good friends. I’m wondering if that’s a trade off you have to make. If you really connect with the people, is it too easy to get wrapped up in catching up with each others lives?

    • For that reason, the first 15 minutes of our meetings were for social interactions. No book discussion. The other reason for this is sometimes members would be running late, and in 15 minutes, all the negative Nellies would have already slammed the book and set the tone for the meeting.

  20. Ti, what a timely post! I am in two book groups, one that has met for 21 years and one that has met for about 4. Both are small with women that I like. We take a summer vacation and I am always the one who emails everyone in August to arrange our first meeting back. I have not sent the emails yet and am tempted not to. What do we think that’s about? I realize that through blogging and my library job I have so many books that I want to read that book club books often seem to get in the way. I feel a bit better saying this to someone, but guilty as well.

    • It’s the obligation. Even if the club pick is my own, I find it hard to work it in. Sometimes it doesn’t jive with what I am currently reading. Everything has to fit like a puzzle when you blog and review too.

      Wow! 21 years! You win! LOL.

  21. I belong to two groups – one has been meeting about 14 years and the other is about 3 years old. I also attend my mom’s two book groups if they meet when I am visiting her. Each of the four has a different way of proceeding and a different dynamic.

    Of my two, the oldest one causes me the most grief not due to new people but rather to “set in their ways”. They are the most restrictive (and least adventurous) in their book choices and discussion is limited. They tend to look at me as if I have horns growing out my head because I am “the English Major”. I have to switch my dynamic when I meet with them as see it as more of a social occasion – the group includes some of my first friends in the area – our children have gone from pre-school to college. We have been through the wars together and that counts for something in my book. I just choose when I go and when I skip and don’t necessarily go for book discussion.

    My second book group is completely different – it has three strong readers and three willing to try anything and want to grow as readers. We also have a new member who is still an unknown.

    I think it is key to have the same goals in a group as well as a small number (7 is good) or a good leader system. By the way, one of my friends has a neighbor in her 80’s who belongs to a book group that meets weekly (they skip either summer or winter) and they do not read light books. I have seen their reading list and it was amazing.

    • I know that some of the members in our group really enjoy new blood because let’s face it, seeing the same people over and over again can get old, but it’s always hit and miss. It’s a public group that uses a public library to meet so ANYONE can show up. Including young children which I heard was an issue at one of the more recent meetings. I am not surprised that the 80 year old manages to meet weekly for her group. They are very fast readers! I am always amazed at how much a person can read when retired and tucked away at home.

  22. What I don’t like about book clubs is the book selection! being part of the blogging community puts me onto so many books I want to read, but book club members have a whole different range of interests. so blogging has actually lessened my desire to be in a book club. on the other hand I love actually meeting my virtual friend bloggers, and I love having email discussions with them about books as we have had!!!

    • I didn’t care for the book selection process when we picked only 3 months ahead. It took too much time during the meetings and we all quickly realized it didn’t work well. Now they pick the entire year’s list in January. I LOVE that meeting. Everyone comes to pitch one or two books and then we vote. It’s worked well for the most part. It is a little stressful trying to come up with your 2 pitches though. You sort of have to see what the others are pitching so you don’t come up empty handed.

  23. I have been in a book club over 15 years and I would have to say we enjoy and suffer from all of the above. I think in person book clubs are more satisfying and lend themselves to better discussions than online book clubs. There is something to be said for the human prescence.

    Ti, if you ever want to start an online book club I am in!

    • Thanks! I like online clubs but feel as if I need to investigate more chat options. I saw a demo of Google Hangouts which was pretty cool. You could see everyone at once and there was a raise hand feature, etc. If I ever create an online club I’ll be sure to post about it.

  24. I’ve never had long-term success with a face-to-face book club, but I also don’t stay in one place very long:-) I do have one now, but I’ve missed the last several meetings. The book selection is inconsistent (a James Patterson novel for next month–really?), and we typically spend more time talking about other books we’re reading than the books we pick. I do enjoy it, but reading the books often seems like a chore. Oh well. I get more out of blogging anyway, and I’d love to find some sort of online forum that worked well.

  25. I was in a book club many years ago. I was so excited about it. Until one of the members began using it as a way to kill two birds with one stone. She chose a book she was already reading for another club. Did it for me.

    Now, about book clubs in general. I believe I live in the largest book club venue in the world, but it is very seasonal. I actually visit many of these clubs in fall and winter to introduce and discuss new titles. It has become a successful side business for me. There are book clubs on every corner in S.W. Florida. And that is a good thing.

    • Oh yes! The two birds with one stone thing… I can see why people do it, but good GAWD, keep it to yourself. Why would anyone even admit to it?

  26. I am the voice of inexperience with book clubs, since I only lasted about 6 months with the one I joined. I still get the emails, though, and today’s update was that at the last meeting they talked about the book, plus 50 Shades, plus wedding books. Wedding books? Seriously, people?? Not that I’m opposed to talking about other things, but if I haven’t married HB by now, do you really think I want to talk about wedding books?

    Gah.

    Clowns, however. That’s fun. :-D

    • How can anyone discuss wedding books at a club meeting? Really!BTW, you are having way too much fun with this clown stuff. Insert evil laugh here.

  27. I work in a bookstore and we have several book groups that meet in our cafe. I think that if there are many groups just meeting in one public place, there must be a lot of other groups meeting in other cafes and private residences. So, yes, I think book groups are just as popular as they were 3 years ago.

    • I like to get together physically to discuss books now and then. It’s a totally different feel than say a Skype hook-up. The book store clubs are interesting. We met a couple of times in the bookstore and although it was nice to be around all of the books and being able to enjoy a coffee from the cafe, we thought it was really loud as there wasn’t a dedicated room for us to meet in.

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