I was navigating the Internet recently and while doing so, I re-discovered “Meet Up” when I was looking how many Book Clubs exit in the Dallas Fort Worth area. My motivation for it is the fact that I belong to one of these “book clubs” while asking myself the different motivations for people to join or to create one. Curiosity showed up again!
It was surprising all the different Books Clubs and their names that Ifound out. It was actually a good laugh: “50 shades of Brown” (what does this means? Are books Brown?), “Dallas Atheist Book Club”, “Cool Chicks Book Club” to name a few. Some of the names are intriguing but other …mmm. I learned at a very young age that calling yourself cool is the most uncool thing to do for example. This takes me to another point: how do you choose or create a name that is attractive and descriptive at the same time and why join one of these clubs?
At the same time that I find myself unconsciously judging the different names, it strikes me the guilty feeling. I also understand that choosing a name is not an easy task, especially if you need the approval of undetermined number of people. It seems going back to childhood to me with these clubs that we invent or create. Some of them are more like a cult with followers but others seems to be born from the need to build a social system to follow or to lead. It seems that not much have change since then. I cannot help but wonder what is the motivation to belong to one. Maybe it is the wine.
I have participated in two Books Clubs. In both clubs there are three main characteristics: it is composed of women, there is a book to read before the meetings and there is wine in these meetings. It is important that wine is included for me. It is my safety net because when I do not want to comment about a particular subject or, I am just bored, I just sip a little from my glass. This happen to me quite often. The main difference between both groups was the age and lifestyles of its members. In the first club, I happen to be the youngest in a group where they called themselves retired woman. By then, I worked over 50 hours per week as a Controller with two young children. What we had in common was that we lived in the same area and some of them enjoyed traveling as much as I did. Besides that, nothing else. The current group has more variety in ages, lifestyles and geographical origins of their members.
Thinking closely about the main characteristics that both groups have in common, makes me think a little deeper about each of them:
- They are women but they are different. The process in the Books clubs varies accordingly the level of the group. There are groups that their members are intellectuals and as a result they concentrate in deep conversations where there is a collective critical analysis of the book. I know that they exist, but I have never participated in one of these. There are groups that are more laid back, relax and mischievous. Groups for fun and others that explore more edgy subjects. There is always the groups that require certain characteristic to belong to the group or at least give the appearance to posses one; a little bit like being in high school. There is the type of group that meet, drink, hardly taste the appetizers and only spend five minutes talking about the book while the rest of the two hours is devoted talking to each other. I have been to one of these (or maybe I am?). I have asked some people in our book club and some friends what do they like about belonging to one. One friend told me that she went to one meeting of a group that meets in different restaurants. In this case it seems that they assist to eat or to escape from the house, In my case, I really participate of a Book Club because I like to read and I like to know the opinion of other people about the book that I just read but, for some people this is really a social interaction, frivolous in its nature with a couple glasses of wine. I do not critique that there is wine! As I mentioned before, it my tool in the event that I want to be quiet, or change my sight either because boredom o because I cringe at the comments of some people or because some people do not understand my hard accent. Latin accent is difficult to understand for some people, especially because we translate from Spanish to English in our minds. It is difficult to think in English when your native language is another but, not impossible.
- It involves a book. Time passes and the characteristics of time change as well. In the past we look at Reading as intimate relationship between the reader and story without any room for a third Wheel. The reader feeds himself intellectually, travel to another era, another space where the author takes us with their narrative style. Now, I notice that this relationship has change, it is shared in a social environment. Perhaps in a lighter environment and sometimes superficial. From the first time that I joined a book club, my expectations of what a book club is, are not very high. Most of people do not engage or expect a literary discussion. There are some people that even arrives to the meeting without reading the book at all (Ah!) Please! At least read the summary online to have an idea.
- There is wine. Why? I still do not why it is generally books and wine but maybe it add some level of intellectual air or we pair books with wine maybe? Thinking about it why not to pair with beer or brandy or vodka? Tea or coffee? One of the people in the group told me once that she likes our book club because pushes her to read books that she will never had picked up and that turned out to be fantastic. In some way, I share the feeling but a little bit further. I have not met my new best friend in the book club but I had meet people from different places with different perspectives about the book we just read. On the other hand, I have met people who are resistant to other perspective but we have wine to tolerate these! It is an open door to meet interesting people and why not? A future writer or sommelier. I tell you that the wine important! Usually when we arrive, the first thing is having a glass of wine while greeting the people. I have not seeing that the people arrive to waving the book or opening one page of the book. We rather wave the glass. It is funny that my husband said that it seems that it is more a Wine Club than a Book Club.
Like any other group, there is implicit commitment among the member to “read” the book selected or assigned and to assist to the meetings to discuss the book but, we have to remember that this type of group is voluntary. I will not surprise if in the United States there are groups that requires a written agreement but this will take charm away, to me. It will be adding complications to something that should be enjoyable. Maybe at the end with all that wine this groups are really a “Group of Drinkers with a Book”.