On Writing: The value Book Clubs

I love book clubs.

As a reader I love my book club

Rez Reads meets once a month. We pick books based on member recommendations. Sometimes a member’s friend read the book. Sometimes a member heard a review that piqued her interest. Maybe he has a particular interest in the author.

Here are some things that I think make book clubs vital:

  • A variety of people. Age, sex, marital status, religion, race, background. A mix of all these things make for interesting discussions. Remember reading To Kill a Mockingbird in Junior High? Reading it again as a grandmother provokes an entirely different response.
  • A sense of adventure. I’ve read many books through Rez Reads that I would probably not have read had I not been in the book club. We’ve read science fiction, romance, historical fiction, non-fiction, and even poetry.
  • A willingness to listen. Hearing how other people understood the story can open doors of understanding. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve soldiered through a painful book only to find that after listening to others, I liked it afterall. Here’s one we read years ago. A simple book, which turned out to be deeper than I imagined. Something that I would have dismissed became a favorite story, thanks to Rez Reads.
  • A shared leadership. Different people bring different flavors to the discussion. Some leaders lead from the heart or the gut, some have a formal set of questions.
  • An openness to authors. At least once a year, an author visits and answer questions about their book. Next month Jacquieline Saper will visit us to discuss her memoir, From Miniskirt to Hijab. Watch for my interview of her, coming soon.

As a writer I love book clubs

I love listening to what other readers like. Readers improve my writing. Here are a few things I gain as a writer from book clubs.

  • What things make people stop reading a book? One reader can’t continue if there’s cruelty to animals. Another can’t tolerate passive tense in a book. A reader might be bored with too much character and not enough action; another wonders what motivated the character. These things help me edit my own writing.
  • What small things delight people? Maybe it’s the description of bread crunching, or how a dog’s fur is described. Many times these delights help me look at my writing in a different way.
  • What quotes people like to share? Recently, I shared this quote from The Sentence. Quotes from a book can resonate with readers and even change their opinion.

“I wondered if this was a thing regular mothers felt looking at their daughters from a distance, finding them perilous in their magnetic beauty, which makes no distinction in which screws and nuts it attracts.”

— Louise Erdrich

As a writer, I love being a guest author

Readers buoy my confidence with their comments and questions. Here’s some things I gained from being a guest author.

  • It’s not as scary as I thought. Most people are kind. Even with their criticism.
  • It’s eye-opening. Sometimes readers have a favorite character that I thought was minor. I love it when they understand what motivates a character. Sometimes they reveal something from my unconscious that sneaked into the book. Readers attention to detail amaze me.
  • Occasionally, passionate disagreements erupt. That happend with The Fable of Little Tzurie. One reader thought what happened to Tzurie was far too scary for children. Another in-your-face reader declared she entirely missed the point. It’s okay, I said. You can both be right.
  • It’s always energizing. It’s never a waste of time. I always feel happy that I am an author. Yes, I remind myself, I am really an author.

Are you in a book club?

What did I miss?

If you’re not in a book club already, I hope this post spurs you to join one.