You’ve devoured the book. All done, right?
Wrong. A great meal tastes better when you tell someone about it.
Books are the same way. Talking about books allows you to experience the work in a different way. It forces you to think harder. You are no longer passively absorbing story. You are interacting with the work. You have to defend, explain or vilify the characters, the story, and sometimes the author. It’s what I miss most about school. I love being in a place where ideas and books are currency; where watching television can’t be the default because you have only one week to finish The Long Walk To Freedom by Nelson Mandela (507 pages, 1.8 lbs). For a time, it was recreated for me through a wonderful book club I was invited to in Dallas. When I moved to Fort Worth, that book club was left behind.
I found I really missed talking about story.
I decided to start a new book club in Fort Worth. I had no idea how long it would take. I thought I could just tell people about it and it would happen. Alas, it took more work than that. I made announcements at my neighborhood association meetings. My aunt got interested. I posted a sign-up sheet at a neighborhood picnic and several people signed up but then didn’t respond to my e-mails. I placed an announcement on the neighborhood electronic bulletin board and in a newsletter. My aunt’s friends got interested and invited some of their neighbors. We organized via e-mail and telephone and conversations at neighborhood meetings. Titles were suggested and books were passed around. A year after I first put my desire out into the universe, I had a new group of friends with whom I could discuss books.
What surprised me most is once the book club started, it was it’s own child. It didn’t belong to me. It’s over two years old now. From the start, the titles weren’t from my personal book bucket list. And that was okay. If I was the only one who couldn’t make it to a meeting, it happened without me. And that was okay. My aunt sent out e-mails, kept track of titles read, suggested works and whose home we met in. That was even better than okay.
Recently, I considered skipping a night because I hadn’t had time to read the novel. I was worried it would be awkwardly obvious. Then a young woman in my neighborhood died suddenly. It was sad and tragic and completely unexpected and it happens every day. I realized that, though I started book club because I loved books, book club was also about relationships. It is important to make time to be with people you love who love books and love you. If not now, when?
It was more than a book club.
Books gave us a place to travel together, a table where we got to know each other. Our community of book lovers wasn’t just a literature class. It was something the other women looked forward to and appreciated. Instead of simply satisfying my selfish wants, it fed a need I didn’t know I had and an absence in my community. When you hear about a book through someone else’s eyes and heart, you learn a lot about that person. Each person experiences the same book differently. Book club allows us to critique the meal and express our hunger or satiation. Sometimes we find we have tastes in common.
And then there’s the food. That’s another post altogether.