Michelle Thorne: Book Groups

April 28, 2006 by in category Blogs tagged as with 1 and 0
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By Michelle Thorne

I love my book group. 10 women. Married, divorced, widowed, and single. From 70+ years old to our young one at 38. Children, no children and furry children. Work at home and outside the house. Over 350 years of reading romance and everything else. Do we all get along, mostly. Do they drive me crazy, sometimes. Do I love them, ABOULETLY!!!

We have been meeting once a month for almost 15 years. We started out with six members and we tightened and expanded as needed. When we started, we really had only two rules: No Oprah books and we didn’t want to be socially redeemed. When we started out, people were so serious about book groups. If you didn’t want to open a vein at the end of reading the book, you were doing something wrong. I couldn’t understand it. Books had always been my refuge. They’re where I went when all else failed. Books made me happy. No one in their right mind would be an independent bookseller if they didn’t love books. I hear all you out there questioning my right mind but that’s for another day. Anyway, books have always made me happy, not sad and depressed. So that was how the group started, and it is An Oprah-Free Zone.

Now you know the first rules but there were more to come. We started out with munchies during the meeting, but we meet at 6pm, so for a year or so we had potlucks. What a fine mess that turned out to be. Sometimes we had roast beef and cous cous.

Then we had theme dinners. Better, but still some odd “taste sensations”. We moved on to 1 person, one dinner a year, pizza once and we go out to really nice restaurant at Christmas time. Our latest change was last year when we instituted “you feed us…you get to pick the book” Great idea, but we are an “Oprah-Free Zone” no more. Okay, 15 years have passed, we grown, we’ve matured, but I still don’t like to be depressed when reading. So another rule change, if you want to read deeply you must let the shallow have another choice. It works, for us, in fact some of our best sessions have been when we all read a different book and then gave a short synopsis. A months worth of great reads laid out one after another.

So why an I telling you this. If you write, I assume you read and you should. READ, Read, read! In your genre, outside your genre, fiction, non-fiction…everything. If you are like most authors I know, you tend to hole up in your offices, on deadline or not, and let those little self-editors in your head make you doubt that you can ever write another coherent sentence. You read, you critique partner’s latest missive, and they read yours, but not for pleasure or knowledge. You probably sell yourself short and think “I should be writing.” But back to reading, you probably mean to read, but again you don’t give yourself permission to just read for you, and that’s why you need to join or start a reading group.

It’s really easy. You can check with your nearest bookstore and see if they have an established group already, or you can post a notice that you want to start a reading group. I suggest that you don’t announce that you are a writer, or you’ll find out more about your fellow members likes and dislikes than you wanted to know, and they will look to you for brilliant criticisms as an author, rather than just a reader. Also you’re doing this for yourself. You’re in a group that meets once a month and you HAVE to read the book. Cool! You have to read a book. It’s like a job and I know you take your work seriously. Whatever the group picks for a read, it will give you a great look at what is going on out there with other authors and how your fellow book clubbers are reacting to them. Please, Please, Please, even if you don’t join a book club, give your self a break and read. You know you want to.

More next time on how Authors can use book groups to grow their readerships and numbers.

Books are like shoes…You can never have too many.

Michelle Thorne
RWA Bookseller of the Year 1998
Bearly Used Books…123
Home of A Great Read
123 So. First Street
La Puente, CA 91744
(626) 968-3700

1 Comment

  • Anonymous
    on May 6, 2006

    Hey One L! This was an awesome article. Thank you for writing it. It was so great to see someone like you feeling the same as me.

    I am a part of a book club too, but they’re all Oprah devotees (blech!). Nothin’ against The Great O. The girl’s got style…I do so love her Holiday O List, but that (serious! Literature) genre just isn’t to my taste.

    I stick with my group, though because it’s so great to be around a bunch of other women who love books as much as I do.

    They’ve long forgiven me that I don’t have the time or patience to read their picks, but you’d be surprised how much I can add to the conversation just by giving them a storyteller’s perspective.

    None of them are writers (and they couldn’t care less that I’m one) so it’s also a great way to stay connected to everyday readers…and, of course, good friends.

    🙂 d

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