In September my book group, Broken Spines, will be 10 years old; this is something that I am immensely proud of. It all started because I was looking to join a book group but couldn’t find one in the local area where I thought I would fit in. There was (and probably still is) a library run group, but it seemed to be mostly women aged 50+, being only 24 at the time I don’t think I would have enjoyed it. After several months I came to the conclusion that I should just create my own – I advertised at work, got 6 or 7 people together and we started meeting once a month. I am the only original member that still remains but some members of the group have been coming for 7, 8 or even 9 years. Over the years the group has been expanded mainly through word of mouth, friends of friends coming along to see what we are all about, we have also put posters up in the local library before now and have been contacted through book group registration websites. We have about 14 members currently, mainly women (but there are 4 men including me) aged between early thirties to (I presume) early sixties.
We read a wide variety of books, have a monthly quiz, a meal out once a year, an annual camping trip and we meet in the pub. We do not frown upon those that have not read the book, although the more the better for discussions, and if you’ve not finished then that’s ok but you may have to be prepared for spoilers. All in all it is quite casual and a pleasure to be able to talk for a whole evening about books without thinking ‘Am I boring this person I am talking to?’ We always talk about anything else people are reading and there is often a particular book that most of the group end up reading over a period of time just because of repeated recommendations. In the past we have chosen books in a variety of ways, mainly a member just says ‘shall we read this?’ We have also ‘pitched’ books to one another and voted for our favourite, we have a Secret Santa each year so members read different books, we have put titles into a hat and picked one out. Most recently we have been using a library list that provides multiple copies for the entire group, although we are having a break from this as we have found we are not reading the variety we would like and often get books which are not that good.
I have read a lot of books that I would not have read had it not been for book group, some of my favourite book group books are:
- The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
- Waterland by Graham Swift
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- Life of Pi by Yann Martell
- Animal Farm by George Orwell
- Perfume by Patrick Suskind
I am sure there are many others that I can’t recall at the moment. I think the variety of reading and the opportunity to read something completely different is what I get most out of the book group. Alongside this, meeting new friends (that turn into old friends), and gaining a different perspective to what I am reading, reading new novels that I would not have read otherwise, is really what book group is all about.
If, like me, you want to join a book group but are struggling to find one, then I would say dive in and give it a go yourself. At times Broken Spines has managed to stay together even with just three people, as long as you keep on reading those books and sharing your thoughts then a book group can be very satisfying.
I am sure there are many other things relating to book group that I have forgotten to write down and if I think of anything in particular I will let you know!