23 May 2007
A book discussion group: a useful tool for writers
The best thing about my book discussion group is that everyone has different tastes, so I’m forced to read out of my comfort zone.
The worst thing about my book discussion group is that everyone has different tastes, so I’m forced to read out of my comfort zone.
Left to my own devices, I would consume a steady diet of fantasy, science fiction, historical mysteries, mainstream historical fiction, and history, leavened with an occasional romance novel—not the most balanced fare. A writer should expose herself to a wide variety of authors and subjects.
Belonging to a monthly book discussion group has broadened my intake considerably. I’ve read some classics that I had never got around to, such as John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces, and some literary award winners, such as Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri.
Some books I enjoyed I never, ever would have picked up if my book group hadn’t chosen them, such as the novel The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty (A loser rides a bike across America—Didn’t sound the least promising) and the memoir Mississippi Solo: A River Quest by Eddy Harris (A guy takes a torturous canoe trip down the Mississippi—Life contains enough unavoidable pain, thank you; why read about someone who inflicts it upon himself?).
My life is so busy that I have trouble finding time for non-work-related reading. But the book club assignment is something I have to get done by the meeting date . . . so I have no guilt about bumping straightening up my office or weeding the garden to make time in my schedule to read the book group selection.
Last but not least, what a pleasure and a luxury to spend time discussing a book with people who love reading as much as I do! The book group has been a good source of friends.
Of course, there’s always a down side. When one enjoys something, one wants to share it with friends. I’ve been frustrated that I’ve had limited success getting my group to try speculative fiction and historical fiction and sad that most members have not enjoyed what little we have read.
Every so often, we read a book that I hate. I spend those months regretting the time wasted and wishing I could have spent those hours with one of the delicious books in my to-read piles.
Still, I would recommend a book discussion group to any writer. We can all benefit by reading widely in a variety of genres and styles.