What I'm reading: One Small Victory, by Maryann Miller
Last week, I talked about reading outside my normal genre range for a book club.
They meet at their library (which is not in my county system, but isn't that far away, given typical distances up here in the mountains). After a bit of mingling, they have a nice breakfast, and then they have their business meeting.
The leader assured me that this meeting was atypical in that they had a lot of community business to discuss. The club is part of their "Friends of the Library" and they do more than discuss books. Things on the agenda included organizing a library clean-up day, and a book sale at a local community "fair", a cemetery tour as a fundraiser, as well as concern for a new school scheduled to break ground next month and open in a year.
Once their business was finished, the group divided to discuss the two books assigned for the month. Because the group is large (about 35 members), they're split into two groups, so although they're a united front for the business meeting and social time, each group reads only one of the books, which allows more time for each member to add to the book discussion.
Since I was a visitor, I had my choice of groups, and I opted to sit in on the group that had read the book I didn't much care for. I was curious to see how my opinions matched those of others in the group, and how reading like a "writer" differed from reading like a "reader."
Their setup is that they go around the room, with everyone saying what they liked or didn't like about the book, and giving it a score from 1 to 10. The first woman to speak had listened to the book on audio, and she said the reader did an excellent job of keeping her in the story. Also, his English accent helped ground her in the book's setting.
As we went around the room, opinions seemed divided into "really liked it" and "didn't like it at all" camps. One woman had read it when it first came out, and didn't like it then. She said she normally tries to at least do a quick re-read when this happens with a book club book, but she had no desire to revisit it. Only one member said she felt the book fell into the middle of the spectrum. What were some of the reasons people gave to back their scores?
Descriptions: Some loved the flowery descriptions, others said it interfered with the read.
Characters: Almost everyone agreed about the main character's personality traits, but some thought they made him a fascinating character and others said they wanted to see him show a little backbone. The term marshmallow came up several times.
Pacing: Some liked the meandering pace, others felt it dragged to the point where they didn't want to finish the book.
Plot: Some saw clever twists, others said it was totally predictable.
The book was blurbed as "humorous" yet it was British humor, which some appreciated and others didn't get at all.
As for how the members approached the meeting. Some took copious notes and read quotes of passages they liked. Some admitted they didn't read the book at all.
And I think that in the end, that's about the way it is for any book you read. You'll like some, you'll dislike some, and some, you won't care about one way or the other. Is it a good thing to read books because someone makes it "required" reading? I don't know. I do know I read two books I would otherwise never have considered, and trying something new is a good thing. For next month, one of the selections is a mystery set in the Leadville Colorado area, written by a local author. That one sounds closer to what I'd like to read. The second book is written from a dog's POV. I think I'll give that one a pass.
My ideal book club? I'd have a relatively small group—maybe 10 or so—and each member would read any book they liked, and then tell the rest of the group about it. If someone liked what they heard, they could then read the book for themselves. Of course, I suppose that brings up the problem of spoilers—but since word of mouth is still the best advertising, the members would have to have some sort of guidelines about what to reveal or not reveal.
Tomorrow, my guest is aurhor Maryn Sinclair, who's going to be talking about knowing when your book is finished. She's giving away books, so be sure to come back!