Sunday, August 10, 2014

Book Clubs

What’s almost as good as reading books? Why, talking about books! This came to mind when I read an article in the San Francisco Chronicle (7/24/14, p. E1) about a book club of gay men in San Francisco. The club is composed of men from 29 to 75, of a range of professions; the common thread is that they all, in various ways, have worked for gay causes, whether as activists, health care professionals, educators, writers, artists, or fundraisers (among other roles). Some of them have been friends and colleagues for decades; the book group itself started 12 years ago. They read a variety of books: fiction, biographies, memoirs, books on historical or political topics, and more. They meet over dinners at members’ houses, thus combining the joys of reading, talking, dining, and enjoying compatible company. Reading about this group reminded me of the importance and pleasure of gatherings of groups, groups with histories, to talk about books and ideas, sharing experiences and ideas. I believe in the power of book groups in general, but such groups are even more powerful communities if they also represent common identities and interests. (Of course there is always, and should be, room for different opinions.) I have written here about the power and joys of book groups, and about the groups I have been part of. In fact, one of my very first posts on this blog (1/26/10) was about a reading group I have been part of for three and a half decades. Book clubs, reading groups, or variations of these exist in many forms, but in all cases, they provide wonderful opportunities to talk about books and ideas, and to form or reinforce communities and connections.


  1. I'm in a men's book club in Northfield, Minnesota. (Here "men's" refers to the members, not the books.) We include several run-of-the-mill academics, college administrators, a librarian, an attorney, etc. We all know each other beyond the book club; not unusual in a small-ish town. Pretty homogeneous group: all married with grown kids, impeccably liberal, know each others' families, horrified at the right things, support wives and daughters, yadda yadda.

    Yet there's an interesting sense in which it really *is* a men's club. Maybe fiction, especially, is read through sufficiently different X- and Y-filters that it makes a difference. And, politically incorrect as it may sound, there's a certain freedom in (occasionally) discussing books away from even beloved spouses and partners.

    Go figure.

  2. I enjoy hearing about people's book clubs/reading groups, so thanks for writing about yours, Paul! And although it is, as you say, a bit of a touchy topic, I agree with you completely that there are times when it is good to be with a group that is all women or all men. I am a staunch feminist, but/and I think there is definitely a place for such groups. (P.S. Always good to hear from a fellow Kodai alum!)


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