Ever since I joined Segullah three years ago (three whole years? seriously?) I’ve been wanting to form a book club with the articulate, intelligent, book-loving women who frequent this blog. Myself, I’m a book club person. Especially when my kids were small, I looked forward to my monthly book club outing with a little thrill in my heart. I also loved that being a part of a book club gave me an excuse to sit in my comfy chair and read for three hours straight. (“Don’t bug me kids—I’ve gotta finish this book by tomorrow!”)
Sadly, though, I’ve recently fallen off the book club wagon. My neighborhood book club was held on a night that was tough for me, and life with teenagers in the house has made evenings out even harder to pull off than when I had toddlers tugging on my jeans. I recently up and moved, too, and find myself without a group to even try and visit. So my dearth of book club options combined with my burning desire to talk to SOMEBODY about the final installment of The Hunger Games trilogy, Mockingjay, prompted me to get the ball rolling here at Segullah. It’s time, my friends! Let the awesome online book-clubbing begin.
After discussing things with my compatriots here at Segullah, here’s how we’ve decided to run things:
-The book club will run as an online discussion. Anyone and everyone is welcome to chime in, of course. I will post a handful of questions to get things started, but you are welcome to raise any point you’d like in the comments, as long as you abide by our commenting guidelines. And if you haven’t read the book and don’t want to know what happened? Spoiler alert! Don’t read the post.
-This is a quarterly book club. We figured once a month would be too much, especially since many of our readers already belong to other book clubs. The discussions will take place on the third Thursday of November, February, May, and August.
-Segullah staff will choose the books, which we will post on the sidebar (take a look to the right). We will read one book from four different categories each year: contemporary fiction (e.g. a work of fiction written within the last year or two); classic fiction (something you should have read in college, or did but didn’t quite appreciate, or did and appreciated but would love to read again); young adult fiction (we Mormons love a good YA read, no?); and creative nonfiction (either memoir or a well-written nonfiction book a la Malcom Gladwell’s Blink).
-Our picks for 2010/2011:
Thurs., Nov 18th–Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Thurs., Feb. 17th–The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
Thurs., May 19th–Room by Emma Donoghue
Thurs., Aug. 18th–The Year My Son and I Were Born by Kathryn Lynard Soper
-Speaking of book choices: We will do our best to choose books that are, broadly speaking, appropriate for our readership. However, it is important to understand that definitions of appropriateness vary and, ultimately, the choice as to whether or not you ought to read a book is up to you. What is gratuitous to you might not be gratuitous to others, and vice versa. Many of the books we choose will probably grapple with serious themes, since serious themes are the stuff of great literature. There might be instances of language, depictions of violence, or allusions to sex, but we’ll try not to go over the line. (But whose line? Argghh! I know!) Basically, we’re going to choose books that our literature-loving Mormon friends would probably read, but there’s a chance that some of these books would be deemed inappropriate for the shelves of Deseret Book.
As far as our current selections are concerned: Mockingjay is violent; The Age of Innocence deals with questions of adultery; Room is told from the point of view of a five-year-old boy who’s lived his life in a garden shed where his mother’s kidnapper keeps them captive (harrowing subject matter, to be sure, but the 5-year-old point of view makes things much less explicit); The Year My Son and I Were Born is our own Kathy Soper’s story of doubt and despair—and faith and hope. These books don’t gloss over life’s difficulties, but each is compelling and honest and, in my opinion, worthwhile. Even moral. (Although I am really anxious to discuss the level of violence in Mockingjay and whether or not it works for its intended audience.) So, while it’s definitely okay to express yourself if a book makes you uncomfortable (after all, that’s part of the book club experience), it is never okay to cast aspersions on another reader’s morality or righteousness if he/she finds a book you disapprove of compelling or moving. In other words: have all the opinions you want on the book, but personal attacks are never allowed. And yes, statements such as, “I love all you guys, but if you liked this book then I suppose you can discuss it to your heart’s content in the telestial kingdom!” will be construed as a personal attack. Even if you put a smiley-face emoticon after it.
So, everybody, get reading! I’m really looking forward to our Mockingjay discussion next month, and I know many of you are just as itchy as I am to discuss this complicated, compelling, and kinda problematic novel. (Mockingjay is the third book in a trilogy, so while it would definitely help to have read the first two books in the series, it’s not entirely necessary.)
Are you excited about our book club? Do you think it will work as an online venture? And what has worked (or hasn’t worked) in book clubs you’ve been a part of that we should keep in mind here at Segullah?