Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Book group envy

When The Mathematician told me he was joining a book group I'm ashamed to say I was not entirely encouraging. I'd always thought of book groups as quite feminine affairs. (I realise at this point I risk losing any male readers I might have had). I do apologise for this blatant sexism, but my mental image of bookgroups was a gaggle of middle-aged ladies sipping wine and interspersing book talk with updates on school holidays and living with teenagers. I know - I'm old enough to know better.

Of course, rationally I do realise that book groups come in all shapes and sizes. There's no reason why a glass of shiraz can't be swapped for a pint of real ale or a cup of tea for that matter. Nor is there any reason why family talk can't be replaced by thoughts on the Manchester derby. And now, I must confess, I find myself suffering from book group envy.

Since its inception, the all-male Second Monday Book Group have read the following:

The Psychopath Test - Jon Ronson
From Russia with Love - Ian Fleming
The Outsider - Camus
A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich - Solzhenitsyn
The God of Small Things - Arundhati Roy

So why am I envious? Partly for their choice of books. Well, the Camus and Solzhenitsyn at any rate. There's something about the broader canvas - whether political or philsophical - that appeals. It's the pleasure of a conversation that begins with the book itself but then roams far and wide. I'd also like to escape from what seems to have become a comfortable rut of 'women's writing'.Then there's the muscularity of the debate. Only once have the Lancashire Ladies derided someone's book choice, and that was only by accident. The SMBG, by contrast, have no such qualms and tables have been thumped on several occasions.

I'm in a belligerent mood for book group this evening. Lancashire Ladies be warned!

8 comments:

  1. The only people I know in book groups are women, and they've never mentioned any men belonging to their groups. It might be a class thing: at least one group I know of meets during working hours and the entire membership consists of affluent married mothers who don't have paid employment.

    I'd really like to join a book group, but as a male university teacher of literature, I think it would be hard not to accidentally carry on lecturing, or get frustrated that the group doesn't take an 'academic' approach to the texts. These are faults in me, of course.

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    1. You might be right about the class thing, up to a point at least. I was inspired by Reading Groups for Everyone http://readinggroups.org/ at a recent event. Their mission is to broaden the appeal of reading and reading groups.

      I can see how it would be hard to resist the temptation to wear your lecturer's hat. Seems a shame though to miss out though.

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  2. The book group I used to belong to in Inverness was inhabited mainly by medics and was half and half on the gender stakes. It was fab and I miss it hugely as the book choices were so interesting. We used to meet in a hotel that offered both wine and beer. I couldn't even imagine what a book group with just one gender might be like!

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    1. That sounds like a great group Vee - it's a shame you had to move on.

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  3. Those are great choices for a book club, and the table thumping must be entertaining. My book group has one lone male, who often begs me to bring my husband along (Mr Litlove is obdurate, alas, and won't read the books, not that the other man cares about that detail!). Mind you, I'm sure I'd hate it if my own preferences were attacked, and I feel more comfortable with wishy-washy politeness. Being a fly on the wall at the other one would be fun, though!

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    1. Bravo to your lone male! I wonder how much having a mixed group changes the book choices?

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  4. Only one of the book groups to which I've belonged has had any men in it and it certainly brought a different dynamic to the group. Having said that, when I don't kine a book everyone does know about it:)

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    1. I think it's more fun when people disagree over a book, so good on you.

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