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!