I’m not a joiner. As a child my mother enlisted me in all the things she thought might appeal to a pre-teen girl (ballet, piano, hockey, choir, girl scouts).
I dropped out of them all one by one.
That misanthropic attitude persisted into adulthood which is why some people find it surprising that I’m a member of a book club.
Once a month, I get together with nine other ladies and we talk literature.
And we take it very seriously.
This is not one of those ‘book clubs’ where people don’t bother reading the book, or there’s too much wine involved to have a serious discussion.
No. This is a club where everyone is fiercely intelligent, frighteningly well-read and very serious about their literature.
If you are a writer, then you need a book club like mine in your life.
And here’s why.
You learn what readers like, and what they don’t like
When you write full-time for a living it’s very easy to get stuck in your bubble.
Before you know it, the reader you are paying most attention to is yourself.
My book club consists of a very diverse group of women and each of us brings something different to the discussion every month.
It’s refreshing to have your opinions challenged, and very necessary.
Because readers come in all shapes and sizes and the more you learn what they like and don’t like, the more you realise what works in your own writing.
You will read outside of your comfort zone
Pre-book club, I thought I read pretty widely.
I was wrong.
Most of my book recommendations were from friends and family who shared my tastes.
It was basically a literary echo chamber.
We have a system in the club – a different member chooses our book each month. This rota works really well because we all have high standards but very different tastes.
I’m reading things I would’ve breezed past in a bookshop. Amazing, wonderful pieces of art like Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings alongside challenging classics like Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov.
You will become a more disciplined reader
The member hosting our club meeting is responsible for directing the discussion and asking questions about the themes, language, characters and plot.
It can get quite intense.
Which means you can’t pick up the book the week before and skim through it. You need to read it carefully and thoughtfully.
Knowing that you’ll have to form opinions on every aspect of the text, and then be prepared to defend those opinions forces you to pay attention.
You’ll be more aware of how the author uses language, subtle character development, plot discrepancies, imagery, themes and more.
In short, being part of a book club makes you a more disciplined reader.
Which makes you a more disciplined writer.