Reading Journal (June 10): Book Clubs

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My big excitement this week is that I was invited to start a classics book club at my local library!

I had asked a librarian few weeks ago why there wasn’t a classics book club (only modern lit clubs), and apparently, it was because no one had ever offered to start it, so here I go. There’s also a crunch on space to meet at the library, so that’s part of it too. We’re going to meet once a quarter to begin with, starting with Oliver Twist in October.  It will take a few months to get the word out there, and I’m hoping once a quarter isn’t overwhelming, either on fellow readers and on the library space. If you live near Algonquin (Chicago suburbia), let me know!

Are you a part of a library book club or a different book club? Have you led a book club? Please share your ideas! I’m new to this.

I’ve recently joined another book club with some friends from my church congregation. The group reads a mixture of fiction and nonfiction, and it meets once a month. It also seems that they choose short works (such as less than 200 pages), so that makes it easier for me to get it read in addition to all my other reading! It’s kind of nice to have a modern fiction on my line-up for the next week, simply because I anticipate it is easier to read than my other books. I may have to make this “modern” reading a habit.

This week in reading, I didn’t make progress on some books, but I did read others at length: I finished Sandburg’s poetry and make lots of progress on Galsworthy. I’ve also skimmed a few of my Robinson Crusoe adaptations; maybe I’ll get that project done by next week.

No worries about the other books! I’m setting library due dates aside and reading what I want to read. In terms of the library books, I’m sure my books aren’t in high demand, and if I have to return a book (particularly The Arabian Nights, which is hard to read in one sitting), I’ll turn it in and then re-request it and have it for another six weeks. I’d rather not rush these things.

Currently Reading

My Books

  • The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy (580 read of 900 pages; fiction)
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (via, about 41% finished, estimated finish date of August 18) on hold
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling (200 read of 750 pages; children’s fiction) on hold

Library Loot, Old

  • The Arabian Nights translated by Husain Haddawy (140 read of 425 pages; fiction).
  • The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order by Samuel P. Huntington (100 read of 340 pages; nonfiction).
  • Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation by Cokie Roberts (audiobook, on disk 4 of 6, about 6 hours; nonfiction). I realized after I began listening that it is “unabridged selections.” I have no idea how much of the original has been excised.
  • Chicago Poems by Carl Sandburg (80 pages; poetry). FINISHED!
  • The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo (208 pages; fiction).
  • Robinson Crusoe adaptations: I currently have about ten adaptations and/or abridgements of Robinson Crusoe that I’m comparing.

Library Loot, New

No new Library Loot this week!

What are you reading this week?

Reviewed on June 10, 2009

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

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  1. How exciting! I’ve been running a classics group at my library since Dec 2006. We meet monthly, and I tell people even if they haven’t finished the book, they’re welcome to come. Most of the time, the books get read, except in months where the book we chose was one people really didn’t like. Then, it doesn’t matter if the book is short or long, it just doesn’t get read. We try to keep the books under 500 pages, though this year we have four that are going over that. When everyone voted for books, and I saw that, I tried to arrange them so that there were short ones on either side of the long ones. So that, for instance, we had Cry the Beloved Country and The Jungle on either side of Wives and Daughters. Our group has grown and evolved so much in the last few years, but it did help that I had a group of people already interested before I started the group. Now, hardly any of the original members remain for one reason or another, but we’ve added so many new members that we usually have 6-8 participants every month. That’s a good number. When you get much more than 8, the group becomes a little unweildy and everyone ends up in several discussions at once. We had 13 people for our discussion of 1984!! That was completely insane…

    Anyway, I could go on. If you have any questions, you have my address. I’ll do my best to help.

  2. I’m in a work-related book club, but I would say it’s only been a moderate success. Part of this is because no rules were ever established, so each month the designated leader (it changes each month) can really pick whatever she wants to read… so sometimes I’ve had to deal with people picking non-fic reads that are of no interest to me, or poetry and plays, when I really just want to read fiction. Also, we did establish one rule, and that’s that we aren’t supposed to pick overly long books, which generally means nothing longer than 300 pages, and I find that really limiting, as well. A lot of the books I want to read are much longer than that! I think stating from the get-go that your group will read classics, modern fiction, non-fic, etc., is probably a good strategy.

    I really wish I could find a good co-ed book club in the Nashville area. I’d really like to attend meetings with my fiancé, because he always has interesting thoughts on whatever he’s reading (and I love discussing books with him), but most books wind up being “girls only!”. There are a few groups run through our public library, but they always have awkward middle-of-the-day meeting times, which doesn’t work for us.

  3. Oh wow, this sounds so exciting!
    I’ve never been a member of a book club, I somehow could never find the time. I always wanted to though, so I’m hoping that once I’m finished with Uni, I can go out and find one that suits me. I would totally join yours though, I love the classics and to start with Oliver Twist sounds like a very good idea!
    I’m currently reading ‘The Age of Innocence’ via (thanks to you mentioning it, I had no idea that site existed. So Thanks!) and I have to read Henry Fielding’s ‘Jonathan Wild’ on the site for Uni. I’m also having a look at various Gothic short stories, trying to find the right ones for a paper I have to write. So my loot is pretty damn big at the moment.
    Anyway, this book club idea sounds pretty good and I bet you’ll have a lot of fun with it!

  4. I once tried to join my high school’s bookclub, but they were rereading Twilight for the umpteenth time and were not open to anything but Stephenie Meyer novels. I didn’t stick around for long.

    I’m really jealous of your new classics book club, Rebecca. I love reading the classics, especially when I can discuss them with others. Often times because of the 18th century prose and difficult language I miss something important. I think this is why I found Wuthering Heights to be such a poor novel. I didn’t understand and had no one to discuss the novel with, which is why I hated how independent my English class was this year. We all picked a novel off a list, read it alone, and then moved on to another one. No discussion, no essays, no analysis.

  5. Amanda, I’d love for our group to meet more often, but the librarian didn’t seem to think there’d be that much interest. I bet if we built it they would come! And I’d be happy with five or six. I’ll send you an email with another question.

    Steph, One library book club I went to was co-ed, but the others I’ve been to often seem to be only women by default. Why is that? Why don’t guys like to talk about books? Or are they just busier. I wonder also why they have book clubs during the day: even I, who stay home all day, wouldn’t be able to do that because I have a son (hence the reason I stay home!).

    Susi, Age of Innocence was my first book last year! I enjoyed it immensely. It’s crazy trying to balance all the great things to read, huh?

    Christina, that doesn’t sound like my type of book club either! Too bad. The reasons you give are the reasons I want to be in a classics book club: they just are harder to get through on our own! I don’t recall loving Wuthering Heights; I read it in college and discussed it there, so you may get a chance to discuss it there after all.

    Lezlie, you’re always welcome to visit! lol

  6. Rebecca, I’m not sure my librarians thought we’d have all that much interest, but they’ve been floored by how consistantly large our group is. I have to give them my numbers every month. It helps that they put our group on the website and also in their newsletter, plus I make a bunch of bookmarks to lay out on the reference desk for people to take. In fact, I stopped doing this last thing about six months ago, and we haven’t gained a new members since. We still have all our old members, but it surprises me how much the bookmark trick works. Which thinking of that, I’d better go make my bookmarks for next month since I need to lay them out Saturday…

  7. I’ve been running a very successful book club (not at a library) since 2005 – I’m happy to share tips or ideas with you if you want them. And in Sept. I’m heading a panel at our local book festival all about starting and improving a book club – I’m sure I’ll have lots of handouts for the panel that I’d be happy to share with you.

    Let me know if any of this would help. And YOU GO GIRL! Way to be proactive. 🙂

  8. Good luck starting your book club! 🙂

    I don’t tend to worry about library due dates either…but then I go and get sick and then owe late fines, lol. I’ll start The Arabian Nights today, and I’ll e-mail you my thoughts!

  9. Eva, thanks! I’m struggling with The Arabian Nights but I just found that Companion you’d mentioned and I think it will help. I look forward to hearing your thoughts too!

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