I'm so pleased to have this guest post today from Shireen Dodson, author of The Mother-Daughter Book Club and 100 Books for Girls to Grow On. Shireen reports from last night's National Reading Group Month event in DC. Shireen's books are the ultimate resource for not only mother-daughter book clubs but also for parents looking for wonderful books for their daughters. This sounds like a really interesting panel about different types of book clubs and I was fascinated to hear about their early history! For more National Reading Group Month events, visit the official site.
A small but dedicated group of the Washington chapter of Women’s National Book Association (WNBA) members gathered at the Sumner school to do what they do best--talk books. In honor of October being National Reading Group Month, WNBA, hosted a panel discussion about reading groups/ book clubs. The panel discussion was opened with a quote from Mark Twain "a person who won’t read has no advantage over the person who can’t read."
Emily Sachs, drawing from her Master’s thesis Beyond Oprah: An In-Depth Look at American Book Clubs, got the discussion started with a brief history of book groups/clubs. Her talk was very interesting and quite informative. Book groups can be traced as far back as the 1700s; they were small and usually also involved the participants preparing a written paper on whatever book had been read. In the 1700s and the 1800s the book groups were mostly men. Women didn’t start formal organized book groups until the 1900s. At first men were banned from their groups for fear that they would dominate the conversation. Women also did not always have the financial means to purchase books, and as a result they pushed for public libraries.
I then shared my journey with my daughters and our Mother-Daughter Book Club. The journey started when my daughter, Morgan, was 9 and in the 4th grade. We started a Mother-Daughter Book Club which lasted through high school. The group met monthly in our homes and through books discussed every aspect of life. The girls got to see that they didn’t have the only crazy mom with rules and the like and the moms got to see that they didn’t have the only daughter pushing the envelope. Friendships and bonds were formed that are still strong today. While no longer in a Mother-Daughter Book Club, both Morgan (now 22) and I still share and talk books.
Mark La Framboise, bookseller and trade book buyer at Politics & Prose, an independent book store, has facilitated the store’s Evening Fiction Book Groupfor 10 and a half years. Mark shared some of his philosophy regarding bookstores. He explained that customers expect the shelves to be stocked full of books, as well as the usual amenities of coffee, food, comfortable seating and rest rooms. His goal is to give them something special; in-store book clubsis one way of doing that. The store hosts 14 book groups and they service about 70 book clubs. The Evening Fiction Group stays away from best sellers, members often bring food and or wine to share and they currently pick books as a group. They pride themselves on being the no-guilt book group.
Lorine Kritzer Pergament, founder of three book clubs, rounded out the panel. Lorine talked about how her first two book clubs were a way for a group of stay-at-home moms to talk about something other than their young kids. Their only rule was no books on child rearing. After moving to Washington in 1984 she missed being in a book club and start her third book club in 1986. The club is still going strong 20 years later. The group meets in the evening during the week and usually discusses the book for about an hour. The discussion is often followed by some coffee and casual conversation. One interesting thing that the club does is to read the reviews of the book after the discussion. The only rule that this club has is that you cannot say that you loved or hated the book in the beginning as it can be a bar to conversation.
During the question-and-answer period an interesting discussion ensued over book clubs only reading a book in paperback and not hardback. The general consensus was that the issue was not only about cost but also about convenience. Paperback books are more convenient to carry around and read on public transportation. Depending on how and where one grew up one may be more inclined to get the book club selection from the library.
The meeting concluded with lots of "swag" which means stuff we all get. And stuff we all got, tote bags, book marks, books and the current reading circle guide.