The Book Club   –   Claire Minns

Posted on October 24th, 2017
Categories: News

So many books, so little time”. Frank Zappa.

One of the first recorded book clubs or societies, as they were referred to then, was formed in 1868 called Sorosis – not to be confused with cirrhosis, an affliction that could be quite apposite after attending too many modern day book clubs! However, I digress.

Sorosis was founded by a female columnist, Jane Cunningham when she and some of her colleagues were barred from a New York press event honouring Charles Dickens. Consequently, inspired by Sorosis, women across America began to form similar literary societies.

Jump to the Nineties, 1996 to be precise and we witness the advent of the Television Book club famously started by Oprah Winfrey where she selected on air, a book each month for viewers to read.

Following on in her footsteps, at the beginning of the Noughties, well known daytime presenters Richard and Judy in the UK also started a book club – the rest, as they say is history.

Today, women are no longer barred from many events or places except gentlemen’s clubs such as Whites of London and Kenya Fly Fishers Club’s annual bread chucking competition, sorry, dinner at the Muthaiga Club.

Instead we meet because of a sense of comradeship, love of reading and yes, if we’re honest, a spot of imbibing.

My husband still mistakes our book club for a wine club. As one male jokester quipped “My wife joined a book club. They primarily read wine labels”.

Nevertheless, aside from indulging in a glass or two and convivial bonding, one of the principal advantages of the book club is being introduced to a book you wouldn’t have ever dreamed of choosing.

One such book was recently foisted on us. It was about North Korea which didn’t sound too enticing. But it was. An engrossing, albeit harrowing read that has stuck with me. It’s called The Orphan Masters Son by Adam Johnson and incidentally, won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 2013. I would never have found this gem without my book club.

There are various modus operandi for book clubs. The most common usually involves around six to eight members who try to meet once a month. Each member takes turns to choose a book to be read and discussed at the next mutually agreed date. If the book choice was a success we discuss it for at least 20 minutes or so before turning our attention to other vital issues such as whose child got into the first team, or which Ottolenghi recipe is most favoured! If the book choice has bombed then it might just command a few minutes maximum of our deserving deliberations – cruel, but fair. Whoever chooses the book buys them for their group.

Receiving a pristine new book each month is a real treat. To feel that wonderful anticipation of a riveting read, after glancing the glowing reviews on the back cover.

Usually I rely on a Kindle to satisfy my reading addiction, mainly due to the ease with which you can acquire any book when there isn’t a Waterstones nearby! In contrast, it’s a pleasure to have a physical book that once read, you can then put proudly on your bookshelf.

I leave you with a quotation from the late, great Groucho Marx:

Outside of the dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read!”