Book Clubs I Have Known
And (mostly) loved
By Ruth Moose
Tell me about your book club and I’ll tell you about mine. And others I have known.
First, let me say that I really love most book clubs. What could be more fun than to get together with other readers and book lovers — preferably with food? Though you have read the same book, everyone reads differently and brings to the discussion ideas to make your own reading wider and deeper. Or not.
My longest membership in one book club was 22 years, and even after moving, if it wasn’t so far away, I’d still be attending. During this pandemic year, we have not Zoomed. Don’t know that we ever had a name, but the club was mostly comprised of Chapel Hill English Department faculty and/or wives of faculty. We met monthly, and when a lot of us found night driving difficult, we switched from evenings to afternoons, rescheduling around teaching days for those not yet retired.
Not a fan of most nonfiction, I read some books I would never have bothered to pick up. Loved The Professor and the Madman, about the making of the Oxford English Dictionary, and The Immortal Cells of Henrietta Lacks. Both books not of my choosing, but I’m the richer for having read them.
A book club I briefly belonged to in Fearrington Village read only New York Times bestsellers. A lot of them were bombs, including one fantasy novel that was a single, long sentence. We finally issued the ultimatum that before one “picked” a book, one should actually have read it.
After my first novel came out, I was invited to speak to some book clubs. Boy, did I learn a lot.
One Raleigh club that had been meeting almost 50 years was invitation-only, boasting daughters and granddaughters of its original members. For speaking, I was presented a box of stale cheese straws.
Another club presented me with an organdy tea apron. That needed ironing. Once, I received a box of fancy soaps.
At yet another book club, while waiting to speak, I asked the person next to me what books the group had read this year.
“Oh,” she said over her china teacup, “We don’t read books. We just invite speakers to TELL us about the book.” Ouch.
Another book club in another town confessed the same.
One club told me that each member contributed one book at the beginning of the year. “That way,” she said, “We only have to buy one book.” Ouch, again.
A friend belongs to a Destination Book Club. Where they meet depends on the season; what they read hinges on the setting — mountains or beach.
Moving back to Albemarle, I immediately rejoined the book club I organized; one that began with Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. I had listened to it on tape while I painted a utility room. The minute I finished listening, I ran to the library for a print copy. I had to SEE this book, hold it. And I had to discuss it. So, I invited seven friends to my house, and we all dressed as a handmaid of our standing. No one came in red. I’m proud that the group is still meeting and will let me in by Zoom. I’m ready. I’ve finished the selection, Miss Benson’s Beetle, and I’ve picked my actresses to star in the movie: Bette Midler and Melissa McCarthy.
Can’t wait to hear what stars others have chosen.
I really do love book clubs . . . even the ones who don’t read books. OH
Ruth Moose taught Introduction to Writing Short Fiction at UNC-Chapel Hill for 15 years. Her students have since published New York Times Bestsellers and are getting Netflixed. She recently returned to her roots in the Uwharrie Mountains.
Her favorite children’s book? A tie between The Complete Adventures of Peter Rabbit and Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses.