by Caren Crane
Most people here in the Lair know me well enough by now to guess that I'm not much of a "joiner". I pretty much eschew clubs and organizations of all kinds, unless they pertain to romance writing. But a few weeks ago, I joined a...book club.
I know, right? I was at an ice cream social at work, where we were supposed to "network" (another thing I'm not too keen on). I happen to know someone who works in the swanky executive center, saw her at the social and she eventually invited me to join this book club. Under the influence of Ben & Jerry's, I said, "Yes."
The book club is made up of employees (and one former employee), most of whom work in the aforementioned swanky executive center. I work in the not-nearly-as-nice building a block away. The club meets at a different upscale eatery once each month to discuss a book chosen by one of the members. I could tell these people do not read genre fiction. I was right.
Yet, I was intrigued by the idea of joining a book club. I've never really done such a thing. Sure, I discuss books constantly with my writer friends - even with family members - but I haven't been in a club. I was also a little skeptical. Whenever I read the "book club questions" in the back of mainstream fiction books, they make me roll my eyes or scratch my head. (Never both at the same time. I'm not that coordinated.)
We had our first meeting Friday and were discussing Ann Patchett's "Run". This is a book I never would have picked up on my own, but enjoyed. Sure, I had trouble believing some of the characters' motivations, I found the primaries a bit unsympathetic at times and some of the author's research was heavy enough to sink a battleship, but it was surprisingly enjoyable. Even more surprising, I was able to discuss the book like a reader with only a few annoying writer-like comments slipping in. It was freeing.
I know people get their hackles up when romance fiction is described as formulaic, but it is - in the very best sense of the world. We know that no matter how unlikely it seems during the black moment, the hero and heroine will somehow find their way to a happy - or at least hopeful - ending. With mainstream fiction, however, there are no guarantees. I found it interesting to read the book and guess what might happen next, to speculate about how the story would end, but really have no clue.
I have tried over the years to read more broadly and not get boxed into a romance corner. But I love romance and, after struggling through other books, I run back to the comfort of my most beloved authors time and time again. I find that no matter how satisfying another sort of book is, I am always hungry for romance.
Next month, my book club is reading a memoir by a chef. The month after that, a book on discovering your psychic type. I am not sure how I will like these books about sautéing and figuring out what sort of intuition I possess, but I will read them dutifully and be prepared to discuss them at the appointed time. I'm a bit nervous about what book I should choose when my month rolls around and I'm equally concerned about finding an appropriate restaurant for our discussion.
I like my new book club friends, I was pleased to find, and I hope they will like me. Especially after they are subjected to my book pick! This group is different. It is definitely a club. But maybe I have become someone who can join a "club" every once in a great while without having my individuality threatened. I'll let you know after the chef and the psychic.
Have you ever been in a book club? How did it work out? Do you read widely outside the romance genre? And most importantly, do you have a book you would recommend when it's my month to choose?!