On Being in a Book Club

Book Club Books
A few of our book club books.

Our book club began in a grade school parking lot. A few of us who had pickup duty began talking about it, we each invited a couple of others, and the club was born in this most casual of ways.

It stuck, too. Unlike clubs that seem to work on paper but don’t in real life (because who knows why?), this one was rock solid from the start. If we’ve missed a month in all these years, I don’t remember it.

How many years exactly? Despite the fact that it’s been brought up often, no one seemed to know. Until our meeting last May, when we found ourselves getting serious about figuring it out.

One by one, we began throwing out clues:

Kathy was in it for at least a year before they moved. What grade was Joe in when that happened?

I remember we were at a book club lunch at Cinzetti’s when we heard that Pope John Paul II had died, so it’s been at least that long.

What year did The Da Vinci Code come out? That was our first book.

When we started we were mostly stay-at-home moms who met for lunch while our kids were in school. Our first meeting was held in a private room at the Houlihan’s across from the mall.

Now we meet in the evenings in each other’s kitchens or dining rooms, or on decks and patios if the weather is just right. Wine is involved.

We do have the tiniest bit of trouble staying on topic. Recently one of the two Marys in the club implemented a rule: the meeting starts at 7:00 and we can chitchat until 7:30, but then we have to start talking about the book.

We agreed to this reluctantly, but it, too, seems to have stuck. More often than not we follow the spirit of the rule, if not the actual clock. Even last month, when Mary wasn’t there to enforce it.

My favorite meeting of the year is the one where we choose our next batch of books. It feels like the first day of school, when school supplies are fresh and intentions are good. (This year I will read every book on the list.)

We each arrive at that meeting with a pick or two, and then we throw them out for discussion and come up with a syllabus of sorts. The other Mary is the transcriber of the list, and Vicki seems to be able to immediately commit it to memory. She always knows which book is next up in the rotation and she reads every one. My intentions are good, her follow-through is.

We finally landed on 2004 as the year the club began. That meant that our ten-year anniversary had slipped by without notice, which seems about right. It’s not that we take book club for granted, exactly, it’s just that it’s a quiet constant in lives that are full to the brim with other things.

But lives need the quiet, constant things, I think. The book that’s chosen for you that takes you out of your everyday life for a bit. The meeting that shows up on the calendar twelve times a year. And the friendships that are sustained by being around those kitchen, dining room, and patio tables month after month.

Are you in a book club? What’s your experience been like? What are you reading?

P.S. This year’s book list:

Carry on Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed by Glennon Doyle Melton.

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Death in Holy Orders by PD James

The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin

Left to Tell by Immaculee Ilibagiza

A Star for Mrs. Blake by April Smith

Before I Go to Sleep by SJ Watson

The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

The Boys in the Boat Daniel James Brown

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern


  1. Our book club is always a highlight in my month. Thanks for inviting me all those years ago!

    1. It really is something special, isn’t it? Glad we have it to stay connected.

  2. Five friends began a book club a few months ago . It is small, and some months there are only 3 of us. I think we need to enlarge it and include some people outside of our comfort zone, because often it feels as if we are just getting together and not part of a real book club. But we are all reading the books and talking about them etc, so I guess it is working. Just would like a different perspective sometimes. How many in your group? There must be a sort of “magic number” needed to account for absenteeism I think.

    1. Hi Sherri. We have 12. When we’re all there, it’s probably a bit much. Not sure everyone gets to be heard, especially the quieter ones amoung us. I know what you mean when you say it feels as if you’re just getting together. The bad news about friends in book clubs is that you have to struggle to stay on topic. The good news about friends in book clubs is that, well, you’re in a book club with your friends! Happy reading and meeting! 🙂

  3. I and a friend began a book club back in 2009 and we each invited another friend who invited another friend so we got a nice variety of women. We are now good friends and support for each other as we have gone through deaths, illnesses, surgeries and births of grandchildren. So it’s more than a book club as you know. We have 10 and each of us take a month and we take off two months in the summer. I love our book club! We keep track of what we read and how we rate it. IT’s interesting to go back and look over the last 6 years.

    1. Nanci, doesn’t the time go fast? It’s wonderful to think that you started as a group to discuss books and you got so much more than that in the bargain. Thanks for sharing!

      1. Shannon, congrats on the MBA. I hope you get to celebrate next summer with a lot of reading for pleasure. I’m glad you enjoy the book posts. Thanks for letting me know.

  4. I enjoy reading your book posts and bookmark most of them. I love to read but pleasure reading is on hold for another year while I finish my MBA. Between your list and others I have, I will have quite the list to look at when I done. And, your book group sounds like a wonderful monthly treat!

    1. Shannon, have you finished the MBA?

  5. I was in a book club once in Georgia and we had a rule that the person who chose the book that month went first and got to give their opinion. Then, we went around the room and everyone had an uninterrupted two minutes to speak, and after everyone had a turn, it was open discussion. It worked great.

    1. Great tip, Leslie Anne. Thanks for sharing.

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