Our new neighbourhood book club met for the third time this week. The conversation was more spirited than meeting number two, with members erring on the side of brutal honesty over diplomacy. No feelings were hurt, that I know of, and the momentum to meet again felt strong. Key take-aways for me relate to communication and book selection.
Since the organizational meeting, we have been using the WhatsApp method to communicate. Creating a group text chat, I know from experience, does not work if everyone is on different mobile phone systems (Apple vs. android, for example). With Alpha book club (which is how I refer to the book club I have been a part of for twenty plus years), an email chain is used. We have a "secretary" who sums up the meeting for everyone afterwards, updates the schedule of upcoming books and meeting locales, and sends out reminders of an upcoming meeting while letting the host know how many will attend. The email chain can feel unwieldy, but the organizational aspect, thanks to a diligent secretary, is fairly flawless.
WhatsApp, so far, works great for our little fledgling Beta book club. Scrolling through the latest texts is simpler than scrolling through an email chain (with twelve people replying to various parts of the chain, I find the newest emails appear either all the way at the top or all the way at the bottom of the feed, for some mysterious reason). In this week's WhatsApp exchange, we were able to establish quickly how many would be at the meeting and where it would be. This time only one person brought wine, which we agreed should be the sole responsibility of the host. After the meeting, again this app worked great for discussing how to find the book we chose (more on that in a bit).
There were just five of us at this third meeting. One member conducted an exercise meant to get us acquainted with one another. We all wrote down our favourite book on a piece of paper, then matched the books with each member. Discussion flowed nicely. One person loved the book (two, including me), one person disliked the last third of the book, one had not finished reading it, and another disliked the book in its entirety. Another potential member I invited finished the book and liked it but was not able to attend.
The book was The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams. People who disliked the book thought the author became disorganized toward the end. She paired up various classics on "the reading list" with people who are going through different struggles. Yet the last two books on the list were barely mentioned, let alone instrumental in bringing people together. There is also a tragedy that happens part way through the book that a member thought was a wasted opportunity.
Attending members brought book ideas with them for the next meeting. We chose one, then discussed choosing a different one via messaging afterwards. Because the preference in the group is to choose books readily available at the library, and there were multiple holds on that book, we discussed a few options before unanimously agreeing on one with very few holds. (The Pull of The Stars by Emma Donoghue.)
As the hostess, I provided snacks and wine (veggies and hummus, vegan cheese, crackers and apple slices), and led the discussion, which I found to be very low stress. I pulled up book specific discussion questions on my laptop as well as general questions from an Oprah web site. We did not need many of the questions to prompt a fluid discussion.
In our message chat afterwards, we confirmed our preference for books that are readily available at the library or on hand in our own book stashes. We confirmed the next location, date and host. We also decided to move the book club time from 8:00 to 7:00. Hopefully, some of the participants with young children will be able to make that time work. The later time was originally based on accommodating members with young families.
Choosing an efficient and casual means for communicating between meetings adds a casual element to book club decision making. Opting to read only books that we do not have to purchase may cause some wrinkles as time goes on.