or the last year, I’ve been on a book club tour, joining about a half-dozen different groups for their discussions of Sparrow Migrations. As the founder of my own book club more than a decade ago, I knew book clubs were cool. But now, I think they might just be the salvation of civilization. Here’s my top five reasons why:
1. They are an oasis. We all know we live in an era of fragmented attention spans, compulsive multi-
tasking and speed-of-light information overload. Yet on three occasions this month alone, I’ve been invited to join the company of women (yes, all women) who gather, face-to-face, for two hours or more for the sole purpose of discussing one book. I can’t remember when I spent two consecutive, focused hours that didn’t involve a screen. How refreshing.
2. They seek diversity. Most people join a book club at least partly because they want to expand their reading habits. Aware their own beliefs and backgrounds inherently influence their choices, they seek to escape that insularity. What a pleasant change from the confirmation bias and echo chamber mentality that plague both traditional and social media networks nowadays.
3. They respect different opinions. I’m happy to report most book clubbers have given Sparrow Migrations a thumbs-up. But they’re quite divided on their opinions of various characters – who is selfish (or not), who makes them angry, who they want to root for. Yet even when they disagree, they use their manners. Congress could learn a lot from the Last Girls, the Spider Lake ladies, the Novel Nurses and their sisters.
4. Their Jekyll-and-Hyde duality. Somehow, book clubs manage to be simultaneously stimulating and relaxing. The book and the conversation provide the stimulation. The intimacy of the setting (most clubs gather in members’ homes) the libations and the camaraderie among members provide the relaxation. It’s a perfect combination.
5. They endure. On average, the clubs I’ve visited have existed for 10 years. Most do spend the majority of their time on the book, contrary to the cliché that book clubs are just a girls’ night out dressed in tweed. But sure, chitchat about families, jobs, vacations and health concerns works its way in. That fosters camaraderie among members, and appreciation of the lenses each one wears when she reads. Who wouldn’t want to come back next month?
Next week I’ll be joining my first book club discussion long-distance. Members of the Arcadia News Book Club will be at home in the Phoenix area, as I will in Michigan, and we’ll connect via Skype. It might be a little different, but not much. After all, I’ll be sipping from what looks like a lovely bottle of red – that a local club gave me as a gift.