Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Staging a Book Club Coup

Is it ever OK to stage a coup within your own book club? And, if yes, how does one go about it with stealth? Let me set the scene. I joined my local book club about two years ago. Up until then I was a book club virgin, so I had little experience with how such a club should function. For the first 6 months or so I seemed to really enjoy myself. The fact that we talked more about ourselves than the actual books we’d read didn’t appear to bother me. On reflection I think this was only because I was getting to know my fellow book club members. Well, that combined with a perceived duty of politeness. I was the newcomer. Who was I to question how the book club operated? Two years down the track and the meaningless gossip is starting to drive me mad. So much so, that I’ve actually missed the last two meetings with no legitimate excuse. It’s a book club. We’re supposed to talk about books!

I’m not the only one in the club feeling the stress of it all. In fact, I think a good 50% of the club are in total agreement with me. Outside of the book club meetings, we’ve often mused over how we think the book club should be run and why it doesn’t seem to work. What we all know for sure is that it’s a leadership issue. The original group broke in two about 4 years ago due to a drunken episode complete with racial slurs at a restaurant held book club meeting. A new organiser for the group was required and when no-one else put their hand up our current leader came to the rescue. But she never reads the book! Yes, I know how ridiculous it sounds, but it’s true. The organiser reads about 3 of the 12 books we choose every year. Do you know how frustrating that is? Arghhhhhhhhhhhhh… wonder we only talk about books for 10 minutes.

But it’s not just the fact that the organiser doesn’t read the book that bugs me. It’s the fact that there is never any guide to our book discussion. There are generally three or four conversations operating at once, so everyone is talking over the top of one another. And discussion questions - you’d think no-one had ever heard of them. Plus, there is never any clear communication about what book we’re reading next or what the next date for the club is. One month it’s a Wednesday night, the next it’s a Monday night. I can’t keep up!! I mean, what happened to planning, people?

Enough is enough. I have a few fellow members on my side and we are going in with purpose to the next book club meeting. Any tips you might have would be useful. Wish me luck.


  1. Good luck with this.... the way that our book club works is that whoever has proposed the book usually hosts the meeting at their house and basically leads the discussion - sometimes they have written a list of themes/points down - and sometimes it is just in their head - I definately think that it is useful to have a designated "leader" for each meeting.

    Hope that this works better in the future!


  2. Sounds like a mutiny is in order...LOL! But seriously, I would just go in and lay it out for them. If people balk at what you propose, then maybe you and your few fellows should think about starting your own group. Good luck and keep us posted!

  3. Have you considered the subtle approach? Perhaps next meeting you should try starting a gossip session pretending that you are talking about someone close to you but really refering to a character from one of the classics. If they don't get it then you'll enjoy yourself regardless! Think of it as atmospheric pscycological manipulation. You could write about it in your next blog!!! The glass is half full remember.

  4. Thanks for your comments guys. I particularly like Geoff's suggestion and fancy that Elizabeth Bennett and I could have been good friends, so maybe I'll start my subterfuge there. I finally managed to pin down what book we are reading this month. It's Markus Zusak's 'The Messenger'. Just finished it last night....adored it!! It's the second book I've read of his (the other was The Book Thief) and both have really stayed with me. Yay, for the Aussie authors!!

  5. You and your fellow book club members who are in agreement could always branch off and form your own book club. I think that might be the best thing.

  6. I hear you (SilverNeurotic)!! I'm giving it one last shot in June and if things haven't improved I think a few of us will move on and start a new club. I'll keep you all posted on the result.

  7. Meh! Give it away and start your own club. Life's too short and there are just too many great books to read and talk about.

    If you're even in Alice Springs... let us know. You can come to our Saturday morning coffee & books in Oscars Cafe.

  8. Thanks for the invite Amanda (and the advice). Have never been to Alice Springs, but Saturday morning coffee and books might just tempt me!!


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