It’s day 3 at Book Expo America 2012, and I’m still participating virtually through Armchair BEA. Today’s suggested topic, Networking, is a bit of a stretch for me, but I’ll do my best to write something that is marginally on topic. I don’t get out much. I get really nervous around crowds of people, so events (such as book releases or book signings) really aren’t my cup of tea. I’m new to blogging, and this is my first foray into the community. So I was stumped when I saw today’s topic: “We’d love for you to share a positive “real life” experience with books! Either by way of your own partnerships in your community, a book signing you went to or possibly even a get together with fellow book bloggers.”
Hm.. I don’t have any partnerships in my community; I’ve only attended two book signings (ever), one for Neil Gaiman’s release of American Gods (2001) and the other for Anthony Bourdain’s release of The Nasty Bits (2006); and I’ve never been to a get together with other book bloggers. Generally, I am such a literal person that the words “either…or” really do mean to me that only the options included in the either/or statement are acceptable, but I’ll just have to be creative.
A few years ago, just before the release of Harry Potter Book 7, some friends and I decided to form a book club. It was relatively short-lived but enjoyable while it lasted. The best thing about it was that we all had such varying tastes that we were guaranteed to be forced to read something outside our usual comfort zone. We read (and I hope I’m not forgetting anything): Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling, Embers by Sandor Marai, A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why by Bart D. Ehrman, East of Eden by John Steinbeck, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, The Problem of Pain and A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis, and Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin. I’m fairly certain I’m the only one of the four (sometimes five) of us who finished the last three on that list, but I’m glad I did (they were good!).
I am in favor of book clubs. Too often, I get in the habit of reading, reading, reading without ever thinking about what I’ve read. Sometimes, 10 books later, I can’t even remember the plot or character names of a particular book. But when I have to discuss the book and what I thought and felt about it with a group of people, whether my good friends or total strangers, I have to think about it. That book ends up making a stronger impression on me because I took the time to think about it, internalize it, and formulate some thoughts about it. Four years after reading East of Eden, I can’t tell you all the plot points, but I can remember most of the characters’ names, and I can tell you what I thought about that book. I can even do that for my least favorite of the books we read (Misquoting Jesus and A Walk in the Woods). Besides, the book club was totally worth it just to get my best friend to read Pride and Prejudice. That was a bucket list item, for me.
Ultimately, life got in the way, and our book club fizzled out. Some of us got married, some started having kids, some went back to school, all got busy. Eventually, I started this blog both as a creative outlet and as a means to force me to think about what I’m reading (even if it’s not very good). When I write about books for my blog, my approach is similar to the one I used in the book club–no sense talking about the plot, unless it’s remarkable; focus on the one or two standout things about the book (whether good or bad). I’m beyond glad that my friends and I did that book club for a time. It was a very positive book experience! 🙂