I’ve been a member of at least 5 groups over the years that i can recall. And I’m pretty sure that I’m out of it for good now. There are so many reasons not to care for book groups, so I’ll just enumerate the ones that drive me particularly batty.

On the literary side, I just don’t get excited to read certain types of books. The last book group I participated in, and the last book that I read with them, was White Noise by Don DeLillo. And I hated it. I don’t generally like postmodernism, especially when I feel like someone is prying open my mouth and forcing it down my throat. Generally, I feel like it’s all so bleak just for bleak’s sake. Some sort of sign of the end of the world, and I don’t dig it.

I was, very briefly, in another book group near the same time. Against my better judgment, I joined it even though it was a bunch of gals from my church. I believe that god has a place but it’s not in every ruddy thing that I read. And i was “assured” that it wasn’t going to end up being some religious hokey thing. Blerg again. One month we read The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglass and then next something about Elijah. I dunno. I can’t recall anymore. The point is: I would never choose to read these books. And I felt like I wasted time I could have spent reading something else. Now, I realize that to some extent, book groups are designed to get you to read outside of your box, but not to the extent that I feel like i am a puppet in someone else’s agenda. And I’ve found this to occur even when carefully hand-picking my group. I always end up selecting a bunch of very differently minded folks, hoping that will generate a good discussion. And then, ick.

The other thing I can’t stand about book groups is one’s that are more of a social hour than not. The churchy one i was in ended up having roughly half of the women who showed not read the book, consistently. And that’s annoying. It’s even more annoying when they try to engage in the conversation by picking on some theme that folks who have read it are discussing and then moralizing on that theme–in a way that tells you they did NOT read the bloody book. Ugh! Book groups can be social hour, but not at the expense of a real discussion on what moved you, concerned you, what you hated what you liked.

I think that’s why, despite my love of nearly all things Jane Austen, I could never make myself finish The Jane Austen Book Club. I really didn’t care about their whiny lives, which incidentally is the same story in The Reading Group.

I do take frequent recommendations from others on books to read, so I’m not missing out on a more varietous book palette by not participating. And I find that after I’ve read a book a friend recommends or vice versa, we end up chatting amiably about it over an extended lunch some day. Unplanned. Unrehearsed. Honestly. And that is a far superior experience to me.