Book Clubs by the Millions

Ann H Gabhart Ann's Posts, One Writer's Journal

Since January seems to be my month for book club talks, I decided maybe I should find out more about book clubs. So I googled book clubs and came up with more than 7,850,000 hits. Wow! Then I read a December 2008 article in the NY Times about book club troubles and it said there were perhaps four or five million book clubs with the number growing. Wow again! So talking to book clubs is good and could conceivably keep me way too busy to ever write another word. :0! But I wouldn’t mind being a book club favorite.

Of course most every writer wants to be an Oprah book club pick or at least they used to. There for a while she was only picking books by deceased authors. That took a little edge off the desire to be one of her picks, but now I understand that she’s back to living writers. Her fans are certainly ready to listen to her advice. Her picks are usually bestsellers. And she did get people to talking about books more and about book clubs.

Book clubs have been around forever. According to the NY Times article they evolved out of old time sewing circles. I suppose women (and the majority of book club members are women although the NY Times article says there are co-ed and male book clubs) have always been ready to form a group for social, work, and educational reasons. There have been quilting bees since frontier times in our country. Of course the men had cornshucking bees or frolics. Then there were the sewing circles and homemaker clubs. And book clubs. I remember people talking about a book club in my little town when I was a young girl and I thought that had to be the best kind of club. But I have never been a member of a book club. So it’s fun now that I’m getting to talk to book clubs and hear what the members have to say about my book and about reading. I always want to know what else they’ve read recently or what they are planning to read.

Many book clubs are formed through church groups now and generally pick Christian novels, but not always. There are probably as many different kinds of book clubs as there are different kinds of books. A variety of picks would seem to make a book club more fun to me. That would introduce me to a book that perhaps I might not pick up on my own. My granddaughter asked me last week what were some books I might recommend for her. She’s a Harry Potter and Twilight fan, but not long ago she read The Robe. As I’ve said here on my blog before, I always give everybody in my family at least one book and the last couple of years I’ve picked an old favorite of mine to give Sarah who is 14 and an avid reader. Last Christmas it was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. This year it was The Chosen by Chaim Potok. As I told her when I sent her some other book titles, I like to mix up types sometimes just to stretch the reading muscles. I like mysteries. I like family stories. I like historical fiction. But I don’t want to limit myself to those categories. I want to be open to a good story no matter how it might be categorized. And when I think about all the good books out there waiting to be read by a young person Sarah’s age or anyone of any age, I imagine a big treasure chest just waiting to be discovered and opened. And that’s the great thing about book clubs. They’ve found that treasure chest and are discovering good stories.

I actually got to meet in person with a book club in London, Kentucky on Friday. That was even more fun than talking to a group over the phone. I like the phone call meetings too because I know I can’t drive to Minnesota or New York, but still it was fun to meet with this group in person. We talked a lot about the Shakers and the question everybody wants me to answer is how they could separate the mothers and the children. I think that answer is not something we moms in the modern era can understand. And I think there were mothers who weren’t happy with the answer then, but they didn’t have the same options we have these days.

After the meeting, I did a booksigning at Brookhaven Christian Books in London, Kentucky. A beautiful store with a couple of lovely owners and a very helpful staff. I hope all of you in that area shop there all the time. They showcased local crafts and books by Kentucky authors in the store. Christian bookstores are not like other stores. They have a special atmosphere you feel as soon as you go through the door. You know you’re in a special place where people will go out of their way to make sure your shopping experience is pleasant and that you will get the products you want and leave satisfied. You don’t have to worry about buying something inappropriate but instead everything there is aimed to lift your spirits and help you be a better person. I hope you all support your local independent bookstores.

So what are some favorite books you might recommend to a young family member and how many of you are in book clubs? Hope if you are you enjoy every book and every meeting. Talk to you again Wednesday. It’s supposed to be frigid around here toward the end of the week, but maybe the computer won’t freeze up. I’ve got to get going on my new Shaker book. I typed Chapter 1 last week, but I don’t think I’ve found the best beginning yet, so I’ll probably begin all over again tomorrow. If I keep trying, I’ll surely find the best way to jump into my story. Wish me luck.

Oh yeah, and thanks to all of you who let me know how things were going for you after you got my newsletter. I enjoy hearing from readers. I’ll announce the winner to my book give-away on Wednesday. Thanks to everybody who entered by sending me an e-mail. I’ll have another give-away soon.