James Atlas writing in the NYT on Sunday, March 23, reports that, by some estimates, there are five million Americans who gather every few weeks to discuss a book. These book clubs meet in someone’s living room, a book store, a bar and, of course, on the Internet. It was widely believed that book clubs were an urban happening, but Atlas says that isn’t true at all. In Waco, Texas, the “A Good Book and a Glass of Wine” book club has 21 members, women only.
Books clubs appeal to all varieties of readers. Some are for women only. Some are for seniors or those in their 20s and 30s. He reports that there is the “Queer Lady and Lesbian Book Club,” “The Sassy Sistahs Book Club,” The Smutty Book Club,” and so on. In the world of virtual book clubs, there is ZolaBooks and Goodreads to name just two.
Since reading is a solitary experience, book clubs give readers the opportunity to share opinions and different perceptions. Robin Henig, a journalist, says “It’s like sitting around gossiping about people, only you’re gossiping about characters in fiction, which is more meaningful.”
A new twist on the idea of book club gatherings is the professional book group facilitator. A writer, with a master’s degree in English lit, presides over three adult groups for which her fee is up to $300 a session. She also runs groups for children.
One of the downsides of being part of a book club is how time consuming they are. One group, Atlas reports, has dealt with that problem by focusing on poetry. Even though it is harder now to be fully committed to a book group due to the pace of modern life, people still crave that sense of community and exchange of ideas that book clubs provide.