I just read an article from Booksparks, a comparison of literary salons and book clubs. I must say that the article simplifies the role of each type of assembly. After reading this funny piece and in response to Booksparks question (“Check out our fun and silly infographic comparing literary salons and book clubs. Which novel group do you belong to?”), I have to change my definition of my own book club and now call it a “literary club.” Mine is a literary club because of its combination of a literary salon and a book club. How so?
How does my club differ from the typical book club and a literary salon?
According to Booksparks, literary salons are a selective gathering of likeminded intellectual individuals discussing the topic of literature. Book clubs, on the other hand, are a collection of people who found enough time in their busy schedules to talk about a book they half-read.
My Literary Club: What I used to call my book club has now evolved into a literary club. (I do not like the connotation of a salon with reference to academic matters.) There are 232 of us, a selective gathering of likeminded intellectual individuals who found enough time in their busy schedules to discuss about a book they finished.
If a member does not finish the book by the next face-to-face gathering, he or she is encouraged to excuse self from that month’s discussion and try again with the next book. We do not “half-read” a book, nor should anyone do or admit to doing such a thing.
How do we select books?
In planning ahead, the organizer solicits book suggestions from members on interesting and unique books that will cover months of reading. We respond with choices of what we would like to read. She sends out the titles of books that we gave, and we vote. The winning books are targeted for each month, so that we know months ahead what we are reading and can secure our books any way we wish.
Also, the organizer can suggest a number of books that she thinks are of literary significance and offer those. We share our opinions, and if we agree with her, those books/novels enter our reading list and are marked for an applicable month.
Who is invited to my club?
All book lovers are invited: scholars, academics, professors, pretty, single people, rich, retired folk, people with a spare hour, parents, college students, hopeless romantics, daydreamers, and bookworms. I find myself in as many as 10 of the categories here, but as Booksparks puts it, “Can we all agree that the best part of any reading group is the book?” Yes, we can!
For how long do we meet?
The meeting is set for an inflexible two-hour duration. We begin promptly with food ordering, find a seat, and begin with introductions and networking while the chef prepares our food. The restaurants we go to are also mindful of our two-hour meeting time. Therefore, they get our food ready within minutes.
Where is my literary club held?
We do not meet “online or in a neighbor’s toy-littered living room.” We meet in swanky eateries around town. For the first few minutes after we arrive, we greet each other, order our food, and we make small talks as we get to know each other. This is also a chance to network, and I have met some interesting people from all “works of life,” and colleagues: college professors and other teachers. We eat first and discuss the book after the tables are cleared.
What do we wear?
No member has shown up yet in clean yoga pants. We dress up for the event, not necessarily in designer cocktail attires, but we dress the part.
What food and drinks do we eat and drink?
As I indicated above, we gather in swanky eateries that do not serve alcohol so that we can focus on discussions and contribute intelligently without the inebriating effects of alcohol. Each person orders what he/she wants or none at all. With my high food allergy history, I stick with fresh fruits, fresh vegetables/salad, and water.
What do we discuss/do?
On a day with good attendance, we usually close off almost the entire restaurant. We do not discuss “kids, spouse, politics, upcoming events,” and any other personal and distracting matters. For the two hours of our gathering, we focus on the books in clicks of five to ten people since we try to confirm with the restaurant set up. We tried in the past to combine all the long tables, but it proved difficult to hear everyone, so we now stick with discussions in groups.
On book exchange days, we bring free books to give away to others and pick up books we would love to read. If someone picks up a book you brought, you can give a 30-second review on it. Because of my love of reading, I always take several books in a bag and bring home several books to devour.
After the major focus, which is the book, and if people form closer bonds, they stay behind and discuss kids, spouses, politics, and other upcoming events. I have done this with different people over the years since joining the literary club.
Thanks to Bookspark, I now view my book club (I mean, my literary club), in a different and in a more appreciative light. The image below was provided by Bookspark.