Readers decry book club frustrations
Dear Readers: I’ve stepped away from the Ask Amy column for two weeks to work on a new writing project. I hope you enjoy these edited “best of ” columns in my absence. Today’s column topic: Book clubs.
Dear Amy: In my book group, we try to keep our discussions focused by following the reading group guides or questions provided by the publisher. Nevertheless, one of our members never fails to monopolize the discussion, and her comments are mostly off the mark or anecdotal. One of our members plans to call her out in front of the group at our next discussion, and I am for some other approach to avoid embarrassing her.
Is there a good way to keep people on the topic and to avoid longwinded personal testimonials when discussing our books? — Mary
Dear Mary: I ran your question past a few people who have been in longstanding book groups, and the consensus is that your group should spend some time at your next meeting restating and refreshing your goals — literary and otherwise.
It’s all about the fit in any social group, and if your group is more serious and literary, then you should all agree that your focus will be pointed toward the literature and away from personal stories or digressions.
The person who leads the next meeting should start by asking members to state their objectives, and the group should decide on very basic ground rules. One person who can direct the conversation, should moderate each meeting. If this one member can’t adjust to the style of the group, she should be encouraged (privately) to find another group.
As the author of a book making the rounds of book groups, I’ll weigh in and say that, although one person dominating a conversation is never acceptable, a group of people opening up a box of wine and straying from the provided questions is exactly what I had in mind as I was writing my memoir. (May, 2009)