A Book Club Without Required Reading (or the Cheese Spread)


My first thought: “But wasn’t this so much more fun?”

My second: “Please no!”

I have nothing against book clubs. I’ve been a member of one — sometimes two — for most of my adult life. There was the book club with friends from my first job, for whom I singed my bangs making meeting-worthy lasagna. There was the club where we read the classics (I read the CliffsNotes); the one I didn’t join because my children were too little (a mistake); and the one I had to apply to (no thanks). There was the one I politely unsubscribed to because scheduling a meeting required 56 reply-all emails. There was the one at work, in a conference room overlooking the Statue of Liberty, where colleagues I’d found intimidating suddenly became dear friends.

And, of course, there’s the book club I’m in now, where we eat homemade soup and warm bread and someone’s old dog is usually dozing at our feet. Occasionally we talk about the book (chosen by the host), but mostly we talk about what’s happening in our lives or in the wider world, which usually has something to do with why we’re reading that particular book in the first place.

The idea for my new column, Group Text, sprouted out of the lessons I’ve learned from all this clubbing — and also from a sense that many fellow bookworms are ready for a new approach. We’re tired of prerequisites, bylaws and required reading. We don’t want to hide our junk mail before the meeting at our house. Years ago, I visited a book group where the host labeled her cheeses with little silver placards: Cheddar. Blue. Brie. This is the exact opposite of the vibe I’m going for. (And honestly, I know Brie when I see it. Maybe a little too well.)

The goal of Group Text is to take the legwork, guesswork and stress out of community-minded reading. It’s hard enough to find a date that works for everyone; the book should be the fun part — and it need not be one of the three that are making the rounds of the morning shows at any given moment. There are so many other books out there!

Each month I’ll pick one unforgettable, unputdownable, discussion-worthy novel or memoir. (For example, had Group Text begun in 2019, I might have picked “Patsy” by Nicole Dennis-Benn, “The Most Fun We Ever Had” by Claire Lombardo or “Know My Name” by Chanel Miller.) I’ll throw out a few discussion questions, but you don’t have to answer them; there’s no test. I’ll also include further reading suggestions, in case you’re eager to go deeper. Didn’t finish the book? Don’t like the book? Would rather watch Netflix? Not a problem. Group Text is a judgment-free zone.

The article was originally published by Newyorktimes


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