Let’s make this clear in the very beginning: I’m no good with bookclubs. I get offended when I’m not invited, but I also get annoyed at equal measure if I am invited and then have the pressure to attend the tedious meetings. This happened to me recently. I said yes to a bookclub invitation. It was women only (this seems to be a thing. As if reading were somehow gender-specific). I went to the first session and tried to hide it (including from myself). An awkward group photo was taken in front of the host’s bookcase (obviously) and posted on social media for everybody to see (obviously). I am still mortified.
There was very little talk about the book which we were assigned to read (I hadn’t). Instead there was talk about breastfeeding (does not resonate with me at all), about the white wine we sipped and the oven-roasted root vegetables we ate. Further meetings followed, accompanied by a lot of tho and fro of emails instructing us how to get the assigned books (downloads, anyone?), where to meet, who would host. I never went again. Which is very awkward as I never ended up hosting a session myself. But I just couldn’t. Had there been one book I would have been remotely interested in, actually, still no. Why?
Reading is a solitary exercise. It’s a bit like masturbating (yes I know some people do masturbate in groups). I want to choose the time when I feel like doing it. It cannot be scheduled. I do it for myself. When I set to read, it’s me choosing the book, the time, the rhythm, the place. It cannot be forced. When I’m reading, it’s me and the book. It’s my head, my imagination, thoughts, fears, angsts. I would feel very strange having to share the experience with a group.
Reading is extremely personal. I often cannot put to words exactly what I’m feeling after having finished a book. Very often it creeps up on me only much later. I might memorise cheesy snippets that have particular meaning for me. I could never explain to a group of people why certain things have or don’t have importance to me. Sometimes I don’t know it myself, until much later. I often read several books simultaneously. Depending on the day, I might have the need to change the genre, to go for something light, or I might need something dark. A few pages of self-help now and then. Books are friends, not something I need to perform at.
Time is of essence. There is not enough time in the world to read shit books. This is probably my biggest problem with bookclubs: having to read books I don’t care to read. There’s so much I’m desperate to read that I cannot fathom wasting my life reading random books that I have no interest in. I don’t like the idea of scheduling, either. I read whenever I feel like it. And after I’ve finished, I have no particular need to chat about my thoughts with colleagues and other half-acquaintances.
Autumn is the season for setting up different kinds of groups to help pretending the depressing darkness can be fended off by lighting a few scented candles and having a group of colleagues over to discuss meaningless novels (or, worse, meaningless non-fiction). Interestingly I have not been invited to the bookclub from last year. Maybe it was never set up again. Maybe it became obvious that I have no intention of showing up anymore. Whatever the reason, I don’t really care that much.
So, I’ve ruled out membership in bookclubs and women’s groups. I’ll think of acceptable forms of social interaction if I can think of any, and let you know. In the meanwhile keep inviting me. I might never show up, but will be crazy-mad if not invited.