Wednesday, September 15, 2010


A few months ago I gave a talk at a local library. When I asked if there were any book clubs in the area, I was told about an interesting one that has been around for over ten years.

Two things I like:

1) They meet in a bar.

2) They don't read an assigned or chosen book. Instead, everyone brings the books they've read in the past month and tells the group about them. They swap books and give away books. They rave about books, and they slam books. I've been to two meetings, and the average number of books discussed in a single meeting is around 30. Not sure how many beers are consumed.

What I've learned about myself:

I will never again read a book as a reader. This is pretty much understood by all authors, but it really hit home for me as I sat among these women who were so passionate about books. Even though I'm a writer, even though I immerse myself in the world of writing almost every waking hour, I felt like an alien in this group of book lovers. Wonderful, interesting, friendly people I felt I had nothing in common with. Isn't that odd? Me? Someone who has been writing for twenty-five years? Someone who started writing because I loved books?

Since the meeting, I've tried to analyze my feeling of alienation. I look at fiction from a totally different perspective. I read to get the feel of a novel and check out the writer's voice. And here is the scary part: I rarely finish a novel unless I'm reading to supply a cover quote. I don't need to read the whole thing, because finding out what happens isn't why I read. I read to check out the book, to get a feel of the author's voice and the mood and tone of the story. Even novels I love go unfinished. Because that sample is all I need to answer my questions.

Will I go to another meeting? I don't think so. It made me a little sad, but I think it was more about a poor fit. I love hanging out with other writers, talking about books, talking about the business, but I can't be a reader. Not even for an evening.


  1. I crossed this line the moment I got published. It's sad, because I loved being a reader, but there's a certain innocence I'll never get back when I open up a book. I can't fall in, get lost, immerse myself. I think I'm cynical now.

  2. Julie, I can't believe I was naive enough to think I could go to a book club and sit there like a reader. ha! I felt like an impostor. and I WAS!!

  3. I'm relieved to know I'm not unique in this. Now I skim books occasionally, and I read non-fiction now and again. I've started keeping a list of "Books I'll read someday when I no longer am writing". Don't know if I'll ever read 'em, but it's a way for me to note books that at least intrigued me at the time.

    I hear other authors talk about reading so-and-so's book and I wonder if they really do it, and if so, do they have a mental critic in their head while reading?

  4. Worst thing ever with my book club. Having them discuss my daughter's book, which I didn't think was a bad idea when someone suggested it.
    The only good thing about book clubs is that you get to spend time with nice women (or in my case, at least).

  5. oops, meant JuliA!

    JL: This is something I've felt guilty about for a long time, but never really stopped to explore my feelings.

    Patti, i can see how that could have been awkward. And yes, I was thinking I'd like to hang out with these women, but not talk about books! anything but books!

  6. note to self, never write book

  7. I can't imagine losing my love and passion for books.

  8. flip, i think i'm still passionate but in a different way. i'm more in love with writing and analyzing writing than i am reading to get to the end.