Book Club Experience

For my book club observation, I visited the book club my mom runs. She has run it for at least six to seven years, and while it’s something I’ve been aware of and made suggestions for books to read for, I’ve never actually been to a meeting. This is in large part because of when they meet—midday on the first Friday of the month—and what they read, which is not to my taste for the most part. I didn’t have time ahead of the meeting to read the book, so I simply observed, and I made them aware that I was observing for a class assignment. This was because they all know me and would think it odd if I showed up to a meeting and didn’t participate.

The group meets in the parlor at our church, a mid-sized, comfy room with couches and armchairs scattered in a loose circle around the room. My mom, the creator of the group, normally prepares a snack, which is most often a coffee cake or something similar, and sets up coffee and water to drink. This is all set along a sidebar in the room, for participants to grab as they come in and get settled and so they have access throughout the meeting.

My mom is the de-facto leader, but at least the meeting I attended, she didn’t need to do much in the way of leading or moderating. She says that’s not always the case, though. She opened the meeting simply by asking if the participants liked the book, and they got to talking! The group created their own kind of flow of discussion, moving from one topic to another pretty fluidly, and didn’t need any prodding to go. They did get off topic once or twice, but were able to get back on topic relatively easily. When she did ask questions, they were more open-ended. She asked if the participants liked the character’s mother or about their impressions of the protagonist’s relationship with her husband.

As for the participants, there, of course, were a couple who were more talkative and a couple who were quieter, with everyone else in the middle. One woman in particular seemed to kind of take the reins of the group, taking it upon herself to ask questions of the group and then intersperse her own opinions in with the others. Knowing her, I took it that she just couldn’t help it and likely didn’t notice—she is a retired English teacher! Between her and three others, the conversation went along well. The other three spoke a lot less often, but still had good points. No one (other than me) kept silent through the discussion.

The group reads a mix of literary fiction, women’s lives and relationship, historical fiction, and some non-fiction. For March, they read The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin and will read The Girl With Seven Names by Hyeonseo Lee for April. They generally pick the next month’s book at each meeting, and members are encouraged to bring suggestions. They decide on the book by a written vote of those attending.

All in all, I had a good time attending the book club. In some ways, the atmosphere reminded me of the literature classes I took in undergrad, and it was a nice feeling, to be in a room filled with people discussing books again.


  1. Hi Rachel,
    Do you know if your mom uses book discussion guides or if she just kinds of wings it when she asks questions? I'm all for open discussion, but think that if the group got stuck, the discussion guide might come in handy. Although I will say that it sounds like the group is familiar and comfortable enough that they may have plenty to discuss without needing a lot of prodding.

  2. Did this sway you to ever attend one of your mother's again? Also, excellent observations, full points!


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