Post by contributor Ninna Gaensler-Debs
It was getting to the point where no one would go to bookstores with me -- and I spend a lot of time in bookstores. I wasn’t trying to be obnoxious; it was just that, as soon as I spied a familiar title, I couldn’t help spouting opinions, fun facts, or whatever else came into my little head. Shockingly, most people just want to pick out their own books without a running commentary, thank you very much, and I realized I needed another outlet to talk about the things I read.
I was initially vehemently opposed to joining any book clubs; in my mind such an act would be analogous to purchasing jeans with a stretchy waistband, or taking up scrapbooking (i.e. really lame -- sorry, scrapbookers). It took me a while to realize that book clubs don’t have to be lame. If I created my own book club, I could outlaw Twilight or 50 Shades of Gray or any tome with the phrases “heaving bosom” or “throbbing member.” If done right, a book club could actually function as it is supposed to: a space for great people to have interesting conversations about the things they read.
And so, Emperor Norton’s Literary Society was born. (If you don’t know who Emperor Norton was, read up on him here. He’s awesome). And so far, I think it’s been going pretty well. A couple of caveats: the club has only been around for a couple of months, and our last meeting has been delayed due to members (normal, non-throbbing) not reading the book in time. So we’re not perfect. But I think I’ve started to get the hang of what makes a good book club, and I thought I’d share my tips with you fine people.
1) Narrow your focus. You don’t have to have a theme (although we do -- we only read things that have some pertinence to the Bay Area). You might choose a genre, or even just what kind of books you will exclude (see above reference to Twilight).
2) Choose members carefully. You don’t want snarky know-it-alls (like myself...I mean...wait...), nor do you want people who will show up every week and say “ummm, I read the first 17 pages...”. You definitely do want people who are enthusiastic about the idea of a book club because, if it starts to feel like homework, you can be sure that nobody will be reading the assigned pages. Speaking of assigned pages...