Denman Gutter Masthead
Women woman reading book_feature

Book clubs: A book shared is a pleasure doubled (or tripled!)

Sarah Biggerstaff

When I was an undergrad English student, people often said to me…

“You do English at uni? So what, you just sit around all day talking about books?”

Well, the answer to that one was ‘yes, and no’. It wasn’t simply that we sat around saying ‘I loved Mr. Darcy, he was super dreamy’ or ‘Can you believe how cringe-worthy Mrs. Bennet was?’ We would talk in depth about the political implications of the work, its use of metaphor, its style of prose, how character development and narrative arc interwove to shape the overall structure of the novel. But, yes, at the end of the day, we were pretty much just talking about books.

I say ‘just’ with reservations however; you are never just talking about a book when you are talking about a book.

Since we have had the power of speech, humans have shared stories. Call it folklore, origins narratives, histories, or fairy tales, it seems to be an innate aspect of human beings that we like to share stories, and in doing so, share parts of ourselves. Whilst the pleasure of reading, and reflecting on what you have read alone is a richly sweet one, getting other people’s views on a book can totally change – and improve – your own way of thinking about it.

Even if you don’t necessarily agree with others’ take on it, at least you have considered another perspective. Then again, you may find yourself agreeing whole-heartedly with your group, and be able to relish the fact that your reading experience corresponds to something bigger, something outside of yourself.

I love making reading suggestions to friends and family (hence my nosey desire to tell you all what to read), because it is a chance for me to share something I have enjoyed with those I love. More than that, it becomes part of a shared emotional experience between people when you have all read the same thing, and responded to it in your own ways.

This is what I think is most appealing about a book club, it gives you the chance to bond with others over your shared likes and dislikes, or engage in a wholesome debate on an issue in a text. In these days of binge watching Netflix and Facebook stalking it’s nice to be able to do something a little bit cultural, a little bit social, and a little bit brainy. And that last point is absolutely no reflection on your choice of book either; I used the example of Pride and Prejudice earlier, but I don’t want to suggest that book clubs only exist to celebrate the fiction of bygone eras, or even fiction exclusively.

I’ve known book clubs that were dedicated to sci-fi/fantasy, to biographies, and to bodice-ripper romances, and sometimes, to no specific genre at all. That’s the best part, you can find a group that focusses on your own literary passion, or start one of your own. There aren’t any rules.

I am not currently a member of a book club, but I wish I was, because I miss those days from my undergrad years, when I could sit around with a group of people who shared my interests at least on some level, and discuss what it was about a particular book that spoke to us all in some way.

Book clubs are a great social experience, and can bring you into contact with fantastic books you might never have considered reading otherwise. They are also a chance for you to think a little more deeply about what you have read.

But at the end of the day, if what you enjoyed most about Pride and Prejudice was how dreamy Mr. Darcy was, ten-to-one you are not alone. You just have to join a book club to find that out.

There are a number of book clubs that operate out of HerCanberra’s Click + Connect Facebook page. Simply ask to join and we’ll add you to the group! 

user

Sarah Biggerstaff

Sarah Biggerstaff is a literary enthusiast, from Canberra, with a Masters degree in English Literature from the University of York in the United Kingdom. She is currently in her first year of an English PhD, the focus of which is British women’s fiction from the inter-war period, with a particular interest in feminist readings of these novels. Sarah hopes to one day write books, as well as review them, and in the meantime, is happy sharing her passion for books with others. More about the Author

  • Robyn Petkovic

    Hi Sarah! Loved your article about reading books and sharing your thoughts. Am currently reading “Me Before You” by Jojo Moyes after a friend recommended it. Always a good sign! She said that the book was so much better than the movie! Will probably not see the movie as the book is so enthralling. Reading is just amazing as it can transport you anywhere anytime and give you so much pleasure. Good luck with your PhD. Cheers, Robyn Petkovic

    • Sarah Biggerstaff

      Thanks so much Robyn! Glad you enjoyed the article.

MEJ Leaderboard