Have you ever dreamed of starting a book club?
Just a group of friends who meet once a month to chat it up about the latest book they read? Well, I have!
I was sixteen when I decided I wanted to start a book club. It was fairly ambitious, considering I’d just recently moved to the area and hardly knew anyone. But that didn’t stop me. I went to my homeschool group and announced I was starting a book club for anyone who’d like to join. This was going to be awesome.
You’d think it would be easy to find at least a few teenagers who enjoy chatting about books, right?
Two people showed up to the first meeting. One was fashionably late. Neither had read the book of the month (Pride and Prejudice, which was perhaps a bit of a mistake to choose for the first book of my little book club).
Now, for a little backstory (and an explanation for why I’d chosen such a hefty book), I’d spent the whole of the month rereading Pride and Prejudice, excited to share quotes and comments about Darcy’s character arc and discuss the wit of Jane Austen. My best friend can quote Pride and Prejudice back and forth in her sleep, so I chose it in honor of her. I wrote out questions to spark discussion, and designed cute little bookmarks featuring quotes from Elizabeth and Darcy, complete with little pink ribbons tied to the ends. I couldn’t wait.
Poor, naive little me.
I was excited, but I had expected the same level of enthusiasm from two people who weren’t as avid readers as I. But for the time being, I was happy that at least someone had showed up for the first meeting. So, I sat down, pulled out my copy of Pride and Prejudice, and got right into things.
As I’ve already said, most of my planning and preparations had been for nothing. The one girl who had started reading Pride and Prejudice hadn’t finished the book. The second hadn’t even read all of the first chapter. If you’ve read Pride and Prejudice, you know that the first chapter is very short. When I asked why she’d barely read any of it, she said she didn’t like Classics. At all. That broke my heart a little.
We spent the rest of the “book club” talking about the books she did like. She gushed over the Lunar Chronicles, throwing in spoilers left and right. It’s the only series she liked, she said – the only books she’d ever want to read.
Toward the end of the hour, I half-heartedly suggested we should read a mystery, perhaps The Hound of The Baskervilles, for next month’s read. When Lunar Chronicles girl heard me, she narrowed her eyes and asked, “So…are all the books going to be Classics?”
“N-no,” I replied, even though in all honesty, I’d planned to have quite a few Classics on the list. I was especially looking forward to reading The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, and I, Robot. “We can vote on other books too.”
In trying to please her, I hid that part of myself who loved the Classics. To this day, I haven’t read the Lunar Chronicles – not just because I know what happens now, but also because it reminds me of the time I tried to share my favorite books with two people who didn’t really care to be there.
At the second meeting, Lunar Chronicles girl didn’t bother to show up. The other girl did, though I think deep inside, she felt sorry for me and my naively enthusiastic attempt at a book club. The meetings dragged on for a total of three months before I called it quits.
And then there were none…
I found it sad then, and I find it sad now, that most people my age will never open the pages of a Classic and feel tingles up their spine when they think of the footprints of a gigantic hound, or laugh at Elizabeth Bennet’s sassy retorts, or feel relief after Jean Valjean and Cosette’s escape from Inspector Javert in the Cul-de-sac Genrot. My book club was an attempt to share these experiences of mine with other people. It was an epic fail. I learned not everyone is going to love the books I do. Not everyone is going to care to enter the multiple universes of fiction. And some people just like to gush over the only series they’ll ever read…while spoiling it for you.
Indeed, it’s a very sad truth, but Mr. Darcy was correct – perhaps more than he realized – when he said, “I am sure we never read the same, or not with the same feelings.”
What was your first book club experience? Have you ever met someone who didn’t like to read? Did you proceed to hand them your library card and a list of your favorite books? Tell me in the comments!