Today’s post comes to you from Allison Hill, CEO & President of Vroman’s Bookstore and Book Soup. The original article from 7/14/14 can be seen here on The Huffington Post.
I’ve never belonged to a book club. (Unless Oprah’s Book Club counts. Btw, still waiting for Oprah to call. #OprahIndieBkstoreTour.) But in my profession, I meet a lot of book club members. And I gotta say, they’re badass.
The gravity of choosing a club name. The ongoing battles to select titles. The no holds barred opinions and heated debates. Kicking members out for failing to read the book or stay on topic. The wine! These readers are the masters of their literary domain.
And they’re a force to be reckoned with in the publishing and bookselling world. “How do we reach the book clubs?” the industry cries. These dedicated readers who read at least one book every month. Some studies show that 24 percent of Americans don’t even read one book a year! And that includes Fifty Shades of Grey.
The names of book clubs are often amusing: Bookies, Happy Bookers, Book Bags, Cross Talking Bettys, Qwill & Swill, Literary Giants, Ladies of the Evening. (Though nothing can beat the book club in Lorna Landvik’s novel of the same name, Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons.)
But there is also the underbelly of book clubs. Pretending to end the club, then starting again under a new name so as to get rid of a member. Members who treat the group like a drinking club with a book problem. The contention over who gets the book club in a divorce.
In the reading world at large, some book clubs have become legendary. Kathy (Patrick) Murphy founded the Pulpwood Queens Book Club in 2000 in her bookstore/beauty salon with six members. Fourteen years later they have 3,000 members and their annual event draws 500 girls who just wanna have fun, and read.
With smaller hair than their Texas counterparts and, well, less clothing, there’s the Outdoor Co-Ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society in New York. Although the group’s main objective is to promote toplessness, they have certainly made the idea of book clubs more (forgive me) titillating.
And a discussion of book clubs isn’t complete without mention of Goodreads, the book website with an estimated 20 million members. Goodreads may be an online book club, but based on some of the posted reviews and discussions I’d venture to guess that members imbibe just as much as their real world counterparts.
It’s estimated that over five million people belong to book clubs. So I wonder how an avid reader like myself somehow missed the boat. Why am I not in a book club? How are they not reaching me? Is there a void in the book club market? I thought about what kind of book club I would want to join. A book club for writers in need of procrastination. (“Let’s all read the book, a second time.”) A book club for insomniacs. (“Everybody available the first Tuesday of every month at, say, 3 a.m.?”) A book club that serves tapas and chocolate. (That one can’t be too hard to find.)
Then I started thinking, what if there was a book club just for famous authors? Like the Rock Bottom Remainders, the band made up of published writers — Stephen King, Amy Tan, Mitch Albom, Barbara Kingsolver. I would love to be a fly on the wall when Chuck Palahniuk, David Sedaris, Anne Rice, Jackie Collins, James Patterson, and Zadie Smith get together to sip Two-Buck Chuck, nibble Brie, and discuss whether The Goldfinch is art.
For now I will stick with my book club of two: my sweetheart and me. We agree on the books to read. Scheduling won’t be an issue. And well, let’s just say, every book will have a happy ending.