Eve of Destruction on Book Clubs: In Person and Online

If you are reading this column, you most likely read newspapers, blogs and e-mails on your computer, magazine articles or trade papers, your mail, magazine covers in the checkout line at the supermarket, and, quite frankly, can’t sit still with a bowl of cereal without reading where sugar places on the ingredient list, even though you know it won’t be past third. You are an experienced reader.

Dan wine with ivySo, following that train of thought, have you been able to avoid joining a book club yet?  I am only an actual member of one, but I have a nasty habit of reading what I find others are reading in their clubs. Curious as to what all the discussion might be about, but, simply not enough time in the day to go to another meeting.

The other book clubs I’ve joined, and I’m still deciding if I can even call them book clubs, are online. One Signal reader, or so I thought he was at the time, asked me to join my first one, the others I found on the LA County library website.

In this column I will synopsize, as much as I can, how we are all reading. And what some of you might have actually missed.

The first club I joined was a mother/daughter book club. First I thought we’d all be reading Jane Austin or Charlotte Bronte. But, since our kids were ten when we started, it was better that we read our books while they…played.

As they grew, they did choose their own books and one of the dads lead their group. We are still doing it that way. The only thing that makes it mother/daughter club is that we enjoy separate but equal space in the same house.

I highly regard the researched selections my Unitarian Universalist church’s book club has made. I wait for them to read a particular choice and then ask what they thought. Many of their books have already been covered previously in this column.

GoodReads.com is a “book club” you join on line. List your favorites, write a short review if you like, see who in your zip code might be reading the same, then e-mail your friends to join and become your “friends” on GoodReads. When a friend updates their list you get an e-mail to see if you want to read what they are reading or just send them a comment. I found a fellow Signal writer, or so I thought, but so far he doesn’t want to be my friend. Must be busy.

From someone that does want to be my friend: “For the past 3 years, I’ve written a column in my local mom’s club newsletter called of all things ‘Good Reads’. I asked you to be my friend because your picture was right next to my profile on who was on line. I looked at your profile and we had a lot of the same books. I’ve really been relying on Goodreads for book recommendations.” And from the GoodReads website: “You’re no longer alone. Goodreads hit the million member mark this month, with members in more than 200 countries!”

The first club I joined through the library is called DearReader.com. I e-mailed everyone I know again but then realized you only get a “snippet” of the book. But I still dig it. It works like this: sign up through your library portal, pick the book club you want, ie: fiction, romance, mystery, young adult, etc., then Monday through Friday you get an e-mail with no more than five minutes worth of reading of the book per day.  Their website boasts: “Join my email book club. Over 350,000 people read 5-minutes a day.” (Kind of reminds me of the 5 servings of vegetables a day and thirty minutes of exercise, meant to do a body good.)

Enough to pique an interest; and then you are prompted to request any book previewed from your library.  At press time I’ve read for three weeks and have learned quite a bit about Veterans, Kung Fu and Hurricane Katrina that I didn’t know.  It allows for an opportunity to sample more than the book jacket or buying the book because of your familiarity with a writer.

“Dear Reader, Remember to keep the book club fun. Read guilt-free! If you get way too busy, go on vacation, or don’t like the book for the week—hit that delete key. Time is precious. Please don’t feel obligated to read something that isn’t a good match for you. Over 367,000 people read at the book club every day, so it’s difficult to pick a winner
for everyone, every week. And that’s one of the reasons I offer ‘extras’ at the book club.”

I sent a note requesting information to add to this column and got a return e-mail for one of their “extras”.  I expect to receive a free book any day now… 

Also from our libraries, though not a “club”, is a newsletter you can receive via e-mail of what’s new and available at the library, in the genre you choose, called NextReads.  I chose audio books and my first e-mail came with a short synopsis of 10 different new books, complete with the library link to order. Before this I used to go to Amazon books to look around and then back to the library to order. This saves me a step and some time.  And having the e-mail reminder helps me to have another book handy before I finish my last.

At the library’s site for NextReads.com you will find that “These newsletters are sent out by email – some are monthly, others bimonthly. Each list contains suggestions of titles you might enjoy, with full descriptions and book covers included. All titles are linked to the Library’s catalog, which makes them easy to request. “

Then I signed up for NoveList through my library too and am just learning how to navigate. The site is geared for readers as well as librarians, teachers and parents. “NoveList is a comprehensive readers’ advisory solution for fiction lovers. With its intuitive interface and extensive feature content, NoveList will help you to answer the question of what to read next.”

Lastly, from the library’s “downloadable books”, I did find a way to borrow an e-book that I could read in its entirety via my Adobe Reader program.  I like having the whole book in my computer, being able to enlarge the fonts, flipping a page with my mouse, not having to find a bookmark, and, finally, there is an option to have it read outloud.

I searched the web and found this interesting site that serves 12804 book clubs: www.bookmovement.com. “The Preview & Review” program “introduces new titles to members by giving free copies of books to 10-15 members (or one book club) to read and review for their peers.”

The hi-tech “Essential Book Club Planner” tracks “what book clubs are reading, in addition to giving member book clubs a way to share and distribute book information. Clubs create their own private, customized web page on which they can post book selections and send notices. The Planner creates a reading guide for their selection, and emails the guide, meeting details, Google map of meeting location, Amazon price with buy link and RSVP request to their members. The Planner also sends a follow-up email to members asking them to evaluate their book selection for their peers.”

“The Book Club Bestseller List”, updated monthly and compiled from Book Club Planner and site data, “shows their members what books clubs are reading now.” It is very similar to GoodReads.

Did I miss anything?  Then you forgot to e-mail me between reading these pages.

Sidebar/Book Club Facts:

Book clubs rely on recommendations from other book clubs for their book selections.

The book club population has increased 25% in the last 5 years, rising from 4.6 million to 5.2 million adults.

The average book club member reads 36 books per year. Only 12 of those are book club selections. (The average American reads 5 books per year.)

Paz Survey of Book Clubs

ICR Survey of 2,000 households commissioned by BookMovement in March 2001 and March 2005

Paz Survey of book clubs, Gallup Organization