I have an on-line book club. Anyone who saw my old blog knows about TheKnot.com, that seemingless limitless abyss of all things wedding planning. Well, after one gets married and "graduates" from TheKnot - it's founders, in all their wisdom, created TheNest.com. The Nest is loaded with chat boards about all number of things, from local discussions (where you will find all of your old Knottie friends reunited again), to budgeting, to cooking, to - you guessed it - books! So that is where many of my recent book recommendations have come from. On top of general chat about books, there is a monthly discussion on one particular book, all voted on and selected democratically months in advance.
Friends think this is odd. Whenever I say something like, "no I'm waiting to read that until April, when it's the discussion for my book club," the inevitable response is, "you're in a book club?" The discussion then often goes something like this:
"Yes, well, kind of - it's on-line."
"But how do you discuss books online?"
"Well, it's a mesage board, and everyone just posts and responds to each other, it's kind of neat actually. I don't actually have to set time aside for book club discusion, I can just post whenever I have a chance, and that's what everyone else does, so it works out well. Sometimes the discusions are really good and go on for days."
"Cool, where'd you find out about it? Can anyone join?"
The comes the slightly weird stage where I have to explain "well, yes, anyone can join, but you'd have to join this whole other on-line thing . . ."
And maybe it is a bit odd, but I really like having an on-line book club. And these are people I can "talk" to all the time. It's all pretty anonymous, but it's neat that I can ask for opinions on a particular book, and potentially get 100 responses (there's never that many, but you get the point). And none of the books are required reading, so to speak. If the democratic process worked in a way such that you have no inclination whatsoever to read a particular month's book, or you just don't have time, don't read it! Chances are, your imput will not be missed. Now, clearly the point of the book club is discussion, but when there are so many people involved, one missing doesn't generally matter. This can, of course lead to the tragedy of the commons type of problem - where if everyone adopts that train of thinking, there's no discussion. This happenned in December, what with the holidays, no one cared to discuss Catcher in the Rye at any great length. A few people had some discussion, and some asked to postpoe the discussion until they could finish it, but it generally just wasn't up to par. But for the most part, the discussions are generally pretty lively and in-depth. I enjoy having an on-line book club. Perhaps more so that I would enjoy having a real life book club.
** Just as an aside, I can picture what real life book club with my friends would look like - only 1/2 of us, if that, would have actually finished the book, for one thing. And there would be alcohol involved, probably lots of it. Maybe even "book themed" drinking games (if there's a will, there's a way). If any discussions of the book ever actually took place, it would be in the form of wise-ass remarks made at one another's expense, making some minor reference to the story. In short, it would amount to yet another reason to get together and get wasted. **