Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Private and Library Supported Book Groups

The number of library supported book groups has grown rapidly over the last few years. I was told by Leicestershire Libraries that five years ago they looked after 30 groups but that it is now close to 100. My observation is that the same pattern is mirrored in other areas around the English Midlands.

What is the trend in private book groups? Being privately organised and held in people's homes, there is no way of knowing how many there are. But, as a librarian in Grantham told me, 'There is a bit of a Richard and Judy effect going on'. I feel sure private groups are multiplying.

As an author I often visit book groups in libraries. But I only get to step into the world of the private book group when a friend invites me.

book group Last night was one such occasion. I had the great pleasure of going to the home of Jon and Anne, two great friends from university days.

The group meeting in their house had just read BACKLASH so, as I mentioned in yesterday's post, I was interested to know how they'd got on with it. I feel sure it can't have been everyone's cup of tea. But if anyone had strong misgivings they kept them quiet.

We had an animated discussion, including the question of men writing from a female point of view - as I do in that Backlash. (You will see from the snap above, I was somewhat outnumbered in this respect.) I'll explore the gender POV question in another post, as I think many writers brush against the issue.

So - what is the difference between private and library supported book groups? The discussions are just as animated. The motivation to engage in narrative is equally strong. The willingness to read beyond areas of comfort is the same.

Perhaps the typical demographic is slightly different - though I haven't been to enough privately run groups to say for sure. The food and drink (common to both kinds of groups) might be a little more up-market when it isn't coming out of the library's budget. And, I have to say, I have never been presented with a gift at the end of a library visit. Not one like this:

yorkshire flower
As the ladies said - 'A beautiful and lasting memento of your visit'. Each time I look at it, I will remember how much I enjoyed the evening. Many thanks to all.


Paul Lamb said...

I've been a participant in both library and private book discussion groups, and I have to say that I prefer the private groups. The folks in the private groups seem far more committed to the discussion than in the library groups, where there seems to be a tendency toward the social aspects.

Even so, either group type, in my humble experience, benefits from the quality of the facilitator. A good facilitator can bring out great depth and range in the discussion, balancing opposing ideas and nurturing fresh ones. (I was part of a discussion group for the novel Moby Dick that carried on for two years in large part because the facilitator kept asking us the best questions.)

I think different people go to these discussions for different reasons, with different expectations and levels of preparation. In turn, some books will elicit a deep kind of conversation while others will demand less of the readers.

In the end, I think they are all good because they let readers share what they enjoy.

Katy said...

Sounds like you had a great time Rod. It must have been a very interesting experience to hear so directly from a group of readers who had read your work, a very exciting opportunity.

I've not yet managed to track down a local book group that meets at a time of day when I could attend, but you've inspired me to look again to find one. I think I'd enjoy it.

Rod Duncan said...

Thanks for the comments Paul and Katy.

On the to-do list is podcasting my documentary YARN. Not a huge job - just formatting for YouTube and Vimeo and up-loading. But I have a stack of work right now, so it may have to wait for a week or two.

Making it took me into a series of very different book groups (different from each other). I came out of it feeling very positive about them. Also about the importance of fiction itself.

Thanks again for stopping by.


Rod Duncan said...

And to complete the story, the day after I wrote this, a large Thorntons box arrived by post. Very naughty of them. Yummy though.