It's hard to turn the page on a book club

READ STREET

March 15, 2009|By DAVE ROSENTHAL | DAVE ROSENTHAL,dave.rosenthal@baltsun.com

Over the past week, we've been discussing book club breakups. I'd bet that most clubs have lived through some variation of this trauma: the member who drops out suddenly or shows up less and less, the group that collapses entirely.

The discussion began when reporter Mary Carole McCauley made her first appearance on Read Street and wrote about leaving her club. She had participated for a few years, but when several favorite members moved away, she took a hard look at the demands of a club.

"I had to end things. But, how? There are blueprints - thousands - summing up 50 ways to leave your lover, but nary a one on calling it quits with your club. ... Coward that I am, I sent her an e-mail informing [the club's coordinator] that I would no longer be in attendance and requesting that I be removed from the group e-mail lists."

Everyone in a book club has experienced similar pressures - I have, when, a few days from a meeting, I still have 200 pages to read. Or when I had to read a book I didn't enjoy (and my own suggestion had been rejected).

Other factors also can upset the delicate balance of a club: Are the readings too academic or too shallow? Does one member dominate the conversation? How are new members replaced?

Here's what some said:

"Her reasons for leaving are among some of mine for never joining one. I'd rather just pick my own." - dukeallen

"One way to leave a book club is to be kicked out. The way to do that is to spend an inordinant amount of time discussing a book's title and first few pages. If any member tries to discuss the rest of the book, force the topic back to the title and first few pages. (That, I've heard, is what husbands do on their annual visits to their wives' clubs.)" - Wordjones

"Life's too short - read what you want & start your own bookclub." -- Diane

But breaking up really is hard to do. What factors have sparked tension in your club? And is there a proper etiquette for a breakup? Let us know about your experience in an e-mail or a comment on Read Street.

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