Thursday, March 20, 2014

Confess to Oprah before starting a book club

When Oprah Winfrey talks, people listen, and Oprah's a big reader, so it follows suit that her book selections led the best-seller lists for many months while she was doing her television program. 
I like her taste in books, though I disagreed when she announced she would discontinue her Oprah book club because not enough good books were being published. She later changed her mind, and gave it a go for awhile. These days, she recommends  good books through Oprah's Book Club 2.0, online. Cheryl Strayed's "Wild" was the first in this incarnation of the club.
Anyway, Oprah asked a few questions for those starting a book club, to get it started on the right note.
I've repeated the questions here, providing my own answers:
·  "Why are you starting a book club?" If you don't like to go along with crowd, and don't really care what anyone else thinks about a book, you may not be the ideal candidate for this project. If you lack enough time to read the book and be prepared for a meeting, forget about it; getting there will become a major challenge.
·  "What type of people will make up the club?" Are you thinking of friends or acquaintances only, or looking to meet new people? How wide open will you get to new members? What do you think a member should bring to the group? Do you plan to discuss the book online, instead of meeting? Then another sort of reader entirely may be best.
·  "What types of books will your club read?" This is important, as you can lose members by picking a stream of books that members dislike. Decide early on whether novels, spirituality, travel, classics, etc., are the genre for your group. Don't vary without discussing it.
·  "Do you want to lead the club?" This is a critical role. Leaders coordinate meetings, inform members and help them find books, answer questions and make sure everyone has directions to the meeting. They may end up contacting guest authors, arranging to Skype or answering last-minute questions from people interested in joining. Evaluate your time and your disposition before roping yourself in. If the meeting is at your house, will you provide refreshments? If not, who will?
·  "What are the minimum and maximum number of members your club can accommodate?" If you are meeting outside anyone's home—say at a local book store or restaurant—size may be stated. But also, when a group gets over a certain size, discussion can fly into the wind. Discussion has to be controlled, and membership numbers play into that.
·  "When will your first meeting take place?" Members need to discuss frequency with a realistic view to reading time, vacations, holidays and such. Some groups take December and January off, and we can certainly understand why, having missed the last two meetings because of work deadlines.

Books and authors:
Former Massachusetts resident Connie Matuzek, a Worcester Polytechnical Institute graduate, has published "Forty Years at Saquish Beach," a memoir about his life with a wife and two daughters at the private beach community 30 miles south of Boston. For more information, visit www.fortyyearsatsaquishbeach.com.

(Read It and Reap, Jan. 26)
Ann Connery Frantz, a fiction writer and freelance writer/editor, welcomes ideas, questions and news of your group’s upcoming meetings at ann.frantz@gmail.com.

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