It happens—sometimes the club doesn't go for the selection. But, in sport, they usually make the meeting to discuss their aversion. Dislike may even fuel attendance.
"Some of our best discussions result from a book no one likes. Some labor through and some give up reading the book. We talk about what we did not like about it. Sometimes it's the characters and sometimes the plot," said Ann Young, who coordinates the book club at Gardner's Heywood Library.
Fiction isn't a favorite with evening book group members at Thayer Memorial Library, says the library's Karen Silverthorn. "However, we try to read fiction one month and non-fiction the next, so that everyone gets a chance to read both. Those who don't like fiction will sit rather quietly when we discuss the book, unless they voice their negative thoughts or get drawn into the conversation by the comments others make."
Since members select the book from a favorites list of recommendations, they respect another's selection. "We vote on the books for the next year without knowing who recommended the titles," Silverthorn said. "No one complains about book choices because we all get to have our say, one way or another."
At Bannister Book Club in Brookfield, members also suggest reading choices. "We have enough titles to sort through for the next two years or more," said Brenda Metterville. Members still attend if they don't like the book. "We've had, at the most, three members at a time dislike the book." They may not finish it, she said, but they have an opinion. Everyone is vocal about what they like and don't like, and we don't have any one person who dominates the group, which is a huge plus." When a member insists that his or her point of view is the correct one, conversation is definitely stifled.
Joan Killough-Miller of the N.O.W. Women's Issues group admits that she suggested "the last clunker" to her Worcester group (Meg Wolitzer’s “Belzhar").
"I admitted right off that I liked the book the first time around, but not so much on the second reading. That made it easier for everyone to say what they didn’t like," she said. "Still, our members are gentle on each other, overall, and they seem to find some good in all of our selections. They also generally finish the book, although sometimes they’re not done by the night of the meeting.
"We do have a rule that you have to have actually read a book before you suggest it, and not just have seen it on the shelf, or read another book by that author."
Betsy Johnson, coordinator of the Holden group, chooses books she's pretty certain the group will enjoy—"although some things are more popular than others. ... I learned long ago, one person's must read is sometimes another's plus-minus, or worse, so the format we use seems to function best."