Dozens of women, and a few men, packed in to R. J. Julia’s earlier this week to meet the bookstore’s new book coordinators and to hear owner Roxanne Coady talk about what makes a book club work.
With as many book club sessions as most of us have been to, you’d think we’d know by now. But when Coady asked the crowd if they wanted to hear her thoughts on what makes a book club work, the answer was a resounding yes.
Here are some of Coady’s ideas:
- Agree on a mission or plan. Take some time to agree on what the book club should be. Sometimes a group, as it evolves, won’t be able to agree and so might need a “divorce,” Coady said. Other times, “book club therapy” is the answer. Coady said she is happy to provide that, at the store. Just ask.
- One person should be in charge of the book at any one discussion. That person should get information about the author and come up with some questions. Some questions might be specific to the book, others might be more open-ended questions about how the book relates to life.
- Try to come up with a game plan about what kind of books you want to read. Serious books in winter and beach reads in the summer or the other way around? Coady prefers the light reads in the dark of winter, and the heavy tomes in summer. She said if she read her favorite book, Blindness, by Jose Saramago, in the winter, it might be too much. For her, it’s the perfect summertime read. The point is, it makes sense for the club to talk about what kind of books they want to read and, in general, come to an agreement.
Coady also noted that people can have different expectations about what a book club discussion should be and so it can make sense to clarify that. Some people are just there to have a glass of wine and socialize. Others want to talk about life lessons that they gleaned from the book. Still others might want to do a detailed literary analysis worth of a Vassar comp lit graduate seminar.
Again, the best thing to do is to discuss and clarify, Coady said.
Here are top ten current book club reads from R. J. Julia:
- The Kitchen House, Kathleen Grisson
- The Forgotten Garden, Kate Morton
- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot
- The Invisible Bridge, Julie Orringer
- A Visit From The Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan
- Wench, Dolen Perkins-Valdez
- The Finkler Question, Howard Jacobsen
- Freedom, Jonathan Franzen
- Cleopatra, Stacy Schiff
- 10. Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese
Booksellers Mimi Biddle and Sue Moretti are R. J. Julia’s new book club coordinators. To contact them, you can email email@example.com.
Book clubs that register with R. J. Julia can talk with Biddle, Moretti and other members of the staff about recommendations, and ordering books. The store also has a book nook highlighting book club selections. Book clubs that register also can take advantage of a 20 percent discount on hardcovers and a 15 percent discount on paperbacks. They also will be eligible to receive free galleys and can participate in quarterly get-togethers with other book clubs that include conversations with Coady.